After having a look at our planet's future last week today I will take you even further ways. 'In a galaxy far far away'. We're entering the world of Star Wars the Old Republic. This is a preview as the game will be released this week, I just wanted to give you a first impression.
Upfront I want to say: I am not the greatest fan Star Wars has ever seen. But I like science fiction and I like games and I was able to play the beta of this game. So here we go...
Star Wars: The Old Republic
SWTOR is, a Massively Multiplayer Online Role Play Game (MMORPG), which means of course that an Internet connection is needed for playing and there are also monthly fees to be payed.
The story of the game is set a few thousand years before the movies, still we see a lot of familiar things and species. I also had the impression that technology didn' t really change in all that time. The player can choose between 9 of these species when creating a game character, but first there is the choice between the two factions of the game – guess what? Right, Empire or Republic, Sith or Jedi, good or bad – well, no, not entirely. But I will talk about that later. What I don't know is if the different races actually have any specialities other than their look. I was not able to find that out.
Then, as usual in MMORPGs follows the choice of a profession. SWTOR offers 4 on each side. They vaguely complement each other but not completely. At level 10 (which is rather early in game) every class can choose between two specialisations. Additionally to attacks with weapons some professions are also able to use the Force, which acts in the game like magic does in fantasy games.
The trooper is a typical soldier profession who wears heavy armor and uses heavy weapons and grenades.
Vanguard: The Vanguard specialisation of the trooper is a tank profession, meaning he draws the attention of the enemy on himself and away from his friends. He of course has lots of defense for this.
Commando: This specialisation concentrates either firepower or on healing other players (and themselves).
Smugglers only have light armor but can us stealth to walk unseen, stun their enemies and shoot with their blaster pistols.
Gunslinger: The Gunslinger is specialised on dealing damage with two blaster pistols.
Scoundrel: Scoundrels rely on stealth and nifty gadgets, they are also able to heal.
Jedi Knight are the first melee fighters on the list, using the well known lightsabers, they are able to deflect damage or guard themselves and allies and use the Force.
Guardian: Guardians wear heavy armor and are able to tank and at the same time inspire their allies to fight better.
Sentinel: The Sentinel is able to use two sabres at the same time to make a lot more damage.
The Jedi Consular use lightsabers as a melee weapon and the Force for mid-range attacks.
Sage: The Sage specialisation focuses on healing and defense.
Shadow: Shadows are the damage or tank specialisation of the Jedi Counselors. They use double bladed sabers and stealth.
Protected by heavy armor the Bounty hunter fires his blaster pistols and advanced weaponry like missile launchers at the enemy. A jetpack gives him an additional advantage.
Powertech: Using prototype technology the Powertech is able to defend himself enough to act as a tank.
Mercenary: The 2nd option for a Bounty Hunter is specialising on using two blaster pistols and do massive damage or heal.
Again a profession with heavy armor, but this time one that can use the Force. Sith Warriors are able to stun their enemies before attacking with their lightsabers.
Juggernaut: Juggernauts specialise on tanking and draining (weakening) their opponents.
Marauder: As a damage dealer the Marauder uses two lightsabers.
Agents use state of the art gadgets and stealth to take out their targets. For their own protection they have energy shields.
Operative: An Operative fights with stealth, using melee weapons or rifles. They are even able to heal.
Sniper: Rather than relying on stealth, the Sniper hides and searches for cover before eliminating his enemy with a sniper rifle.
Apart from his lightsabers the Sith Inquisitor makes use of the Force to fight his opponents.
Sorcerer: As the name already suggests the Sorcerer mostly makes use of the Force, to attack but also to heal.
Assassin: Assassins rely on stealth and their dual-blade lightsabers. The act as either damage dealers or tanks.
Every class (= profession) has access to a specific type of spaceship later in the game. This is used for travelling between different planets and also space combat.
The game as a whole is built up of different parts:
class specific quests that are meant to be played alone (groups are possible too)
quests for teams (up to 4 players)
instances for groups
In the class specific quest a longer story is told. And while combat as such is not different from other MMOs, these quests are a speciality of the game. Much of the story is told in animated cutscenes, but the player is not an inactive watcher. To influence the story a lot of choices are given about how to react to different situations. It is every player's choice to be nice or evil, do good or bad things, no matter if they play for the Sith or the Jedi. These 'light side/dark side' decisions have influence on a personal counter of every character and on the further course of the game. Sometimes the cutscenes are a bit lengthy but the idea as such is interesting. For me this is a reason to not recommend this game to people who are not interested in stories and just want to fight. In SWTOR such an approach does not seem to work.
I myself played a bounty hunter in the beta, just because it seemed to be my type of profession. I tried to see as much as possible. At the beginning I was on the planet Hutta where I took over a team of bounty hunters who wanted to take part in the 'Great Hunt', some kind of bounty hunter competition as far as I understood (I found it a bit strange, but ok). The gameplay was nice, a shooting profession, no ‘magic' involved. I especially liked my wrist-mounted missile launcher that knocked down enemies.
In the course of the story all but one of my team was killed by another bounty hunter and I promised revenge and to take part in the Big Hunt for them. To do that I had to fulfill a few missions. I was sent to kill people but I took the choice to not kill them, which brought me a bit to the light side although I was part of the Sith Empire. The story was really quite nice and I ended up on a second planet which seemed to have something like the capital of the Empire, or at least a major city.
The graphics are nicely done but not spectacular. Most things look a bit too fresh from the factory and not used or lived in. But the design is definitely looking like Star Wars should look like. I have heard that things on the Jedi side look too much like a ‘picture book' . The music that accompanies it all is definitely Star Wars too.
I can tell about a few more professions about which I have heard:
The agent can – as written in the profession description – use cover so he is not hit by opponents. The places where an agent can hide are indicated by green 'shadows' that show up behind possible cover. In their story agents have to take on a false identity and do some infiltrating.
The Sith Warrior is your typical sword fighter. During combat they build up rage, making them stronger and stronger.
In the Sith Warrior story you start out as a talented young warrior who is shown how to fight. First of all your Overseer asks you to decide about life and death of three prisoners (this is one of these choices the player can make), then explains what you did right or wrong in the opinion of a Sith.There are many more choices like this, at some stage even about the life of the Overseer.
The Trooper (yes, finally one on the 'good' side) is a member of an elite force from the start. In their story their troop transporter is shot at and crashes. The attackers have to be overcome. Later you have to for instance find a spy of the Republic in a village full of members of the Empire or disarm mines.
All this makes obvious how different the stories of the professions are. They don' t even all start on the same planet. What I found a bit strange for an MMO was that I did not have the desire to interact with other players at any point. But this probably changes later in the game, because I obviously did not play a lot more than what could be seen as the tutorial.
An additional feature that a few games seem to introduce now (and Guild Wars is just getting rid of) are Companions. They are computer controlled characters that join the players on their adventures. Which companions they get depends on the players' profession. For playing alone this is really nice.
When I had a look at the game' s homepage about a year ago I thought this would be one of those games that only work because of the name. Now I must say that this could be a quite solid MMO with an interesting story aspect and it even is science-fiction and not fantasy like most of those games. I will certainly have another look at it once it is released. A thing that I still miss in the game are actually pet professions, meaning professions that can control pets like animals or (better in this case) robots and use them in fight.