After months of silence from EA locally it has finally been confirmed that the highly anticipated Star Wars: The Old Republic will be launching in Australia on the 1st of March. This date isn’t new, it was first reported by developers Bioware late last year, and again by EA’s COO, Peter Moore, during the company’s recent earnings call. But it can finally be deemed official, with the local arm of EA issuing a press release this morning.
The subscription based MMORPG launched to US and European players in December last year, and it led to many Australians ordering the game online. This led to the development of healthy Australian populations on several of the game’s servers, a situation acknowledged by Bioware with the news that players would have the opportunity for a free transfer to the locally-based servers soon after the game’s antipodean launch.
Curiously, because of the delayed local launch, there has been very little hype about the game here. It is the second attempt at a Star Wars MMORPG, following on from Sony Online Entertainment’s Star Wars Galaxies, which closed down last year. As the name indicates, it is set 3000 years before the movies, during the time of the Old Republic.
Players can join either the Empire or the Republic, and choose from an array of classes such as Sith Lord, Jedi Knight, Smuggler and Bounty Hunter, all of which pay homage to famous characters from the Star Wars universe. Unlike previous MMOs, Bioware has focused strongly upon story, with each class having its own special storyline woven into the overarching tale of the two factions hurtling towards war. It is the first MMO to be completely voice acted, which explains a lot of the estimated $200 million USD budget for the title.
Having played through the Imperial Agent storyline on the US servers over the past month and a bit, we can safely say that this adds hugely to the sense of immersion in the Star Wars universe. Add to this the opportunity to kill Jawa’s under Tatooine’s twin Suns or hunt Wampas in the frozen wastes of Hoth lifts it above the generic fantasy settings of most MMOs.
The game will be available for pre-order from local stores real soon now, and the servers will go live locally on March 1st. More details can be found on the official SWTOR site.