Preview: We may not have a release date in Australia, but that hasn't stopped us from sneaking a peak at The Old Republic...
In gaming reality, there’s really only one intellectual property that could take an MMO-fuelled regicidal swipe at the Kingdom of WoW and that’s Star Wars. Of course, this has been attempted in the past with Star Wars Galaxies, but that really didn’t amass an army big enough to topple World of Warcraft from its spot way at the top of the ladder. If George Lucas has taught us anything about Star Wars, though, it’s that the world never tires of seeing it adapted many, many times.
To be fair, the mighty BioWare are pulling the strings on The Old Republic, which immediately suggests a high base level of quality; at least on paper. But the problem is that we Aussies don’t know when we’re going to see The Old Republic officially released on our shores. Of course, this won’t stop savvy folk from playing it and some of you may already be involved in the beta (if so, please post your thoughts below). Unfortunately, EA has essentially barred Australian press from seeing the game from E3 onwards this year because they, like us, don’t seem to know when we’ll be seeing the light provided by the twin suns of ToR.
Even though behind-closed-doors opportunities are currently out of bounds for Down Under journos, I still managed to get a hands-off peak at the game a not so long time ago in a country far, far away.
EA was playing it cocky and did a live demo of a raid that involved an attack by Sith Empire players on an ancient prison called the Eternity Vault. Before the live gameplay commenced, though, we were informed of some interesting claims that BioWare hopes will help to set their MMO apart. Your narrative choices are directly linked to how you will access your class specialisations, and with a strong emphasis on players experiencing their own personalised Star Wars story, this is a fascinating point of difference.
As the eight players started taking on the first wave of Eternity Vault guards, the live demo guide provided a lot of insights into what we were seeing. A bounty hunter tricked out in familiar Mandalorian armour impressed with his Swiss Army Knife-like kit: the shortlist included grappling hooks, a jet pack and EMP capabilities. But even this bounty hunter was made to look like a toy soldier when a lady bounty hunter flew onto the screen and reigned powerful missile attacks on a stubborn auto-turret.
A wave of droids crashed in from the heavens and it was time for a Sith Assassin to step up to the mark with his double-bladed lightsaber and show his team how to swing. Deadly at close range, the Sith Assassin used Force Pull to draw enemies in to his kill zone and finished them off with an overdose of Force Lightning. A final turret stood in the way of the completion of this robotic wave as a Marauder stepped up to centre stage and peddled her deadly wares. With a lightsaber gripped tightly in each hand, she wasn’t there to mess around as she used Force Jump to get into close proximity and ripped into the turret.
At this point, the demo guide announced that the challenge had only just begun as the second line of defence rolled in. I’m used to this sort of overselling, so I dismissed it, but the presenter’s claim was immediately backed up by the appearance of a towering XRR-3 Annihilation Droid. Considering this behemoth’s CV includes ‘Destroyer of civilisations’ at the top of the ‘Previous work’ column, I was forced to re-evaluate my initial dismissiveness. Even the aggressive combination of the Juggernaut and Sith Assassin’s brutal attacks did little to slow this titan down who packed more of a punch than a pissed Wampa.
To add further proof to the presenters claims about Eternity Vault’s challenge, he ended the demo shortly thereafter when players started falling to the might of the XRR-3. A short combat montage trailer afterwards that showcased the action once you stepped inside the Eternity Vault, and I was ready to reconsider my anti-MMO stance. The greatest weakness of the presentation was tied into its greatest strength: the impressive (…most impressive) short presentation of action-heavy gameplay only made me want to take a closer look at the game. It’s such a shame that I can’t end this preview with a release date or window for an Australian release.