Star Wars. If you've been living on this planet for any small amount of time then you're probably aware of the universe created by George Lucas. It really doesn't matter whether it is inferior or not to Star Trek. It is, without a doubt, the definitive cinematic universe when it comes to science fiction. Video games were a natural extension of said expanded universe. We've seen what Sony was able to do with Star Wars: Galaxies and, frankly, it was both good and bad. The time has come to visit George's universe once more with Star Wars: The Old Republic.
The landscape of the MMORPG genre has been dominated by one title for seven years now. No other game has really had the continued success that Blizzard's World of Warcraft property has had. There have been many of those who have challenged for the crown of the King, so to speak, but they have all pretty much fallen to the wayside.
Bioware is a company known for amazing works such the Mass Efffect franchise, Dragon Age, Neverwinter Nights, and Knights of the Old Republic. The Canadian developer knows how to tell a story and do so with compelling gameplay mechanics and an overall grasp of how to weave a narrative. RPGs are their thing and they do it VERY well. It came as no surprise to anyone that when Lucasarts started shopping around the idea of a new venture into the MMO realm with the Star Wars IP that they were a natural fit.
Anticipation began to build as more and more media slowly trickled out over the past two years. Trailers that astounded audiences at conventions and the media came and went. Pre-orders started rolling in earlier in June and, well, Early Access (a very typical thing for MMOs to do really) would be granted to those who did put down the $5 for a pre-order.
The first waves went out on Tuesday. Those of us, yours truly included, eagerly awaited that email from Bioware saying we were in! Wednesday came and went and I had finally gotten the golden ticket! I was in! YES!
I had pre-loaded the game via the launcher (All 25 gigs of it. Yes it's HUGE.) and was ready to go. The opening cinematic hit..
My jaw was agape, the magic of the original triology coursing through my veins. It was VERY clear that with this six minute intro that Bioware gets it. They GET what makes the franchise so lucrative, so enthralling and just so damn good. Lightsabers? Check. Sith? Check. Badass Zabrak jedi? You're DAMN right. The Sith have returned from a LONG absence in the galaxy and the stage is set.
This was about as much exposure as I had to actual in-game media or information as I allowed myself to have. I had opportunities to beta-test but decided against it. I didn't want to come into this experience as I have with a lot of the other MMO content I've run in the past. Beta testing can take the shine off, to a certain extent, some of the new shiny quests and so forth.
I had decided from nearly the beginning of the class announcements that the Bounty Hunter was the way to go. Who doesn't want to be Boba Fett? Jerks. That's who.
The saga of my bounty hunter began with a sweet introduction cinematic for the Empire. I'm in the game after a few minutes spent creating a cybernetically modified human being and on m way. We even got our own patented Star Wars text scroll!
You start on the planet of Hutta with aspirations of entering the "Great Hunt" which is sponsored by the Mandalorians. You get to meet your team right away who provide intel and tech support. There is a young upstart female named Mako, a veteran bounty hunter named Braden and an alien fellow who's name escapes me at the moment. It is that very familiar beginning to what will most assuredly be an epic quest to get into the hunt which involves having to gain the favor of Neem'ro the Hutt.
I felt immediately at home with the game as most of the main keyboard shortcuts are mapped similarly to WoW. It will become painfully obvious right away that Bioware saw what worked with Warcraft and didn't necessarily try to reinvent the wheel. This is the same hotkey-based combat we're used to with all traditional MMOs. There is a specialization tree similar to a talent tree. The specializations offer variety to the core class mechanics that are very Warcraftian.
It is familiar, yes, but it is still something unique. It is quite apparent that, from the beginning, Bioware is focusing heavily on questing to be a defining characteristic of the overall experience. Dialogue is all voice-acted, there are conversation choices that are very reminiscent of Mass Effect. These choices can lead to Light-side or Dark-side points that eventually lead to gear, quests, etc. It is an effective means of making questing that much more dynamic and story-driven. The talent behind the mics for the voice-acting is top notch and that certainly helps with immersion. (Steve Blum provides the male bounty hunter voice!)
I was having a grand old time running around Hutta collecting bounties, being a huge dick to people and grouping up for "Heroic" quests (Group quests). I, of course, went with most of the Dark-side options including killing a child's Father right in front of him to make sure I could collect the bounty. Fuck yeah.
So far? I'm enjoying the HELL out of this game. I have yet to get to end-game or really spend hours with PVP but so far...