The group of Padawans wandered into the Jedi Council chambers, walls adorned with Republic emblems and the typical glowing lights and traditional ornamentation. As they took their seats, anxiously awaiting their history lesson, their teacher rose and opened his lecture on the trials of the old republic. A viewscreen soon flickered to life beside him, which showed a recording chronicling the sacking of Coruscant, a time they`d learned of all too well. A large team of sith ruthlessly and without warning attacked a group of peaceful jedi, killing all of them in a duel for the ages. The leader, a man in a metallic mask, looked the final survivor in the eye, and said ``Now your Republic shall fall.``
Such was the way VGChartz and all the other padawan publications were introduced to Star Wars: The Old Republic in a private meeting with LucasArts.
The Old Republic is a massively multiplayer game in the Star Wars universe, set just after Knights of the Old Repbulic II: The Sith Lords. Traditionally, MMOs aren`t known for their engaging stories. However, in keeping with the highest traditions of Bioware excellence, the player`s involvement in the story takes center stage in TOR. Each class in the game (either on the good or evil side) has its own story rivalling the length and quality of the two KotoR games, which just as much choice and consequence—even more so, given that there is no saving in an MMO before an important choice and retrying if the player doesn`t like the outcome.
Our demo began with our presenter taking control of a bounty hunter character. The general idea for the bounty hunter class`s story is that the player has entered a bounty hunter tournament on the planet of Hutta, and is given myriad assignments in which to participate and increase their rank. The mission we were shown had us hunting down and killing the captain of the ship we had apparently snuck onto. It started out relatively smoothly, with the hunter talking to several characters around the ship. In order to maintain player immersion, KotoR eschews the system of choosing the exact sentence you wish to speak in favour of a Mass-Effect-style attitude wheel. This, combined with cinematic camera angles during discussions and hundreds of thousands of lines of fully-voiced dialogue really make the player feel like a part of the Star Wars universe.
Eventually, our demoer made his way to the ship`s deck, where the captain realized what was going on. He informed us that he`d sooner take his own life than give us the satisfaction of killing him. At this point, the player`s travelling companion, a fellow hunter controlled by another player, had a chance to offer his own input (Bioware was sure to point out that they had implemented the first multiplayer conversation system of this type). The player is then offered the choice of killing the captain, allowing him to take his own life, or having a change of heart and sparing him. We, the audience, got the chance to vote on which option we would select. The overall vote went to `kill` (though mine didn`t—honest!), and we took command of the ship for ourselves. Things didn`t go so smoothly, however, as enemy ships took this moment to start bombarding us and send in boarding parties. As our rep tore into the boarding party with rockets, flamethrowers, and blasters, he emphasized to us that the scene may have been entirely avoided if we`d made a different choice on the deck. Unfortunately, as the scene built to a crescendo, our demo of the bounty hunter ended, making way for light-side equivalent, the smuggler, a new reveal for E3.
I say `equivalent` very lightly, as the two classes really only share a general theme and an attitude. The character we saw was definitely the Han Solo character, preferring to take cover and fire from a distance than get down and dirty at close-range. He can take cover behind most objects in a combat zone, adding a touch of Gears of War to the Star Wars universe. Of course, if he`s forced to get up close and personal, the smuggler is no slouch—he can deliver a mean Dirty Kick when the need arises!
Closing out the demo, it was made clear to us that decisions have a long-term, lasting influence. Doing certain things or taking a certain path may reinforce your relationship with a party member or alienate them from you. People in the world will react much differently to you, and every player`s actions affect the overall world of the game. In addition, despite the new direction that Bioware is taking Massively Multiplayer games, they assured us that all of the staples would be there, including player-vs-player combat, crafting, guilds, and all of the other genre regulars.
From what we`ve seen, Bioware is clearly taking the system they established with the first two Knights of the Old Republic games and extrapolating it to a much wider scale. As we left that well-adorned room, complete with ``I Killed The Captain`` pins, we wondered how this will all come together. We`ll be able to see how this story ends when the game launches in December of next year.
Here's the E3 trailer for those who missed it: