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    Entries in star wars the old republic (7)


    Two Weekends in The Old Republic

    The past two weekends were spent by many gamers perusing the worlds of Star Wars: The Old Republic though 'beta' invites distributed by EA. The term beta applies loosely, this was more of a server stress test than anything else, with the floodgates open to just about anyone to get in the world and create a Sith, Jedi, or otherwise. Invitations were given away liberally; with just about every major gaming website having thousands to throw at its faithful, so you know BioWare and EA were in straight up 'COME AT ME' mode. 

    Both weekends found the servers to be thoroughly slammed, as you can imagine. Many servers were open for the first weekend, and most of them had queues of up to 45 minutes before entry, or so we were told by the server information panel from within the client. A server I found which stated to have an 11 minute wait let me through the turnstile in under a minute, so take those queue times with a grain of salt. The second weekend's invites, which I believe were randomly distributed only by EA, featured about a quarter of the servers that were available on the first weekend, and what I would assume to be a quarter or less of the players invited to play during that initial weekend, though the servers were still heavily populated. Despite the sheer amount of players allowed to brandish blasters and lightsabers, the game experience was not adversely affected. Lag was minimal, crashes and server boots were non-existent, and the game zipped along as well as it possible could on my severely dated PC. 

    Multiplayer conversations: fun and competitve

    The Old Republic is very well polished, as it should be a mere two weeks from release. As MMOs tend to go, SWTOR borrows much of its core basics from World of Warcraft, the gold standard of the genre, but makes many noticeable improvements. The most obvious, and well documented change, is the strong focus placed on storytelling. Cut scenes grab you and don't often let go, as the mix of character expressions, superb voice acting, and dialogue choices do well to keep the player involved. Of course if you're in a rush, you can hastily move these scenes along by tapping the spacebar, but why would you want to do that? There is much to learn about the deep world of the Old Republic, so take your time and enjoy.

    As mentioned, the voice acting is a pleasure to listen to, and cut above much of what I've heard from any game on the market let alone an MMO. Most if not all NPCs are voiced, and I don't know if I heard the same voice actor twice between quest NPCs. To put this in perspective, a game as massive as Skyrim (which I've been a slave to in the past few weeks) has a total of maybe 20 unique voice actors. Though I'll never understand why the Empire's denizens have snazzy English accents, while most Republic characters are unaccented. Oh well. 

    I would like to speak on the graphics, but I'm running a 3-year old GPU and CPU on a like-aged motherboard with 3GB of RAM. Crippled much? Third time is certainly not a charm when it comes to PC tech. Though despite my elderly specs, The Old Republic ran respectably, after turning most graphical sliders to the lowest setting, of course. Even still, the game ran smoothly without looking like Rancor feces, so fear not if you're in dire need of a system upgrade. Just be sure you have the latest drivers for your video card, as my neglect of driver update was a source of frequent BSODs before I realized what the issue was. Enough tech talk though, let me tell you a bit about the characters I had the pleasure of playing.

    Body type and hair style customization options suck, but who cares when you can look like this?

    My first character was a human Smuggler, chosen to play alongside my roommates Soldier. There's no job a blaster can't handle, right Han? The Smuggler combines an interesting mix of cover-based play with big firepower to handle opponents. I didn't encounter many melee opponents, which would be a Smuggler's bane, so the class seemed a little overpowered in the early going. The cover system is supposed to allow you to avoid incoming blaster fire, but I don't know if that's 100% the case. Whether it be bad timing, latency, or pre-launch blues, I'm pretty sure I took damage more than a few times while hiding behind cover. Certain attacks - many of the powerful ones - can only be launched while in cover, so the Smuggler is assed out if he's caught in the open; not good if an enemy gets the jump on you in PvP.

    The Smuggler's early quest line revolved around chasing down and recovering his stolen ship, which is the Smuggler's second best friend, next to credits. It was an interesting chain of quests, and quite fun to play a morally 'bluish-gray' character without feeling bad about it. This was the only character I was able to take to the advanced class, available at level 10. I chose to be a Scoundrel, who has the help of stealth and meds to survive many a tricky situation. I feel as if Gunslinger, the more firepower driven advanced class, would have been more fun, though perhaps I did not play deep enough into the Scoundrel to appreciate his wide range of abilities.

    Sing-along with the Sith Inquisitor

    My second character was a pureblood Sith Inquisitor, played in part by my girlfriend who logged more time in The Old Republic than any other game not named Civilization. The Inquisitor mixed a bit of melee with dark Force powers, clearing enemies with a couple of lightning attacks when the vibroblade just wouldn't cut it. While I was able to successfully solo groups of same-level enemies with the other classes I played, the Inquisitor didn't quite seem up to that task. In addition, the class quest line seemed to move noticeably slower than other classes. For these reasons, I chose to cut my experience with the Inquisitor a bit short, though I was later assured that the Inquisitor becomes a powerhouse with an excellent story a bit later in the game, so those early woes may pay off if you stick with it.

    Third was the Chiss Bounty Hunter, a class I really enjoyed using in brief at New York Comic Con earlier in the year. Much like the Inquisitor, the Bounty Hunter seemed to have a case of early level blues when it came to combat. Granted he survived much longer than the aforementioned Sith, his early combat options simply were not compelling. A few of his precious abilities at the low levels were damage-over-time, attacks that I personally choose to avoid at all costs unless fighting higher level competition. This meant using the same few attacks over and over again, in addition to the standard auto attack: it wore thin. Though with experience playing a later level Powertech - a Bounty Hunter advanced class - I can say that it gets better. Though at what point, I'm not sure. 

    The Bounty Hunter's quests may have been the best of the bunch, with a couple of early twists and some Mandalorian chasing to keep things interesting. In addition, the Bounty Hunter may have the best of all companions I was able to sample. You see, companions are NPCs that assist you on your journey, making life easier in a plethora of ways. Help in combat, crafting, and selling goods when you're overburdened, companions are a game-changing addition. The Bounty Hunter's initial companion, Mako, is a stark difference to the hunter. A bit more animated and bubbly than you're used to seeing in scenes that feature Boba and (the vastly inferior) Jango, Mako adds a fresh voice to the Bounty Hunter's daily operations, without becoming annoying or overbearing. The early worries I had with the Bounty Hunter's combat shortnesses was remedied by his awesome story. 

    Never negotiate with a Bounty Hunter

    Finally, I dabbled with a Miralukan Jedi Consular, the Republic's parallel to the Inquisitor. In comparison, the Consular seemed much more powerful than the Inquisitor from the start, with a few beefy melee attacks to go along with some short-ranged Force powers. Ripping a chunk of rock from the ground to hurdle at an enemies face was quite pleasing. Also, for whatever reason, I received a shocking amount of green loot upon defeating enemies, which means my Padawan looked a bit more respectable in the early going, as opposed to the 'crazy guy in pajamas' look. For these reasons I enjoyed doing battle with the Consular. Unfortunately, I can't speak much on the story arc for this class, due to my time being cut short. It was a busy pair of weekends outside of my self-contained gaming den, which sadly limited my time with The Old Republic. Though at the point I had to bail, it seems like the Consular's quests were moving in a great direction.

    If I didn't already pre-order this baby back in July, I would be pre-ordering right now. I came away from my time with Star Wars: The Old Republic extremely impressed; it's one of the primary reasons I'll be upgrading my ancient gaming rig in the next month or so. I planned on using this stress test as a field to reap my primary character of choice, though I still can't make a decision. Each class feels exciting and nuanced, and each have a unique and dynamic string of quests and companions to keep the game fresh, even after you've created 5 other alts. Early access begins on December 15, with the game releasing on December 20. I'm frothing at the mouth with anticipation of the date.

    Pre-order Star Wars: The Old Republic at Amazon


    Force Grip on Star Wars: The Old Republic PvP

    I finally got an opportunity to play Star Wars: The Old Republic, much to my joy. BioWare's latest take on the Star Wars universe just happens to be one of my most anticipated games in a winter season jam-packed with quality titles, so you can guess how excited I was for this hands on. Though I played both PvE and PvP, this article will focus mostly on PvP. I don't think I can convey an adequate measure of the PvE aspect due to a few factors: limited time, lack of party or companions, and starting from an incredibly low level, which veteran MMO players know to be one of the slowest parts of the game. So without further ado, let's talk player vs. player!

    While waiting the 30 minute queue, I befriended a fellow World of Warcraft alumni who was just ahead of me on line. Our two-man party made its way toward the entry of SWTOR's massive PC complex, which easily housed at least 30 stations running the game at max settings. As the last two to make it into the current session, we couldn't really choose which class we played, as classes were predetermined by which station you manned. My compatriot took control of the Gunslinger, an advanced Smuggler class who dual-wields blasters and comes equipped with a variety of tricks. After he was seated, I was informed by the helpful staff - who don't head count especially well - that there were no more available stations and I would have to wait until the next session. Nuts, but I made the best of my time by observing the Gunslinger in action.

    The players of this current session were dropped into a match of Huttball; The Old Republic's official sport, which lead writer Daniel Erickson described as football almost exactly, complete with player positions for the classes. The match is between two teams of 8, on a playing field littered with an assortment of traps and pitfalls. I spotted vents of highly damaging fire, movement slowing pits of acid, and high-pressure air vents which propel the player into the air and has a chance of dropping you into one of the aforementioned death traps. At the beginning of the match, a ball spawns in the middle of the field. The first to touch the ball becomes the carrier, and is tasked to deliver the ball into the opposing team's base, which acts as an end zone. If you kill the man with the ball, you become the carrier. As the carrier, you can attack and use skills as normal, and can also pass the ball off to a teammate in case the pressure of having the entire opposing team's crosshairs on you is too much to bear. A single team can consist of both Republic and Empire combatants, but only same faction players can party to enter the war zone together. It pays, however, to know your team. A lightly armored Jedi Sage may not be who you want attempting to blitz the opponent's end zone. The Sith Warrior makes a strong running back, due in part to good defensive capabilities and Force Leap, an attack that propels the player at his target, who is in the direction of the end zone, ideally. A Jedi Consular, in addition to healing, can use an area-of-effect Force Push which can keep melee heat off of the ball runner. Huttball is one instance where working with the enemy can be beneficial.

    As Huttball ended, players shuffled out of BioWare's brief abode of bliss with mostly all positive reactions. After watching the entire preceding match, I was electrically charged to get on the mouse and keys. As the first person in, I had pick of the litter among the classes. Boba Fett fanboy that I am, I chose to play a Bounty Hunter, which is a class I was leaning toward to start my adventure in The Old Republic anyway. The real decision came between advanced Bounty Hunter classes: Mercenary, ranged DPS dynamo akin to Jango Fett, or Powertech, defensive juggernaut akin to Boba. My choice was simple. I always thought Jango was a bitch anyway. Once the players were set, we were thrust into the Alderaan war zone, which played a bit like a 'territories' game type. Teams began play away from the battlefield, and mounted speeders to be automatically flown to one of three turrets of their choice. After a short period spent to capture the turret, it would fall under your faction's control, and begin firing on the opposing faction's transport ship, which is chilling in low orbit. The more turrets you hold, the sooner your faction will win.

    In the Alderaan war zone, my Powertech was impressive, raking an 11:3 kill-to-death ratio. He chipped away at enemy health from distance with wrist-mounted rockets and his trusty blaster, and when the enemy got up close and personal they were greeted by a flamethrower and a rocket punch to the teeth. It took about 2 or 3 enemies to take the Powertech down, a testament to his defensive capabilities, especially with his shield buff active. I would usually stay at a distance from the turret and attempt to pick off the Republic do-gooders, usually pulling them away from their objective one at a time, which is where the Powertech excels it seems. I made a point of asking every Old Republic staffer which class they preferred playing as, and the response was surprisingly well spread out. Not once did I receive the same answer, which means either there is incredible character balance, or those dudes are very well trained to tell players what we want to hear. According to Mr. Erickson, 6 of the 8 playable classes can be played as either tanks or healers, meaning you won't often find a shortage of two of the most important in-game roles.

    What I think is one of the coolest parts of the PvP experience is the level playing field that BioWare has created. Players can PvP beginning at level 10, and the war zones are built with players ranging from the entry level of 10 to the level cap of 50. Base stats are evened out, so a level 10 and level 50 may have the same amount of base HP and other attributes, meaning the polar opposites could technically stand toe-to-toe, with the fight going either way. Of course, the level 50 will have superior equipment and a wider range of abilities to use, so there is still an advantage for he who has invested more time into the game, but the lackadaisical end-game PvPer will be punished. Some players may not agree with this aspect of the design, but I think it solves more problems than it creates, so consider me a fan.

    Star Wars: The Old Republic is gonna be hot fiiiiiiire. I cannot wait to spend a good portion of my winter humiliating would-be Jedi who cower behind the false sense of security provided by a lightsaber. If battling other players ain't your thing don't worry, it appears SW:TOR will have something for everyone. With 50 man years worth or writing in the story how could it not? Unique storylines for each class means you'll have to play with all 8 to truly experience all The Old Republic has to offer. December 20 cannot come soon enough.


    Star Wars: The Old Republic Keeps Piling on The Sexy

    BioWare blesses us with two lovely Star Wars: The Old Republic pieces. The game's intro cinematic is a hefty 6 minutes of troopers, scoundrels, and good old fashion lightsaber battles. In line with the earlier cinematic trailers, this one is beauty and madness combined in one tight little package, like Britney Spears. In fact, BioWare should be responsible for creating a feature length, full CG Star Wars film, that's how good these trailers have been. Ray Muzyka > George Lucas. The trailer shows how the villainous Darth Malgus comes into power, and how the Sith reclaim their home planet of Korriban.

    In addition, there's a pretty good braggadocio trailer that details what exactly The Old Republic brings to the table that your current MMO of choice may not offer. Heroic battles? Personal starships? Space battles? PvP Warzones? Okay, maybe every MMO in existence already offers these things, HOWEVER! They don't have Jedi and Sith do they? Game, set, match.


    The Old Republic's New Objective-Based PvP

    I'm not any less excited for Star Wars: The Old Republic than I was when it was first announced. Robust, overflowing with lore, and done by our future benevolent leaders at Bioware, as both a gamer and a Star Wars fan, what's not to look forward to?

    The trailers that have been outed have done ridiculous things to my adrenaline levels, resulting in some home videos that I'm not very proud of. Revealed gameplay has looked good, though I still wonder how a smuggler can beat any self respecting Sith. The story that's being set, the locations, the historical figures, everything sounds so deep and involving, I'm definitely foreseeing a huge dip in productivity once the The Old Republic hits the general public.

    The player vs. player system has been pretty low key, but the latest trailer is blowing up spots! Warzones will pit the Republic against Imperial forces, allowing them to engage on the battlefield while each team works to secure an objective to turn the tide of battle. This first Warzone is found on the neutral world of Alderaan, where players must take control of the planet's massive planetary defense cannon, to deplete the opposing orbital fleet's shields, thus prompting an enemy retreat. 

    More information will be available on Warzones soon, but so far so good. It will be interesting to see if these skirmishes will have any bearing on the overall story. I'm also curious about the topics of world PvP, different objective-based PvP types, and other Warzones. All in due time, I suppose. Star Wars: The Old Republic can't go gold soon enough.


    Hyperbolic Statement: The Old Republic Will Blast Faces Off

    As another gaming con concludes, another Star Wars: The Old Republic trailer graces our unworthy, fleshy presences. The latest tease job from our future benevolent overlords at BioWare, comes not in the form of barn-burning animated fight scenes, but instead submerges us in the lore of The Old Republic.

    An oddly composed party of four stand before an imperial officer, who preps the crew on their mission at hand. The basis of the forthcoming mission widens the eyes of both gamers and geeks alike; Darth Revan. A conversation wheel appears, the player makes his choice, the character relays the player's thoughts, and we're off to battle.

    The fighting is smooth, the voice acting is top notch, and the story is rich and fulfilling. These are the things we know and/or can assume, seeing as how BioWare can rarely do wrong, and we've seen their union with Lucasarts leads to things of an awesome nature. The inclusion of Darth Revan will reel in KotOR and Star Wars fanboys alike, and in the off chance that Revan doesn't have you pitching a tent, well maybe the blood red rust of HK-47 in glorious HD will?


    GC10: The Old Republic's Space Battles

    Space battles are awesome; it's a proven fact. Space shooter sequences will give anything you throw them in instant credibility. They're fun, flashy, fast, and more times than not, pretty tricky to complete. 

    The space battles thrown into the mix in BioWare's latest Star Wars offering, The Old Republic look fairly simple. You head in one direction, on rails, blowing up whatever is threatening your ship and weaving through asteroid fields. Simple, yes, but a welcome change of pace in the MMO landscape that seems to be same old thing game in and game out.

    A few things I'd love to get some clarification on: How customizable your ship is, will you be able to install upgrades that affect the space battle segments, and what happens if and when your ship is finally destroyed. 

    I don't know how BioWare expects us to wait until next year for this game. 


    E3: Star Wars The Old Republic: Hope

    Like I said before, LucasArts knows how to do trailers when it comes to this Star Wars thing. In what is the Yin to the original The Old Republic trailer's Yang, this cinematic entitled Hope is gorgeous. And this time, the good guys win!