During an interview with EA’s games boss Frank Gibeau, he has explained how BioWare’s new project is going to face WoW head on for a chunk of its subscribers with EA’s MMORPG Star Wars: The Old Republic. EA have no intention of sneaking around their foe, and instead are directly pushing their game out into the harsh world that is out there for a new MMO. WoW being the top predator of the MMO food chain, BioWare wants to challenge that dominance, and I will be honest; The Old Republic looks like it will be darning good.
Frank explains that WoW is now an old game and using BioWare’s quality with the Star Wars franchise will blow WoW from the water. Now, as we all know Star Wars is a series that most of the globe and probably the universe is a fan geek to. This makes ToR set a sprint right off the bat by just announcing they are making it. I’d like to take a moment in saying that this would not be the first time a new MMO has launched with the intention to move the WoW population to its own servers. And sadly not a single one that promised to do so actually did it. Just look at Warhammer Online and Vanguard… WoW just has too much of a following and more money behind it than a starting MMO company could ever dream of getting behind them. In fact, every MMORPG that has made it to our screens in the past 5 years would be lying if the makers said they took no ideas from WoW. It’s impossible. WoW has set the corner stone, the bar, whatever you want to call it; they have set it for every MMO game that hopes to show itself anytime soon.
“When I play World of Warcraft, you go and get your quests, and you go and do your quests, but it feels more like doing a shopping list at times,” Gibeau explained. “[Our game] is more about talking to characters, learning what’s going on, investing in it, getting emotionally attached to it”. Now, I will say that with WoW, all the lore is made up. In fact there is quite a lot of lore WoW actually has, every bit of it is made up. The issue with this is that you can’t immerse yourself in your character truly if you are just learning about the world you’re in. Having so much lore and information just trips you over words upon words and it are hard to even care. Star Wars, we all know it. The lore will only be 50% made up, the rest continuing from what we ALREADY know or are at least aware of. Straight away you can jump in and come across things you know something about. Now, about fans. Say 3 billion people are fans of Star Wars, but only 50’000 of them are gamers. There’s a common problem right there. DC Universe Online has also had to deal with this. Even if you use a popular name brand… It doesn’t make the fans come crawling if they don’t play video games. But this is Star Wars, they probably do.
Now onto gameplay! This I found interesting. The Old Republic will be the second ever MMO to use the Cover Mechanics. Tabula Rasa being the first. The cover mechanic is the system that allows the player to fluently take cover behind objects. Example, Gears of War.
Before my next point I’d like to share some obvious information. The game, like WoW has two moral sides. Galactic Republic and Sith Empire. Not to poke holes, but I’ve always wanted to see a fully immersed MMO that doesn’t have such ‘Black & White’ options when it comes to moral choices. “Kill him or let him live” kind of things. But that’s another issue I’ll bring up later on.
Unlike pretty much all MMO’s, ToR won’t be using med class types like tanks, healers, melee DPS and ranged etc. Instead, they’re using an on-the-fly customisation so no matter what class you take you can partake from any role in a party. As much as I’m interested in this, I also know many won’t like it. Being 1 class and having that role that you’re used to makes your character special to you and is known by your friends as what they do. Allowing players to switch between combat types and roles makes it harder to party and stick to your favourite styles and gear. (Yes, mixing combat types usually means spending more in game currency to apply for everything you may need to do). On another note, this will stop party freeze. If there is a healer missing from a group for example, you don’t have to wait. Just set a friend up with the skill until a better option arrives.
There are 8 races to choose from. However Human seems to be the most logical, as humans can choose between every single class type. Other races may only have 2 or 3 class choices open to them. However humans are by no means the coolest or more fun looking thing, so I wouldn’t bet on everyone going human. On a side note, your character will have their own voice, and talking to NPC will have a similar dialog choice as Mass Effect. The convo wheel.
Now combat. ToR will be a ‘Tunnel Shooter’. Which is a flying game where the player is on a predetermined track. Defiantly will add to the cinematic approach the game will certainly take. Space battles also occur, which means yes… you get your own space ship. How it works I’m unsure, but it looks to be used mostly as a safe house where you can sit your companions. Companions will be added like pets as far as I know. Find them, use them, get rid of them. You can only use 3 so, like any companion based game pick ones that support your style.
Blizzard know full well the potential TOR has, “This is a game that has an opportunity to grow the MMO market if done right”, Blizzard boss Frank Pearce says. If companies like EA didn’t try these things then others would. And small companies in large groups can bite like hell. I just hope EA won’t make a common mistake in using their talent to produce a great single player game, and then polish it as an online game to rack up the big time cash. We all know it doesn’t work.
That’s all I have for now. Keep watching for updates!