One of the most highly anticipated games of the year launched today – STAR WARS™: The Old Republic™ from LucasArts and Bioware. The game is in the MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) genre, and has been compared to the hugely popular World of Warcraft in terms of style, though obviously in a very different setting.
Here is the press release:
EA, BioWare and LucasArts usher in a Force in online games as STAR WARS™: The Old Republic™ goes live today
From Midnight Store Openings to the Opening Bell of the NASDAQ, Gamers and Star Wars™ Fans Celebrate the Start of their Personal Star Wars Saga Online Today
REDWOOD CITY, Calif – December 20, 2011 – A stunning Star Wars universe. Thousands of hours of gameplay. Gripping stories. Engrossing dialogue performed by hundreds of talented voice actors. BioWare, a label of Electronic Arts Inc. (NASDAQ: EA), today is proud to turn on the servers for one of the most anticipated games of all time, Star Wars: The Old Republic, winner of over 100 awards from critics around the world. Last night, fans lined up around the block on the eve of launch at retail outlets in New York, Paris, London, Austin and other cities across the world, celebrating the debut of the game with gatherings complete with costumed characters and memorabilia giveaways. This morning, EA, BioWare and LucasArts continue the launch celebration by hosting the opening ceremony and ringing the bell at the NASDAQ stock exchange. The ceremony can be viewed at http://nasdaq.com. As the servers go live and fans flood into the game, BioWare customer support teams are managing the network infrastructure to ensure every player has a smooth, easy and fun experience getting into the game.
“Today represents an amazing milestone for BioWare, EA and Star Wars fans everywhere and we are confident it has been worth the wait,” said Dr. Ray Muzyka, Co-Founder, BioWare and General Manager, EA’s BioWare Label. “The support and resources going into Star Wars: The Old Republic are not ending today. The innovations we’re bringing to the category are just the start of a journey and ongoing investment in our players that will grow, evolve and transform based on player feedback over the weeks, months and years ahead.”
Dr. Greg Zeschuk, Co-Founder, BioWare and General Manager of the BioWare Label’s MMO Business Unit, added: “The addition of story and personal choice to the MMO genre is going to fundamentally change the way people perceive MMOs moving forward, especially when it is experienced at its fullest potential with high-quality writing and voice acting. We are extremely happy with where The Old Republic stands at launch and we can’t wait to grow the game with our community to make it even better in the future.”
Star Wars: The Old Republic is a story-driven, massively multiplayer online (MMO) game from BioWare and LucasArts, breaking new ground in online gaming by delivering high quality, fully voiced storylines with personal choice and consequences. Set thousands of years before the classic Star Wars movies, players will be immersed as they team up with friends online to fight in heroic battles reminiscent of the films, exploring a galaxy of vibrant planets and experiencing visceral Star Wars combat. Players will be asked to join forces with either the Galactic Republic or Sith Empire and choose one of eight iconic Star Wars characters, including the Jedi Knight, Jedi Consular, Smuggler, Trooper, Sith Warrior, Sith Inquisitor, Bounty Hunter and Imperial Agent. Set against a sweeping musical score, Star Wars: The Old Republic will be the most emotionally engaging online gaming experience ever.
Included with the purchase of every copy of Star Wars: The Old Republic is 30 days of access to the game, after which players can continue to play through subscribing* at either $14.99 per month, $41.97 for 3 months ($13.99 per month), or $77.94 for six months ($12.99 per month). For more information on Star Wars: The Old Republic, please visit www.StarWarsTheOldRepublic.com, follow the game on Twitter® at http://twitter.com/swtor or “Like” Star Wars: The Old Republic on Facebook® at http://facebook.com/starwarstheoldrepublic.
I have been part of the beta test program for the game for some time, and the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) lifted a couple of weeks ago after a larger ‘invite only’ test period. I wanted to share a few of my impressions.
During my time with the game, I focused mainly on playing as a Jedi Consular, though I also put some time in as a Jedi Knight and Sith Inquisitor. The Jedi Knight is a combat-focused class, whereas both the Consular and Inquisitor are Force-based classes. There are other classes such as Rogue, Trooper, Agent, and Bounty Hunter, but I never spent any significant time with them.
The flow of the game is an interesting story-centric approach. This is rather unique for the genre where story is generally set back from levelling, loot-gathering and social aspects. The story-focus had a double-edged impact for me: on the one hand the story pulled me in, on the other hand I spent the first hour pretty much watching cutscene after cutscene.
The gameplay itself is rather standard action-RPG as done in most post-WoW MMORPG games … but done with a Star Wars flair.
Rather than just drone on, I wanted to touch on some highs and lows, to help give you a feel for what to expect:
- Class stories: every class has a story for you to explore. At times it feels like you are in a single player RPG, sort of like an action-based Knights of the Old Republic.
- Levelling – most folks agree that the amount of ‘grinding’ for levels in World of Warcraft is tiresome. In TOR, things progress more naturally, and as a result you feel more rewarded for normal actions than for grinding out ‘experience actions’.
- Open areas – I was worried this would be confined like Knights of the Old Republic, but fortunately it is a massive environment on each planet.
- Choices that Matter – too few games offer choices that have an impact today, so seeing it in a MMO is stunning, and in general it is well done.
- Gameplay – the action is fast, there is plenty to explore, spaceships work well, and in general the game has come a long way and feels ‘ready’. Did I mention that owning a spaceship was cool?
- Companions – quite cool throughout and add to the game.
- Levelling – where there is a plus there is a minus … and since you can get through levels more quickly, it is also more likely to cap out too quickly
- Slow respawn – this is annoying from your very first quest: you are in a zone with loads of others, all of whom need to do the same primary and secondary quests and all of whom share the items. This is just annoying … and gets worse in similar pinch-points throughout the game.
- The ‘WoW Factor’ … let’s be honest, ‘World of Warcraft in Space’ is NOT an inaccurate description.
- ‘Non Story Areas’ – when you leave the class areas and are dumped into an area with
- Still buggy – it was less than a week ago when I last played … and I STILL got stuck in places, physically unable to move without completely exiting the game and restarting. There were plenty of others.
- Sith/Jedi Mirror Classes – most of the Jedi/Sith classes are identical but with different names, making the unique classes seem less unique.
- Lack of useful information – sometimes you are flooded with help, other times you feel lost and see the general chat window filled with others in the same boat. It is possible to blow right past important events and milestones because the game isn’t helpful.
- Everyone looks alike – I am not one for the infinite character tweaking, but customization is SO limited here that when you enter a zone with fifty others in the same class you are bound to see at least a dozen who look identical, and many others who are very similar.
I have never been a huge fan of MMORPG games, never got hooked on ‘Evercrack’, never lost my life to WoW. But I AM a huge Star Wars fan, a huge LucasArts and Bioware fan … so I really wanted to try. And for a while the solo-play aspects were enough to keep me engaged and playing. But then I would spend hours in a large zone performing WoW-like tasks – and that was enough to keep me from ordering the game. Perhaps I will play the game again, but not right now.
Would I recommend it? That depends – how does ‘World of Warcraft in Space’ sound? If it sounds great, then go sign up now! If not … well then wait for a few months until they offer free 7-day trials and see for yourself if the Force is with this one.
Here is a video of the gameplay:
I know Francis has this pre-ordered, but what about you? Are you excited to play?