Preview: Exploring Star Wars’ new Old Republic

July 30, 2011

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic stands tall as possibly the greatest game for what many consider the greatest license in media: Star Wars. Ever since 2004, though, Star Wars fans have had little to play that lives up to its standard. BioWare hopes to change all that when Star Wars: The Old Republic finally releases.

As almost everyone knows by now, The Old Republic, while taking place 300 years after KotOR 2, will not follow the same formula. Instead, BioWare is turning it into an MMO fit to challenge the king, WoW. Details have been hard to come by regarding TOR, since all we’d seen until recently were a few very beautiful and mouth-watering trailers.

While WoW certainly gets the gameplay right, BioWare feels that something is missing from the MMO formula: story. This is the ultimate goal of The Old Republic: to provide a compelling and epic story for players to participate in and shape with their friends. BioWare knows how to craft a story, as Dragon Age, Mass Effect and Knights of the Old Republic show. Each class will have its own story and choices to make, with each story arc planned to take at least 100 hours to complete. With four classes for the Republic and four for the Sith, that’s over 800 hours planned from the start. The team says they consider The Old Republic to be KotOR 3 through 10, and that shows in this philosophy. Each storyline will branch according to the choices you make, so even those 100-hour blocks are replayable.

The story can be played through by yourself if you so choose, along with story-based instances that can support squads of four players. In those instances, any choices to be made are chosen by essentially rolling a die. Whoever rolls highest gets to choose what decision the team goes with.

The gameplay looks very WoW-ish, and one of the big announcements was the addition of large-scale raids to the game. During these, multiple groups can team up to take on tougher instances that will also yield very lucrative loot that you can’t get outside of these events. We saw one in action and it definitely seems that every person will be needed to be successful.

The closed beta for The Old Republic is going on now, and obviously many things are open to change between now and the final release. The two things that are most important will not change: it will be a Star Wars game, and BioWare is looking to appeal to the fans that loved KotOR. That’s really all we need to know.