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The Old Republic...of Awesomeness!!

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Gameplay from E3

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and a video of a high level Operation (raid)

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How is it that their games make the movies look tepid and weak?

Even this cinematic alone makes the entire "Episodes 1 - III" look like the work of mediocre film students.

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Well ...

For starters there is a sense of artistic integrity here. By which I mean not one fart joke or "stupid droid" joke.

There's more pathos in 6 minutes that Episode 2 had in 2 hours, I mean that jedi almost won out, but at least he succeeded in his goal of letting the others escape. Noble sacrifice of the kind we haven't seen since Episode 6 IMO.

Also the music kicked ass, but then anybody who dares to impeach John Williams' score for any of the six films goes on my shit list ... in brown ink.

That said, I still can't bring myself to care.

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Sorry for my level of ignorance on this new title (and inability to watch the posted video clips at work), but is this going to be another SW MMO? (I'm assuming yes because of the 'raid' title of the one clip)

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Having actually watched the videos now, this seems like an MMO in the same vein of STO. Meaning that you can make it basically a single person game where you just happen to see other people in transit, or where you can actually get with a group. (I know that that's somewhat true for all MMO's but some lend themselves to the duality)

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In case no one saw this, this was the E3 trailer from 2010.

I agree with some of the comments that this could easily...EASILY be a movie. And probably a helluva lot better than 1-3.

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Maybe I'm just jaded by Skyrim, but SWTOR just seems like a WOW clone. The bad camera controls and terrible graphics are driving me crazy. At least the story is interesting.

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It's definitely still got some rough spots that's for sure, but I'm enjoying it. Been playing for 13 hours... eyes are becoming unhappy with me.

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(Wife and son are out of town, otherwise it would not be possible...)

21 hours played.

Leveled up a Jedi to become a Jedi Sentinel lvl 12

Leveled up a Sith to become a Sith Sorcerer lvl 10

Not bad for 21 hours, being my first time in the beta.

Overall, I'd say I'm liking the game so far.

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I've also been playing the beta. It's very stable for a beta, but perhaps I'm jaded by the usual release state of games.

I find it very fun so far. Tried a Jedi Knight and a bounty hunter. Very different playstyles. And there's a distinct difference in 'flavor' between Republic and Empire. The tone of everything is different. Empire characters get light side/dark side choices just like Republic ones...but in the Empire, the NPC's assume you'll be taking the darkside choices. If you take light side, people are surprised and either grateful or vaguely contemptuous. It's kind of cool.

Gameplay isn't too evolved from WoW; missions are typically either "collect 10 wigguns" or "go to waypoint and click object and then do it again." However, the level of story involvement makes it FEEL more evolved. This is partly because everything (EVERYTHING) is voice acted, and partly because the "main" missions all come together to form a distinct plot arc; a story that defines your early experiences. The side missions are still on the side...useful for getting equipment and leveling, but not part of that overarching story. That said, they're often tangentially related, which gives the whole more sense of depth.

I found the graphics to be pleasing, though my computer's on the low end of performance for the game right now. There's some texture pop-in lag that I'm not sure if it's the game's fault or my computer's. There's some glitches that creep in from time to time too, but not so often that it's terribly distracting.

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Yeah, I have to agree, I'm definitely enjoying the storylines. They do feel like a story as opposed to a bunch of random junk quests most MMOs throw at you.

The other very cool thing is that the storyline is different for each character type. It isn't just the same quest givers tossing out slightly different wording.

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Ok, the NDA has officially been lifted, so I'm going to post what I saw as Pros and Cons.

Pros:

1) Story, Story, Story. - I really enjoyed the story for the various characters. They were engaging and interesting and better done than I've seen in any other game I've played. It didn't feel like a series of random grinding quests strung together, it really felt like you were following a story. Well done SWTOR.

2) Decent combat and other gameplay - the combat and other activity seemed pretty well done to me. On par with anything else I've played.

3) Scenery - What little I saw of the game looked good. Coruscant looked like it did in the movies, Korriban looked like I expected it to from the Comics. They had the flavor I expected and were graphically well done. No worse than other games.

Cons:

1) Pathed - in other words you can't just run across a world from edge to edge, you are limited to where they want you to go. No exploring just for the fun of it. Boo! This alone might limit the playability of this game for me. I detest pathed MMOs. The freedom to just set out in a direction and see what's over those hills is a big draw for me.

2) Space combat is lame, at least the solo missions I flew. Not sure if you can party up to do space missions, but either way, it didn't hold a candle to SWG. It really feels like they phoned it in on this aspect of the game. That's not to say it totally sucked, it was enjoyable in it's own way, it was just more arcade-like than flying simulator. Definitely felt like the game was taking a step in the wrong direction to me.

3) Housing - or the lack thereof. They give you a ship once you finish the basic storyline and that is your house, which is cool. However, there is no ability whatsoever to decorate it in any way, and as far as I know you are stuck with the one ship and what you get is based on your class. So if you care enough to want a particular ship, you'll have to make a character of the appropriate class. Again, this is totally lame by comparison with SWG, which allowed you to have multiple ships and decorate them with all the goodies you collected throughout your adventures. But then SWG did have the best housing of any game I've ever heard of so that's a tough comparison.

4) Lack of imagination - Seriously guys, we're 3000 years in the Galaxy's past. Are you telling me there has been so little innovation in 3000 years that the smuggler's ship is recognizably a predecessor to the Millenium Falcon? And on that note, fashion has apparently not changed one thread in all that time either, Smugglers are walking photocopies of Han Solo. Either that or Han had a serious retro fetish going on. And it isn't just the smugglers. Everything in the game seems to be just a transplant from the New Republic era. I get that they are trying to maintain the Star Wars feel, and that totally redesigning things would lose that flavor, but it was noticeably obvious that so little was different that it was a little annoying to me. Hell, the "Imperial" ships look as much like those of the Empire, as the ones during the clone wars only 25 years earlier. At the very least they could have gone with the art work from the Comics set in the Old Republic times. In fact, I think it's the whole Imperial thing that is really bothering me the most about this. It seems very unimaginative and cookie-cutter.

Verdict:

I'll play the game and enjoy it for as long as it interests me, however, unless they make some serious improvements/redesigns of things like Housing, space combat, and Pathed worlds, I doubt it will be able to keep me drawn in past the point where I've played out the storylines for the various characters. Playing SWTOR feels a whole lot like playing The Force Unleashed 1 and 2, or even KOTOR 1 and 2, but as an MMO rather than a single player game. Don't get me wrong, those games were cool and I enjoyed them, but they are games that I put away on a shelf when I finished the story. Initial impressions of SWTOR are that I will put it away on a shelf when I'm done with the story.

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Playing SWTOR feels a whole lot like playing The Force Unleashed 1 and 2, or even KOTOR 1 and 2, but as an MMO rather than a single player game. Don't get me wrong, those games were cool and I enjoyed them, but they are games that I put away on a shelf when I finished the story. Initial impressions of SWTOR are that I will put it away on a shelf when I'm done with the story.

My thoughts exactly. It seems like it was gonna be KOTOR 3 and then they retro'd it into an MMO without much redesign. I have a very strong feeling I will play it out (barring changes) and then be bored with it. The game is extremely linear.

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Just to volley back a little...speaking as a person who really, really enjoyed both KOTORs, of course...

You -can- explore. It's not always easy, and it's not Skyrim, but there ARE areas off the paths and sometimes you find neat stuff in them, like datacrons that boost your stats permanently. That said, the game is made to be easy to navigate as you do the quests, so there is emphasis on corridors between questing areas. The quests are entertaining enough I barely noticed...I loved exploring in WoW, but mostly because the actual missions were boring (IMO :)).

I didn't have the same reaction to space combat either, though I can see where it's coming from. If I had come into this game thinking it was going to be a space sim/Elite type game, I'd be upset too. As it is, space combat is just another type of quest, really, and plays out a lot like space combat in the movies. That is, the ship flies, and you shoot the guns at whatever you can see. I can't really fault Bioware their decision not to let you fly ANDshoot, or even just fly while the AI shoots. That would mean a whole other set of 3D environments to put stuff in, and so on. I'm not sure they could have made this game feature awesome space combat AND great surface content. Every game I've seen does one or the other... With that in mind, I think they made the choice I would have asked them to. Not to mention, this space combat works a lot like space combat in KOTOR...so...there we go. :)

Which gets back to the 'lack of imagination.' It all comes down to the identity. This is Star Wars, and as such it has certain elements that demand to be included. The ship looks like the Falcon...and the smuggler like Han...because most people want to play Han, in the Falcon, like they saw in the movies. That's part of the fun. They could make the ship look totally new and unique, but then it wouldn't be Star Wars. Same reason the Sith ship looks a lot like a TIE fighter. Because this is Star Wars, and that's what bad guys in Star Wars fly. I'm pretty sure it's not imagination loss...Bioware has plenty of imagination. In this case they used it to carefully evoke the Star Wars 'brand identity' with a number of visual and audio cues. You can like it or not, of course, but lets at least keep straight why they're doing it...it's not an accident, or a lack of competence. It's a calculated decision to make sure their product is recognizably part of an established franchise.

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I get that they are trying to maintain the Star Wars feel, and that totally redesigning things would lose that flavor,...

Like I said, I do get that, I just think they went too far with it. With the Smuggler, I can forgive it, because like you said, people want to play Han in the Falcon. With the Imperial star destroyers hanging there in the sky's over Korriban, it was too much for me. I will grant you that it probably wasn't a lack of imagination, but rather a conscious choice, but it isn't one I would have made, and that I wish they hadn't. I would have like to have seen a bit more vision and some breaking of new ground.

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I can't help but feel that this would have been a far better game if they hadn't tried to make it an MMO.

And it might have been a better MMO if they hadn't filed off the serial numbers from Blizzard's main cash cow. I dunno. I'm starting to feel like Bioware are surfing on the back of good dialogue and writing, and their actual games are getting more and more uninspired. I really hope Mass Effect 3 turns out well.

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I dunno if I agree with that about Bioware in general. I agree that Old Republic feels (alternately) like the next KOTOR single player, and a sci fi retooling of WoW. It has the gameplay elements of Wow, with some tweaks that I like, but are hardly revolutionary. It has the story and immersion elements of KOTOR.

I would argue that this marriage does not add up to a bad game, nor one unworthy of time. It has the problems all MMOs have, though I'd say based on my experience in the beta, that 'single playing' it is much more entertaining. But one might ask then, what's the POINT of an MMO that you single play? And...yeah, that's a good question.

Even so, the key question that any game must address is the 'is it fun' one, and I'd have to say yes. Is it worth 50 bucks up front and 15 bucks a month ad infinitum? Well...probably not. We'll see how long I play it. I suspect it'll be longer than I did WoW, but we shall see.

As for Bioware's other offerings...I've been a Mass Effect fanboy from the start, and while ME2 represented a bit of a backslide from the RPG elements, it was still great fun to play. Since ME3 looks to be replacing some of what was lost, that makes me happy. And I've enjoyed Dragon Age quite a bit, though I am not a 'fanboy' of the series. I like the setting a lot, and I liked the semi-retro oldskool RPG appeal of Dragon Age Origins. I appreciated what they were -trying- to do with Dragon Age 2...though I recognize that their efforts fell somewhat flat. I still enjoyed the game, but ultimately not as much. But I'm not willing to infer that the company as a whole is beginning a downward spiral because they tried something 'newish' on a game and it didn't pan out as well as they hoped. I actually am glad they tried shaking the bag a bit, and didn't just amp up the Origins engine and throw in more monsters and classes and release THAT as Dragon Age 2. It might have sold better, and heck it might even have been a better game...but it would have signaled far more (IMO) the kind of incipient stagnation you're talking about.

As long as Bioware's willing to take a risk or two, I think they'll be fine creatively. I just hope TOR does reasonably well, cuz an MMO that goes bust can really be a nutpunch to a development house.

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