Star Wars: The Old Republic is an MMO in every sense of the word. There will be guilds, raids, crafting, harvesting, multiple classes, yadda, yadda, yadda. The real question — though it’s not much of one given that the game is being made by BioWare — is how does it play?
Star Wars: The Old Republic Cinematic Trailer from E3 2009
We found out when they let us touch the keyboard during our visit to LucasArt’s E3 booth. Playing as a Sith bounty hunter called Darthawesome (a name I sadly can’t take credit for), I went on a mission to kill the captain of a spaceship for disobeying a direct order to attack another ship. Using a similar circular-type conversation system as Mass Effect, I confronted the errant commander and, having decided to play as a real jerk, I showed him the error of his ways…with my lightsaber. And no, I’m not being euphemistic.
But before I had a chance to attack the ship he had been ordered to attack, it struck first, with soldiers from it boarding the ship I had just made leader-less.
In other words, now is the time on The Old Republic when we fight.
Control-wise, Republic works much like other MMOs, with you using the “W," "A,” “S,” and “D” or arrow buttons to move, and the number keys to initiate attacks that correspond to the numbered icons along the bottom of the screen. Except that when you play as a Sith, as I did, doing simple melee attacks with your lightsaber builds up your Action Points, which you can use to do special attacks. So, for example, after attacking some guys a couple times with some quick jabs of the “1” key, I was able to stun everyone around me with a “5.” Or maybe a “4.” It happened kind of fast. All I know is everyone stopped hitting me long enough for me to slice ’em up.
You can also, like our Lord And Vader, use the Force to choke someone. Though this being a special attack, you can’t just run around choking people whenever you want, like when the guy at Coffee Bean gets your order wrong. Again.
Then there's this leaping attack where, if you’re far enough from an enemy, and designate him as your intended target, you can hit “3” and leap across the room, hitting him with a devastating downstrike attack. It’s almost as cool as the leap move in Wolverine, so much so that I kept backing up just so I could leap attack people.
But being an MMO, which is supposed to be about more than just hacking and slashing guys, I couldn’t help but struggle with the combat. Maybe it’s the console gamer in me, or my virgin status when it comes to MMO, but I kept expecting my character to lock onto the nearest enemy and await my command to attack, and instead I often had to hit the “TAB” button to make him pick a target. I also had some trouble moving and fighting at the same time, even when using the arrow keys. But these, as I said, are issues more about my gaming experience, or lack thereof, than with this particular game, so anyone who’s played WoW or any other MMO for more than a week won’t have these problems.
Sadly, I soon ran out of enemies to pounce on. Thus endeth the demo. And, of course, this preview.