October 20, 2011

NYCC: Star Wars: The Old Republic Demo (or why I'll be disappearing at the end of December)

When you attend convention after convention, it's easy to fall into the same patterns. To keep it interesting, you should probably try out something you normally don't, right? Go to a panel about a subject you're unfamiliar with, participate in speed dating, or play a video game demo. I tell people to do that but rarely take my own advice. But. After meeting some of the crew from Star Wars: The Old Republic, I played a demo for the first time at NYCC last weekend.

I don't play many games. Pretty much zero. It's embarrassing to admit, but I received an Xbox 360 for my birthday earlier this year, and I've barely played. I know. Please don't hit me. I didn't ask for it. Before the Xbox and Fables III, the last video game I played with any regularity was the Legend of Zelda on a Nintendo 64. I haven't tried playing anything made for the computer  for longer than ten minutes since the days of junior high and Oregon Trail.

It's not that I dislike games. I do. Just too much. When I dive in and pick up the controller, I can't stop. I play for hours on end without shame. I feel like I can't give in. Still. I can't deny that news of the upcoming Star Wars MMO from Bioware, Star Wars: The Old Republic, didn't catch my attention. I've been wanting to try a roleplaying game but never felt World of Warcraft or something similar was for me. There wasn't any draw for me to check it out. Star Wars has built in appeal. I've overheard others saying the same thing I'm thinking, "I don't play games, I don't play MMOs, but I have to try this game." Star Wars is a big part of it, but the trailers showcase impressive visuals. A new trailer was just released in the past few days. Watch it and drool.

The demo I played at New York Comic Con pushed me from thinking I would probably play to knowing I'd definitely be buying the game. I sampled enough to know I will get to experience balanced storytelling and fighting (I don't want to just kill things) and that playing an online roleplaying game is very much like playing D&D. By that, I mean I could readily translate what happens when I roll dice and make alignment based decisions to this online environment. The story plays out like a "choose your own adventure" novel. Voice actors recorded a jaw-dropping number of hours of dialogue and responses for each possible option and story.

Besides the character conversations, hours of original scores were written for the game, too. Multiple composers worked on the themes. The new music is woven with familiar John Williams pieces. Since his scores are the oxygen of Star Wars, it's an effective way to tie the Old Republic time period - a few thousand years BBY - to the events of A New Hope.

The visual aspect of the game environment isn't too shabby either. The computers in the demo pavilion were of course amped up to show the game at its finest, but I feel like it will retain the look on my laptop. The list of available characters seemed long to me, and you can play Light side or Dark side. Each character comes with a specific set of abilities. After I chose to be a Jedi Consular, I obtained a mission-quest-thing almost immediately. The game was easy to navigate (though I admit to having some trouble with the keyboard shortcuts initially), and I was killing Flesh Raiders and completing quest goals in no time. The guy showing me the game was very patient with my uh, inadequacies and inability to read a map. I am such a Padawan.

I played just long enough to know that when I buy the game, I'll have to set an alarm to moderate my playing. If I end up playing with friends (you can play alone or in a group), I'm sure I'll be ignoring the alarm.

Star Wars: The Old Republic will be available on December 20. Pre-order your copy today.


  1. I'm so excited for this game! So jealous you got to play it. I got hooked on the single-player Knights of the Old Republic game years ago and am dying to dive back into that world, especially since it will be so much bigger and open in MMO form.

    My real life may disappear when it is released. At least I'll be on Christmas vacation, but my parents may be sorely disappointed with how much time I spend with them while I'm visiting...

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  3. I got into a recent beta week-end. Suffice it to say that, while it isn't revolutionary, it is evolutionary. It is epic in scale just like WoW and unlike the hordes of MMO's that have been released (and which I have played) recently.

    I mention WoW and a couple of reviews have compared SW:ToR to WoW in a negative light. Having played both, I can say SW:ToR isn't just WoW set in space. Sure there are a lot of mechanical similarities - hell, WoW is THE standard for a successful MMO and if you aren't using their model as a baseline you aren't going to succeed (nice try Warhammer Online, Rift, Aion). Where Bioware evolved is in the little things: the voice acting, the player involvement in cut-scenes, the subtle nods to the extensive SW canon.

    Both the wife and I (avid WoW players) have pre-orders for this game. I'm more of a Bioware fanboi than SW fanboi so this was a no brainer.

    Sidenote: The video is actually a mash up of the Alliace and Sith side intro videos blended with overdubbing. Both vids can be viewed on the SW:ToR site.

  4. I don't play video games very often either. But I have a couple of series I'm addicted to, which means a flurry of non-stop playing once or twice a year when a new title comes out, followed by disinterested inactivity for months.

    My boyfriend is both a Bioware and SW geek, who loved KotOR. Neither of us has ever been drawn into an MMO. This looks like the best chance of doing that, despite my aversion to playing anything on my laptop.

    Which makes me really curious about how many Xbox players have never tried an MMO either. That would be an interesting demographic study...

  5. I'm a little nervous my laptop isn't going to be able to handle the game, or at least I'll have to turn down the settings to low. I'm still looking forward to trying it out though!

  6. This trailer easily gets me drooling. I love playing SWTOR! The free-to-play launch will be due on the 15th, and this would certainly welcome a volume of gamers into the universe. It would be interesting to expect some great moves the developers would make. I definitely want this game to succeed!

    Fredric Falconer


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