Star Wars: The Old Republic Preview
The problem with putting out a set of jaw-dropping CGI trailers for your game is the follow-up. It’s tough to make an action game look as good as a whole load of pre-canned people doing set animations; it’s nigh-on impossible to make an MMO look even half as exciting.
It’s a problem The Old Republic hasn’t got away from. The game’s first set of trailers used LucasArts’ heft to put together the best Star Wars vignettes since Revenge of the Sith’s last lightsaber battles. The trailer for its warzones doesn’t have close to the same visual impact – using in-game footage and relying on the MMO’s stylised combat – but it does share its CGI cousins’ sense of cinematic scale.
The Old Republic’s warzones are the game’s PvP arenas. When you and your buddies elect to bash some fellow humans, you’ll hop into a warzone from your current location; once complete, you’ll zip back to where you were, resplendent in your new and useful gear. So far, so MMO, but The Old Republic differs from the pack by steeping its PvP combat in lashings of Star Wars lore.
There’s no abstract point collection or artificial fight club context: the warzones are zones for war, conflict that ties in with the universe as set out by LucasArts and compounded by BioWare’s hive of storyobsessed writers. The first shown was set on Alderaan (Leia’s exploded adopted home in the ‘current’ Star Wars timeline), and centred around a planetary defence cannon. Lead PvP designer Gabe Amatangelo explained how having a set objective would change the usual PvP template. “Other MMOs have arbitrary points or something to win – actually having something visual to aim for makes it much more epic.”
The two teams engaged in the warzone – one from both Republic and Imperial sides of the big Force-fence – set down on Alderaan to nab the cannon for their own purposes. Once there, it’s a case of supporting your team and pushing through to capture points, before getting control of the big gun itself. With it under your team’s control, you’ll start taking automatic potshots at your enemy’s dropship. If your team holds the superweapon long enough to bring down your foe’s craft, hooray! You’ve won the day. But your position on the gun can be usurped and the cannon aimed at your own ship to knock your ride out of the sky.
Arena matches and more traditional quests both consciously occupy the same universe, so BioWare haven’t narratively cockblocked the rewards players can be handed for doing well in this portion of the game. With so much pure data to mine for back-story, it’s not surprising TOR’s developers are towing the game so close to the fiction – but for an inveterate Star Wars geek, it’s reassuring.