E3 2011: Star Wars: The Old Republic impressions

The Old Republic screenshots E3 2011 - Sith Sorcerer

The E3 presentation for Star Wars: The Old Republic is about two things: showing raids for the first time, and pulling together all the disparate threads from a PR campaign that's lasted nearly three years.

First important fact: raids look good. In the trailer, which will inevitable find its way online shortly, the sight of dozens of lightsabers charging up a hill was stirred the hairs on the back of your neck. Particularly when they're greeted with the Star Wars equivalent of Hamburger Hill: two giant turrets lobbing laser blobs at the incoming attackers.

It also featured giant robots, and what looked like an enemy from the intro sequence as a boss fight. No details on player numbers yet; at least 8, and probably in multiples of that.

They also showed the CGI intro for the first time. Now, it's not strictly super important, but it was hugely, hugely impressive. It sets up the story for the game, with an Indiana Jones inspired Bounty Hunter help a Jedi Knight escape the initial Sith attack on Korriban.

They also showed off an improved user interface, an in-game codex that should help you join the dots on missions, and an instanced boss fight on Alderaan. Alderaan looked very, very pretty – lots of gorgeous snow capped mountains and monstrously huge temples.

The boss fight took place inside a vast chamber. The boss was called Boris, and he'd done bad things. It was down to the party to take down the shield that protected him, by destroying the four shield generators in the room. Combat was slick, and slightly faster paced than I remember it being when I played – there was a splashing of cloud control, and the tanking abilities (Force Leap!) looked fun. Killing the shield generators meant stealing rocket launchers from the corpses of the downed Imperial troopers, and blowing up their unarmoured fronts.

The team have also smartened up some of their art design, and user-interface feels much improved.

I was impressed. I think TOR has struggled a little bit because we haven't had the whole story. Now we know how PvP works. Now we know how raids works. Now we know how the story works. Now it all fits together. And it looks like a very, very compelling alternative to World of Warcraft.

No news on a release date though. That is a sad face moment.