The Star Wars: The Old Republic floor presentation at E3 was held in a darkened room lined with computers ready to perform live demos. A handful of us were ushered in and introduced to Blaine Christian, Senior Producer at BioWare Austin, on hand to lead the presentation.
He began with the latest CG trailer that also serves as the introductory sequence to the game. It opens with a space station in orbit of the planet Korriban that long time fans of the series will recognize as the home planet of the Sith species.
A smuggler is being taken into custody by Republic forces for the smuggling of Sith artifacts from the planet's ruins. Prisoner processing fell by the wayside as soon as a fleet of Sith battlecruisers dropped out of hyperspace within striking distance.
To get word back to the Republic, the smuggler makes a familiar comment about having the fastest ship in the sector. Dual wielding blasters, he heads to the hangar deck and John Williams' stirring "Duel of the Fates" swells as a duo of Sith arrive. The video closed out with a stunning display of lightsaber swordplay, Force powers, and acrobatic prowess.
Blaine stressed that BioWare breaks down the ingredients for a successful RPG as: Exploration, Progression, Combat, and Story. With Star Wars: The Old Republic, each of the 8 classes has its own unique story, filling a significant void in many MMOs. Each class' arc is its own trilogy, offering players several hundred hours of gameplay per class.
BioWare is confident that Star Wars: The Old Republic has enough story to be viewed as several true sequels to the original Knights of the Old Republic games. It's an easy sell when you consider that it's the first fully voiced MMO. Regardless of your character's gender, several hundred thousand lines dialogue were recorded for every quest giver and NPC with unique characters numbering in the thousands.
The next video briefly demonstrated the role that player choice plays. It showcased Lord Praven—a defeated Sith—resigning himself to death after having lost a duel on Tatooine. The player's Jedi could execute him on the spot via a dialogue radial menu. However, choosing to spare Lord Praven and turn him to the Light Side means he would later reappear in the story as a valued ally.
Progression in Star Wars: The Old Republic is about more than increasingly cool gear and powers. In their example, if you choose to play as a Bounty Hunter for the Empire over the Republic, you have the option of faking the target accountant's death, killing him, faking the target's death and taking the bounty, or capturing him alive. This branches into deciding to give up the credits to let an innocent girl live, killing her for a bounty, or turning her in for the bounty. What this means is that players have plenty of reasons to play through the same class multiple times for completely different experiences.
The presentation then turned to a live demo set on Alderaan with a stunning panorama of snow-caped mountains and lush trees and other greenery. There wasn't much time to drink it the vistas as they turned the camera around to show a towering palace stretching skyward. Castle Panteer represented the end of a world arc quest, the conclusion of—in this instance—ten discrete legs filled with hours of combat.
The party consisted of a Jedi Sage, Jedi Guardian, Gunslinger, and Commando. These are the advanced class choices for all four of the starting Republic classes: Jedi Consular, Jedi Knight, Smuggler, and Trooper.
The Guardian used Force Leap to leap directly into the fray against the castle guards alongside the Smuggler. While the Sage immobilized enemies, the Gunslinger demonstrated the cover system by dropping an energy shield with the Commando laying down covering fire with an immense laser minigun.
Their target was Bouris Ulgo, a former Republic general who seized control in the chaos following the Sith return. An extremely brief load took the party up an elevator into a massive throne room consisting of several chambers with high, vaulted ceilings and flanked by multi-story statues.
The party confronted Ulgo at his throne and we were treated to how multiplayer conversations worked. Each party member could choose independently, but only one wins the roll to determine who speaks. Ulgo took issue with their tone and activated a forcefield generated by several of the room's pillars.
The Guardian removed arriving castle guards with Saber Throws and the Commando unleashed powerful charged shots. The Sage took on an offensive role, tearing large chunks out of the environment to throw at opponents while the Commando gave his minigun a break to attach sticky grenades to hapless foes.
The presentation closed with the E3 premiere of Operations, Star Wars: The Old Republic's take on the MMO raid. On display was a trailer showing the "Eternity Vault" Operation set on the Republic prison planet of Belsavis. Deep beneath its surface, the Ratakan Empire locked away a terrifying array of prisoners and technology too dangerous to ever be released. Unable to penetrate its depths, the Republic settled for building their own prison on the surface to ensure the sinister subterranean denizens could never escape.
Suddenly, the sky was filled with orbital drop pods crashing into the planet's surface. Each one's Sith occupant disembarked and they converged upon the prison's entrance. A flurry of Force Lightning and red lightsaber blades flashed as they tore through the defensive security turrets and a massive, heavily armed robot. They battle across narrow catwalks and past prisoners thrashing against their energy restraints, the video ended with a hint at their objective: a mysterious Sith at the heart of the vault.
Mentioned but not shown were some thrilling space battles that looked every inch as good as previous Star Wars starfighter game, companion characters, personal starships, vehicles, and more.
We're looking forward to exploring the Star Wars universe ourselves, but for now, check out the recording of the live game demo and Q&A. at EA.com/E3/chat/star-wars. But don't wait, as soon as E3 is over, the video will come down.