**Update: Our VIdeo Hands On For those that don’t like reading**
Today during E3 we had a chance to spend some quality time with Star Wars The Old Republic. Taking control of a Sith Inquisitor and Smuggler I got a chance to see how the game plays for both a close combat hand to hand heavy character as well as try out the game’s cover system.
The game itself is set-up similar to other popular MMO’s, which makes the game real easy to pick-up and play. The game has full voice acting for all NPCs, which makes the game feel less like an MMO and more like an RPG. This is nice as it will open up the MMO genre to a more casual crowd. It also makes SWTOR stand out in the MMO genre. As you gain quests from the NPCs you can track them on a list on your HUD, which also puts points of interests on your maps. The controls are also what we have come to enjoy with MMOs. An action bar allows you to arrange your various abilities for either mouse clicks or hot keys. The general menu look is also very “Star Warsy”. A mix of Star Wars colors and nice transparent holographic windows. Navigating the different menus seemed rather easy and I really liked that your characters gear load out is in the same window as your inventory. This allows for quick single window drag and drop to swap equipment and gear.
Graphically the game uses a unique somewhat animated look. While not exactly like the Clone Wars show, with the odd shaped characters, SWTOR still has a similar texture look. The game does offer some nice explosion and fire graphics and the various force powers had some impressive lighting. The environments also looked very nice and lush. Open air environments looked deep and far just like we’ve been seeing int he videos. Places like caves had a nice murky and foggy feel to them. There were still some graphically rough spots, like lack of shadows on many things, but with a year or so of development still to go the game still looked really good.
As a low level Sith Inquisitor I had two force attacks at my disposal. One was a Lightening Bolt which causes instant damage, and Life Drain which is a DOT attack. Also I had at this level, a power melee attack and a standard melee as well. The big focus of my time was to see how well the combat system flowed. After playing for a bit I felt it was hit or miss. Sometimes the lightsaber(at this point I had a training staff) moves looked real good. Other times my character and the NPC would just stare at each other. Actually being teamed up on by multiple NPCs looked a bit better then one on one action. As you deal damage to one target, the lightsaber animations would include blocks to the attacks from behind. However switching from multiple close enemies was rather hit or miss. While hand to hand has always been a bit rough in the animation department for all MMOs, it’s been a focal point of SWTOR so I hope there is still some refinements. I actually felt that the animations of melee to a force power attack seemed the smoothest.
With the smuggler character my main focus was at looking how the cover system. Something no MMO has truly offered gamers. While it does take a bit to learn, once you get it down it’s second nature. Unlike console based games where the cover system involves getting close to an object then pushing a button, it’s a bit different in SWTOR. First you need to target an enemy, from there you will see transparent markers behind objects you can use as cover. Once you get close enough to the object you then need to use the cover ability, similar to an attack. Once in cover your action bar changes to cover specific abilities. Once your enemies are taken care of you can easily leave over by moving your character. The other nice difference with the smuggler is the ranged blaster attacks, they seemed much smoother and more enjoyable then the close combat action.
There were a few announcements. Firstly everyone gets a ship, this ship is like your home base. The ships are big enough that they have various rooms, and will change and progress with your players progression. And don’t worry once you get a bad-ass ship you can bring your friends on board to show off! Speaking of progression we got a peak at some of the gear progression. While there are MILLIONS of gear combinations, as you increase your level the quality and look of the gear you get does as well. And the last announcement from LucasArts/BioWare is that there will be PVP “Warzones” there will be multiple warzones in the game for all your PVP fun. While details on these announcements are still a bit lacking, we will find out more about as the weeks unfold.
Overall I was quite impressed with Star Wars The Old Republic. The game has a very nice look overall, while at times it looks a bit on the cartoony side, the textures look real sharp and crisp. Environments are lush and full of life and truly capture the look and feel of the Star Wars universe. While the lightsaber combat is nice it’s still not as smooth and flowing as I thought it would be. Multiple enemy lightsaber combat looked much better then one on one combat, but switching between who your attacking seemed a bit clunky. I was very happy with the cover system. While it took a bit of time to get use to it, once I understood it’s mechanics the cover system made the game quite enjoyable. Star Wars The Old Republic still has time in development but at this point I was quite impressed. The game is structured well that fans of Knights of the Old Republic will fall in love quickly, and MMO fans will also enjoy the great story presentation and genre they have spent so many months and years playing. If you want to solo you won’t feel like you’re missing something, and for those who want to play like SWTOR like other MMOs you’ll find just as much fun as any other popular MMO.