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E3 2011's Most Anticipated: Star Wars: The Old Republic

CVG E3 2011 Awards: Vote for the games that most excite you!

The games on show at E3 2011 are some of the best in living memory. So you really owe it to yourself to vote in CVG's inaugural E3 2011 Awards... in the Most Anticipated Title category.

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Shortly before the show, we'll work out which of these 60 special E3 game previews have enjoyed the most page views, Facebook 'Likes', ReTweets and poll votes (see below) and crown our first victor at the Los Angeles event. Show your favourites the love!

Game: Star Wars: The Old Republic
Publisher: EA
Likelihood of E3 2011 showing: Certain

What you've got here is basically Mass Effect, set in a Star Wars universe and massively multiplayer-enabled. So when you're not talking to a human-controlled player, you get fully-voiced cutscenes and interactions, with the same conversation system that Mass Effect uses so convincingly. This applies to every non-player character, making this the first fully-voiced MMO. Fact.

As if that wasn't enough, the choice structure in conversations has permanent effects on the story. We see a demonstration of the player killing the captain of a ship (and got a pinbadge saying 'I killed the captain' to prove it) and, sure enough, he really does die. Irreversibly so, considering there's no possibility of reloading a previous save. Later, in our hands-on time with the game, we let him live - and the story and action branches accordingly.

Story's all well and good, but how does it play? The answer is very well, right from the off. Your attacks are mapped to the number keys so, if you're playing as a Sith character (as we did), 1 is your standard lightsaber strike, 2 is a harder melee strike, 3 can be used to jump in from above or from a fair distance away, 4 impales your target, 5 hits many foes all around you and 6 is the famous Force Choke, which is time limited, but leaves your foe clutching at their throat, ready to be impaled.

Crucially, there's no auto-attack. Some moves build up your attack points to allow other moves to charge, ready for use. During all of this, you can still move around with WASD, making for essentially real-time combat, even if it does have an RPG-slant.

It's smooth, fast-paced, and very rarely degenerates into protracted melee exchanges as you wait for moves to charge. There are also some neat touches in combat, such as your avatar automatically blocking attacks from behind with his lightsaber.

You can raid the bodies of fallen enemies, which allowed us to pick up a second lightsaber from a defeated Jedi Knight, allowing for some impressive (wait, scrub that - try 'awesome') dual-wielding action. The sense of power as you carve through Imperial Troopers in a blur of coloured light is superb.

There is a basic cover system in place, with translucent green 3D representations of your character which appear whenever you're near a cover object, showing you the positions of cover that are open to you. There's also a healthy mix of weapons, ranging from Star Wars favourites like the blaster and lightsaber through to some rather unsubtle flamethrowers.

While the draw-distance and misting are superb and the characters look good in combat, the environments and character models currently look a tad basic and low-res, especially if you're used to the sheen of Mass Effect. While this could well change before release, the art style itself won't - and that's where the controversy may lie.

It sits somewhere between the stylised look of The Clone Wars CGi film and the realism of Mass Effect. Characters' proportions are realistic, but their skin and eyes in particular are noticeably cartoony. It works as a cohesive style, but we're a bit disappointed they haven't taken the ultra-realistic approach as it looks a bit 'kiddy' in places. And we've already got Lego Star Wars for that.

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