Da da da da dum, da-da-da-DA-dum... Come on. You can’t see the words “Star” and “Wars” without THAT tune rattling around your mind. It’s often followed by a feeling of disappointment, however, as you remember the prequels and Hayden “Oak” Christensen and the fact that, somehow, everything else to do with George Lucas’ fully-realised world / saga hasn’t lived up to the promise.
The latest attempt to bring that universe – and elaborate back story – to the world of PC gaming was unveiled at EA’s rather extensive preview event. Star Wars – The Old Republic is the game, I got a little hands-on time with it and the verdict is... we could be onto something here.
It’s set 3000 years before the Vader / Skywalker stand-off and starts with a group of Ood-like (seriously, the boys from Dr Who might want to have a word with legal) light saber-wielding Sith who attack the Old Republic, throwing the universe into a good v evil scenario.
Quite how that all fits into the scale of this world remains to be seen but, given the scope and scale of what I saw, played and had demo’d, this is going to be a life-destroying, fully immersive, utterly mammoth title.
The developers claim to have listened to what the PC gaming / Star Wars fans wanted: fast action, light sabers, familiar characters and a chance to explore, well, everything. While details are currently scant – the title will launch later this year – we were told that playable characters include a Sith Inquisitor and a bounty hunter whose movements and actions are based on those of Boba Fett.
The level we got our mitts on was a small taster of what’s to come. Playing as a Bounty Hunter, we landed on a planet and went exploring. The makers claim that EVERY conversation is fully voiced, allowing you to explore planets and worlds thoroughly, establishing new side missions, falling into random fights, learning new information. Some of this was certainly possible. Admittedly, for a while, as you work your way around the huge map, it feels like a jogging simulator but, once you’ve got to grips with the controls – I’m not a PC gamer but was getting there after 20 minutes – fights and interaction and exploration should become second nature.
We’re promised multiple playable characters with individual stories within the more extensive, galactic wide tale. We’re promised companions who will fight at your side or, should you do something they don’t like, betray you.
Bold claims, to be sure, and more on that when details become available. The early promise is good, the promise of online co-op mouthwatering and the heat-based fighting system has promise.
Essentially, your basic skills and capabilities build up your heat level. You need heat to work the more powerful weapons. They in turn generate more heat but, if you have too much heat, you can’t do certain things so will have to vent. It’s a complicated system of balance and experience that, while likely to put off the casual Star Wars fan, could well be the intricate challenge that the hard-core will love.