I don't really like MMOs and I'm not sure why. Maybe I've just never been very good at them. Maybe I've just played the wrong ones – mind you I struggled to even get into Warcraft. Maybe the entire concept of giving yourself over to a near endless game world like that intimidates and distresses me. Or maybe I'm just a cheap bastard and I can't stand the very thought of subscriptions.
Knights of the Old Republic is almost certainly in my top three games of all time list, so it was with a certain pang (and audible whimper) of despair that I learned instead of KOTOR 3 we'd be getting an MMO. But I needn't have worried because as I found out today...
Star Wars: The Old Republic is going to kick some serious ass! How am I so certain? Because at the very least it'll be KOTOR 3.
It controls just like you'd expect KOTOR 3 to control and looks much the same, if a little worse because, let's face it, it's got to accommodate a hell of a lot, as you'd expect too. And it feels like The Old Republic we know and love. A stonking amount of effort has gone into that, particularly when it comes the voices. As every BioWare and EA rep is keen to remind me, this will be the first fully voiced MMO, and it's all the better for it, speech bringing even the most lowly of characters to life and injecting personality into every meatbag or tin can that you meet.
There's a fear that the launch is just going to be a mess of Jedi and Sith as everybody plumps for the lightsaber-toting Force botherers. But, as it turns out, the other classes are just as fun to play as, if not more so, and that really shines through when you end up hitting a firefight with other people. Playing as the Trooper, for example, essentially sets you up as the point man. If a Jedi tries to go toe to toe with a massive breach droid, they're going to get eaten alive. Not so for the Trooper, who's essentially the badass of the bunch, providing a focal point from which to engage the bigger enemies, whilst the more fragile folk eliminated their supporting opponents
Don't get me wrong, though, the Force is still amazing and playing as a Sith Warrior was fantastic. Rather than being a sponge for damage like the Trooper, my red-bladed avatar was more of a one-man annihilation machine, dispensing swift justice to all who stood in his way and scything through bodies like a harvester through grain.
My personal favourite, though, was the Smuggler. Armed with a nifty cover ability I was able to roll in and out of harm's way with veritable ease, my abilities changing accordingly. There's a sense of achievement to it too, having to work and think tactically about taking out enemies rather than diving in headfirst, but with the cover option and useful stun grenades, charged blaster fire that knocks down opponents and the odd explosive charge, the on-the-fly customisation that allows you to kick bottom whatever class you are is readily evident.
Plus, you are Han Solo!
All of these features were magnified and put into real perspective by having other people there. BioWare could have tried to do a 3rd person action game that put in the shoes of Han Solo. They could done another KOTOR, but that would have been someone else's story. All of my precious narrative elements are in here, but the choice, that level of choice in what you do and how go about doing things and how people in the game world perceive you that was so emphatically delivered by Dragon Age has been raised again, by adding more people. If I want to go through it as a lone wolf then I can, the MMOness of it all is never really inflicted upon you, it's all down to choice, but it's good to feel a part of something bigger. BioWare have been moving towards giving players the chance to tell their own stories within a narrative frame for sometime and it does make sense.
Unfortunately, there's not much else to tell in concrete fashion other than that at the very least it'll be a fully featured centuries-later KOTOR sequel that you can bust through with mates or on your own. The MMO staples like a player-driven economy, PvP and roving, raiding gangs (not to mention the space battles themselves) are still yet to be witnessed, but it's all starting to stack up and I have a fair amount of faith that the end product, if well supported, could prove to be one of the best things BioWare have ever done.
I'd better start building a new PC really.