Star Wars: The Old Republic Features

The new Star Wars: The Old Republic story expansion is betrayed by the MMO underneath

Do you remember the Star Wars: The Old Republic trailer where the mother rescues her tortured young child from a prison of evil? Good, wasn't it? Well the expansion it teased, Knights of the Eternal Throne, is here, and the events teased unfold within. What expansion Knights of the Fallen Throne began in 2015, Knights of the Eternal Throne ends now.

Brave BioWare gets there, aiming high with ambition and scoring; producing a story and conclusion every bit as grand and spectacular as anything in revered old games Knights of the Old Republic 1 and 2. Powers rage like storms and destinies are satisfied. No cliffhangers or teasing a next expansion; an end. I admire that. A lot.

But what the story cannot do is hide the flabby beast underneath. Just as Knights of the Fallen Empire was held back by Star Wars: The Old Republic, so Knights of the Eternal Throne is too. The Knights expansions want to break free as single-player games but fundamentally cannot, chained as they are to a multiplayer world. Tricks and illusions are to employed instead. Companions are always at your side to heal you, or there are temporary buffs and abilities on hand to make your MMO character capable of facing a boss. They're good tricks and illusions, convincing at times, but you never feel as singularly powerful as the story tells you you are. SWTOR wasn't designed for it.

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Can Star Wars: The Old Republic ever live up to the promise of its incredible trailers?

Last week a wonderful Star Wars animation captured the imaginations of gaming audiences and beyond. It told the story of a mother trying to rescue her young daughter from the Dark Side of the Force. Innocence versus corruption. It was emotional, cinematic and had an impressive fight scene. Such production values wouldn't have looked out of place in a cinema. But this animation wasn't building excitement for the big screen. It was building excitement for a game. But could a game ever live up to it?

What the animation tapped into was a longing for a cinematic Star Wars game with a story. Perhaps Star Wars: Battlefront 2 will have a story in 2017. Amy Hennig's Star Wars action adventure, due out in 2018, definitely will. But will they be deep and winding and emotional enough? Let's cut to the chase: what the trailer tapped into was a longing for Knights of the Old Republic 3.

Imagine the fantastical sights and sounds of Star Wars brought to life with the razzmatazz of the Mass Effect series (which in a way I suppose was BioWare's KOTOR 3 - one it could creatively fully control). Imagine an emotional BioWare tale of Light and Dark, with all the characters and romances and betrayals the studio is famed for. The battles! The Lightsabers thrumming and clashing like cymbals, Force powers crackling and raging. I would like no game more! But I can't have it.

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The Old Republic's new expansion isn't quite Knights of the Old Republic 3

FeatureThe Old Republic's new expansion isn't quite Knights of the Old Republic 3

But it's a cracking addition to BioWare's Star Wars MMO.

Knights of The Fallen Empire, Star Wars: The Old Republic's newly released story-focussed expansion, isn't quite BioWare throwing its hands up in the air and finally giving us Knights of The Old Republic 3, but it's close. Very close. Even factoring in the rise of personal quests in the last few years, this is about nine hours of new content (with more to come) that completely sidelines the MMO side to the point that the very occasional shared area comes as less a surprise than a shock. Hello, fellow meatbag! What are you doing in my personal war to save the galaxy?

The catch is that while the focus is on a single player story, the foundations are still the creaking Old Republic engine and its even creakier systems. They constantly sabotage the action, be it lag interrupting with scripted events, and those events rarely allowing to break out of the dirt simple MMO mission design of 'hit some things and then use a thing' in the way that an actual single RPG could be done. Whether it's the engine scripting not allowing it or BioWare just wanting to keep things simple, the shadow of the Knights of The Old Republic 3 we never got constantly hangs heavy.

Had that happened though, this would have been a great story - certainly, in terms of scale and scope, BioWare has delivered. The Sith Emperor, last seen draining a whole planet's life force to make an immortality smoothie, has disappeared, and both factions have briefly joined forces to give chase. Unfortunately, following him into Wild Space reveals that he not only has a broken family he's never talked about before, but has been running a whole empire on the side.

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FeatureHave traditional MMOs had their time?

And what do we make of the shared-world games and MOBAs that have risen up to replace them?

Traditional MMOs have gone out of fashion lately. It used to be that every gaming brand had exciting untapped MMO potential and every publisher wanted an MMO in its stable, but the gold rush inspired by World of Warcraft yielded little precious metal, and a lot of publishers got burned in the process - especially Electronic Arts with Star Wars: The Old Republic - while the term "MMO" has become taboo when discussing a new breed of games that includes The Division and Destiny, even though in many respects they are both massively multiplayer and online. Podcast 108: Ridge Racer Unbounded/Smash the Homophobes Special

We dissect the self-inflicted "fun button" saga and talk about EA's stout defence of BioWare's wooden sex scenes.

Outside of a few evergreen titles like Gran Turismo, Forza Motorsport, F1 and Mario Kart, the racing game genre has been in a state of chaos and decline for a few years now, with great games like Blur and Split/Second pitching up to fanfare from genre fans and then disappearing into bargain bins a few days later. We love them, but the audience just doesn't seem to be out there.

FeatureWhy Devs Owe You Nothing

When does a game belong to its fans rather than its creators?

Last week, 10,000 people took to Steam to play Half-Life 2 as part of a gentle protest against Valve's silence on the development of the series' next instalment. It's part of an ongoing campaign that rose from the background noise of forum discontent to deliver an open letter to Valve. Podcast #96: Star Wars The Old Republic

Speak, or speak not. There is no mumble.

Hello listeners! In the unlikely event that those of you interested in Star Wars: The Old Republic aren't playing it right now, we have prepared a podcast discussing it for your listening pleasure (or rage, more likely).

FeatureBuilding Better Worlds - an MMO Tale

From the archive: If you come at the king, you best not miss.

Every Sunday we bring you an article from our archive, either for you to enjoy for the first time or for you to discover again. This week, with Blizzard's latest World of Warcraft expansion going strong and as we await the launch of Elite Dangerous, we return to John Bedford's opinion piece from 2012 on how to build better worlds.

"You are not eligible for this conversation." But... but... I'm a psychotic Bounty Hunter who guns down her clients almost as often as she does her contracts. I've executed prisoners in cold blood, then laughed about it. I've presented horrified wives with their husbands' severed heads in a burlap sack. I've poisoned water supplies, killing hundreds of innocents just because there's a fee in it. I am a stone-cold murderous bastard who'll do anything for a handful of credits. And you're telling me I'm not able to talk to a passer-by because... well, because you need to partition the world into neat little slices for different types of player?

FeatureSteam vs. Origin: Is Competition Good for Gamers?

EA, GOG, Gamersgate, Gabe Newell weigh in.

From its humble roots as a conduit for Counter-Strike back in 2003 to its current status as a digital delivery juggernaut with over 30 million subscribers, Steam's rise has been little short of remarkable. With an estimated 70 per cent share of the entire PC market, Valve's store has transformed a small developer into one of the games industry's most powerful players.

FeatureCheap This Week - 27/07/11

DNF! Old Republic! Arkham Asylum!

It's Wednesday, and that can only mean one thing: I'm back with yet another selection of the finest discount gaming offers to tempt your wallet with. Throughout the week you can keep your finger on the pulse of cut price gaming by checking Read on to find out what's cheap this week.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Better off Jedi.

It's early November and EA has taken over an imposing nightclub in London's not-so-stately pleasure dome, the O2, for a showcase of its typically bulging 2011 slate. It's the usual round of presentations, interviews and hands-on slots in 20-minute chunks but one game is getting special treatment, an entire working day all to itself.

If trailers told the truth

FeatureIf trailers told the truth

From the archive: the class of 2011 seen through a more honest filter.

Every Sunday we haul an exciting article out of the Eurogamer archive so you can read it again or enjoy it for the first time if you missed it. John Teti compiled and created these for us back in 2011.

Let's face it, "trailer" is just a fancy word for "advert". They exist to whet our appetites for forthcoming games, to get us excited about them and to make us want to know more. This is why trailers rarely feature footage of loading screens, pause menus or the main character wandering round and round the same set of corridors looking for a rusty key.

But what if things were different? What if trailers revealed what we can really expect from games, or what the people making them are thinking?

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FeatureBioWare's Dr. Greg Zeschuk

On Dragon Age 2, Star Wars and DS MMOs.

Yesterday, BioWare co-founder Dr. Greg Zeschuk delivered a keynote presentation to the Develop Conference in Brighton entitled Creative Game Development: How we do it at BioWare. In it, he discussed BioWare's rise from being two men in a Canadian garage to the triple-A developer it is today.

FeatureBioWare's Greg Zeschuk

Doctor in the house.

Bonnie and Clyde. Morecambe and Wise. Zeschuk and Muzyka. Only two of them sound like words made up by someone trying to cheat at Scrabble, but all of them are known for being highly successful partnerships. Whether you're all about murderous crime sprees, dancing with Angela Rippon or setting up Canadian development studios focused on producing globally successful role-playing videogames in the sci-fi and fantasy genres, it takes two to make an impact.

I've read a number of previews of Star Wars: The Old Republic. It'd be hard not to - people have been writing about it for over a year. Not to mention, I sat in a room at 2009's E3 and voted to kill some captain or other. But until yesterday, I still had no strong mental image of what the game would play like. That's not the fault of the writers - it's the fact that the particulars of what BioWare is doing are still in flux, and the developers refuse to talk about anything that's still in flux. Remember that sentence, you'll be hearing more of it later!

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Republic school.

GDC 2010, and LucasArts is bussing journalists from the bedlam of the Moscone conference centre to its plush, tranquil campus on the Presidio, on the other side of San Francisco. We're ushered through a side lobby as spacious as most company's front doors, then past a huge hand-painted mural of Indiana Jones surveying the nearby Golden Gate Bridge while AT-ATs stalk over the San Francisco skyline. Discreet on the outside but for a small Yoda statue, the Lucas offices aren't afraid to revel in their heritage once you're through those hallowed, high-security doors.

You can't fault BioWare and LucasArts' showmanship, but when you're working with what they're working with, it's almost too easy. At a recent EA press event, we were shown and allowed to play their Star Wars MMO, The Old Republic, behind closed doors. We suspect this was only so they could have a hydraulic octagonal door to put the game behind, with a Stormtrooper guarding it, quacking officiously at loitering journos. Cheesy? Perhaps, but it's impossible to stop a little genuine excitement slipping into your cynical smile.

When LucasArts, BioWare and EA revealed their new MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic last year, it was with a flourish, a loud fanfare, a lot of grand rhetoric, and almost no information. The game remained fogged with mystery: it would have lightsabers, lots of story, AI companions, and maybe be a bit like World of Warcraft in space - if there was going to be any space in it. They weren't talking about space that day. They weren't releasing video either. Or saying what the classes were, or whether there would be player-versus-player combat, or explaining just how this mammoth, high-stakes project might work.

FeatureStar Wars: The Old Republic

Impossible to see, the future is.

It may be the worst kept secret in recent gaming history, but that hasn't stopped LucasArts putting on a big show to unveil its new MMO from BioWare, Star Wars: The Old Republic. Dozens of journalists have been invited to the company's San Francisco HQ, including many flown all the way from Europe. Executives from BioWare, EA and of course LucasArts are all putting in an appearance, along with creative directors, storyline writers, gameplay programmers and an army of PR people. In fact, the only notably absent person is George Lucas.