Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Old Republic: Possible WoW-killer?

As I stated before I'm going to turn the spotlight on some upcoming Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Games (or MMORPGs, for people who enjoy acronyms).

First up I'm going to take a look at what may well be the only one of these games that has a chance of taking down the behemoth that is World of Warcraft, that being Star Wars: The Old Republic.

First off, ToR is set in a similar time period as BioWare's two standalone RPGs, Knights of the Old Republic (1 and 2), meaning they can basically ignore the three most recent prequel films (or as they shall henceforth be referred to as, "those three shitty films.") This is a Good Thing.

BioWare have stated that they intend ToR to be the first MMO you can play on your own, as you will have powerful NPC allies available to help you and these allies will be different depending on what class you will be playing. Hopefully they will do a better job of it than Guild Wars did with their henchmen, at least initially.

With a release date of Spring 2011 BioWare have been ramping up the information they have been putting out about the game, from the recent reveal about space combat being included, to giving details about the dual specialisations available to various classes in the game.

As you can see, ToR's space combat in particular seems graphically impressively, conveying a sense of what made the original three films good with none of the prequel suck that has tainted the series to date. The recent revelation stating that everyone gets their own ship (which vary according to your class) has also been an interesting turn. Ships unveiled to date include the Jedi Consular's Defender:

as well as a Sith Fury:

Including space combat should help to differentiate it against the original Star Wars MMO, that being Star Wars: Galaxies. A big bucket of badness that is somehow still going, Galaxies had no space combat at launch and its other failing grace was to make the process to become a Jedi so long and arduous that it took 5 months for the first person to unlock their "Force-sensitive character slot" as it was known. Oh, and Jedis died permanently after three in-game deaths (something later removed from the game).

Thankfully, BioWare seem intent on not repeating Sony's mistake, to the point where the Republic get two Force-based classes and the Sith Empire likewise receives two Force-based Sith classes, all playable from the very beginning of the game with no special unlocking required.

So, on the one side you will have the Republic with their four available classes, namely:

Jedi Knights are the typical melee fighters with magic - sorry, Force - powers, that you've seen in the films. Obi-Wan Kinobi, Anakin Skywalker, etc. They can choose a specialisation between a Guardian (more of a tank-ish Jedi Knight) and a Sentinel (out-and-out melee DPS).

A Force-based class that relies more on crowd-control and healing abilities than pure damage, the Consular seems to be ToR's answer to the support class question. Their specialisations have yet to be revealed.

The Trooper seems to be your ranged damage-dealer that will employ rifles as well as grenades and possible a small number of melee moves for close-cover fighting. As with the Consular, specialisations for the Trooper have yet to be announced.

For everyone whose heart contains a secret yearning to be Han Solo, your dream is about to be made a reality. Another ranged DPS class, the smuggler can use nearby terrain to his advantage as cover, enabling him to set up powerful strings of attacks. The two specialisations for the Smuggler are a Gunslinger (as the name suggests a pure ranged damage-dealer who relies solely on his blasters) and the Scoundrel (who will employ devices such as a medi-pack and an invisibility belt in order to be able to get in closer to his enemies without arousing suspicion).

And then of course we have the other faction, that being the Sith Empire. Everyone who was rooting for Vader, this will be your faction of choice. Their four classes are:

The Sith's answer to the Jedi Knight, Sith Warriors are a melee and Force-based class who rely on sheer strength to destroy their enemies. Their specialisations are the Juggernaut (tank) and the Marauder (pure melee damage).

The Sith's mirror of the Jedi Consular, Inquisitors will likewise be the healing and support class for the Sith Empire. Expect Force-lightning-based crowd control abilities and lifedrains to be part of their stock in trade. As with the Consulars, Inquisitors have no announced specialisations at this time.

As with the Han Solo fetishists, anyone who thought that Boba Fett was the unsung hero of the films will be at home with the Bounty Hunter class. A ranged damage-dealer that relies on pistols, grenades and (of course) his trusty flamethrower, the Bounty Hunter's specialisations have yet to be unveiled.

A ranged damage and utility class, the Imperial Agent employs technology to gain the upper hand over his enemies. Stun darts and defensive energy fields will help shield the Imperial Agent from danger, and his ability to call in orbital strikes over his foes' location should make this an interesting class to play.

So that's a brief run-down on all of the playable classes. Throw in an auction house and crafting and you can poke a stick in ToR and call it done.

The Old Republic is scheduled to be released sometime this coming Spring. Let's hope BioWare doesn't let it slip, because this could well be The One.

Monday, September 6, 2010

And We're Back!

Since we're approaching the arse-end of the year I thought we'd take a look at how those games that I had mentioned as "games to watch for 2010" have been received. For those who missed them the first time around you can find part one here and part two here.

The first game I talked about was Mass Effect 2, and I think it is fair to say that this was quite the success. A glance at Metacritic shows the PC version with an aggregate score of 94, likely putting it in the lifetime top 10. I thought that ME2 was an amazing game, that built solidly upon the first title while streamlining those things which were clunky or really didn't work well (i.e. the inventory system and some of the combat). BioWare have also knocked out a fair bit of DLC (both free and paid) for the game, with the most recent one hitting just a few weeks ago, so they clearly believe in post-game support.

In short, expect ME2 to figure in many people's "Game of the Year" lists in 3 months time. Hopefully we will hear more about Mass Effect 3 over the next year, as the current ETA on that game is "sometime in 2012."

Next up I had Star Trek Online on the list. While it wasn't everyone's cup of tea (mine included) I didn't think it was an absolutely terrible game. In fact I have heard that it is much improved recently, though since I only subscribed for a couple of months I cannot attest to this fact personally. BioWare, hard at work on The Old Republic, are probably breathing a collective sigh of relief that STO has not been a breakout success with Cryptic beating them to the release date punch.

After that, we have Rage. id have pushed this back to September 2011 though, so come back in a year and we'll talk about it then.

Next, World of Warcraft: Cataclysm. I had predicted a summer release date for this, and was apparently completely wrong. No release date yet, although Blizzard were recently quoted as saying it was still on track to be out this year.

Finally on my part 1 list we had APB. This was a solid, breathtaking, stylish take on...ok it sucked. Everybody gets one right? Well, this was mine. I had faith that Realtime Worlds would not simply make Cops 'n' Robbers Online and call it done, that there would be more depth and strategy to it. Well, it turns out I was wrong, and APB tanked accordingly. A poor business model coupled with underwhelming gameplay meant that Realtime Worlds is teetering on the brink of bankruptcy and the future of the game remains unclear. Listen up kids: this is the very definition of a great concept executed poorly.

On to part 2 and we had BioShock 2 at the top of the list. I have yet to finish it (though I did buy it) but the consensus seems to be it was a solid sequel to the first, although the unusual multiplayer did detract from an otherwise positive experience in places. Metacritic agrees, and shows the aggregate score for BioShock 2 as 88 (compared to 96 for the original game). I will get around to actually playing this one sometime this year and see how it shapes up versus the original. Probably.

Next up we have Starcraft II: Wings of Liberty. I'm not much into RTS' myself, but the people that I know who bought the game said it was a fair upgrade over the first. Metacritic gives it an aggregate of 93, and it has apparently been quite a moneyspinner for Blizzard. Expect to wait a good couple of years at a minimum until Heart of the Swarm (Zerg expansion) is released, and even longer until Legacy of the Void (Protoss expansion) is in your hot, sweaty hands. I guess you don't change a winning formula. Especially when you can make people pay three times for one game.

Brink was next on my list, and although this game still looks amazing it has unfortunately been pushed back by Splash Damage for a second time, and is now slated to be released Spring of next year. Some of the developer diaries available on PSN and Youtube still make the game look extremely interesting. You can even pre-order it on Steam, so if giving the developers a 6-month interest-free loan for the full price of the game is your thing then head on over to the Steam Store and knock yourself out.

Black Prophecy is still not released, so there isn't much I can say about it. The most recent video (which you can download here) for GamesCom shows how the game has come along, and the closed beta apparently began a couple of months ago. BP is still meant to be on track for a 2010 release, though there is no firm release date as of yet.

Last but not least there is Battlefield: Bad Company 2. I was on the fence about buying this and I'm glad I didn't, not because it turned out to be a bad game (quite the reverse) but because it really isn't my sort of game. It seems to have been quite commercially successful though, with an average metacritic rating of 86 on the PC which is certainly well over average. Game of the Year though? Somehow I doubt it. A solid title, but not exactly a trail-blazer.

So that's it, a state of play for all of the games I had mentioned at the beginning of the year.

Upcoming posts here will be going into detail on some hefty upcoming MMOs, namely Star Wars: The Old Republic, The Secret World, Guild Wars 2, Warhammer 40,000: Dark Millennium Online, TERA: The Exiled Realm of Arborea and Rift: Plains of Telara, as well as a little game called League of Legends that I have been playing a little over these past couple of months.

Stay tuned!