E3 2002: Star Wars Galaxies more impressions

We take a more in-depth look at this Star Wars role-playing game.

LucasArts was gracious enough to invite us back for a second, more in-depth demonstration of its highly anticipated Star Wars massively multiplayer game. At the second demonstration, we were able to get a better sense of the game's immense scale, as well as how fighting will work.

Even the current, unfinished build of Star Wars Galaxies is immense. The developer has implemented about eight different planets, including Tattooine and Naboo, and as you may already know, Galaxies will feature characters and worlds from both the classic Star Wars trilogy films as well as the newer films, Episode I and Episode II. However, the game itself will take place within the timeline of the original films, between the events in Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. Each of the game's worlds has an area that is equivalent to 60 square kilometers of open space--and considering the fact that the developer intends to ship the game with a dozen different worlds, it's clear that Star Wars Galaxies will be an absolutely gigantic game. That's not a simple assumption either, since the second part of the demonstration involved a real-time flyby through the city of Theed, which is accurately modeled after the huge city in Episode I. The city is absolutely gigantic, but as we took a zoomed-in view, we found that it also has a surprising amount of detail. For instance, the center of the city is spanned by a huge arch that's adorned with metallic statues at its top--each statue is modeled well and mapped with reflective effects that make the statues look like they're made of weathered bronze. The city of Theed is bordered by a huge reservoir--Star Wars Galaxies has an excellent water effect both for large bodies of water and for the huge waterfall at the edge of Theed, which is the equivalent of a kilometer in size. Even so, the developer is taking extra steps to make sure that players don't get lost while playing. The game will not only have a minimap in the upper-right corner of the screen, but it will also add waypoints to both your minimap and your onscreen display to help you on your way. We saw an example of a player character accepting a mission to hunt down some stormtroopers on the outskirts of a Tattooine town, and as the character ran, he was directed by flashing onscreen arrows.

We also got a chance to take a closer look at Galaxies' combat system, which the developer hopes will be accessible enough for new players but will provide enough depth for more-experienced players to enjoy. As we mentioned earlier, Galaxies will use a traditional pseudo-turn-based combat system that plays out in real time: Players will attack and be attacked by their enemies in succession, and their chances to hit and their ability to deal damage will be governed by their characters' skills and experience levels. Though you can sit back and watch the exchange until one character is dead, just like in any other online RPG that is currently available, you can also acquire skills and abilities that can help your character in combat. For instance, player characters will be able to learn how to dodge attacks by quickly rolling to the side or learn skills to make them better at fighting, like the ability to use a blaster weapon to perform a head shot--a damaging and highly accurate attack that lets players aim directly for their opponent's head. That's not to say that all combat will be easy, since Galaxies' enemies will all have different behavior patterns--for instance, small, weak animal enemies may seem weak, but they might call for help and swarm unwary players.

It seems hard to believe, but this ambitious game is scheduled for release this year for the PC. We'll have more information on Star Wars Galaxies as we get it.

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