The long wait for Star Wars: The Old Republic, a massively multiplayer online role-playing game set in the Star Wars universe, marches on. After leaving this year's Electronic Entertainment Expo (and the planet of Tatooine) behind, we finally caught back up with this game in Cologne, Germany, during the Gamescom convention. At the show, Corey Butler, associate producer at developer BioWare, took us through a quick, hands-off demonstration of three game modes: flashpoints, HuttBall, and Operations.
Flashpoints are The Old Republic's version of dungeons--self-contained sequences of gameplay designed for a small group of players. Unlike with a typical dungeon, however, the team at BioWare is aiming to infuse some of their iconic storytelling techniques into these sequences. A trailer for the Taral V flashpoint highlighted this by showing brief snippets from the flashpoint's storyline. These revolved around a high-stakes rescue operation to recover an incarcerated Jedi.
On the topic of player versus player, Butler unveiled a new warzone coming to TOR called HuttBall, a "brutal spectator sport" that doesn't draw the line at the game's normal faction division. Instead, the two teams in HuttBall are randomized, with light and dark players intermingling on both sides. The object of the game is to capture and transport a ball across the opponent's goal line. Of course, the other team will be trying to kill you along the way, and there are numerous traps littered across the playing field. Success lies in not being a ball hog and in knowing when to give it up if you're about to get creamed.
The final game mode shown was Operations. These large end-game missions are TOR's version of raids. The one being highlighted at the show was The Eternity Vault, a massive prison compound built to contain a powerful Force wielder. The operation can be attempted with anywhere from 8 to 16 players. Its difficulty will scale depending on how many players you bring along. Butler hinted that there was more to reveal about the mechanics of Operations but decided to take us straight into a live demo instead.
The demonstration began with a group of Sith Empire characters taking a brief drop-pod ride down to an icy planet. Immediately upon landing, one of the Sith players hopped out and killed a helpless Tauntaun. Why? Because the Sith are evil, and this is what they do. As the party approached the main gate to the Eternity Vault, they were sucked into a battle against numerous droids and automated turrets. Here we got to see the abilities of all of the classes used in concert with one another. The juggernaut led the charge, while the operative kept him healthy. The sorcerer and powertech classes laid down heavy fire on the turrets, while the mercenary dealt with most of the droids.
Once the initial wave was finished, a massive annihilation droid flew in from above and engaged the group. This massive war machine could focus its fire on a single target or spread the damage out across the whole team. At times it would lock on to a player or area, as indicated by a red targeting reticle, and fire a barrage of missiles. Any players standing near the impact site of those missiles took heavy splash damage, so everyone was always on the move. Other times the droid would fire a succession of individual missiles, which could be avoided if the players stood behind the stone columns surrounding the gate.
After a lengthy fight, the droid finally went down. However, this is where our live demonstration ended, and we were shown a brief trailer that teased what other content awaited inside The Eternity Vault. These snippets included scenes from volcanic and jungle environments, as well as what appeared to be a giant Mon Calamari dressed in ornate robes. Find out what it all means for yourself when Star Wars: The Old Republic is released later this year.