In its latest demo of The Old Republic, developer BioWare showed off the bounty hunter playable class, adding another archetype of the Star Wars canon to the lineup for its massively multiplayer online role-playing game. The bounty hunter class is inspired, naturally, by fan favourite Boba Fett. "We want the game to feel as close to the movies as possible," says Daniel Erickson, lead writer. Accordingly, BioWare pays tribute to another "fan favourite," Dark Jedi Asajj Ventress, with the Rattataki: bald, pale-skinned humanoid creatures and the first playable alien race to be announced for the game.
Though BioWare is not talking about Rattataki race-specific attributes yet, the bounty hunter's special abilities--at lowly level six, at least--were laid out for us. The bounty hunter is The Old Republic's gadgeteer class; we played as a male Rattataki bounty hunter, packing the basic arsenal of bounty hunter toys. These included rapid shots, as well as missile blast and rail shots. We also had shocking electro darts and the obligatory flamethrower attack. At the other end of the toolbar sat "recharge and reload," a gradual health and mana restorative akin to eating or drinking in World of Warcraft. This was accompanied with an animation of the bounty hunter tuning up his or her jetpack and flamethrower.
We started out in the palace-cum-cantina home of Nem'ro the Hutt, who issued us a quest to eliminate his nemesis, the leader of a nearby Evocii village. Not only did he want us to bring back his head, but he also wanted us to thin out the ranks of Evocii guardians and scouts along the way--four of one and 10 of the other--in classic MMORPG fashion. Leaving Nem'ro's palace (home to a handful of chatty non-player characters and a Mos Eisley-style cantina band), we headed for the quest waypoints on our map, passing through the settlement of Jigunna. This was a hub with vendors and a medical bay, which formed part of the starting area for bounty hunters and imperial agents. It was sparsely populated as we played, though we're told the non-player population will be expanded for a more bustling hub area. As previously seen, environments and character models were attractive, though not excessively fancy, with strong colouring and an authentic Star Wars art style on their side.
On the far side of Jigunna was The Bog, a swampland, and the Evocii village, where we took on the inferior firepower of the Evocii defenders. In combat, the bounty hunter was mobile and aggressive--able to strafe and blast away. It's "not a cover class," in contrast to other classes, says Erickson. Here again BioWare underlined the nonstatic, not-so-automatic combat of its MMORPG. Besides a health bar, bounty hunter characters have a heat gauge that fills as the character uses its special abilities. This heat gauge, which fills quickly and drains relatively slowly, prevents spamming of the most powerful specials. The jetpack didn't come into play at this level, though it became accessible "sooner rather than later" in combat with flight-powered moves, such as, we're told, "death from above."
Upon reaching the village leader's hut, we were challenged to rethink our mission to kill and behead the leader in light of the Evocii's side of the story. This presented a "moral choice" between completing the quest as ordered and collecting the bounty or agreeing to take back another head (from one of the poor saps you already murdered on the way in). The dialogue options were arranged on a Mass Effect-style wheel. They weren't marked as "light side" or "dark side," a la "renegade" and "paragon," though there was a light and dark side meter on the character stats screen, which influences your choices. These choices are potentially more interesting for a bounty hunter--a basically amoral class--than for, say, a Sith warrior.
It is tough to gauge the real promise of an MMORPG--a game intended for an extended, persistent experience--from single quests and character class demos, but the signs for Star Wars: The Old Republic are still good. Keep an eye out for more from this game as its second quarter 2011 release window approaches.