Star Wars: The Old Republic is one of the most highly anticipated games this year, and with good reason. Developer BioWare has a strong track record of producing high-quality role-playing games in Dragon Age, Mass Effect, and 2003's Knights of the Old Republic--which itself took place in the pre-A New Hope version of the Star Wars universe that also appears in this game. We've previously played through the early portion of each of the game's careers, and this time around, we were given the choice to play through either more of the Imperial agent's experience or more of the bounty hunter's. Despite lead writer Daniel Erickson's assurances that the Imperial agent is an intriguing and fleshed-out character for which BioWare "had to get two different voice actors who have both really good British accents and really good American accents" to be in keeping with a major plot point during which one of the agent's contacts demands you "drop the accent," we decided to play as the bounty hunter and try to get as far as we could into the game. Please note that this story will contain minor spoilers and that since the game has not yet launched, everything discussed here is subject to change.
Before we began our session, Erickson briefed us on recent changes that have been made to the prerelease version of the game. Obviously, more content has been added since we saw it last, and in addition, player ships (and space gameplay), along with companion characters and crafting have been implemented--more on these later. Further, more of the game's high-end group quests (known as "heroic quests") have been added, along with modifications to the game's light side and dark side dialogue system. Like in Knights of the Old Republic and Mass Effect 2, certain decisions may push your character farther toward the light side (or "good" ethical alignment), while others will push you farther toward the dark side (or "evil" ethical alignment). Erickson explained that light side and dark side points are being given out more sparingly--while previous versions of the game awarded points for simple dialogue options (such as for comforting a grieving widow or threatening a well-meaning civilian), the current version of the game now awards these alignment points only when your character "takes action" by choosing to ultimately resolve certain situations or quests with peace and diplomacy--or with violence and treachery.
In addition, the new (but still prerelease) version of the game also includes modifications to the group dialogue system. As we've mentioned before, if you happen to be part of an adventuring party with other players and enter into an important story-related dialogue, you and all your buddies will be presented with the same dialogue choices, but the game will randomly decide who "wins" the next branch of dialogue and gets the chance to speak. The group dialogue system in the current version of the game now uses a "point roll" system that displays which random number (1-100) each party member randomly "rolled" on an invisible set of dice in order to win the current dialogue branch. Getting the highest roll number not only lets your character speak (and choose the direction of the conversation), but also now earns your character "social points," which Erickson suggested will be used to "customize your character, for those players who love socializing." Sadly, aside from making a few group dialogue rolls, we didn't get to see how this social customization system works in action. We also have yet to see the game's character creation interface in action and once again ended up playing characters that BioWare had already created for us.
Since we've already played through and chronicled the earliest part of the bounty hunter's career, we'll pick up where we left off--tagging our initial, jive-talkin', Lando Calrissian-esque bounty on the smuggler world of Hutta. We've also covered how, after returning to our home base, we discovered that two members of our three-man bounty hunter support team had been slaughtered by Tarro Blood, a rival bounty hunter who was determined to win the great hunt--the premier event for bounty hunters--by less-than-honorable means. We regrouped with our surviving support team member Mako, a human female who had previously acted primarily as an intelligence gatherer, but insisted that she join us in our adventures.
Mako is the first companion character for the bounty hunter class and will, like many of The Old Republic's companions, have an ongoing relationship with your character that will be strengthened or weakened as a result of how she judges your actions. Much like in BioWare's other recent games, such as Dragon Age II and Mass Effect 2, doing or saying things that your companions agree with will earn you favor with them, while doing and saying things they disapprove of will cause you to lose favor--so just like in those games, you'll find yourself gaining a +6 here or losing a -12 there. Fortunately, much like in those other BioWare games, you can purchase and hand off gift items to your followers to raise your standing with them if it drops too far.
Erickson was quick to point out the persistent nature of companion characters and their dispositions, suggesting that, for instance, the Sith companion Vette (a character we revealed last year) could be made so miserable that she "literally spends her entire time on your ship, crying." It's also possible for several character classes to outright kill one or more of their companions at key points in the story, but the lead writer explained that should you even consider this path, you'll be given many, many clear warnings before dealing the killing stroke, because once your character's companions are dead…well, that's it, they're dead forever. Years after the game launches, when you're doing that big group quest with your guild and they ask you to whip out that helpful companion character of yours that you killed off…you'll have to explain to your pals that you kind of, sort of fragged that particular companion for good.
In this session, we ended up playing as a male bounty hunter of the rattataki race but decided to get as many dark side points as possible--demanding credits in exchange for every job, solving as many missions as possible by murdering our key contacts, and generally taking the most "evil" path available. This didn't sit too well with Mako, who constantly dropped relationship points every time we opted not to spare a helpless target's life or even did something as harmless as telling her to shut up all those times. Go figure. Once you've traveled enough with your companions and said and done enough things for them to form a strong opinion, you'll get an alert that they want to talk to you "somewhere private," which at this point appears to be either in a cantina or on the decks of your ship. At one point, Mako did want to speak with us, and after ducking into the nearest watering hole, we made a feeble attempt to flirt with her and potentially start a romance. However, all those -6's caught up to us, and Mako stated that she merely wanted us to keep a closer eye out for potentially lucrative side bounties, and that, oh, by the way, she saw right through all the sweet talk and wasn't fooled one bit.
As we've discussed in our previous coverage, companions can be quickly summoned and dismissed by clicking a button. Currently, there's no penalty for doing so, and companions can be instantly resummoned into play. You can also set your companions up with different abilities and different types of behavior to support your character--in this case, Mako could be set to attack the nearest hostile, take on a passive stance, heal us when needed, or fire off her special ability, a concussive blaster pistol shot that has a chance of stunning its target (and is an excellent way to open a fight). However, the game also has a separate companion actions menu that lets you dispatch your companion to sell off any items in your inventory tagged as junk (in addition to picking up useful items like weapons, armor, and stimulants that enhance your abilities, you'll also loot tons of items tagged as being useless beyond selling for credits, such as burned-out blaster cartridges). You can also send your companions off on their own crafting-related quests once you've learned up to three of the game's various crafting skills from your faction's capital city on your faction's homeworld (the dark planet of Dromund Kaas for the Imperials, and the world of Coruscant for Republic characters). These areas are not unlike the capital cities you may have seen in other online games of this sort…but we'll get to that in a bit.
Before we recount our character's exploits, we'll take a moment to review the way we approached this session, as well as review the skills and powers that our bounty hunter acquired. Like all characters, bounty hunters must return to a trainer character each level to train the new or upgraded skill they receive. After a play session of approximately 12 hours spread over two days, we were able to advance our character to level 11. Please keep in mind that we approached our play session with the goal of making as much progress as possible through our character's primary story quest (which eventually leads to bounty hunter characters acquiring their first ship) while picking up on as much of the lore and story as possible--so at several points, we did our best to avoid going out and looking for monsters to hunt. So, while we seemed to get plenty of experience points from quest goals and from fighting the many, many groups of enemies that stood between us and those quest goals, we might not have attained an optimal level of experience for our play time.
The bounty hunter profession wears heavy armor--a fitting chassis for bolted-on flamethrowers, missile launchers, and jetpacks--and is one of the Imperial faction's premier frontline fighters. Once they reach level 10, they can choose one of two specialization paths--the "mercenary" path, which focuses more on dealing damage by dual-wielding blaster pistols, or the "powertech" path, which focuses more on standing up front and soaking up damage. (We chose the powertech specialization, though because we were in such a hurry to get to our ship and because we only got to level 11, we didn't get much of a chance to explore this path.)
As we've discussed before, in battle, bounty hunters aren't restricted by action points that build up over time. Rather, these characters can use any of their combat powers whenever they like, except that most of the profession's abilities generate heat within the bounty hunter's armor suit, which must be vented (using the appropriately named "vent heat" ability), lest the character suffer from an overheat state that temporarily locks out the use of all other abilities. Bounty hunters start out equipped with a single-handed blaster pistol with which they can use the basic "rapid shot" power to zap their enemies. At level 2, they can learn "missile blast," which fires a concussive, wrist-mounted rocket at enemies that may knock them over, temporarily preventing them from attacking as they try to regain their footing. At level 3, bounty hunters can use their wrist-mounted flamethrower to deal close-range damage over time that may cause weaker enemies to become unable to attack (being set on fire will cause some enemies to cower in fear). At level 4, bounty hunters learn the "electrodart" skill, which lets them fire, of all things, an electrified dart that will briefly paralyze its target--a powerful skill that seems crucial for group play but that takes an extremely long time to recharge.
At level 5, bounty hunters learn the "rocket punch" skill, a powerful jetpack-powered, flying uppercut punch that delivers melee damage, may knock down some enemies, and may or may not also delight fans of the Street Fighter arcade fighting series. At level 6, bounty hunters learn the "rail shot" ability--a powerful and highly damaging ranged attack that works only against paralyzed targets (such as enemies hit by an electrodart). At level 7, bounty hunters learn the "death from above" power--an ability that causes the character to fire up the old jetpack and briefly hover above the ground while launching a small cache of wrist-mounted missiles at enemies within a chosen radius. This attack may knock weaker enemies off their feet. Levels 8 through 11 offered upgraded versions of these skills (at level 9, you can learn "rocket punch level 2," for instance), but between these powers and Mako at our side, we generally felt like we had enough to work with when going into battle, even when playing solo. This was also due to the fact that the bounty hunter, like every other character, has a self-healing ability that can't be used in the middle of battle but can be used after battle to quickly vent all heat and recover all lost health.
We should also mention, before we get started, that since our primary goal was to make as much progress as possible, we didn't pay quite as much attention to our character's weapon and armor loadout as we otherwise might have in a normal play session with no time constraints. Again, bounty hunters wear heavy armor (The Old Republic has light, medium, and heavy classes of armor, which are individually better or worse suited to specific character classes), so every time we found a piece of heavy armor with better statistics than the ones we currently had equipped, we swapped it out without hesitation.
All armor pieces in The Old Republic have a base numerical armor value (for instance, you might find a pair of gloves that provides 42 armor), and in some cases, different armor pieces will also provide bonuses to your character's attack abilities, defense abilities, or damage, or to your character's basic statistics of strength, aim, endurance, cunning, willpower, and presence. We put no real focus on strength (which enhances melee damage), willpower (which enhances force-powered abilities), and presence (which has not been fully revealed, but presumably has to do with the game's dialogue options). Instead, in the few instances when we had a choice, we focused on equipping armor that built up our statistics in aim (which directly affects how well you attack with ranged weapons, such as our blaster pistol), endurance (which affects your character's health and durability), and cunning (which affects how well your character does in battle while using "gadgets," which include wrist-mounted missile launchers).
Since we opted out of playing a dual-wielding character that would have carried two pistols, we simply kept rotating out our current pistol for the next best one that we happened to pick up. The best ones seem to offer not only enhanced base damage (which also appears as a simple numeric value--a low-level blaster pistol might have an attack rating of only 35 or so), but also ability score boosts. Again, since we were so focused on making progress, we spent very little time visiting merchants to do any sort of comparison shopping for better items, aside from picking up a few healing stimpacks as last-ditch survival gear, and otherwise acquired all our character's weapons and armor from either loot drops from monsters or as quest rewards. Like in a certain other world where war is crafted, in The Old Republic, quests will often offer multiple reward choices from which you can choose just one. Our choices were simple--we always picked the best heavy armor and the best blaster pistol from the bunch.
For the record, with the exception of a few foolish errors where we blundered into multiple packs of enemies that all had blaster weapons to pelt us with, we did just fine and never felt completely underpowered (though as we got closer to level 11, we never felt overpowered either). Death is a simple enough matter to deal with anyway; after falling in battle, if you have no companions to revive you, you'll respawn at the last point to which you are bound (and all key points of interest in the world have handy bind terminals that let you set new respawn points there) with some damage done to your armor (again, not unlike the way things work in a certain other online world). Fortunately, you can have any armor or weapon merchant repair all your items with a single mouse click in exchange for a chunk of credits.
Because our character's primary goal was to qualify for the great hunt ourselves by earning the sponsorship of Nemro the Hutt, the local crime lord, who is at war with a rival Hutt crime boss. We reported back to Nemro with news of our first bounty and were quickly assigned our next bounty--slaughtering the rebellious leader of the evocii--a race of humanoids that had inhabited Hutta before the hutts came and that actively opposes the hutts' illicit activities. The sad-eyed evocii live out in the swamps just beyond Nemro's palace, but we barely heard their leader mention their race's rightful claim to the land, and maybe say something about how all they want is peace, before making a beeline with our mouse cursor to the "[ignore the rest of what this guy is saying and shoot him]" dialogue option. The current version of the game has a helpful Mass Effect-style dialogue wheel that clearly highlights a dialogue choice that will give your character light side points or dark side points. As a matter of fact, we spent the next 20 to 30 minutes running more bounty quests for Nemro with the single-minded purpose of completing them while being the worst person possible, tracking down "the Black Death" (a murderous bureaucrat from the Czerka Corporation--a faction that appeared in Knights of the Old Republic) with the purpose of stopping him from slaughtering evocii slaves for sport but taking a credit bribe instead to look the other way, and then tracking down Nemro's double-crossing former accountant, murdering that frail old man in cold blood and delivering our mark's severed head to his aged (and later, screaming) wife.
Our final bounty, or so it appeared, required us to out the hutt's treacherous master of beasts--a portly tradesman who tended to the animal pits in the palace basement. We descended to the ground floor only to find that the beast master had been given a similar bounty by the hutt--branding us a traitor and putting a price on our character's own head. We realized this the moment we spoke to the beast master, and while we had the option to try to discuss the misunderstanding, we instead opted for the dark side points and challenged both him and his beasts to a fight. While the hutt's beast pit was a huge, empty arena littered with bones--exactly the place you'd expect to find one of the mighty rancor beasts from Return of the Jedi (though there wasn't one here)--there was only a small contingent of lesser beasts, followed by the beast master himself and a few of his henchmen. After adding the bones of the hutt's beasts, and those of his beast master, to the pile, we returned to the throne room to demand an explanation. It seems our hutt benefactor was especially fond of double-crosses and didn't care whether or not he put us through the proverbial ringer. In order to participate in the great hunt, we still needed his sponsorship, which, as it turns out, was given to another bounty hunter earlier. Which meant that we'd have to track down this other bounty hunter, kill him off, and take the sponsorship badge from his corpse. Great.
It was at about this point that we, and several other members of the press, were herded into a flashpoint, one of the game's challenging group "instances" ("instance" being massively multiplayer game parlance for a separate area that gets generated for, and by, a single player or a group of players and can be explored only by them). This was the Black Talon instance we had previously seen at the 2009 Electronic Entertainment Expo, but this time around, we played through the content ourselves. With three other people. Forming a group of two Imperial agents and two bounty hunters, we took a mission at the Hutta spaceport, which required us to hop through two other, connected spaceports (by running through their hangar areas and clicking on shuttle bay doors, followed by a brief loading screen) to be transported to the Black Talon, a Sith warship whose captain had been ordered to attack a Republic fleet led by Jedi that far, far outclassed it. Fearing for his crew, the captain refused the direct order to attack, which made him a marked man, as far as the Sith navy was concerned. This treacherous ship captain was our new bounty.
To get to him, we blasted our way through ship patrols of other Sith officers and droids loyal to the captain, using the same tactics that served us well when we had been playing solo: "pulling" only small groups of close-together enemies by drawing only their fire, focusing on killing that small group quickly, healing ourselves up, and then carefully drawing out the next group. Somehow, some way, we found ourselves naturally falling into the role of group leader, and by "group leader" we mean "that one jerk who always pulls a fresh batch of enemies slightly before everyone else is completely ready." Maybe it was because we were confident in our character's powerful skills, or maybe it was because we were impatient to get through the flashpoint and get back to more of the bounty hunter's story quests. We couldn't tell you.
In the group, we played the role of a frontline fighter, starting off most fights with the death from above ability to knock down and simultaneously damage as many foes in the enemy group as possible, then getting in close to spray our enemies with a debilitating flamethrower blast (hopefully causing them to cower in fear and, as a result, to not attack our party), and then finishing one of them off with a rocket punch upside the head. Occasionally, we'd fall back while these powers were recharging and keep the pressure on our foes with the basic rapid shot power and a missile blast or two. When facing larger battle droids, which are resistant to knockdown-based attacks and have tons of health, we found ourselves opening up the fight with an electrodart to stun them and then using the rail shot ability to deal as much damage as possible. Sadly, larger adventuring parties for higher-end dungeons have not yet been implemented in the game, so groups in the version we played were limited to an upper cap of four characters, with no room for companions. Thankfully, in a party situation, every surviving character has the ability to resurrect any other fallen comrade, regardless of profession--as long as not everyone dies in a fight, the sole survivor can eventually revive everyone.
Eventually, we fought our way through the Sith guards to make it to the bridge and the captain, where our ragtag band of misfits used the group conversation system to confront the disobedient officer. At this point, we suffered from what seemed like a series of bad dialogue rolls that prevented us from having much of a say. As a matter of fact, we spoke only once--and much to our chagrin, it was to spare the captain's life and gain light side points. However, this slip was completely our fault, since we could have (and should have) hovered our mouse cursor over the dialogue wheel before inputting our next speech option. This would have clearly indicated that simply taking the action of killing him would have been the choice that would have earned us dark side points, so we'll chalk that one up to sloppy play on our part.
In any case, a communication came up on the ship's comlink from a higher Sith officer who demanded that we press our attacks against the Jedi-led fleet, and, after hailing the Jedi commanding officer (and again, suffering a frustrating run of bad dialogue rolls to never get a word in edgewise), our group successfully provoked the Jedi into doing battle. We immediately departed the bridge to find new enemies in squads of Republic troopers, which wore different types of armor but, as we quickly found, had the same type of weakness to jet-propelled uppercuts. Just when we figured we'd finished them off, the boss of the flashpoint, the Jedi commander's Padawan apprentice (a young Twi'lek character wielding a mean lightsaber), boarded the ship and challenged us to battle.
And killed us pretty badly with both powerful melee attacks and Force push powers that sent us sprawling. She was more manageable the second time around, and once we'd finished her off, we reported back to the bridge to find that because the captain had ended up succeeding in his original mission, he had evaded the wrath of his superiors…for now. We received a fat reward of credits and experience points and were then free to return to our solo adventures. Which took us, by spaceport, to Dromund Kaas.
Dromund Kaas is the Imperial homeworld, and its capital, the citadel, serves pretty much the same purpose as the factional capital cities you've seen in other games like this. Unlike Hutta, which is all poisonous yellow deserts and poisonous yellow swamps, Dromund Kaas is lush, dark, and mostly covered in jungles that block out the sun--except for the capital itself, which takes the form of a gigantic and persistently dark city shrouded by row after row of storm clouds that periodically spit out bolts of lightning. The citadel offers vendors of all types of items, profession trainers for every profession on the Imperial side, crafting skill trainers, merchants that sell every type of item (including companion gifts), crafting stations of all types, and more class-based quests than you can shake a lightsaber at. In our hurry to power through as much story content as possible, we didn't get much of an opportunity to delve into some of this ancillary content--for instance, we trained our character in only two crafting skills (again, all characters can learn up to three)--in this case, treasure hunting and scavenging. We figured we'd send Mako out to start hunting and gathering stuff that would lead to shiny credits later but instead found that each skill was tied to a quest on another planet--so they'd have to wait. However, once we had trained the scavenging skill, our character started finding small patches of flotsam in the wild, which we pawed at for a bit to recover scrap metal and bits of cloth--presumably valuable ingredients to players who have the time to put in the effort, but not much use to someone looking to cut through story quests in as little time as possible.
Speaking of story quests, while the settlement near the Dromund Kaas spaceport did offer a few piddling tasks--mainly focused on thinning out the planet's population of meddlesome jungle beasts--we instead headed directly to the citadel, which is so huge that it's divided into quadrants that each have their own quick-travel option by speederbike. However, as a bounty hunter, we were most interested in the quadrant housing the Mandalorian stronghold, which serves as a home base for all bounty hunters and a quest hub for us to continue our journey to reach the great hunt. We met our new contact at the base: Crysta, a rugged-looking human female with an orange Mohawk haircut and a weakness for dialogue-based flirting, and from this meeting came a whole bunch of bounties.
Interestingly, the majority of the bounty quests we took were related to two overarching story events on Dromund Kaas. The first: the fallout after an ambitious Sith lord botches an attempt to curry favor with his master by secretly building a monument in the jungle, only to have the off-world Republic slave contingent revolt. The second: a different, but also mighty Sith lord, known as Gratham, has gone rogue, making a power play against higher-ranked Sith rivals from the comfort of his well-guarded estate.
For instance, one bounty required us to track down a kidnapped Republic noble, and this took us into the heart of the jungle to the slave camp, where a splinter group of slaves had gone mad and began murdering their fellows in the hopes that nurturing their own hatred and destructive feelings might help them become Sith themselves. As we parlayed with these slaves, we did nothing to dissuade them from their ludicrous ideas (proper Sith powers in the Star Wars universe stem both from rigorous training and from innate sensitivity to the Force, after all). Instead, our callous and greedy character reported the development to a nearby Sith officer for all the credits we could get, while also pocketing the datapad we'd found in the camp that led to our mark--a foolish fop who had been duped by a female Imperial noble into thinking he'd been held hostage. When we located our target and his captor, we didn't mince words, opting to kill the woman from our available dialogue options (which sent us into combat with her) and then, without missing a beat, using the new freeze ray we'd picked up from Crysta to freeze the male noble we'd been assigned to capture…in carbonite. Oh yes, just like Han Solo.
Another bounty we took on involved tracking down an Imperial officer's daughter--a Sith-in-training who had been swayed by Gratham to join the renegade lord at his estate--and neutralize the potential scandal that the officer would face if word got out. As we spoke to the distressed father, we noticed very obvious light side dialogue options that would have had our character attempt to reason with the man and potentially propose a rescue, but since we were going full-on dark side, we skipped immediately to the dialogue options that offered to rub her out--and that demanded cold, hard credits in return. We then tracked her down to the estate, which was crawling with squadrons of elite soldiers, droids, and Sith apprentices. We briefly listened to this cocky and coiffed young lady go on and on about how a pathetic alien bounty hunter such as ourselves had no chance against a mighty Sith like her--until the dialogue option to kill her came up--at which point we received even more dark side points and went into battle. We then blasted her to within an inch of her life, which sent us directly into a new dialogue with the badly wounded apprentice.
This was a pretty obvious opportunity for us to reconsider our mission and spare the girl's life, which her father would surely have appreciated. Unfortunately, that wouldn't have given us the dark side points. We instead chose to finish her off, and, since we were caught within the confines of the renegade Sith's estate, we used the game's fast travel option, which, after a brief delay that can be interrupted by combat, instantly transports you to your bind location (not unlike the hearthstone item in that other, similar online game). We soon confronted the Imperial officer to deliver the good news and found, to our surprise, that he actually somehow had mixed feelings about ordering the assassination of his own daughter. Rather than making any attempt to comfort him, we chose any and all dialogue options that let us gloat over our victory and demand payment--which led the man to dismiss us in disgust.
While these two bounties were part of the key story quest to attain our bounty hunter ship, we unfortunately didn't finish the third and final bounty quest (which would eventually have led us to a last-man-standing battle against all the other bounty hunters in an event known as the "Rage Pit"). This might have had something to do with all the side quests in and around the citadel we found ourselves picking up in the vain hope of finding more interesting miscellaneous info. Like the one side quest given by the subordinate of a Sith lord who requests your help against a rogue faction of Sith known as the "Revanites," who, shockingly, do not worship the almighty Sith emperor, but instead revere Darth Revan, a long-dead Sith lord who played a key role in 2003's Knights of the Old Republic.
Unfortunately, this and all the other quests were left to rot in our journal, but as a consolation prize, the lead writer was kind enough to show off hints of space gameplay, including still screenshots of both the Imperial agent's ship and the bounty hunter's ship. The agent's ship will be an X-70B Phantom model--a sleek, silvery, jet-like ship with no obvious Imperial markings. The bounty hunter will instead pilot a Mantis-class vessel that Erickson describes as being "partway between [the ship] Serenity from [the Joss Whedon TV series] Firefly and Slave 1"--the latter being the ship that Boba Fett used to haul away a frozen Han Solo in The Empire Strikes Back.
In contrast to the Ebon Hawk ship from Knights of the old Republic, player ships will have huge exteriors that dwarf individual player characters, though their guts will perhaps be comparable in size to the decks of the Ebon Hawk. Like with that ship, the interior will be cordoned off into different sections, and when you first get onboard, your companions will each hang out in their own favorite nook, doing whatever it is they like to do. (Again, in the case of the Sith companion Vette, if you mistreat her constantly, crying is all she'll ever do on the ship.) You can also use your ship's navigational computer to chart courses for different planets and star systems, but more-remote locations will have a higher fuel cost--and currently, fuel is directly priced in credits, so if you don't have cash, you won't travel. Fortunately, for the time being, return trips from those remote locations are free of charge, so you won't find yourself in the tough spot of being millions of light years from home and stranded without enough money to get back.
We then watched a hands-off demonstration of space gameplay, which, in its current form, exists as an arcade-style minigame in which you fly your ship from a third-person, behind-the-hull perspective using your W, A, S, and D keys while also using your mouse cursor to control your targeting reticle and hold down the left mouse button to fire continuously. The demonstration we saw put us on a mission to cruise through an asteroid field filled with gigantic floating rocks and to destroy a certain number of enemy fighters, which zipped past us on all sides. We also came out on the other end of the asteroid field to find a massive enemy capital ship. At this point, we received a side quest to try to cripple the giant cruiser by shooting out every single turret built into various hard points along the hull, though just a few blasts from those same turrets nearly tore the ship apart, turning it into a flaming wreck that was barely limping through space. Then, more enemy fighters flew in and reduced what was left of the ship to space dust. For the time being, BioWare plans for space gameplay to be limited to this sort of simple minigame at the time of the game's launch, though Erickson suggests that there are many staffers at the studio who would "love to do more with space gameplay, postlaunch."
This final demonstration capped off with the player-versus-environment content of the game, and while we came away with many answers about how the game will work in terms of story quests, ethical choices, hunting tactics, group tactics, companion gameplay, player ships, and even space travel, we seemed to also come away with many more questions. What is it like to have more than one companion? Though we've played as a party of only bounty hunters and Imperial agents, how do all of the classes in either faction synergize with each other in adventuring parties to handle group challenges, such as heroic quests or flashpoints? How does character creation work? And exactly what does high-level, endgame content look like? We don't know yet, but we're slowly getting a better sense of what to expect each time we see the game. The Old Republic's story and quests are intriguing, and its scope is absolutely enormous. Stay tuned to GameSpot for more updates on this promising game leading into E3 and its eventual launch later this year.