A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, a studio named BioWare developed a single-player role-playing game called Knights of the Old Republic. It took place in a unique version of the Star Wars universe centuries before the events in the motion pictures. Now, BioWare has returned to this setting with a highly anticipated massively multiplayer online role-playing game that will attempt to combine the addictive hack-and-slash nature of massively multiplayer games with the intimacy and in-depth story of single-player games. In The Old Republic, you'll be able to choose a profession that is associated primarily with the plucky Republic, or the growing Sith Empire. This time out, we played the Republic's trooper class--a heavy-duty assault class that doesn't use lightsabers but, instead, suits up in heavy armor and carries heavy blasters and grenades.
We began our session with a rookie level-six trooper (made significantly more powerful for the purpose of the play session with the help of some substantially overpowered weapons and armor) on Ord Mantell, a planet split by civil war. It seems that the Republic's control of the planet is slipping away to a separatist guerilla movement, and our job this time around was to infiltrate a separatist base, meet up with our commanding officer, and get debriefed on the real mission: locating and disabling a force field protecting a powerful bomb that must be defused. However, along the way, we also picked up a side mission from a local journalist who offered a bribe in return for our recovery of certain holodiscs containing exciting footage of separatists--footage that the news networks would love.
We began our mission by not-so-subtly making our entry into the separatist compound, which was casually guarded by various separatist soldiers (including commandos armed with blaster rifles, separatist brawlers armed with melee-range vibroblades, pistol-toting propaganda officers, and security robots). Fortunately, our somewhat overpowered test trooper character didn't have much trouble dividing and conquering each small cluster by engaging each enemy individually in combat and generally blasting the enemy to bits.
The trooper is considered to be an "action point class," in that it has a basic blaster attack (currently called "hammer shot") that not only deals some ranged damage to a target, but also stores up two action points in the character's meter (the trooper can store up to 10). These action points are used to power most of the profession's other abilities, such as "rifle grenade," which launches a single-target explosive that knocks its targets off their feet; "sticky grenade," which launches a different single-target explosive that causes its targets to panic (what with a live grenade being stuck to them and all); and "full auto," which can potentially use up all your character's action points by unloading your blaster rifle on your target in a damaging barrage. Troopers also have a close-range melee attack with the butts of their rifles that can send their opponents sprawling. Clearly, these abilities make the profession crucial not just for dealing damage, but also for controlling crowds of enemies by making sure priority targets are knocked off their feet...and stay off their feet.
We tore through the first few separatist troopers on the map quickly while seeking out our contact; she was staked out in a nearby control room clearly located on the game's minimap. After speaking with her and getting our orders to deactivate the bomb's force field, we headed out to the base's entrance. Again, it was clearly marked on the minimap, and we fought the occasional skirmish with nearby separatist troopers. Interestingly, The Old Republic will actually custom-tailor hunting quests based on your play patterns, so if you happen to repeatedly slaughter, oh, let's say, Ord Mantell separatist troopers, the game will craft a miniquest for you that will reward you for killing a few more of them (in this case, a total of 20). Fortunately, our powerful character had little trouble patiently isolating individual targets and filling them with holes like interstellar Swiss cheese.
Because of our powerful character, we didn't have a great deal of trouble dealing with the base's defenses, which were primarily separatist colonists and robots. Thus, we soon got on the trail of the bomb. On our way to the center of the base, we found a small party of injured (and terrified) separatists, who begged for their lives. We gave them the benefit of the doubt and let them escape. At that point, LucasArts producers informed us that we'd normally receive light side points (this wasn't implemented at the time we were playing). Soon, we found our main target--a control room where a frightened separatist soldier claimed that the bomb had been moved and that Republic scum like us would never find it. At this point, we entered into a three-sided dialogue with the soldier and our commanding officer--who had also tracked down the target--and gave us an order to pull out our weapon to shoot the man on the spot. Rather than take the dialogue option of agreeing to the order, we chose to refuse in favor of interrogating the man thoroughly (which would probably have earned us more light side points). He folded and revealed that the bomb had been moved to an unknown location and his separatist commanding officers had fled.
With our quest log updated to locate the fleeing separatist officers, we tracked them down in a nearby room and entered into a two-sided dialogue. We did our best to come to a peaceful resolution, though the panicky fugitives refused to listen to reason and opened fire. We gunned them down in short order, completing our primary mission. This left us to complete our side quest to hunt down the missing journalist and his holodiscs. We found the idealistic young man soon afterward, modifying the content of the discs to suit the separatist's agenda since he had become swept up in the movement. We engaged the young man in dialogue and decided we'd had enough of going after light side points and demanded the discs on pain of death. The journalist revealed that the discs were stolen by separatist propaganda officers. We ventured back out to the base to locate some propaganda officer spawns and summarily executed them, picking up the discs as loot. We then left the base to find that the main bridge going from the compound to the outside world had been completely destroyed. We hopped down into the ravine below to find our journalist contact to hand off the discs for our reward, hightailed it back to the main base to collect our reward for the main quest, and picked up several new ones from needy settlers and military officers.
Though our time with the class was short, we can tell that the Republic trooper is clearly a tough customer who can dish it out, as well as take it. We'll continue to bring you updates on this highly anticipated game as soon as we can.