SW:TOR in Total PC Gaming UK Magazine

I went to buy my Christmas cards today and as I walked past the magazine rack in the store I noticed that one magazine had “Exclusive Star Wars the Old Republic” in big, bold letters on the cover, on top of an image of a Jedi that I hadn’t seen before. Picking up the magazine (which turned out to be “Total PC Gaming”) found that it had a five-page preview (not counting the title page). And since it includes the last two classes it’s definitely new. So I bought the magazine.

The magazine comes with a DVD containing screenshots and videos of the game (some 45minutes worth), but it’s nothing you haven’t already seen. All the screenshots can be found on the official website as well (a number of them fairly old in fact). The videos consist of the cinematic trailer from E3, the gameplay walkthrough from CamesCom and the four developer dispatches.

The article itself is a little more informative, though most of it we all already know by now. Still, considering that the only information on the two new classes come from a German magazine it’s nice seeing an English view (leaving off any possible translation errors). Though I’m sure they wouldn’t like me posting scans of the article, let me instead go through the article and pull out some quotes.

It starts by talking about how BioWare wants to bring the fourth pillar of story to MMOs. Since we’ve all already heard this a million times before there’s nothing new here. From there it moves onto another big selling point: full voice-over. Again nothing new.

But then it moves onto the Sith Inquisitor and some examples of very early gameplay:

The article details how SWTOR has some standard MMO-style kill/collect side-quests. But what impresses the writers of the article is the Mass Effect-style dialog wheel (ugh) and the moral choices you get to make.

The article talks about how you get a similar choice in a story mission where you’re supposed to root out Sith traitors, but you can refuse to kill them on moral grounds. When you do however your quest giver makes it clear that he distrusts you and will keep a close eye on you. The article then wonders how much of a long-term impact these choices will have, whether characters can cross the light side/dark side boundary (which we know that they can) and how choices will affect abilities, stats, PvP and end game, not giving an answer to any of them and just leaving the question hanging.

Next the article talks about abilities and such, noting how it’s drawing from the Star Wars arsenal.
As a dark side apprentice, our Sith Inquisitor already had access to dark lightning as well as some basic Force abilities and his lightsabre skills. In theStar Wars tradition, this would already put him far beyond the average Republic foe, so mob encounters within the training instance consist of small groups of weak soldiers that stand a better chance of posing a threat.The article compares combat for the Inquisitor to Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, mentioning “short-range DPS lightning attacks, lightning mez effects and, of course, various melee lightsabre techniques”. They even compare the Inquisitor to a melee DPS class (“under the hood”). But the difference is that even at low level you have “more scope to play with your abilities”. James Ohlen notes that “combat is a little more like what you see in a single-player Star Wars game than in an MMO”.

It then goes on to talking about the choice in career path that every character gets at a point in the game, giving you two choices. It compares it to that approaching level ten in Aion.

A Smuggler, for example, is a Han Solo-type class who makes use of stealth and cover to tackle enemies, but at some point you’ll get the choice of pursuing the stealthy line by becoming a Scoundrel, or take a more direct approach to combat with the dual-wielding, sniping Gunslinger. Intriguingly, the Gunslinger also comes with the ‘Smooth Talker’ trait, which gives you additional dialogue options.

Similarly the article notes that the new classes will get two paths. For the Jedi Consular “one (route) is more support healing and the other is more of a controlling stun path where he’s doing damage and taking people out of the battle with telekinetics”. And for the Inquisitor it is “a fast Darth Maul path that uses the staff lightsabre and does lots of damage, and the other is a more controlling, lightning, Palpatine-type character”. Which, to be honest, confuses me as it sounds like the Inquisitor can play pretty much exactly like the Warrior. I guess, and the article notes something like this (as I’ll get to in a bit), that the difference is that the Warrior wears heavy armor and the Inquisitor is more of a glass canon.

The article then mentions the typical MMO (trinity) roles:

“It’s important for players to fulfil different roles, so thatwhen you go into combat you feel that you’re an important part of that combat, not just a fifth wheel. We do have the classic roles in there but we didn’t want to define the classes as those roles from the very start. We wanted to let the player play their Star Wars fantasy, to let them play Luke Skywalker as a Jedi Knight, then once they get to the kind of levels where they’re grouping in the tank/DPS manner, that’s when they start thinking about career choices.”

Finally it goes on to companions, how every class has them and how the ones you’ve unlocked are kept in “a holding system” that BioWare isn’t talking about yet, but which the article speculates (and I agree) is probably some kind of Ebon Hawk-type hub. It notes how companions are there to comment on stories and quests and how they have a role in combat. Basically if you want a tank then you take the tank companion, etc.

It also mentions a couple of examples, like “The Sith Warrior has a Twi-lek and she’s more of a roguish, smuggler-type character” (should sound very familiar to anyone who’s seen the cinematic trailer). And the Sith Inquisitor “might want to pick the Dashade, which is a big, demonic, seven-foot tall creature that’s really dangerous and immune to a lot of Force powers while being good at taking damage“. And it mentions that a Darth Maul-type player might want to take another Darth Maul character to do as much damage as possible because in a group “your job is DPS“.

Which brings me to a thought. I’llg et to the class sidebars in a moment, but those list the article’s take on the class roles. But considering the above as well as the class role talks a little more up I suspect that each class actually has two roles with your one depending on your specialization choice. For the Sith Inquisitor this would be either ranged support (the Palpatine type) or melee damage (the Darth Maul type). This would explain to me why it seems articles (as well as people in the forums) have such a hard time grasping the purpose of the classes. As such one could argue that SW:TOR has sixteen classes (for mechanics purposes) instead of eight and I can fully see group requests asking for a specific specialization instead of just a class in general (like asking for the healer Jedi Consular specifically). Anyway.

The article closes with how it feels that SW:TOR has the best chance of becoming a mega-MMO (liek WoW) of all the MMOs they’ve seen over the years because it seems to have all the right ingredients in place: a very popular IP, backign of a huge publisher, created by the leading RPG developer, and the resources and experience of experienced MMO developer Mythic.

Next to the main article it also has a very brief (three-question) interview sidebar with James Ohlen and sidebars describing all eight classes. The interview asks whether a Smuggler or Trooper can really go head-to-head with a Force-sensitive character. James Ohlen assure that this has been something that they kept in mind from the start:

Liek a Trooper isn’t just a guy in armour, he’s a guy in ridiculously huge armour with giant guns who can call on air strikes and has thermal detonators… he’s basically a walking tank. So he’s able to take on a Jedi. He has to keep them at range though; Jedi are the ultimate close-combat fighters, so none of the other classes can survive against a Jedi or Sith within lightsabre range.

Interesting how he keeps “Jedi” and “Sith” in general terms (instead of saying “Jedi Knight”). Though pet classes are my favorite type of class (and one which SW:TOR doesn’t have; part of why I’m so upset with the last two classes) after that is the melee healer type. And I’m starting to wonder if you could play a Consular in that manner.

Anyway, James goes on to call up the Obi-Wan versus Jango Fett battle again, nothing that Jango could hold his own because he and Obi-Wan are both about level twenty characters. But then when Jango runs into Mace Windu that the latter is “obviously at the fiftieth level because they fight and Mace cuts his head off and it’s over instantly”. Sneaky confirmation of the game having a level 50?

Next the article asks whether James sees SW:TOR as a WoW killer. But James doesn’t look at it that way. He says that they’re not competing with WoW but instead try to build their own niche. He hopes that SW:TOR will offer things that appeal to different people (“or the same people for different reasons”). He feels WoW and SWTOR can exist in the same time.

It would be great if it becomes as successful as Warcraft, but we’re not planning for it, we just need to get close to its success — and that’s still huge.

Then the article asks whether this is a new MMO are for BioWare, to which James answers that it SWTOR is successful that they want to stay in the MMO market.

Lastly the article has sidebars with all the classes, Smuggler, Jedi Knight, Jedi Consular and Trooper for the Galactic Republic and Bounty Hunter, Sith Warrior, Sith Inquisitor and Imperial Agent for the Sith Empire. It calls the Smuggler “the most charismatic and manipulative”, using stealth and distraction. it also mentions that at later levels a Smuggler can get “a long-range sniper ability” as well as smooth-talking abilities for favorable dialog options.

The Jedi Knight is said to don “suits of heavy armour” and prefer lightsabre combat, using the Force for defense (both for themselves and their group) and short-range pushes and AoE stun tactics. For the Jedi Consular it says the following:

The role of a Jedi Consular within a larger group is to maintain the health of other classes and to apply the occasional buff. They’re equipped with ranged and melee Force attacks for solo play, but once you have the option to specialise, the Jedi Consulars can focus more on their passive Force abilities or move to building upon Force stun and telekinetic powers to deliver damage and to support melee DPS and tank classes with mez effects.

For the Trooper it noted that they use the latest weapons and technologies, battle armour designed to withstand heavy assault, blaster rifles and detonators. And that they “have the ability to call in air strikes to blanket-bomb mobs”.

On the Empire side it starts with the Bounty Hunter and how they’re criminals and just tolerated because they get the job done. It mentions that they use “illegal and lethal stolen weaponry”, that they have various tricks, are a versatile class and “one of the few that can tackle a Jedi in melee”.

The Sith Warrior uses rage, hatred and fear, relies heavily on lightsabre assault and paralysing Force powers. They wear heavy armor and “is more than willing to risk experimental technologies and even augmentation to advance his own prowess”. For the Sith Inquisitor it says the following:

Sith Inquisitors prefer attacking at range but, unlike its fantasy equivalent, they aren’t shy about the front line. They are happy to tavkle multiple enemies in melee with a combination of lightsabre and debilitating Force abilities. Once the career path option opens op, you can move into a Darth Maul-type character with a lightsabre staff, plying your trade as a lightly armoured but extremely acrobatic warrior. Alternatively the Sith Inquisitor can remain at a distance, focusing on the ever-deadlier DPS Force lightning abilities.

The Imperial Agent is compared strongly to the Smuggler, calling it Lawful Evil to the Smuggler’s Chaotic Good. it’s said to use stealth tactics similar to the Smuggler and have “a lethal equivalent of a backstab strike”. The class is said to have even less honour than the typical Sith and stoop to nefarious means.

The article also has a number of screenshots, mostly showing the new Jedi Consular and Sith Inquisitor classes. Next to the concept art on the cover (as show above), which I’m guessting is a Jedi Consular considering the green lightsabre, it shows a screenshot of a Sith Inquisitor with a double-bladed lightsabre shooting purple lightning at an enemy from a distance. It has another shot of a lightsabre-less Inquisitor doing the same to a Trooper, with a comment saying “Heavy armour and high Force resistance characterise the Republic Trooper”.

A couple of small screenshots I’ve got trouble making out (since they’re small and partly across the middle), but there seems to be a Jedi fighting some big, red, bipedal creature, another shot of a Jedi facing the camera, what looks to be a Smuggler or Agent shooting a rifle, and a Jedi/Sith Force-pushing some kind of droid.

larger shots on the final two pages include four characters around a shuttle including a bald, black guy and what looks to be a Jedi Knight as he’s wearing armor and brown Jedi robes (with the hood up) over that. THere’s a small image of a double-bladed sabre wielding Inquisitor facing off against a Trooper. An imagine of a Consular with one sabre doing some Force thingy (yellow sparks at her hands) before three droids. Another of a Consular in a stance ready with her lightsabre (the lightsabre hilt in this image looks rather huge to me; I’ve seen tree trunks that are smaller). And finally an image of an Inquisitor indoors holding up both hands with purple lightning jumping between them.

And that’s it. I don’t know the publication much at all so no idea how good they usually are. I also have no idea if they have a tendency to post their articles online after a period of time as well (like some other print magazines tend to do), though they do have their own website as well as seen to be associated with the NowGamer gaming website. So who knows. For now you’ll have to do with the description I gave above, which I think should include all the more important details.