Archive for August 18th, 2010

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Now Let’s Blow This Thing And Go Home

August 18, 2010

Yesterday a new Star Wars: The Old Republic space combat video was released as a special for Gamescom 2010. Short as it was, I was very excited when I saw it.

I was also able to pick up the latest issue of PC Gamer yesterday which features space combat in SWTOR, so I wanted to wait until I had the opportunity to peruse it before I put my thoughts together. It was nice having some reading material to go with the awesome imagery from the new trailer, because in a way the footage and the new article complemented each other very well. Like sources have already confirmed, space combat can be described as a “tunnel shooter”, but damn…being on rails has never looked and felt so good.

There are several things I took from the PC Gamer article. First is that while space combat is an important and anticipated feature in SWTOR, gameplay is likely to be a heavily directed and controlled experience. Second is that for better or worse, Bioware is taking space combat in very specific direction, and that is to capture the most iconic and memorable space action moments from the movies and somehow recreate them in their own way for the game, so I would be expecting to do some trench runs and asteroid dodging.

My gut feeling is that the devs have a very good idea of what they want players to see and feel while they are experiencing space combat, and presumably utilizing things like “hot spots”, cinematics and a “tunnel shooter” style is their way of strongly steering us towards all of that.  After thinking about it, I realized I don’t have much of a problem with this. So space combat isn’t going to entail a “fly-anywhere-you-want” type of gameplay, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be done well or won’t be fun. In fact, I’m more comfortable with the fact that Bioware appears to have a clear direction in which they want to take space combat, as well as concrete goals they seem to be actively pursuing. Despite all the information we’ve gotten on space combat in the recent weeks, I still get the feeling that Bioware is being really careful when it comes to the topic; it’s a fine line between feeding the hype and releasing what they know they can deliver.

In any case, I think they have been pretty transparent with what they have revealed so far. On rails or not, I would rather have a polished space experience at launch complete with well-defined objectives than a half-assed, muddled end product that doesn’t know whether it’s coming or going, which might be the case if they were trying to please everybody. I’m certainly not trying to appease people who are still less than impressed by SWTOR’s space combat, but what I saw from the video did indicate to me how much care and work must have been put into it — everything from the ship movements, visuals, sound effects, voice work, music, etc. A part of me does kinda hope that the quality of the trailer might have at least lifted the spirits of some of those who were disappointed before.

Another thing I realized after reading the PC Gamer piece was that there is a lot of potential for space combat. All throughout the entire article was a sense of hope and suggestion that what we get at launch will continue to be a work-in-progress that may one day contain more aspects of space combat, perhaps features like difficulty levels, PvP and co-op gameplay or even missions in space that would affect players on the ground. The positive angle makes me think that people who maybe aren’t so happy with space combat right now can look forward to future possibilities.

There’s more to the article, but it would be too much to go into the finer details. A few things I do want to mention is that there are plenty of nice images (some that are very similar to what we see in the trailer) and a lot of interesting speculations, such as mission types and ship classes. Related to the latter, I noticed at least six different models of ships in the video and recognized the two that were confirmed (Corellian Vanguard-class for Jedi Knights and Consulars, Fury-class imperial for Sith Warriors and Inquisitors).

One last thing is that there was also an offhand comparison to the Star Wars: Rogue Squadron games when describing the gameplay. After watching the video I can definitely see that. Gotta say, I loved that game back in the day when I played it on the N64…just please, all I ask is leave out the repetitive, irritating “Rogue Squadron, where’s our cover?!?!” type dialogue, which quite possibly was the most annoying video game line of all time.