So the release date is almost upon us!  After repeated false starts and teaser updates, we’ve been promised the game on 20th December this year.

Even though WoW has managed to shrug off its original image and attract a range of players that far exceed the stereotypical basement-dwelling cavetroll – including children, housewives and hipsters – not everyone is a fan of such palpable fantasy, whereas Star Wars has been a part of our heritage since it was originally screened back in the 1970’s, and has since been embraced by people who were either conceived in 1977 during a passionate geek-clinch at the back of a cinema or didn’t spring up out of the cabbage patch until the 80’s or 90’s.

The mix of fantasy and sci-fi, and the clear cut struggle between good and evil, was always an addictive, heady combination, and now that Bioware have decided to tackle the behemoth challenge of making an MMO on the PC platform that can compete with the other big players they have the mammoth task of avoiding fanboy rage by doing their homework and not contradicting the massive Star Wars universe that goes far beyond the 6-films that Joe Public would be aware of; not dumbing down the content but also not making it too complex and alienating Joe Public, and ultimately making an accessible game that will appeal to the widest audience possible and pay off as an investment because with current costs pushing past the $135m ceiling, this has already proved to be one of the most expensive games created to date (although I’m pretty sure Shadowtale almost rivaled that figure :-p).

After the initial announcement back on 21st of October 2008 at an exclusive invite-only press event, the expectation for this latest take on the hugely popular and often attempted MMO genre has been driving fan boys and girls into a state of foaming joy.  The Hublet recently received his invite to Beta Test the game this weekend, so in a few days I’ll be able to give a more informed update.

I am a little concerned as to how the game is actually going to be received.  With all the hype that both Bioware and the gamers have been generating for the last few years, it runs the risk of turning out to be too much talk and not enough game.  Also, with all the Beta Testing going on I’m concerned that they still haven’t ironed out last-minute tweaks and crowd pleasers, so hope for the sake of The Hublet’s mental health that they honour the current release date and don’t push it back into 2012.

Story:

To enable the Developers to create a world big enough for indefinite play they’ve gone back 3,500 years before the events of the Star Wars films, 300 years after the events of the Star Wars: KotOR game.  The current concerns of the day are the recent peace established between the Galactic Republic and the re-emerging Sith Empire.  The Jedi are being held responsible for the Sith’s rise to success, and have relocated from Coruscant to Tython (their original founding home) in order to seek guidance from the Force.  The Sith have re-established an Academy on Korriban, which they obviously control, and the game drops you in shortly after a new conflict arises.

Classes:

The basic game approach introduces you to the two main factions for you to choose from, the Galactic Republic and the Sith Empire, both of which have further exclusive classes for the player to select.

Within the Galactic Republic the classes for selection are Jedi Knight, Jedi Consular, Trooper and Smuggler, and within the Sith Empire the classes are Sith Warrior, Sith Inquisitor, Imperial Agent and Bounty Hunter.  Each class has its own storyline, however all of them are smoothly incorporated into the overall game arc.

Within the two factions you still have the ability to work at cross purposes to your either benevolent or malevolent leader, so you may be linked to the Galactic Republic but be a closet Dark Side member if you pursue your own goals which may not match what your faction is trying to achieve, so there is a big element of morality and the ongoing clash between light and dark throughout the game and your choices within the game will ripple out with sometimes permanent consequences, opening or closing further storylines to you.

In other MMO games we’re used to the predictable archetypes like healers, DPS, caster and tank, but with SWTOR the Developers have decided that each class will be open to further customisation and claim that every class will be able to fulfill any role necessary.

Useful Links:

I don’t know if any more Beta Testing dates will be announced so close to the release date, but if you’re feeling golden then visit the Beta Test register and belatedly sign up.

Once The Hublet has enjoyed his weekend of Beta Testing I’ll update with his thoughts and observations, as well as my own opinions.

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