Thursday, May 19, 2011

Your Fourth Assignment: No one expects the Sith Inquisition!

The Imperial Agent is a very exciting character in Star Wars: The Old Republic, but recently a veritable ton of information released on the Sith Inquisitor.  Wielding the Force as the power behind the throne, the Sith Inquisitor discovers that true power rarely makes overt displays of violence.  Subtlety, deception, and patience are viable paths to glory for this assassin in the shadows.

Sith Inquisitors can fufill the roles of tank, healer, and damage-dealer.  They can be both melee and ranged, hurling lightning bolts and lightsaber strikes with impunity.  Obviously, this class appeals to me in several ways; 1) they throw lightning, 2) they are a jack of all trades, 3) they like to use double-bladed lightsabers.  They're basically space-shaman with laser swords; utility classes with nasty damage capabilities and freakin' lightning bolts.

Have I mentioned that Inquisitors can throw lightning?

Sith Inquisitors have two advanced classes; Assassin and Sorcerer.  Assassin seems to operate more along the lines of a melee stealth class and the Sorcerer leans toward ranged energy attacks.  Both classes can stealth and both classes can dual wield (at this time).

Inquisitors are designed to be a support class, but they have the option of being Assassin tanks.  How this will work is unclear at the moment, but I expect a great amount of detail (as well as a beta announcement) at E3 this year.

All in all, the Inquisitor will be the second class I roll in The Old Republic; it was formerly my favorite, but the allure of the Agent is just too strong.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Your Third Assignment: Making Decisions

Bioware's games are famous for their morality.  Actions have consequences; characters die, plots are revealed, villains are vanquished, the innocent saved.  Unlike other Bioware games, The Old Republic won't have the option of saving and redoing a section if you mess up.  If someone dies in a TOR storyline because of something you did, that person is dead.  Congratulations, you jerk.

This morality play in Bioware's games is one of the main draws for me.  Dragon Age: Origins has one of the greatest decisions I've ever had to make (I won't spoil it, but yeah, my dwarf took the deal).  I literally agonized over it for hours before I finally made my choice.  Then I promptly loaded a previous game and reversed course because I simply couldn't live with what I'd done.

TOR will afford me no such luxury.  I'll need to make decisions on the fly and there will be no save point to return to.  I'll have to live with that decision, good or ill, and all the havoc it may or may not wreak.  In short, I'm going to be a total wreck when it comes to a big moment.

As such, I'm going to provide a short guide about how to make awful, terrible decisions and be a bad guy in Bioware games.  I find myself becoming emotionally invested with my characters and agonizing over choices that may or may not affect their companions and storylines.  Here's a quick guide on being evil in Bioware's epics.

1) Play through as a good guy once.  Can't stress this enough; you'll never know how depraved you can be unless you're a hero first.  That peasant you saved in the village?  What happens if you blow him off the second time?  For TOR, this may not be as applicable since each class has separate storylines, but at least you'll get to be a good guy first.  Makes you feel warm and fuzzy.

2) Make your villain nonhuman as possible.  Or if you actually like aliens (like me) make it as human as possible.  And ugly as sin.  The less you identify with your chode of a character, the better.  Makes the tough decisions that much easier.

3) Revel in your evil.  Go out of your way to make horrific choices.  Make a mini-game of being as evil as possible and you won't really think too much about the bone-crushing emotional baggage that Bioware is famous for dumping on their villainous players.  Seriously, Jade Empire has a villain decision at the end of the game that made me weep.  MADE ME WEEP, PEOPLE.  I had to leave the room because I couldn't watch what I'd done.

4) Play against type.  My first two characters are going to be an Imperial Agent and a Sith Inquisitor; the Agent I'm playing as James Bond who just happens to be an Imperial; loves his government, kills anyone that threatens their lifestyle, and fights for his Emperor and Chiss everywhere.  The Inquisitor I'll play as an honorable villain, sort of like Erwin Rommel.  My bad guy?  Oh, it's going to be a Jedi Knight.  He'll be pompous, arrogant, vicious, bloodthirsty, and xenophobic asshat.  And he'll probably be a human.  Evil little buggers, they are.

5) Take a breath.  If you get as emotionally invested in your characters as I do, then you'll need to take a deep breath before you jump off the bridge to Evil-Town.  It's just a game, and dammit, since it's just a game those aren't real tears because dammit tears mean you care and you don't care because it's just a game dammit!  Ash, why'd you do that?!  Tali would never leave me!!!  *whimpers and cries*

Long story short: don't identify with your villain, play the "how evil can I be" game, play against type, revel in your vices, and remember it's just a game.

Good luck!

Your Second Assignment: Uncovering the Agent

The one class that absolutely intrigues me so far is the Imperial Agent.  Suave, deadly, and professional, the Agent is the Imperial spy that lives behind enemy lines and rains terror on enemies of the state.  The Agent combines ranged firepower with mobile cover for some incredibly interesting story opportunities.  I mean, who doesn't want to be the Empire's best assassin?

The way that the agent has been portrayed so far is ingenious ... he's not a gun-for-hire or a psychotic with a rifle, but a patriot.  He believes utterly in the vision of the Empire and he's willing to do the dirty work to see it realized.  He reminds me of the Operative in Serenity ... he knows he's a monster, but he does what he thinks is right to craft a world where citizens can be safe and (relatively) free.

And this, in short, is why I love Bioware.  I don't RP.  I think it's sort of silly to be honest; traipsing about pretending to be a character while you're already playing a character in a videogame.  My previous MMO games never really rewarded or encouraged RP in any way, shape, or form.  And yet, Bioware has me crafting reasons and justifications for a character I haven't played in a game that's not released yet.  I can't wait to dive into the story of the Agent and discover what motivates him to kill for his government.  I want to see what decisions I can make, how I can mold this assassin into my own Imperial Agent.  To see my choices and the ramifications, good or ill.  It's terribly heady stuff.

Combat for the Agent seems pretty straightforward.  Move into range, pop cover, shoot.  The Agent utilizes droids for self-healing, as well as flash-bang grenades for crowd control.  Mike B, from ZAM, said that by about level 5 he had 8 usable abilities.  This points to a flexible ranged DPS class; previous The Republic shows and Darth Hater fan site summit information also shows that the Agent can be an off-healer as well, although this is likely limited to self-healing or perhaps some HoTs on allies.

The cover mechanic seems to be the Agent's primary staple.  They come with an ability called "Entrench" that prevents the Agent from being knocked out of cover.  I can only assume that certain abilities can only be used while in cover, so the idea of mobile cover you can activate anywhere becomes mandatory.  It'll be interesting to see how it plays out in the game.  The two advanced classes that the Agent can be are Sniper and Operative.  Sniper seems to be the DPS tree, like a Marksmanship Hunter from WoW.  The Operative seems to be a jack-of-all-trades type of character who can perhaps off-heal.  Breakdowns of the advanced classes can be seen here.

So far, the only two races that can officially be Imperial Agents are Humans and Chiss (the race Thrawn belonged to).  Unofficially though, Rattataki, Cyborgs, and Zabrak can also be Agents, according to PC Gamer UK in their May issue.  If you think I'm rolling anyone other than a cold-hearted Chiss Agent, you're on drugs.  Plus, you get that sweeeeeet Jaguar-looking spaceship to jet around in.

Once open beta begins, I'll be bringing more information on playstyle, abilities, and quests, as well as an overview (as spoiler-free as it can be) of the story.  Oh, and when will open beta kick off?  This humble Agent doesn't know for sure, but I'd be willing to bet my rifle that we'll find out at E3, starting on June 7th.  Here's my OFFICIAL GUESS™!

Open Beta Date: July 5th, 2011
Release Date: October 11th, 2011

Your First Assignment: Starting Over

It's not easy switching gears.  To leave one game in the dust and start completely from scratch is a rather taxing process.  Especially when the game you switch to isn't even out yet.

This blog will be focused mainly on Star Wars: The Old Republic, with a smattering of random stuff thrown in as well.  I'll hop from class to class, giving you as much detail as I can provide about the Old Republic's current state, open beta, classes, game systems, etc etc.

My first suggestion to you would be to hit up Gamebreaker's excellent web series The Republic.  Gary Gannon and Larry Everett do a great job.  Also head over to Darth Hater for great video dissections and news.  I'll have some more stuff later ... for now, just getting settled in.