Star Wars: The Old Republic Preview: The Space InquisitionS

All eight classes of Star Wars: The Old Republic have been revealed, leaving me only one question: What the hell is a Sith Inquisitor?

I get that they're supposed to be a more badass version of a Sith Warrior with different ranged abilities. But if that's the case, wouldn't all players playing as Sith Warriors graduate to Inquisitors after playing long enough? Jedi Consular — the other new class revealed — confuses me less. "Consular" sounds like a political position; one you'd have to train for specifically as opposed to a rank you achieve over time.

So I guess I'll be playing on the Jedi faction simply to avoid asking myself uncomfortable questions.

What Is It?
Star Wars: The Old Republic is a massively multiplayer online game set way, way back in the ancient history of the galaxy far, far away. The Sith and the Jedi are rival factions and apparently things are getting explosive between the two. Enough so that players who choose to play on one faction side or the other will have plenty to shoot at, lightsaber cut or otherwise inconvenience on various planets in the Star Wars universe.

The classes are Jedi Consular/Sith Inquisitor, Jedi Knight/Sith Warrior, Smuggler/Bounty Hunter, Trooper/Imperial Agent. Companion characters will figure heavily into gameplay, as will storytelling (come on, it's BioWare). Space travel has yet to be revealed or discussed.

What We Saw
I played through about 95% of a quest we'll call "The Tomb of Tulac Horde" because I'm not sure what its official name is, but that just about sums it up. I was in the role of a Sith Inquisitor acolyte with a nice rack and red hair — and I was role playing her with an attitude problem that somehow didn't get her Force-choked even once during the play through. The quest involves going into a tomb to collect three tablets and returning to your Sith master. Additionally, you could accept a quest to activate something in the tomb called the Red Machine for some other dude standing outside the tomb. Also, you could talk to and accept another quest involving mind-raping a Jedi being held in a Sith dungeon, but I was told by a LucasArts representative not to pursue that quest.

How Far Along Is It?
It's hard to say with so limited an experience. Furthermore, no release date has been suggested and while names have been collected for the closed beta, there's no word on how that's progressing. I think I was playing on a very unfinished product on account of some missing text, the fact that I wasn't allowed to explore very much and the part where I was playing an MMO strangely devoid of other players.

What Needs Improvement?
I can't tell the difference between Sith Warrior and Inquistor: Just looking at the list of powers suggests that the class difference between Warrior and Inquisitor is supposed to exist. But while playing my big jugged female character, I just didn't feel any different from a Sith. I shocked people, I drained life force, I cut ‘em up with lightsabers. How is this different whether I'm a Warrior or Inquisitor?

Wow, is the whole galaxy a size D or just the Sith chicks? I'm not as annoyed as I am bemused by the boobs I saw in Old Republic. I almost missed half of what my acolyte was saying during the opening quest cinematic because I was watching her bosom stay oddly stationary while the rest of her body would shift when she sighed in boredom at her boss. Then, I practically ran into the bosom of another Sith female just trying to walk out the door. Finally, the Sith who assigned me the Jedi mind-rape quest I wasn't permitted to explore must've been using the Dark Side to keep her rack from sagging. Seriously, they took up one third of the screen in some camera angles during her quest-assignment cinematic.

What Should Stay The Same?
Excellent Voice Work: This is where BioWare really feels different than other MMOs to me. Every character I talked to had a different voice and sounded like they could actually act. It definitely speaks to the quality of the product LucasArts is encouraging BioWare to produce.

Good Use of Camera Angles: During cinema scenes, the camera would cut angles – much like they do in Mass Effect cut scenes. It kept things interesting and gave me more opportunities to look at things other than my character's chest. Also, they didn't over-use it, which is crucial to its success as a storytelling tool.

Hey, It's A Star Wars MMO: The quest involved navigating a series of rooms around an open space. The enemies were all slime-filled worms, reprogrammed droids or escaped Sith slaves. There was also a larger worm near the Red Machine — but it died just as quickly with a quick life drain followed by a lightsaber ground pound. Overall, the experience felt exactly like I'd expect an MMO to feel. The controls worked exactly like you'd expect them to (WASD to move, M for map, numbers or clicking for attacks, etc.), the menu system was familiar and it wasn't hard to master the combat once you got used to lightsaber fighting. Old hats of MMOs will have zero trouble adjusting and the rest of us will overcome the learning trauma for the sheer joy of swinging a lightsaber around.

Final Thoughts
I'm happy I got to see the game, but I'm sad that it was such a limited experience that basically amounts to your average fetch quest in any other MMO (only with more story behind it and higher production values). Also, I would've really liked to see that Jedi mind-rape quest because that sounded like it would yield more of the BioWare dialogue I'm addicted to.

But, from what little I saw, I can say that it's coming along. And no matter how many times I see that E3 trailer, it still looks badass. They actually let us re-watch it in LucasArts' super-huge theater with surround sound. LucasArts Old Republic Producer Jake Neri actually cautioned me when I headed for the third row back from the screen, "Don't sit there, you'll throw up." It was awesome.