PAX East 2011: BioWare’s “Return of the Original Series” Take On The Old Republic

Regardless if you care for the Star Wars franchise or not, one has to step back and give credit where it’s due to BioWare. After 34 years of something so phenomenal being around, a world is unified in a passion for the universe brought by George Lucas. In between your fanboys, you can come to the conclusion that the majority of the fanbase howls in joy over the original series (IV-VI).

If anyone has played a BioWare game, ranging from Baldur’s Gate to Dragon Age II, you know of the rich storytelling components in the company’s games.

Back at PAX Prime, I had a chance to talk with Senior Producer Blaine Christine to mostly quell my fears over the space combat system and its rumor of being “on rails”. With every question I had asked, he expressed the deep integration of story in just about every action you take in the game.

This has had me thinking for quite a while now, especially with my growing distaste for some games losing sight of their original story and lore (or bending it); just how much does the story go for? Does it give the same nostalgic epic feeling I had while watching Episode IV: A New Hope?

With PAX East over this year, I mostly caught information from the BioWare booth with the release of their newest trailer: Fate of the Galaxy. Even if we didn’t get a release date, we received additional eye candy to drool over.

It was reminiscent of scenes from the original series, such as the door being blasted open and blaster bolts storming out after it, the Republic being massively outmatched and outgunned by the Empire, and, of course, the one-on-one Jedi and Sith battles while blaster fights reign all around.

From quite a few, I have been asked the same question of “Why does the story matter? If it’s a fun game, it’s fun.”

The answer to that is always the same from me, because that’s who I am. I live for story, I thrive off of it. If a game can get me hooked to what’s going on besides just the action that I’m currently engaging in, it’s got me hooked. Just like the book that staved off dreamland until I read the last 43 pages of. It’s even a plus to the developers themselves, because I’m willing to ignore quite a bit of either game-stopping bugs, or just game-breaking mechanics that don’t work – if the story is that compelling. Yes, I value story over spit-shine polish.

Sometimes, the game’s story is what brings me to it. I could have no knowledge of the mechanics, playstyle, graphics, or anything from the game – and still give it a shot if I think the story sounds compelling.

BioWare and I have history (it’s one of my go-to, fanboyism for stories), and I know exactly what the designers and writers are capable of pulling, as long as EA gives them the chance. By all accounts, EA is going to.

The answer I’ve enthusiastically reached from the tidbits of footage from PAX East, and personal hands-on at PAX Prime: Yes. I will have the same feeling. Only, I get to live it.

BioWare’s plan of setting The Old Republic between the timeframe of ~300 years after Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II and ~2,700 years before Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, gives the company all the room it needs and, possibly, make a few mistakes.

All of this has given me A New Hope that BioWare will deliver on the great experiences that it has promised me with a franchise so near and dear to my heart. With a slated September release rumor going around for Star Wars: The Old Republic, I will be dropping WoW for at least a good month or two. Here’s to them keeping to rumors better than Blizzard!

May the Force be with us all, until then.

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