Five minutes of geek goodness from BioWare courtesy of GameTrailers.com:
KOTOR MMORPG Combat To Be A Graceful Dance November 10, 2008
At least according to BioWare, anyway. The team is looking for versimilitude with the movie, including the detailed, almost choreographed combat sequences. In an interview with videogaming247, BioWare co-founder Greg Zeschuk described classic Star Wars fights as “. . . elegant; it’s big, powerful moves and lightning bolts flashing, but in a way that makes sense visually and aesthetically.”
Some sites, notably Kotaku and Destructoid, are skeptical. They note, and rightly so, that one of the weaknesses of the prequels was the overly-rehearsed lightsaber duels at the expense of thing like, say, dialogue. I, for one, doubt that BioWare is ever going to skimp in the writing department. I suspect the combat will be similar to the pause-and-play back-and-forth of the original KOTOR, with some modern flourished befitting the five-plus years since that game’s release. We’ll know more in the weeks and months to come.
Preview: Star Wars: The Old Republic October 25, 2008
This week Bioware finally let out some details about the worst-kept secret in PC video games: that their secret MMORPG project is related to their hit title, Knights of the Old Republic.
Welcome to SWTOR, or “Swatter”, as we shall pronounce it.
The new game, is set 3,500 years before the rise of Darth Vader, and 300 years after your adventures as Revan in the original KOTOR. Players will be thrust into a world where the real Sith Empire has finally emerged from hiding on the fringes of the galaxy and delivered a major defeat to the Republic. While the two sides are technically at peace, it’s clear that a new war between the Republic and the Empire is in the offing.
The Galactic Republic stood for generations as a bastion of peace in a galaxy of warring star systems. Protected by its stalwart Jedi guardians, the Republic held the greatest hope for the progress of civilization and galactic unity.
Deep in unknown space, however, a mighty Sith Empire was forged, led by dark Sith Lords who dreamt of galactic domination and vengeance against their ancient Jedi enemies. After centuries of preparation, the time came for the Sith to make their return.
Bioware’s official website is sparse on details, without even an expect ship timeframe or base system requirements. All we can do at the moment is oogle at the pretty concept pictures hosted at the site.
Review: Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood October 6, 2008
In the beginning there was a hedgehog. Well, maybe more in the post-beginning/pre-middle. Certainly in the early 16-bit era. Yes, by 1991 there was Sonic The Hedgehog. (Note: The “T” in “The” is properly capitalized. Sonic creator Naoto Ōshima registered Sonic with The as his middle name.) Over the last 17 years there have been over 30 Sonic and Sonic-related titles, including such highs as Sonic 2 and Sonic CD, and such lows as Sonic Heroes and Sonic and the Secret Rings.
Several of those games have had RPG elements. Chaos Emerald and chao collection could earn the Blue Blur extra powers or lives. Most games post-Sonic Adventure featured a “Super Sonic” mode, giving the ‘hog even more speed after he collected 50 precious, precious rings. In Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood, BioWare has taken these power-ups several steps further in an attempt to turn Sonic into a “real live” role-playing game.
On a pure mechanics level, they succeeded. Sonic forms a party, gets quests, earns experience, levels up and collects loot. The party’s static skills increase automatically with each level, but the player can assign one bonus point to a stat of their choice each level. Every level also brings five more action points that you can either spend on a talent or save for higher levels of a talent. Pretty standard fare, with the exception of Chaos – cute little creatures which you can collect, hatch, and bond with to add abilities to your team.
The real question is how this stop-and-go framework fits a game world that is all about speed. The answer is that mostly, it doesn’t. BioWare has a knack for making pause-and-play gameplay seem fluid (see KOTOR), but mere fluidity is not enough for Sonic The Hedgehog. The developers tried to include running puzzles and loop-de-loops aplenty, but the fact that you have to select Sonic then push a button to enter the loop then have no control whatsoever over where you land or what you do during the “speed boost” completely destroys the illusion of fast.
Where BioWare does try to allow for real speed, it is a complicated mess. It seems as if they tried to combine their own inimitable style of pause-and-play with the 2.5D action-RPG battles of Nintendo’s Mario & Luigi: Partners in Time. The problem is that Mario is all about good jumps and better timing, and Sonic is all about running like hell, which does not lend itself to drawn-out battles. The stylus-controlled special abilities minigames are ill-explained and imprecise, and every special move requires a metric ton of minigame action to pull off. It makes you want to just hit Attack over and over and over.
All of that being said, the game is not terrible. The visuals are charming and do hold true to classic Sonic style. The RPG format in and of itself is an interesting twist for an overused, yet beloved, video game character. And BioWare does bring the story. For a Sonic game, this baby is deep. A plot with turns, surprises and revelations, all adding to the Sonic “canon”. I think the problem is that Sonic doesn’t really need a canon. Sonic needs another good 2D game full of speed and color. I wish that Team Sonic would take a page from Mega Man 9 and go solidly retro the next time out. Unfortunately, as the next few Sonic games include Sonic Unleashed (featuring a were-Sonic) and a sequel to the super-odd Sonic and the Secret Rings, I don’t think I’m going to get my wish any time soon.
For being a colorful and often witty addition to the Sonic family while also being unfittingly slow and imprecise, I’m giving Sonic Chronicles: The Dark Brotherhood 3 Weiners out of 5.
Preview: Dragon Age: Origins September 19, 2008
Gee, I wonder what those KOTOR guys have been up to lately. Sure, they’re developing a Sonic RPG for the DS, but that seems pretty small potatoes in comparison to say, Baldur’s Gate. Yeah, Baldur’s Gate. I miss that. I wish they’d do another one.
Huzzah! The spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate is Dragon Age: Origins, and BioWare recently confirmed that PC players will have it before April 2009, and consoleans soon after.
Originally just titled “Dragon Age” the ‘Origins’ in the title refers to how your origin and the decisions you make affect the way your story unfolds. This is nothing new for BioWare. KOTOR, Jade Empire, and Mass Effect all had “light side/dark side” decision trees. BioWare considers this sort of character development its particular idiom, and they seem determined to keep honing the technique until every player feels that each of their characters is an entirely unique entity shaped by the player’s own hand.
Unlike in Mass Effect, however, your main character does not have a voice. BioWare told Joystiq at PAX that this was due to the great variability in gender and race for your character. The demo makes it clear that, at least in town, race does matter. In the town we saw, Human Wardens were treated with great honor and respect, but their Elven brethren were far less revered. Humans might experience the reverse in an Elven town, and it remains to be seen how the Orc PCs fit into the whole mess. The specifics of character creation are still under wraps.
As far as the game world is concerned, the forces shaping the characters in Dragon Age are not your typical D&D high thud and blunder. BioWare has taken a darker tone, complete with real blood and real violence. You play as the Grey Wardens, elite warriors called to task to put down the forces of a risen Old God.
Combat is classic BioWare pause-and-play, with a decent mix of action and roleplaying every combat. The fight in the 45-minute PAX demo felt solid, and gave the player several options to finish the fight, including butchery and trickery. It is possible that even these choices can affect your character development, but BioWare has yet to confirm this.
As of PAX, the game looks good. BioWare has developed a new game engine for DA that they are calling Eclipse. The game will come with a toolset for user-created content, and one can only expect that with a subtitle like Origins, expansion packs will be on the way.
If Dragon Age: Origins is this promising eight months before its release, I look forward to seeing the depth and polish BioWare puts on the final product.