PAX East 2011: Day Two Hands on Reviews – Star Wars: The Old Republic and Brink

Day Two had less games, but as promised yesterday, I got to play some major hitters: Star Wars: The Old Republic and Brink.

First off, Star Wars: The Old Republic. There has been a lot of information released by Bioware, such as the classes, advanced classes, personalized ships, Starfox-like battle sequences, but very little of actual gameplay. One of the major concerns was how the Star Wars classes would fit in combat. This time, I got a chance to run the first part of a four player raid with level 32 characters.

The raid was one that was revealed a few weeks ago, Taral V. In this raid, the group had to rescue a Jedi from the clutches of the Empire in a jungle base. Before the raid began, the party of four got to engage in an interactive cutscene with Mass Effect-style dialog choices. As with Mass Effect, the three options went from Light Side or heroically positive on the top, to neutral in the middle, and Dark Side or harsh and negative on the bottom. After each person in the party selects their response, a roll is made and the player’s whose number, which is determined from a few factors, is highest makes the response. In some cases, these responses can actually change the course of a mission.

After getting our mission, we ran through the Alliance base to the starship, which whisked us off to the instanced raid. I was a Scoundrel, but my character had been spec’ed to be a healing class, rather than the normal ranged class. Meanwhile, the Counselor Sage, which is usually considered a healing class, was spec’ed to be a more offensive class. This was probably done to assuage fears that the Sage would basically be a priest character devoted to healing and support. While the Sage could heal, and the Scoundrel could engage in ranged combat, their roles were such that the Scoundrel just had to do the supporting role, since this raid – with elite mobs – required constant attention from a specialized healer.

While the group cut a swath through the initial mobs, with a nicely coordinated effort between the Scoundrel, Sage, Jedi Guardian (which was a scrapper) and Republic Trooper (which was a tank), it still felt satisfying and logical. When the group faced off against a boss and his pet, the group ran into trouble. The boss’ pet was felled once, but the group was still wiped each time. It only made the group more diligent, rather than frustrated. There was a freshness and style to the combat that hasn’t been felt in a long time, partly because the game’s futuristic setting and the familiar archetypes, and partly because the game feels really well-designed.

Bioware may have a real winner in their first foray into MMOs.

The other major title I got to play was Brink, and it was a total delight to play. While I’d played a portion of a mission against bots at E3 2010, this was a full fledged battle between humans, with four players taking on four players, with 8 bots spread evenly on each team, to maintain an eight on eight game. (Shockingly, it was hard to tell which players were human and which were bots, on either side.)

At first, I played a large lumbering character, armed with a railgun similar to The Heavy’s weapon in Team Fortress 2. As expected for the class, I was slow and hardy. My physical type allowed me to be one of three classes: the operative, the engineer and the soldier. Each class allowed me to have special abilities. For example, as the operative, I could take over the identity of a downed enemy, while as an engineer, I could buff my own gun damage and other players’.

Switching to a light character, I could also be a medic. Unless other medics, my character was still handy with a gun, while his special ability, aside from reviving downed mates and healing other players, allowed him to increase his max hit points.

During the game, I was able to assign myself different missions for experience points, which I could in turn spend on perks like enemy danger sense which made the screen glow yellow anytime an enemy was coming up behind me. The game always kept the team focused on completing the mission, and even if I or a teammate was utterly lost on what the group was trying to do, the game would keep the team on target by assigning missions that were aimed at completing it.

The amazing amount of customization, the clever, exciting multiplayer gameplay, and the lush graphics makes Brink a must-buy for shooter fans this coming May.

Jonah Falcon is a blogger for TMRzoo and and covers all gaming consoles and platforms including Sony Playstation 3, Microsoft XBOX 360, Nintendo Wii, Sony PSP and computer games designed for Mac OS, Microsoft Windows and Linux operating systems. Jonah provides his readers with reviews, previews and up to date gaming industry news and rumors.

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