Star Wars Celebration VI Panel: Star Wars: 1313 Preview

video-games-gaming-newsOne of the biggest reveals of E3 was the reveal of the new mature themed Star Wars title, Star Wars: 1313. The idea of playing in the seedy underbelly of the Star Wars universe — completely free of Jedi, Sith, and their self righteous crusades — was beyond compelling, and the trailer revealed by the team from LucasArts made fans of the ‘Wars giddy with anticipation. With GamesCom held last week in Germany, a new sizzle trailer was released, teasing more of the amazing footage we’d been dreaming of.

Still, despite assurances from creative director Dominic Robilliard that the gameplay would mirror the trailers we’d seen to this point in terms of quality, I — like many gamers and Star Wars fans — were more than a little skeptical. We’ve been promised this for years (with the greatest culprit being the cutscenes showing ‘actual in game footage’ of Final Fantasy 7).

My friends, I am here to tell you…Star Wars: 1313 delivers. In spades.

At the start of the hour long panel at this years Celebration VI, we were promised that we’d see honest, actual, live and in living color in game footage, and that any doubts we had would be put to rest. The presentation started out innocently enough – we were shown the sizzle reel first shown a couple of weeks ago at GamesCom. Now, I’d seen it online, but there’s nothing compared to actually seeing it in person with like-minded obsessive Star Wars fans.

One of the striking things about this trailer were the visuals. The version of the title that we saw ran reliably at 34 frames per second, with only a couple of hitches in the frame rate at times where there was an absolute ton of things happening on screen. The lighting was absolutely amazing, and for it being an early demo build, it already surpasses many games that are in a released state. In addition to the lighting, the texture work on the models is superb. The game truly gives you a cinematic experience. It’s quite apparent that the LucasArts team has worked very closely with ILM on the absolutely striking appearance of this title.

Ah yes, ILM — and, while I’m at it, Skywalker Sound. The sound is absolutely stunning, and really immerses the user in the universe, chaos, and surrounding areas. One of the things that Mr. Robilliard was incredibly proud of was the collaboration that’s blossomed as a result of this games development. The ILM and Skywalker Sound teams have been developing on development kits, rather than working exclusively on their typical systems that they make movies like Star Wars, Rango, and The Avengers. The fidelity between the teams has led to the game becoming as detailed and involved as a film.

The battle cry for 1313 thus far has been that the game will be a true cinematic experience, transitioning cut scenes to gameplay seamlessly. In fact, it’s one of Dominic Robilliards ‘Three Pillars’ of the title, with the other two being the game providing the user with the experience of being a truly lethal bounty hunter, as well as the feeling of surviving 1313 being a true achievement. The game is looking to really fill in the shades of gray on the Star Wars universe, as for the most part we’ve seen mainly the black and white.

As for the actual demo we saw, it starts out featuring footage we’d already seen from the sizzle trailer. We also saw some new footage – there’s a Trandoshan being held in stasis inside of a cargo container, apparently being delivered to level 1313 by our primary playable character and his partner. As the transport descends towards the planet core of Coruscant, another ship appears ominously, with assassin droids repelling down onto the top of our characters ship, tethering the two ships together. At this point, we see our first transition from the cut scene to actual gameplay…and it, truly, is as seamless as you can get in a video game. The only visual indication that you are now in live gameplay rather than the cut scene is the appearance of your HUD – there’s no loading screen, no please wait, no hitch…it just happens instantly, and, as a gamer, it’s incredibly exciting to see.

I don’t want to spoil too much, because I believe fully in this game after seeing it in action. The ranged combat mechanic in place is similar in style to Gears of War, minus the garish costumes. You seek cover to avoid attacks, and there are some pretty fun concussive grenades your character possesses which disorient your opponent popping them up from behind their own cover, allowing you to eliminate them. There was also footage shown (albeit briefly) of some melee combat, as well as environmental traversion puzzles. It’s really the total package – and an impressive one, at that.

After the initial playthrough, we reviewed a video showing some concept art, and we learned that level 1313 is the 1,313 level of Coruscant from the planet core – making it about 4,000 levels from the surface of the city planet. The desire is to have the city feel looming and oppressive, so putting it as far down in the planet as they have prevents the vast majority of sunlight reaching the level, and gives everything a misty, dank, wet, and grimy feel. The level is home to the criminal underworld of Coruscant, and as such, this particular level – rather than having a ‘bad part of town’ is instead entirely the bad part of town. As you play through, the hope is that the player will never be entirely sure who is good and who is bad – so rather than seeing things through the rose colored glasses of the Jedi Order, the world is grey and dark…in short, it’s real.

We also received some clarification on the time frame and scope of the game – it takes place between episodes 3 and 4, although its closer to 4 in spirit. There is a chance we’ll see some familiar faces – though at this time, they’re unable to tell us who (although it was hinted we might see a certain Hutt and a Fett.) While we won’t be visiting them all, there are over 20 districts of level 1313, with some ability to explore freely, though the game is set up to be linear. While the game is linear, the replay value comes into play through weapon customization and character skill progression.

Towards the end of the presentation, we were treated to a second playthrough of the demo – just as impressive as it was the first time – followed by a quick Q&A session. (Seriously, if you’ve ever been to a con, this was like a lightning round of questions – it was how I wish all panels would go.) In short, the answers given provided us with the knowledge we would be getting DLC for the title. Also, while the link is organic and natural, there’s no firm connection between 1313 and the proposed live action television series. While no platforms have been announced, PC has been confirmed as one of the options for gamers. The developers were proud to say that all combat would be ranged, melee, or via grenades – absolutely no lightsabers (though no denial of the Mandalorian dark sabers…though that might just be the Clone Wars geek in me reading too much into it.) Finally, they revealed the biggest lesson they’d learned from the other teams development problems on The Force Unleashed and The Force Unleashed 2: take your time, and get your mechanics right. Rather than rushing into development, the team made a concerted effort to get the combat system perfect before moving forward. As someone who played and enjoyed The Force Unleashed, despite it’s glaring combat flaws, this is a batch of remarkably welcome news.

While we didn’t receive word on a release date, I can tell you that the second pre-orders are offered for 1313, I’ll be ordering it. And if it’s going to be offered on the next generation of consoles, then much like the original Knights of the Old Republic for the Xbox, Star Wars: 1313 will get me to buy a new console. It’s truly a remarkable title, and one for which I cannot wait to be released.

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