Your Droids? Still Waiting Outside
When it was mentioned by the TOR devs a couple years ago that droids would not be a playable race in Star Wars: The Old Republic, there was a fair amount of nerd rage rampaging across the interwebs. The team went on to explain how they want you, the player, to be able to connect emotionally with your character and a droid is about as inhuman as you can get. They said this also applied to those alien species which are simply not human enough to relate to, although, graphical limitations would be equally justifiable in that case. If one were to look back at BioWare’s previous RPG’s, you’ll notice that the character creation is not exactly what you’d call robust. Although I have not yet played Dragon Age: Origins or Dragon Age 2, I have played through both Knights of the Old Republic games and both Mass Effects and I certainly see the “personal connection” aspect they’ve been going for all these years. Actually, TOR looks like it will have the most thorough character creation module of any game they’ve yet produced. Now that we’ve established, somewhat, at least, why we won’t be able to directly play as a droid in our much-longed-for game, we should still take a look at why there would be any desire to play as one at all and what types of droids we can almost definitely look forward to playing alongside with in Star Wars: The Old Republic.
For most Star Wars fans, and trilogy/saga purists especially, there are no more important nor as recognizable two droids as R2-D2 and C-3PO. From the story-telling perspective, these characters often add a level of humor (though more recently, annoyingly), but also they are the catalysts or conduits through which the story builds. In Episode IV, we see much of the beginning of the movie from their perspective, if not through their eyes directly. It could even be said that we felt more of the universe in which these characters lived in their scenes than through the melodramatic human interactions of the main cast. From the game player’s perspective, however, they do not bring much to the table. Certainly, there are moments when an astromech droid would be great to have around. Those times usually involve getting the hyperdrive to work when a bunch of Ugnaughts have been pulling the reverse power flux cupplings for the past several days. A protocol droid is great when negotiating with gangsters who don’t speak Basic, but even then they don’t do much good when they can’t impersonate a deity. Love them all we might, I can’t see myself wanting to roll a Droid species with a Protocol class.
The next most popular droid from the saga we might talk about wanting to play as is IG-88, the first assassin droid we meet. Remarkably, we actually get less out of him in terms of personality than we do from Boba Fett in the course of their screen time. If you’re not sure who I’m talking about, IG-88 is one of the bounty hunters hired by Darth Vader to find the Millennium Falcon. You know which scene I’m talking about; on the Executor, remember? We don’t even get “As you wish” out of the droid, like we do with Boba. That aside, this jet-black droid has managed to garner a bit of a following. He was a key character in the Shadows of the Empire stories and even managed to spawn some look-alikes throughout both Clone Wars shows, the Tartakovsky series as well as the current Dave Filoni series. As I mentioned a moment ago, though, IG-88 is silent, or at least, has very little to say. I can’t imagine that he’s much of a conversationalist, so engaging in branching dialogue with NPC’s might be a little difficult to pull off. That being said I think we might be approaching a slightly more feasible means of having a playable droid character.
With that, we move onto the droid all KOTOR vets really did want to play as in TOR. The one I’m talking about is none other than HK-47, another assassin droid. While you do get another droid companion in Knights of the Old Republic, T3-M4, another astromech droid very similar to R2-D2, HK is the one we all love (and fear, simultaneously). What really sets HK apart from a character like IG-88, and the main reason he’s so compelling, is that he is quite a talker. As little as some droids say, Threepio aside, HK more than makes up for it. Throughout both KOTOR games you can engage him in rather deep conversation, though, in the end, it all comes down to how much he enjoys slaughtering meat-bag organics. Sure, we all laugh at his lines and we enjoy listening to his diatribes over and over again (especially when he complains about you being not as much fun as you used to be *spoiler!*), but if that’s the extent of his character could you really spend an MMO’s-worth of time trying to take that kind of PC through a personal story arc? It’s a bit hard to fathom. Although, they do make the case for character growth in terms of gaining experience and learning new abilities. In KOTOR, they translated the tried-and-true talent/ability system for humanoid characters to upgrades and new programs for the droids. What will be enjoyable is having a character like HK along for the ride, as well as the typical R2-type of droid.
There are numerous other types of droids that could be talked about, but in terms of droids who will be essential to your journey through The Old Republic, I think these are the main archetypes we can expect to see. Being that TOR is still a combat-focused MMO and is not trying to somehow recreate the entirely cerebral experience found in a tabletop RPG, one needs to consider that every companion or party member needs to be somewhat viable from a combat perspective. We’ve already seen an astromech companion show up in the form of T7-01, walking (er, rolling) alongside a Jedi in some screenshots, as well as a full profile on the Companions page over at the official website. We’ve also gotten a glimpse, short though it was, of what looks, and sounds, like HK-47, either back from the scrap pile three-hundred years later, or faithfully recreated in a new model. I think HE would disagree as to how “faithful” any reproduction of himself could possibly be, of course. Will we see more droids popping up in TOR? Of course! I can just see myself accepting a quest from a down on his luck refrigerator droid. And what better non-combat pet could anyone ask for than a mouse droid? Will there be more companions than an astromech and an assassin? I hope so. If being an Agent gets me an Imperial probe droid, I’m in. Am I at all glad that we don’t have droid as a species? I think so. I’d say that by not having that they might free up some space for another more deserving species for more and varied race/class combinations.
I nearly forgot: there are battle droids, but really, who would want to have “Roger. Roger.” as a dialogue response every time?