Partner Series
New Star Wars Online Game Coming December 20, 2011
Screenshot from Star Wars: The Old Republic
Credit: BioWare/LucasArts

Star Wars: The Old Republic will be out just in time for Christmas 2011, Electronic Arts announced today. The long-awaited release date of the new game has finally been revealed, and it will be December 20, 2011 in North America (December 22 in Europe), just making their previous mantra of "Holiday 2011" as a release window.

The announcement was made by BioWare co-founders Dr. Ray Muzyka and Dr. Greg Zeschuk at Eurogamer Expo 2011 in London, England, and appeared shortly afterward on the official website of the game.

“This is an incredible moment for everyone at BioWare and our partners at LucasArts who have dedicated their lives to build this extraordinary game. We appreciate the patience from the millions of fans who have been waiting for the game’s release," said Dr. Muzyka in the live address. [10 Real Alien Worlds That Resemble 'Star Wars' Planets]

The co-founders expanded their announcement in a post on the game's official forums.

"In 2008, along with our partners at LucasArts, we took to the stage to announce the development of the long-rumored BioWare massively multiplayer game set in the Star Wars™ universe. Over the past few years, we’ve pulled back the curtain and shown you why Star Wars™: The Old Republic™ is the groundbreaking story-driven MMO you’ve always wanted, and how this game will change the MMO genre forever. We’ve given you a peek behind the scenes each week, showing you what it takes to create the largest MMO in development. Our team has traveled the world to give fans a chance to experience the game first-hand, and you’ve created an active pre-launch community larger than we’ve ever seen. Our Game Testing program has been a huge success, and thanks to you we have been able to achieve the BioWare level of quality our fans have come to expect in all of our games."

The announcement also included pricing information for the game, which will continue to expand over time as with all massively multiplayer online role playing games (MMORPGs). Priced similarly to most of their competitors, the game will cost $14.99 for one month, $13.99 per month if a three-month subscription is purchased, or $12.99 per month with a six-month subscription. The initial purchase of the game will include a 30-day subscription.

Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) is developer BioWare's first MMORPG, but it's not their first game with the venerable franchise. Previously they developed two single-player RPGs also set in the "Old Republic" timeframe of the saga, Knights of the Old Republic I and II. The MMO is set about 400 years after those games, but is billed as "the next ten KOTORs" by the developer. There are eight classes in the game, four on the Republic side and four on the Empire side, and each delivers over 100 hours of gameplay in just the story mode.

BioWare has been lauded in the past for their story-focused games, using conversation as a gameplay piece instead of just something to drive the action. In SWTOR, players will use conversation to choose to move toward the light side of the force like Luke Skywalker or the dark side of the force like Darth Vader. The interesting twist, however, is that you can start as a dark side bounty hunter and make all altruistic choices moving you to the light, or be a Jedi Knight that falls from grace, moving to the dark side.

There will also be relationships in the game, though not amongst other player characters. Instead, relationships will be forged between the player and their computer-controlled companion characters a la a single player game. As recently announced, when the game launches only mixed gender romances will be available, but same gender romance will be added at a later date.

For combat, the game uses a faster-paced version of the common ability bar in MMOs. Clicking icons on the screen or hot keys on your keyboard (or a specialty mouse) allows you to use force lightning, throw your lightsaber, or unleash a barrage of thermal detonators, depending on the class you choose. For some missions, you'll go it alone, but others will have you teaming up with friends to take down larger threats to the glory of the Empire or the stability of the Republic.

While SWTOR will ship on December 20, 2011, gamers that pre-ordered the game will get access early, though exactly when hasn't been specified yet.