Being one of the most iconic settings from George Lucas’ original trilogy, those who called Star Wars Galaxies their home have long been asking for the opportunity to take their characters to Bespin. Now, at long last, players of the revived MMORPG will finally have the chance, when the unofficial fourth expansion – The City In The Clouds – hits servers at a time not too far far away. I was lucky enough to get a hands-on preview of the new content this weekend and was blown away by what I saw.
The first thing that struck me when I landed on Bespin was the skybox. I didn’t realise it until I landed, but if it had looked wrong it would have totally ruined the feeling of actually being on Bespin. Instead, you feel instantly as though you’re right there and immersed in the location as it appeared in The Empire Strikes Back. The colours are a moody mix of oranges unlike anything else in the game, and the sky is alive with all manner of ships zooming around between the floating city’s platforms.
Thanks to the various screenshots that have been released by the SWG Legends team over the past year we’ve had a pretty good idea of what Bespin was going to look like. I have to admit though, that I was still a little nervous that the huge number of new models the team had created wouldn’t look as though they seamlessly belonged in the game. As with the skybox, my fears were instantly allayed – every model and texture captures the rest of the game’s aesthetic perfectly. That’s not to say however that there aren’t surprises in terms of the environment crafting. Blue holographic advertisement boards help provide a pop of colour which contrasts well with the orange skies and grey-white buildings. The effect is something we’ve not seen in SWG before and it helps to distinguish the planet from others.
Where the city comes into its own however is in its sheer verticality. Save for a few underground bunkers or two-storey houses, SWG has always been a very horizontal game in terms of its landscapes and architecture. The closest to a multi-level area that immediately comes to mind is the Rryatt Trail on Kashyyyk, but even that feels very much as though it’s separate areas pasted on top of one another. On Bespin pretty much every building has multiple levels – and they’re all individually hand-decorated. Sometimes these different levels are accessed via ramps, or more often elevators, but what’s so great is that you can actually look down from one level and see what’s happening on the one below. Not an instanced area in sight. With all this attention to detail, you would imagine that Bespin would be a rather small area. Quite the opposite, however – it’s MASSIVE! As such, I found myself frequently getting lost both outside and inside buildings. That’s not to say that the map design is frustrating, but like all real cities (and good videogame ones), there’s plenty of space to get disorientated before you begin to recognise landmarks and eventually learn every shortcut on the block. This certainly isn’t an on-rails experience like the live game’s previous two expansion planets Kashyyyk and Mustafar.
The developers have already shown off a few of the iconic locations that they’ve recreated in the game, and there’s not much to say about them except they’re probably the best recreations of those areas that have ever been seen in a Star Wars videogame. Sure games like the Battlefront series may have recreated them with more realistic graphics, but those games are so action-orientated that you rarely get the chance to truly soak them in. Even more exciting to me however are the newly imagined areas, such as the cantina, the museum, and the various platforms between the buildings. RoarAsh, the game’s Project Admin, expressed that these areas were built with the intention that players could use them as their own spaces for socialising and hosting events. He also announced that the team has several live events that they plan to host on Bespin once it’s released, including a firework pageant which draws on lore from the Star Wars Expanded Universe.
While you can visit the planet’s POIs of your own volition, the developers informed me that many of them are also involved in the game’s quest lines. I didn’t partake in any of the new missions during my short preview, but I was able to learn a few things about what they would entail. In something of a first for the game, the quests would be split down factional lines, with both a Rebel and an Imperial storyline available to players. Odih and Kicco, the developers who scripted the new questlines promised lengthy quests with an emphasis on story. In keeping with the game’s timeline, the events of the quests will bring players right up until the events that take place in The Empire Strikes Back.
As well as traditional questing, players can take a shot at the new Holonet Battle Arena heroic. This heroic will differ from the existing ones in the game as it offers players an unceasing horde of enemies to duel against. Players can enter the arena solo or in teams of two or four, and have ninety minutes (or until they die) to beat as many waves of foes as possible. I entered solo and managed a couple of rounds before kicking the bucket, but anybody with some actual skill in the game’s meta will see their name posted on the heroic’s leaderboards.
New content is nothing without new rewards however and the team has gone out of their way to make sure there is something for everyone on Bespin. By participating in quests, heroics, or in the new PvP zone players can earn new wearables, decorations, and vehicles, as well as a host of items which were available as loot cards in the Star Wars Galaxies Trading Card Game, but which have never made their way over to Legends.
Six new armour sets are available, with two for each faction, as well as two for neutrals. These include iconic armour sets such as the Death Trooper, as well as newly imagined sets such as the CCT Protector set, which looks like a more menacing version of the game’s fan favourite Composite armour.
The developers also assured me that most of the new decorative items they’ve created to bring Bespin to life can be purchased as craftable schematics so that players can jazz up their own homes with them. Speaking of which, if you want to make a home on Bespin, housing units can be purchased for 25 million credits – a hefty sum, but trust me, you’re going to want one.
It’s not all about the fighting though! Traders and Entertainers are also getting their own quests and rewards, including new heroic jewellery sets which grant bonuses to crafting and reverse engineering, as well as a new dance. Meanwhile Beast Master’s will have their chance to tame two new beasts, and pilots will be able to take flight in new ships including the huge Cloud City Luxury Shuttle (which includes the ability to open and close the shields to get a scenic view of the clouds).
The new space zone itself promises to be the same size as the other space zones in the game, but it will differ radically in that players are flying around inside the Bespin atmosphere rather than out amongst the stars. I didn’t get the chance to pilot a ship during the preview, but even as the galaxy’s worst pilot I can’t wait to coast around because that sky box is just so freaking beautiful!
Even though I was being guided around Bespin for three hours and didn’t experience any of the story content I really feel as though I’ve barely scratched the surface of Bespin as a location. I seriously cannot overstate just how much their is to explore on this new planet, and the attention to detail requires you to spend time taking in every single room. The team behind the expansion are clearly very excited to deliver this new content and for good reason. With the promise that The City In The Clouds is set to be released in the very near future, this is set to be one of the major MMO releases of early 2021 – fan created or otherwise.