May 5, 2011

Posted by in Featured, News | 8 Comments

FSS 2011: Hands-On the Alderaan Civil War Warzone; Marauder & Gunslinger

Let me start out by saying this right away: I’m not an organized PvPer. I love open-world, chance encounters however I rarely participate in structured matches of any kind. So I don’t find it necessary to work on specializing my gear or character build for this purpose.

With that said, after having gotten my first taste of PvP in Star Wars: The Old Republic, I can’t wait to dive into it when the live game finally comes launches.

It could just be the fact that its freaking’ Star Wars, and there are lightsabers swinging and blaster bolts firing in all directions. Or maybe it’s the fact that it felt so different from what I’ve experienced in the past. This wasn’t one-shot, stun-lock bunny-hop combat. There was strategy you could use and tactics you could apply. And the fights lasted longer than 30 seconds!

Read on to find out why I might be spending a lot more time PvPing when TOR finally ships.

Just For Fun

Our play session began immediately following Gabe Amatangelo’s presentation on PvP in The Old Republic. The session was divided up into 2 groups so that we could keep everyone in the same room while playing, like a super-deluxe LAN party. All of the characters were pre-made at level 20, and contained a large array of abilities (nearly 2 action bars full!) Each group got 1 practice session and 1 (or more) “real” matches in the Alderaan Civil War Warzone.

For my first practice session, I got to play a Marauder class Sith Warrior. By pure randomness this was the character loaded on the machine at the workstation I’d been sitting at the past two days. Up until that moment I honestly hadn’t considered the possibility of playing an Empire character, but now that is was upon me, I was stoked!

The Marauder class is a pure DPS machine. I was dual-wielding red lightsabers, and really felt like I was unbeatable on the battlefield. One thing that became very noticeable as I Force Charged from foe to foe was the amount of blaster bolts I was deflecting coming at me from all directions! Obviously there’s a lot of talk about choreographed combat, but honestly the last place I expected to notice it was in PvP. It was awesome.

At first, we did the ever-popular zerg, where we met in the center of the map and just went at it. As I engaged Republic scum on the opposite side of the battlefield, I noticed something: I wasn’t dying. Even jumping right into the thick of battle, I could keep myself alive. I was fairly certain that no one had really caught on to healing that soon, so it had to be something else. I finally came to the conclusion that this wasn’t PvP as I knew it.

CHARGE! Literally.

Even though we weren’t yet working as a team, this PvP was much more measured and paced. That’s not to say it was slower, because the action itself was bombastic. But rather, the battles lasted much longer. This gave you time to formulate a strategy and employ some tactics. Every time you engaged, it wasn’t a matter of who got off the first hit… it seemed to be more a matter of who could work their abilities to get out of trouble and gain the upper hand. No fight was decided until it was decided. I liked that.

As the battle went on, everyone started to figure out there was more to this than killing people. There were huge drop ships in the sky, and we had to work on capturing the turrets to turn them on our enemy’s ship! However just as we were getting the feel for the overall strategy, our practice time was up and it was time for group 2 to get theirs in.

Playing the Marauder was a very tactile and visceral experience. I played a Rogue for 6 years in World of Warcraft, so I am literally at-one with that melee class. The Marauder immediately felt comfortable to me, and despite an absolute huge range of abilities available to me, I was able to formulate effective strategies for the various opponents. Also worth mentioning, for me, the sound effects are a large part of the “user interface”. Many times there is so much going on visually that you learn to rely on the sound to figure out what is going on. The sounds tied to the abilities of the Sith Warrior were perfect and easy to learn, which contributed greatly to my ability to pick up the class so quickly.

Between seeing the new Sith Warrior progression video preview the day before, and then playing the Marauder in PvP, I am having serious considerations than this Empire class just might have to be my main. And this is coming from a hard-core Republic/Alliance/Guardian/Elyos/Order and general good-guy pedestal. It was that satisfying. I’d just have to get with that whole weird Sith culture…

Even More Fun

When it came time for my “real” match, without even looking, I happened to sit down at a workstation with the Smuggler Gunslinger class loaded! This is the class (and Advanced Class) that I intend to play when the game goes live, so needless to say I was excited.

The Smuggler of course is very different from a Sith Warrior. The Smuggler is a ranged class and relies on fighting from a cover position for many of his most powerful abilities (at least at level 20.) So, as a self-proclaimed melee junkie I had some adjustments to make!

Those adjustments came fast, as I learned I didn’t fair nearly as well as the Marauder when I rushed into the thick of battle. I could only Dirty Kick so fast. Having said that though, the same feel of the battle that I experience with the Sith Warrior was present here. If I made a mistake, I feel like I had a chance to correct it.

As I mentioned, there was a wide range of active abilities available at this level, and one of them for the Smuggler was portable cover. I hadn’t had a chance to use this yet, as the Imperial Agent I played the day before didn’t get it until level 8 (which, sadly, I was unable to achieve.)

It took a while to get in the groove, but eventually found a rhythm for using portable cover. Sometimes it was a little annoying because, as a ranged character, you tend to set up just inside of the range you need to hit your target. Well, if your target moved ever so slightly, he’d be out of range and you had to move and re-set the portable cover. Essentially it ended up feeling more like a self-buff that I had to apply every 30 seconds or so. So while the gameplay was interesting, the implementation needs some work. This could somewhat be alleviated by the presence of more environmental cover points, which Gabe said they are aware of and are working into the next build of the game.

Hey guys! Lets use these!

By this time, everyone was more acclimated to the objectives of the Warzone (getting the turrets to fire on the enemy drop ship) as well as playing their class role much better. I noticed much more healing going around for one thing, which made the battles even more intense and tactical… it was a real test of endurance to go the distance, and when you came out on the winning end it was extremely satisfying.

At one point, I had the tables turned on me by having a Sith Warrior Force Charge me from a distance while I was behind cover. Since this was the first time I was “singled out” in combat, I was unsure what abilities I had to get some distance back between me and the red head. So I went into full-on clicker mode as I moused-over the abilities in the toolbar and scoured the tooltips for answers! I found an ability (the name of which is illegible on my notes) that provided an AoE knockback of all enemies within a certain radius. While overkill for the one Sith Warrior I had in my grill, it was certainly effective and I think caught him by surprise.

I learned one other thing while mousing over all of those abilities as well: There was possibly nothing more satisfying the entire weekend than kicking a Sith Warrior in the nuts.

Movin’ On Up

As each team fights for control of the turrets (by taking control points), there was a scoreboard in the upper-right corner of the screen that kept track of who was in the lead. Remember, these ships never stop firing at each other so there’s nothing you can do to draw out the fight if you’re losing – your only option is to get in there and try to turn the tides!

When the match is over, a familiar-looking but expanded scoreboard pops up with all of the pertinent details of the match. Notably, there are several additional statistics such as damage taken and other measurements of how well you played together as a team. There doesn’t seem to be the same kind of individual incentive as you might find in other games.

Gabe mentioned in the group Q&A that there are about 30 seconds at the end of the match before anyone is allowed to exit the Warzone, so this is a perfect time to hand out commendations to the player that you felt contributed to the success of your group… and this hopefully encourages you to perform well also. It’s interesting that the individual incentive comes from your fellow players instead of the system handing it out. Nice change of pace that should foster true team behavior.

Mission: Accomplished

While this play session only covered one aspect of PvP – Warzones – I can’t say enough good things about the PvP experience in TOR. Even though some of the constructs might seem the same as other games, the way it plays out is different and quite refreshing.

What more does BioWare have in store for PvP fanatics? What about open-world PvP? Maybe competitive arena-style matches? Perhaps even RvR or – egads – WvW style play? Only time will tell, but if it plays out anything like what we’ve seen in the Warzones, there will be an awful lot of PvE converts like myself chomping at the bit to melt some faces.

  1. Maylox says:

    Lethality That was a great read bud. Thanks for the insite. I, like you can not wait to get my hands on this game

  2. TheDarkKnight says:

    I hate any form of PvP but I may give this a shot. :)

  3. Orcs, Tauren, Blood Elves, and (Darkspear) Trolls all just wanted to be left alone, while Undead were kind of ***** to people. Night Elves also just wanted to be left alone, but Humans tried to purge other races, Gnomes invented the machines of war which the Dwarves mass produced for the Human crusades, and the Draenei are aliens so they don’t really count. By my count, the Alliance is clearly way more evil than the Horde.

  4. Lotcek says:

    Great write-up! When you played the gunslinger, did you notice having longer range on some abilities/classes or was everything the same? Whilst typing I realise that this question has more to do with the sniper and the range of it’s abilities. It would make sense if snipers had longer range than most (at least on some abilities) but I guess that may cause balancing issues.

    • Lethality says:

      To be honest, I didn’t notice a longer range than some of the other range classes (BH or IA on the Empire side) but we were only level 20 and weren’t able to look at the skill trees to see if there are talents that might increase range. I would hope so, because moving in and out of portable cover a lot can become tedious.

  5. Awesome job on the article!
    i really loved it!

    btw: you should stay republic =P

  6. scottyusceaser says:

    Guys ur doing a fantastic job with this up-to-date info… I wish I could be there! But you guys are making my dreams come true :)


  7. scottyusceaser says:

    Anyway you guys get get hold of some Sith inquisitor gameplay ? or jedi guardian ?


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