Nov 4, 2011

Posted by in Fully Operational | 4 Comments

Fully Operational: The New Hotness

“Now witness the firepower of this fully armed and operational battle station!” — There is no better example of damage in the Star Wars galaxy than the scene attached to that quote. Each week in Fully Operational, join Kray as he takes a look at the damage dealing role in Star Wars: The Old Republic. And yes, we’ll blow up a planet if we get the chance.

Hello again, dear readers. I do apologize deeply for the long period in between Fully Operational posts as of late, I unfortunately had medical issues keeping me away from Ask A Jedi. But worry not, I have returned! If you don’t understand the column’s title, you are required to visit this video and stare in amazement at the new hotness that is Will Smith. After you’re done with that, keep on the Jiggy train and open up today’s listening music.

“What is this new hotness Kray keeps referring to?”, you might be asking yourself. Well, this article is a bit of a follow up to an Off TOR-pic I did with Momus earlier this week discussing the general state of the MMO industry, and the importance of innovation in any new releases that hope to be successful. With all those business buzzwords rolling around in my head, I figured it’s time to take a look at some new (or at least new-ish) gameplay mechanics we as dealers of damage will be armed with in Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Companions – Don’t Wanna Be… All By Myyyseeeeelf

Everyone’s a pet class, to a point. You see, BioWare is famous for their intricate relationships and party dynamics present in games like Mass Effect and Dragon Age, where you’re not just controlling a main character, you control an entire group. The interactions in and out of combat bring a high level of depth into the videogames and have brought them huge commercial and critical success. Following off of those games, BioWare is bringing companions to SW:TOR in full force. As you probably know by now, each class has a selection of five-ish characters they’ll pick up along their story quest that will aid them in combat. Though you can only have one companion with you at a time, each one will fill slightly different combat roles such as a tank, healer, or extra DPS.

"Who you calling a pet?"

"Who you calling a pet?"

What does this mean for you? From a soloing standpoint, content is based around having a companion with you at all times, meaning that you’ll need to have one out and equip him or her with some decent gear, else you’ll be crippling yourself. This is especially useful once you encounter heroic quests, requiring 2-4 people to complete. If you’re good, and I know you will be, you’ll be able to successfully complete content designed for two separate players with just you and your companion! The AI system (described in detail in this developer blog) has a lot of options, but if you’re not one for micromanaging a “pet” then you’ll be fine just setting it to autocombat and being on your merry way. In the scene of organized PvP you won’t be able to bring your companions in, but in Flashpoints (and maybe Operations) you’ll be able to substitute a companion in real quick to help out. They’ll still take up a character slot — that is you can’t have 4 players and 4 companions, only 4 bodies total — but something’s better than nothing.

Group Combat – Be the Hero

So everyone has a companion out while questing, which (if built and controlled right) can be almost as powerful as a whole second player. This obviously has a huge effect on the world and is going to create a whole new dynamic from the commonplace one-at-a-time mob pulling that most of us are used to (unless you’re a frost mage, ohhh frost mages). Combine this aspect with the fact that BioWare wants you to feel like you’re in your own Star Wars movie, and you’ve got a great combat dynamic. While you’re questing out in the world(s), you’ll be taking on groups of 2, 3, 4 enemies at a time with your trusty energy weapons, giving a very heroic feel to day-to-day combat. You’re the hero of the story, expect to act like it. Those of you who have played City of Heroes will feel right at home with multi-mob combat commonplace.

Cover – Hit the Deck!

I think at this point everyone has played one of the next-gen shooters that have been released in the past few years, more specifically games like Gears of War. The cover mechanic in FPS games has become commonplace and almost a cheap way to add strategy to what would normally be a pretty bland run-and-gun experience. In the MMO world, however, the concept of taking cover has never particularly gotten attention beyond running behind a rock to line-of-sight a particularly nasty attack. With the introduction of the Smuggler and Imperial Agent classes, specifically the Gunslinger and Sniper ACs respectively, TOR is introducing the cover mechanic into the MMO world with a vengeance. These classes will be able to crouch down throughout the world, tossing down a portable shield generator or finding a handy rock, and gain defensive bonuses and a whole new slew of abilities. Think of it like stealth in WoW — dropping into cover will give you abilities like Snipe and whatnot, very strong attacks that must be made from a stationary, defensed position. Georg Zoeller posted a pretty nice piece about cover mechanics relating to PvP, check it out for some more insight.

Boom, baby

Boom, baby

Enemy Types – Variation is Key

Continuing on the same line as the last two points, Star Wars is integrating the relatively uncommon feature of having a wide variety of enemy difficulty levels, as opposed to the standard normal/elite/boss array. From what we’ve seen so far, we’ll see at least weak, standard, strong, elite, boss, and another separate classification for player-controlled characters. This has an active effect on DPS, as certain abilities, such as the Trooper’s Sticky Grenade, have additional effects depending on the classification of the enemy they’re used on. If you’re a WoW player, think of the frost mage ability Deep Freeze — on boss mobs, this attack hits for a ton of damage, but on standard enemies it applies a 5 second stun instead. From what we’ve seen with preview content and convention gameplay, there will be a wide array of abilities that apply stuns, slows, disorients, etc. on weaker enemies, adding an additional level of complexity to your rotations and combat decisions.

Resources – The Death of Mana

Yes, we finally have a new MMO that is not based in the fantasy realm! Lord be praised that terms like “oom” and “wait for mana” will finally die out, because Lord knows I’m sick of hearing it (mana’s a crutch!). (Editor’s Note: I like the sound of “oof” better!) The Old Republic is based in the future, and the only magical aspect of the universe is the ever-present Force. Though Force and mana as resource systems share some similarities, the fact remains is that they are different. With 6 ACs per side that forego the standard MMO resource system of mana, you’ll be seeing some new colored bars and interesting ways to fill them up or empty them out. With variable regeneration rates and abilities that actively affect the consumption or restoration of your pool, management of your abilities will become a game within itself.

Along those lines as well, each class has a completely static amount of their resource — there’s no intellect or constitution stat to increase the amount you have to work with. This is a great step in the right direction, giving rotations and ability choices real meaning regardless of your gear level, as there won’t be a point where a DPS can just spam their most expensive abilities without worry of running out of energy, heat, ammo, or force.

Of course there are a ton more innovations and creative features in The Old Republic other than what I’ve listed here, but this is a nice little sampling to get your mouth watering and probably the most combat-focused features we as DPS will be seeing. If I left something out or you’d like to chip in a few cents, please comment below! Tune in next week for another new, non-surgery-interrupted episode of Fully Operational, and follow me on Twitter @kraybaybay for more musings and a picture of me passed out in a Darth Vader mask!

  1. I guess Kray follows LFG comics

  2. Do u think some players will run ops after they are geared just to gear out their companions too? And do you think this will extend the life of some ops?

    • That’s an extremely good point, Red. Unfortunately, we don’t quite have enough information about how the ‘loot bags’ from running operations will work. Keep in mind, you won’t be seeing random drops from each boss, but rather random loot inside your own special loot bag after each boss is killed.

      Then again, we know commendations will be in game so it might make sense to farm commendations from Operations to gear up your favorite companion. Definitely looking forward to seeing how this plays out!

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