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Star Wars: The Old Republic Column: PAX 2011 - That’s More Like It

By Michael Bitton on August 31, 2011

Last week, I was pretty vocal about my thoughts on Star Wars: The Old Republic at Gamescom. The show was, by and large, a disappointment in my eyes. I don’t know how much stock BioWare’s marketing team puts into these shows, but from my perspective, Gamescom and PAX Prime were crucial last chance events to drive awareness of the game and throw some bones to fans that may be a bit fatigued after riding on the hype-train for three years.

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Fortunately, PAX Prime was a good deal better on the latter bit. It’s almost a bit embarrassing how little it takes for an event to go from a massive disappointment in my eyes to ‘a good deal better,’ but the difference literally came within the last ten minutes of the last SW:TOR PAX panel (before the Q&A session). The showing was largely the same as Gamescom in every other way: there were demos of the Eternity Vault, PvP matches for fans to participate in, and Q&As where numerous questions on the games minutiae were answered.

There aren’t a whole lot of major systems or features left for Star Wars: The Old Republic to unveil, so I’d narrowed down a few that I hoped to see revealed at either Gamescom or PAX: World PvP, the Legacy system, and character creation. Gamescom disappointed on all three, but PAX gave us significantly greater detail on World PvP and the surprise announcement of a start date (September 3rd!) for upcoming game test weekends.

Up until now, we’ve known that World PvP would consist of designated areas on certain planets (similar to WAR’s RvR lakes), but not really much else. The PAX presentation revealed that Star Wars: The Old Republic would feature neutral planets for players to fight over and this would include territory control gameplay. The icy planet of Ilum was unveiled as the first World PvP planet, and this makes sense given the fact that Ilum is known for being rich in lightsaber-grade crystals. Ilum, and other World PvP planets, will feature bases that can be captured and held by Republic or Imperial forces, along with a number of objectives towards that end. For example, in order to capture the enemy base on Ilum, players will have to take down the planetary defenses protecting it, after which they can call down a bombing run to hit the base. Rewards will be plentiful in World PvP as well, as players can earn Valor (and XP) along with Mercenary Commendations, the latter of which can be used to purchase some of the game’s best PvP gear.

While I wasn’t at the panel myself, I understand that a few screenshots of World PvP were shown at the presentation, but there wasn’t much else. It sounds like BioWare really didn’t share much in the way of World PvP, but I still found the announcement reassuring. Judging by fan reaction, I feel it went over well with most gamers too. World PvP in TOR isn’t simply: “Here are your contested areas. Have at it!” It doesn’t sound like a bullet-point on a box (and it could have been); it sounds like a fully fleshed out feature, though questions still remain. For example, I’d love to know if they plan on tying all these neutral planets together as part of some cohesive campaign (think WAR’s RvR campaign) or if they will be self-contained.

I think we’ll definitely have some meat to chew on as far as World PvP goes at launch. The visibility (or lack thereof) of the feature up to this point leads me to believe that World PvP either isn’t quite ready for primetime just yet or that it’s simply lower on the totem pole as far as launch priorities go. It may yet not be as robust as some would hope by the time the game hits store shelves. Star Wars: The Old Republic may be a bit more PvE-slanted at launch, but the foundation of World PvP announced thus far gives me the idea they are at least serious about it. Even if it isn’t fully up to snuff when the game goes live, I have a good feeling this is an area of the game they will pursue with a high-priority in the months that follow. This is just a hunch, of course, but that’s how I’m reading the reveal so far.

I’m personally hoping they plan on tying this all together as part of a campaign, but even if they don’t go that route, it would be neat if planetary control in Star Wars: The Old Republic functions similarly to the RTS Star Wars: Empire at War. In Empire at War, each planet had various properties, and keeping these planets under your control conveyed bonuses to your faction. Along this same vein, I’d love to see BioWare hook Crew Skills into World PvP, for example. This would include adding PvP specific mission types to the Mission skills as well as PvP-oriented recipes and components for the Crafting skills. Controlling certain planets could provide faction-wide bonuses to certain Crew Skills and also limit access to resources specific to the various PvP recipes. Want that super rare Pontite crystal for your lightsaber? Well, you’d better hope your faction controls Ilum or you’ll have a hard time getting your hands on some. You could send your companion on a mission to find these resources (at perhaps an increased risk of being captured), or you could try to venture out into enemy territory and harvest it yourself. Either way, the risk would be significant if your faction doesn’t control the territory, and the opposite would be true (bonuses) for the faction under control of said planets. I’m sure there are many other angles you could take this feature, but that is just one example.

What are your thoughts on Star Wars: The Old Republic’s presence at PAX Prime this year? Were the reveals sufficient enough for you? Or were you expecting more? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

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