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The Endgame Grind: PvE vs. PvP

Michael Bitton Posted:
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It’s hard to think about an MMO that doesn’t present you with some form or another of grind once you reach the game’s level cap (and often before!). Star Wars: The Old Republic is no different in that upon hitting cap you won’t be surprised by the activities available to you. There is an assortment of daily and weekly quests associated with both PvE and PvP content, and you’ll want to complete them (and the relevant content) to continue to progress your character. I’ve accepted the endgame grind at this point, but the disparity between enjoyment of PvP and PvE in the game is a large one.

Disappointingly, progression via PvP is simply a frustrating experience. While the act of getting into a scrap with a couple of players can be quite fun, the content and progression as currently designed don’t really encourage this. You’ll simply have to bang your head against the wall and treat what is normally a competitive activity into a basic grind for gear. This isn’t exactly uncommon for MMOs, but when BioWare so expertly uses their story-centric PvE content to mask ‘the grind’ while leveling, you tend to become hyper aware of it if there isn’t enough content to go hand-in-hand with progression. The variance among experiences found in PvP should normally suffice as that ‘content,’ which is part of the draw of PvP for many, but the scope of what’s currently available simply doesn’t stack up, and is only made worse by the fact the existing systems need a good deal of fine-tuning.

Repeating the same three warzones over and over and focusing on winning just to satisfy your daily or weekly conditions tends to devolve the PvP experience fairly quickly. This creates a sense of disdain for the actual activity, as every loss just puts you further and further away from acquiring your next gear bag. Of course, it doesn’t help that these bags are completely determined by everyone’s favorite mechanic: the RNG (random number generator). A friend of mine opened up 11 Battlemaster bags in a row recently and did not receive a single Battlemaster commendation. Ouch.

Gear matters, too. Unlike PvE, which we’ll discuss below, there isn’t as much of a power curve in PvP, and this only serves to make the grind feel all the more necessary. There are simply haves (those with Battlemaster gear) and have-nots, and you’re likely to get completely stomped by those who’ve already suffered through the grind and acquired significant amounts of PvP gear. Sure, the power differential isn’t as stark as say, WAR, where entering Tier 4 RvR with anything less than Renown Rank 65 gear at this point is essentially suicide, but it does a good job of making you feel pretty useless at times.

Ilum is even worse. We did discuss a lot of this PvP stuff last week, but bear with me. PvP doesn’t really exist on Ilum. People form groups with the express interest of farming their dailies, which would take considerably longer if done in a more natural fashion. This results in large groups of players standing around just tagging each other with attacks, hoping to get credit for kills when their targets eventually die to the deluge of AOE attacks being flung at them. It’s even sadder when we push the opposing faction back to their base, only to hear our Operations leader call for us to let them come back out so we can farm them more efficiently.

Fortunately, the PvE offering in Star Wars: The Old Republic has actually been a fairly satisfying experience so far. There are a number of item sets that you can acquire by completing hardmode Flashpoints (dungeons) and, of course, Operations (raiding), similar to most contemporary MMOs. Unlike the current state of PvP, this progression actually feels intelligently designed for the most part and goes hand in hand with the content available. If you repeat it enough times, I’m sure it will certainly feel like a grind, but the power curve feels a bit more natural as you acquire gear.

I had been focusing exclusively on PvP since I hit the level cap and I was pleasantly surprised to find out how much more fun it was to tackle endgame PvE content with friends. Heck, this weekend we almost completed the normal mode of Eternity Vault (our first guild run!). We wiped a number of times on the final boss as we learned his various stages, but alas, our pugger apparently lost his patience at the very last section of the final fight and quit after we wiped. Fortunately, I made out like a bandit during my first Op, acquiring four pieces of the Columi raid set.

What’s troubling then is the fact I’m more of a PvPer at heart. I do love completing PvE content, but I’ve never been a fan of the “raid to gear, gear to raid” paradigm found in most MMOs. Even so, I’m finding myself having more fun progressing along the PvE track with my friends and guildmates than I am in my attempts to progress in PvP. There is such a stark difference in the quality and design of the PvP progression vs. the PvE progression that it is frankly mindboggling.

The takeaway? I’m sure some of you have managed to voraciously devour all the PvE content the game has already, but I’m really hoping BioWare has some significant plans for expanding (and improving on) the PvP content in the very near future. I’d like to feel like I’m actually doing something challenging and fun in gaining those Valor levels and PvP items, with less of a power curve along the way. Some will argue that SW:TOR is a PvE game, but I stubbornly refuse to accept that.  

Are you enjoying the PvE or PvP progression in Star Wars: The Old Republic? If not, what do you think BioWare needs to do to make it a better experience? Share your thoughts in the comments below!


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB