We’ve been inundated with hype for Star Wars: The Old Republic. We’ve seen trailers, read previews, and eagerly anticipated developer diaries for every morsel of information about the game. We’ve been invited, de-invited, and re-invited to the beta weekends, which still have yet to begin. We’ve watched rerun marathons of “Laugh it Up, Fuzzball” to distract us from the fact that launch is still months away (well, some of us have).
Do we know more about Bioware’s Star Wars MMO opus? Sure, but a lot of us are feeling the fatigue from the game being hyped for so long, without much to show for it. Fortunately, we now know that the release is set for December 20 in North America and December 22 in Europe, and if Bioware can stick to that schedule, we don’t have to wait much longer to make our Jedi Knights and Sith Inquisitors. Still, there are several things we’re wondering about SWTOR, not the least of which being the different forms of PvP.
We know a little bit about SWTOR’s PvP modes from our previews at PAX Prime and Bioware’s “Immersion Day,” and that the game will have scenario-type Warzones as well as World PvP. You’ll get XP for participating in PvP, making it a viable leveling track, and you’ll also earn points in the Valor ranking system and achievement-style Commendations. So far, the devs have announced three different Warzones, including Alderaan, which our Managing Editor Bill Murphy and Community Manager Mike Bitton both enjoyed playing, as well as Hutball and Voidstar.
What we don’t know much about yet is how World PvP is going to play out. We know from the PAX panel that it will entail fighting over neutral planets which will have different player-controlled objectives and that Mercenary commendations can be earned to purchase uber gear. We also know that World PvP will allow your NPC companions to join in the fray, unlike Warzones. Other than these few tidbits, we’re unclear as to how SWTOR is going to distinguish itself in open PvP.
Given that several of the developers from Mythic have been working on SWTOR’s PvP, it may be safe to say that World PvP might feel pretty familiar, especially for veterans of Warhammer Online: Age of Reckoning. From what we’ve seen from Mythic before, we’d expect constant battling for area objectives to take over keeps, engaging in a tug-of-war that is constantly in flux and results in faction-wide bonuses for whoever controls particular zones. We’d also hope there will be some sort of level adjusting in place so that lower level players can get to the fight without automatically getting creamed by higher level players, and that you’ll get Valor and Mercenary commendations for each victory and PvP-related quest to spend on rewards.
What has the potential to distinguish SW: TOR’s World PvP, however, is Bioware’s approach to epic storytelling. Bill mentioned in his interview with James Ohlen (Game Director) and Gabe Amantangelo (Elder Game Designer for PVP and Flashpoints) that the PvP is very “cinematic” and doesn’t seem at odds with the rest of the game, which we know to be very story-driven and evocative of Bioware’s single-player RPGs. We’d love to see the same kind of cinematic storytelling in World PvP as we’ve seen in the PvE previews and even the Alderaan Warzone, but we’re unsure as to how this would work. It would be crazy cool to have gated objectives that would open up timed PvE dungeons, like taking down a number of AT-STs and controlling particular zones leading to a Rancor raid (we’re sure there are many obscure anachronisms with that statement). It would be even more interesting to have these objectives tied together with cinematic battle and dialogue sequences like we’ve seen in the other content, but as the nature of World PvP is usually repeating the same objectives over and over, playing through the same cutscenes could get boring very quickly.
Similarly, while we know that World PvP will be story-driven like everything else in SWTOR, we wonder what role, if any, each player’s Personal Story will play into the different objectives. Will actions in World PvP affect your “Light vs. Dark” morality meters? Can you participate in the same kind of decision-making dialogue scenarios that we’ve seen from the group PvE content? Are there different choices for how to approach objectives, like dealing with the Ewok smugglers peacefully or making them act in the next Care Bears movie? Will your NPC Companions approve of or disagree with the actions that you take?
All of these ideas are purely speculative, but there’s a lot of potential for Bioware’s MMO to shine in the PvP department as well as the other aspects of the game, if they can distinguish what makes SWTOR more than a traditional MMORPG with the Star Wars name on it. We still have many questions about World PvP, such as how the devs plan on balancing the two different factions and incentivize players to continuously participate in objectives. We’re also a little concerned that we’re less than three months from launch and we haven’t seen anything of World PvP and the beta weekends have been pushed back, but with the company’s excellent track record, we’re willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.
All things considered, with how long most of us have been following Star Wars: The Old Republic, we’ll be happy if it works and has lightsabers, blasters and wookies. Heck, we’ll be ecstatic if it comes out on time and has the polish we’ve come to expect from top tier MMOs. Still, if Bioware can manage to up the ante with its storytelling and cinematic gameplay and implement both in all aspects of its PvP, SWTOR might be well worth the wait.
What do you think about The Old Republic’s PvP modes? Let us know in the comments below!