19/01/2012

Some thoughts on warzones

PvP seems to be a pretty hot topic in regards to SWTOR right now. Wah, the patch broke Ilum! Faction imbalances ruin everything! Sith sorcerers are overpowered! The bolstering system doesn't work! Etc.

I'm happy to say that I don't really care about any of these things. Well, except for the bolstering system maybe, which I feel does work pretty well, especially now that the fully geared out level fifties have been shunted into a bracket of their own at least. Generally speaking though, I'm still levelling so anything happening at max level right now doesn't affect me yet, and I'm also pretty casual about PvP, which means that even if something bothers me about it, I usually don't feel qualified to give any useful criticism about it. In other words, if I get force-lightninged to death by Sith sorcerers a lot, my first thought is not to post on the forums about how they are OP, but that I clearly still have a lot to learn about how to PvP in this game.

For what it's worth, I've quite enjoyed running the occasional warzone to break up the questing (as enjoyable as it is). The main thing that's kept me from doing more of them is not wanting to outlevel my significant other (or on my alts, too much of the other fun content in general), as the experience gains per warzone are pretty significant.

Generally speaking, warzones are a lot like WoW battlegrounds. The Alderaan Civil War is like the Battle for Gilneas, and the Voidstar is Strand of the Ancients only without vehicles (phew). Huttball is... weird, but amusing. It's also the only warzone that puts people into teams regardless of faction, with the idea being that there'll always be something to play for both sides even if the factions on your server are massively imbalanced. Of course the result is that instead of complaining about long queues, players complain about being forced to play Huttball all the time. C'est la vie. I only get it fairly rarely myself, which probably means that our server is pretty balanced - or that Republic is simply the place to be. For all I know the Imperials could be playing Huttball amongst themselves all day.

There are some more things that I found to be different in an interesting way, coming from WoW PvP:

First off, I feel a lot weaker as a healer. Now, some of that might be due to my choice of class (trooper), some of it is probably me simply needing to learn to play, but it's hard to deny that the odds are stacked against dedicated healers in many ways. For example everyone has a mortal strike type debuff on them in warzones at all times. Your heals just do thirty percent less, period. Considering that it can already take five or more casts of your biggest heal to fill a person's health bar in PvE, results in PvP are pretty piddly, at least in the levelling bracket so far. Not to mention that everything has a long-ass cast time, which makes healers very vulnerable to interrupts and makes it very hard to get away from an attacker alive, especially as many offensive moves can be used on the run.

Sounds pretty frustrating? Well... yeah. But I actually got used to it. The best advice I've received so far is to stay as far behind as possible and to not be afraid of running and hiding. That might sound a bit like "healer 101", but in WoW I got quite used to being able to keep myself up against one or more attackers without too much of a problem. In SWTOR, it currently feels like I don't even stand a chance in a 1v1, so I run and distract. At best I get away to live another day and support the next wave at attackers, at worst I can at least serve as a distraction. (I'm always happy when people chasing the ailing trooper to her death results in a stealth cap behind the enemies' backs.)

Another thing I find notable is that warzones are same-server only at the current time. I never got to experience WoW's battlegrounds before the introduction of battlegroups, but I was always curious about what it would feel like to meet the same people on both sides over and over again. I haven't really played enough matches yet to take note of my opponents' names, but on my own team I usually end up seeing the same names several times in a row, and it's... nice. You actually learn to remember who is a healer, who is good at stealth capping, who gives good tactical advice etc. I can see this being community-building in the long run. I hope they keep the same-server restriction, but with only two brackets (levelling and level cap), I think they can get away with it.

I was also surprised to see how much Bioware tried to keep the warzones immersive. In fact I suspect that the main reason they don't have a Capture The Flag scenario right now is that they couldn't think of a good way to make capturing a flag for your team make any sense in a warzone. I still remember my very first battleground in WoW, back when I was a complete noob - it was Arathi Basin, and I had no idea whatsoever what was going on. Okay, blue and red markers on the map, what? Numbers on top? What is this all about? Capturing nodes? What for? To gather "resources"? Like gold, or crafting materials? What is all this even supposed to mean? (I know, it's not rocket science, but it's still quite a lot more abstract than most PvE gameplay used to be.)

Of course it's impossible to make an entirely fair comparison to SWTOR because obviously I'm not a complete noob anymore now, but I still thought that the whole thing seemed a lot more intuitive in TOR. Both sides have a ship in the sky. Here are three guns. Whoever aims more guns at the enemy ship for a prolonged amount of time shoots it down and wins. It just makes sense!

That aside, if I was a complete noob to PvP in SWTOR, I'm sure I would have a much easier time at it because they really make an effort to explain it to you. The loading screen for each warzone basically contains a summary of how each of them works, though depending on your computer's speed, these instructions might disappear too quickly to actually read in full. Still, once inside, everything gets explained in full again by a helpful voice-over that explains what's going on and the basics of what to do. To be honest, I would even say it gets a bit repetitive if you play a lot, and I wouldn't mind an option to turn the whole feature off for more experienced players, but in general I think it's great that these explanations are there.

What are other people's experiences with warzones in SWTOR so far?

2 comments:

  1. I don't have any experiences with warzones so far.

    Now, if you don't mind me going a bit off-topic, I'd like to state that I really enjoy your take on SW:ToR. Your comment on Rohan's "pro-Dungeon-Finder" post was again spot on! Thank you.

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  2. Thanks for the kind words, Maldwiz. It's nice to be bursting with enthusiasm for a game again. :) I do try to avoid SWTOR dungeon finder discussions where possible, because it just saddens me to see so many people wanting to ruin what's one of the best parts of the game for me.

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