PvP! It’s a thing. A thing some people are surprisingly passionate about; before my guild chose our server, there was some hot debate on whether we should go Player versus Player or Player versus Environment. Eventually the fear of being constantly killed and corpse camped in open world PvP was too valid an argument, and we decided PvE.
But just because we aren’t throwing down with the other side all the time doesn’t mean we’re deprived of killing us some Imps. This is war, man! Republic (or as I like to say to annoy everyone, Rebellion) versus Empire! Good versus Evil! Freedom versus Oppression! And it’s awesome, when it isn’t being terrible!
After the jump, the high highs and low lows of SWTOR PvP
PvP combat was a real shock for me at first. As someone who considers himself primarily a shooter guy, I was surprised that MMO PvP combat was on par and – at some times – even faster paced than a game like Battlefield 3. In a FPS, there are only a handful of things you can do and most of them revolve around “shoot gun”. In a fight with another player in an MMO, there are about a dozen different possible abilities to use at any given time, including instant casts, channels, stuns, follow ups, interrupts, de-buffs, and buffs.
In SWTOR, once you hit level 10, you gain the opportunity to participate in the server wide warzones. Warzones are objective based maps where two teams of eight battle it out for XP, credits, and – of course – glory. You can queue up to join them at any time through a button on the HUD, so it’s a great way to break up the monotony of questing. From 10-49, PvP is a complete blast. SWTOR uses a unique stat-bolstering system, so that means everyone is on a level playing field. Despite knowing that, it’s still a great feeling when your level sixteen guy gets the killing blow on a forty-nine.
As with most games, there’s good, then there’s good. For a while, I thought I fell into that latter category, until Alex watched me playing a match.
“You’re doing it wrong,” he told me.
“What? Look at all the damage,” I replied, pointing at the numbers above my opponent’s heads.
“No, I mean, you’re doing the right attacks, but your fingers are in the wrong place.”
“I don’t understand.”
“Heh. The key to being great at PvP is actually keybindings.”
“Ah. That’s very witty. What’s a keybind?”
“It just means reconfiguring your controls. Look, you have abilities using the numbers 7, 8, even 9.”
“How can you press 9 and A at the same time using one hand? Movement is key in PvP; if you can physically get behind someone they no can longer attack you. You should always, always be strafing to confuse and muddle their opportunities to hit you.”
“Well, what do I use instead of 9?” I asked.
“How about E? Or Q? What do you use those for?”
“Nothing important, I guess,” I said.
“Exactly. People just use the standard number keys because that’s what the games defaults them as. Mix it up and use everything within your hand’s reach. This game gives you a ton of abilities and if you’re not using ninety-nine percent of them regularly, you’re not reaching your full potential.”
Ever since taking Alex’s advice, my game has been significantly improved. It’s just more comfortable too, not having to attempt to stretch my hand out to hit two buttons on the opposite side of the keyboard. I feel almost kind of silly for not having thought of changing stuff around on my own.
Once I hit level 50, I gain access to the special 50-only PvP brackets, where things get a little crazier. Since everyone has the same amount of abilities and base stats, to gain an advantage you need to begin collecting a specific armor and weapon set that has a special stat called expertise. Expertise allows you to do more and take less damage to other players. The more expertise you have, the more butt you’ll kick. But the only way to get these items is purchasing bags from a vendor with badges. The only way to collect badges is to play warzones. A lot of warzones. You’ll get roughly sixty to seventy badges per warzone – a bag costs 800. But hey, once you get a bag, you’ll be knee deep in PvP stuff, right? Not quite. Inside that bag are… more badges. A different kind of badge, a type that you then can use purchase one piece of gear. The bag gets you 15 badges; the cheapest gear piece is 32. Did I say badge enough for you? Here it is a few more times: badge, badge, badge.
Sound convoluted? Yeah, well. That’s the 50 game, baby. You can also earn bags through doing daily and weekly quests, but you complete those by – guess what – winning more warzones! There’s one other piece of content that 50 unlocks for you, though, something Bioware was very excited to unveil: the Battle of Ilum. It’s basically territory control – five bases scatter a large map with destroyable assault vehicles at each base. You destroy the other side’s vehicles, the base is considered under your control. The more bases you control, the bigger a valor bonus you get when you kill someone on the other side (valor is the PvP XP – it also uses a leveling system which, at higher levels, gain you access to even better gear). Straight forward and simple in concept.
But Bioware forgot one super important aspect when designing Ilum: the population. Server imbalance is severe. Across the entire game, the Empire has more players. For Republic, this sucks! Enjoying Ilum is near impossible; our server is considered a low population one, yet we are still always outnumbered. The only time a Republic player can get a significant amount of kills is if they kill-trade.
Yeah, kill-trade. As in, I let you kill me, then you respawn and let me kill you. We both get a ton of valor. Luke did it with a couple of stormtroopers in Return of the Jedi, I think.
Bioware should definitely be commended on a lot of areas with their PvP. Classes are well balanced, the bolstering works great, and the three warzones are diverse. But if they want to immerse gamers into their world – something they’ve touted as their main goal since the beginning – they need to find a way lower the grind and need to really, really look into fixing Ilum.
Star Wars: The Old Republic Warzones
Alderaan Civil War Three nodes scatter the map, each controlling a massive laser turret aimed at the sky. When a turret is captured, it fires at the opposing team’s spawn point, a large spaceship. It’s a cat and mouse game of attack and defend, where communication is the key to victory.
The Voidstar One team must defend the other from planting a bomb on one of two doors. There are three phases of bomb placing/defending; after the third, the attacking team sets the time to beat. The two sides switch and whoever has the fastest time wins.
It’s like a sport, but with killing! A ball is placed in the middle of an arena that is filled with acid pits and fire traps. The goal is to bring the ball to the goal line of the other team’s starting position – first to 6 points or whoever has the most when time runs out wins. If it’s a tie, whoever is holding the ball last is considered the victor. Huttball is also the only warzone in which you can face your own faction as the opposing team. This can make winning all the more special, and losing all the more embarrassing.
A Super Basic Guide to Keybinds
Forget everything you’ve ever known about the buttons you push when you’re playing an MMO! Well, wait, not everything. But try to forget a lot of your old habits. Use whatever works for you, but here are some of the things I do that you could try as a starting point.
– Rebind S to your primary stun. It takes some getting used to, but you should never backpedal in a fight – use strafe instead
– Choose whether you’re going to use A and D as strafe or turn. Don’t have both movement types bound, it’s a waste of buttons
– Bind your medpacs to H
– Bind your secondary bar (energy, rage, whatever) recoverer to R
– Bind your CC breaker to middle mouse
– Bind whatever armor buffs you have to mouse wheel up and mouse wheel down
– Bind your interrupt to ` (tilde)
– Bind the abilities you use most often to Q and E
– Unless you have a large hand, stop binding buttons past 6, T, H, and B going right. But use everything on that entire left side of your keyboard!
When you have a set up you think will be best for you, don’t immediately jump into a warzone. Putz around and kill some mobs or, if you’ve got someone around, duel with another player. Don’t give up if you’re still making mistakes a day or two after, either – it will take some time for your muscle memory to kick in, but when it does, you’ll be a beast. Good luck!
Rudy Basso, an accountant with an English degree, is living proof that your major really doesn’t matter that much. His series Farming Vader will appear here every Friday. You can find more of his writing (and occasional acting) at Cows Come Home.