Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Star Wars: TOR Final Beta Update

Well, I have to admit, I feel slightly sheepish. I posted the intial beta impressions article because I thought BioWare was done with the beta process, yet lo and behold I found an email in my inbox this past Thursday notifying me that an additional Beta Weekend event was happening this past weekend. I used the opportunity to try another class out, and also to check out the PVP Warzones for the first time.

The PVP Warzones for SW:TOR are very similar to the Battlegrounds if you are familiar with WOW, and are instanced areas specifically for competitive combat. So far I belive there are at least four different Warzones planned for launch, however I only ended up playing two of them over the weekend, which may be the only two that were active. Civil War takes place on a battlefield that lays out between two dropships that act as a player spawn for each side, with three large cannons laid out across the midfield line that the teams fight for control of. While this is essentially a conquest game mode, the visuals of the massive cannons blasting away at the dropships is pretty cool, and the destruction of the losing team’s dropship at the end of the match makes for a pretty cool ending scene. The other Warzone I played was Huttball. This is essentially single-flag Capture the Flag, with the teams pitted against each-other in a violent, no-holds barred match held for the pleasure of the Hutts. One difference from your standard CTF is the ability to pass the huttball to other members of your team, and in this simple difference another layer of teamwork emerges. Obviously this game type plays better if you are working with a coordinated team as opposed to a team of random players who don’t work together. The Warzones, much like WOW can be entered from anywhere in the game via a PVP queue accesible directly from the HUD. In the beta, all players from 10-50 were grouped into the same Warzone, with a stat-balancing occurring to level the playing field somewhat. It is unclear if this will remain the same in the release version, as this setup still favors the higher level players as they have access to additional abilities that can make a substantial difference in combat. Overall, the PVP Warzones were a ton of fun to play, and while yes, they are similar to WOW, but the polish of the game and the balance between the classes are better than any MMO i have played at launch, and this was a beta!

I used the opportunity of the final test to try out the Jedi Consular class. Initially the class starts as a ranged DPS class, focusing more on force powers than melee (i.e. Mage), but when the opportunites for Advanced classes open up, you can choose between Sage, which can be spec’d for Mage or Healer style, or a hybrid of the two, or the Shadow, which offers a sort of Rogue or Tank style, again with hybrid options as well. I enjoyed the class, although the Jedi starting area of Tython did seem to require more foot travel than the Sith Academy on Korriban, but it was still relatively painless to finish the starting area rather quickly. I personally chose a roguish Shadow setup, and it was a lot of fun both in PVE and PVP. It should be said that the general impression among all the servers that I played on seemed to be that pretty much every class is enjoyable to play, and the balance is pretty even, so it pretty much breaks down to the individual’s choice of playstyle as to the type of character that is best.
I will reiterate, if you enjoy MMO’s, or you are a fan of Star Wars and are at all curious about the game, it is certainly worth the price of admission to check out. Graphically the game is beautiful, and seems to run well even on lower-end systems, and the story lines in the game are excellent, and worth paying attention too. It’s a nice change to get more from the mission-giver than a quick text box that everyone clicks through anyway. The game launches on Dec. 20th, so get to your local retailer or get on and preorder your copy now!

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