18 June 2013

SW:TOR // Warzones

Star Wars: The Old Republic currently has five Warzones (instanced PvP battlegrounds) available: Novare Coast, Alderaan, The Ancient Hypergate, Huttball and Voidstar. I rather enjoy the first three and utterly dislike the latter two so much that I am always on the verge instantly leaving when I see the loading screen.

Please bear in mind that the following account pertains solely to my experiences advancing the Republic’s war effort below the level cap as I may have only ever once participated on the Imperial Side. In addition, my first-hand PvP knowledge is limited to two healing Advanced Classes, namely the Jedi Sage and the Scoundrel. Moreover, this is the perspective of a solo player operating without the support of pre-made teams. I would like to recommend reading this post by Shintar if one desires a more in-depth view into SW:TOR’s PvP content, particularly at the level cap and concerning the adjusted “Bolster” mechanic.

Success in Warzones can only be achieved by focusing on the objectives, not by randomly killing as many enemy players as possible. That should not indicate, however, that the latter is in any way prohibited by the former. Things normally go best when the leader declares a common (and sensible) strategy during the preparation phase which in turn everybody follows. Unfortunately, in most cases that is wishful thinking. Either people openly or privately disagree and follow a different, yet not disclosed, battle plan or they are completely new and lost or they have a different motivation all together and get their kick by “pwing some nubs” one on one. This will most certainly result in a terrible defeat which then again does not really matter because SW:TOR (such as WoW), of course, rewards losing and playing badly.

I have participated in a considerable amount of Warzones by now and I can count the number of times that a Tank was guarding me on one hand. I usually announce that I am a Healer during the preparation phase of every match. It seems that Tanks are either guarding their personal friends and/or guild members (fine by me) or simply cannot be bothered. Talk about lowering the odds right from the start. Usually though, most players follow their own (aforementioned) agenda and their primary goal is killing as many enemy players as possible, regardless of the overall outcome. Afterwards they are happily complaining that “pubs suck” because “we lost again”. Unbelievable!


(1) Novare Coast

My favourite Warzone is Novare Coast where the objective is to take (and keep) control over at least two (of three) mortar emplacements. Once capped, they will begin attacking the enemy base. A very successful strategy lies in capping the western emplacement fast and keeping it controlled. This is best achieved by any Jedi Consular due to Force Speed. The rest of the team should relentlessly focus its entire attack on the southern emplacement. As soon as both emplacements are safe, five players should remain at the southern one, while one additional player is deployed to the western emplacement (ideally a Healer and a Tank or a strong DPS are now on guard duty). Just standing there and doing nothing for the remainder of the match can easily become boring but it is still vital to keep that emplacement safe. Depending on the attack patterns of the enemy, one or two additional helpers need to move across the battlefield from time to time fighting off approaching enemies. Following this method will usually yield very successful results, a landslide victory with the home base remaining undamaged.

However, when no strategy is declared in the beginning and people just run around aimlessly, all the while only serving as cannon fodder for the enemy, things will suddenly look very bleak indeed. I distinctly remember one occasion where I was defending the western emplacement on my Jedi Sage and another player kept accusing me of doing nothing but standing there and “afk-farming” medals. He simply could not understand that the key to victory in Novare Coast is to keep the western emplacement safe at all times (always!). Losing “west” for a prolonged period means almost inevitably defeat. So be smart: keep “west” safe, even if it is boring or other people are yelling at you to do something else.


(2) Alderaan

Another Warzone I greatly enjoy is Alderaan Civil War which is very similar to Novare Coast in terms of objectives. They only differ in name (turrets instead of emplacements and troop transport ships instead of beachheads) and in the layout of the map. The strategy, of course, is similar as well: cap two turrets and defend. What happens, however, is that usually everyone storms the central turret like headless chickens while the enemy is capping the eastern and western turrets. Lately, it seems that the Empire has completely given up on the middle as I have noticed several times groups of four capping the outer turrets (grass and snow). Good luck defending against that onslaught on your own.

The typical Warzone match then goes something like this: at least 7 Republic players storm the middle and maybe 1 (lucky) sod heads to the western turret (grass) in hopes of capping it. Meanwhile the Empire has split up into two teams of 4 each moving forward east (snow) and west (grass). They can then easily cap those and just need to defend them in order to assure almost certain victory. Usually it takes some time before the 7 Republic players, who are vehemently defending the empty middle against nobody, are becoming aware of what has transpired. I cannot remember ever winning this Warzone and any attempt to convince the group of the alternate (Imperial) strategy in the preparation phase is futile at best.


(3) The Ancient Hypergate

This Warzone is quite literally the middle-ground for me as I am neither overly fond of it nor do I detest with all my heart. I must say that I cannot provide a surefire winning strategy even though this is the one Warzone I win most of the time. Whenever I see the loading the screen, I instantly think “hooray, another victory”. Since I basically have no clue what to do there other than healing people and collecting orbs and dropping those at our pylon, it must be that my team mates are usually very strong and competent. Why only in this Warzone though? I have noticed that most victories follow a similar pattern: the entire group ventures towards the central complex where we collect orbs and defeat enemies. At some point, shortly before the timer reaches a critical phase someone, somehow captures both pylons and our meter goes up. Do that two maybe three times and the Warzone ends with a congratulatory victory screen.

I do apologize if my account of this particular Warzone does seem rather lacklustre. Maybe someone can enlighten me as to the finer details.


(4) Huttball

A very controversial Warzone, Huttball, puts two teams against each other in a match of the dangerous new sport that has captured the hearts and minds of the people on the Smuggler’s Moon of Nar Shaddaa. The goal here is simple enough: grab the ball, throw the ball and get the ball over the opposing team’s line anyway you can and your team gets a point. The tournament area, however, is not without hazards and careless players will suddenly find themselves swimming in pools of acid and catching on fire.

There is one technical reason and one gameplay reason why I seriously dislike this Warzone: from a very practical point of view, and even though my machine exceeds even recommended specifications to play the game by far, this Warzone is very taxing on my performance. My frame rates are usually at the lowest in “The Pit”, sometimes as low as 4. That is simply very exasperating, especially in a PvP environment. I honestly cannot say why that is and I plan on writing a detailed post about the technical horrors that have befallen SW:TOR at some point in the future. Suffice to say, I cannot enjoy the game if it does not run smoothly.

From the viewpoint of actual gameplay, i.e. objectives, and in comparison to all other Warzones, Huttball, requires the most cooperation among the individual team members. That can be quite an enormous problem when playing with a random group that did not agree on a strategy beforehand. This is exacerbated by the constant need to look around in order to detect people on the ledges and coupled with the aforementioned technical constraints makes for a very frustrating experience.


(5) Voidstar

The final Warzone, the Voidstar, is a derelict Imperial Battle Cruiser believed to contain the schematics to a powerful weapon and both the Empire and the Republic are racing to take control of the vessel and access the secrets stored in its memory banks. My criticism of this particular Warzone can be summed up by one word: boring. Admittedly, it is the most “action-packed” Warzone with nearly constant fighting and hardly any “downtime” but it is also not very elaborately designed. One team has to breach through doors that the other team is guarding. B O R I N G! Also, the sound that plays when the doors are finally breached is more than annoying!

As far as I can see, the easiest strategy for the attackers is for all players to focus their attacks on one side, thereby overwhelming any resistance. Should the enemy team manage to fight back, a single stealth class can sneak over to the other door and place the detonator charge without the enemy being any wiser. The defenders can split their group evenly and try to hold off the attacker’s approach. Normally, they do not all attack the same door at the same time.

Regarding victory conditions, I must admit that I honestly do not know how the game calculates each team’s progress. There is a timer and once it has run out someone is declared the winner. That is all I can make of it so far. I would gladly hear some insights as to how exactly this works.


Generally, I can say that, much to my own surprise, I actually enjoy PvP in SW:TOR. I would never have thought this possible. But the daily mission coupled with the fact that Warzones reward players with both XP and credits really make them a viable alternative to planetary questing which is why I became interested in them in the first place. Additionally, the low level PvP vendors – who can now be found on each faction’s capital world – do sell some very decent looking pieces of armour. Now if only people were starting to actually defend their Healers all would be good.

3 comments:

  1. Hoo boy, can't ever remember winning Alderaan Civil War? Hehe, that makes me want to write about my own experiences with each warzone.

    One difference between Novare and Alderaan which you forgot to mention (and which makes it my favourite too) is that the turrets only do damage while you hold two of them, meaning that you can completely turn the game around at any point, unlike Alderaan, where the game is usually "as good as lost" at a certain point as the team in the lead will win even with just one turret.

    Hypergates: You accumulate points for capturing a pylon, retrieving orbs and killing people, but they don't actually get added to your tally until the pylons discharge. If you don't hold a pylon at that time, you get no points at all. Basically, if your team dominates in direct combat, it's fine for both teams to hold one pylon each and you'll still win on kills. Otherwise you need to steal the enemy pylon shortly before a discharge to double your points and deny them theirs. It's worth noting that the pylon cap time is very short at only six seconds, making single defenders very vulnerable to stealth caps.

    As for Voidstar, progress is counted by how many obstacles you get past (door, bridge, door, force field, door, data core). Whoever gets further, wins, and if both teams make it to the same point, the team with more kills wins.

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    1. Thanks for clearing up any misconceptions I may have had so far, especially regarding The Ancient Hypergate and Voidstar. Your point about not explicitly mentioning certain mechanics in Novare Coast is well taken.

      You seem to be very engaged in virtually every kind of group activity in SW:TOR. Is there ever a time when you participate in random group content on your own, i.e. without friends or guildies?

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    2. Yeah, I sometimes do warzones on my own, and the occasional flashpoint with a pug.

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