NYCC ’11 – Star Wars: The Old Republic Preview

Checking out PvP in a galaxy far, far away. Speeder bikes!

Mike Whiteby Mike White

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Thursday offered a special opportunity for press and fans who had purchased a four day or VIP pass. From 4pm to 7pm the show floor opened up to those groups only. What this meant for myself and the rest of the Crave crew was fewer people to wrestle with at each booth.

I know full well the time it takes to wait for hands-on demos of games at conventions during normal hours. That’s why I took this chance to get some play time in with Star Wars: The Old Republic. At PAX East this spring, I was able to play for about 45 minutes through a mid-level flashpoint along side a five-player party. At Comic Con, the SWTOR developers have a different experience waiting for us.

Fans are asked as they wait in line which part of the game they’d most like to test, PvP or PvE. If you are more of the PvE type, you have the option to create any character class and start at level 1 through the initial phase of the game. For the brave souls who chose PvP combat, you are shuffled into rows of computers with pre-loaded level 14 characters ready for you to control. BioWare is showing off two PvP maps at this years Comic Con in the form of Alderaan (a control point based map) and the intriguing Hutt Ball (a competitive form of space football with blasters and force powers).

Having already dabbled in PvE content, I jumped at the chance to compete with other players. Our group settled into our computer stations and were informed that we’d be testing out the Alderaan map. My computer was loaded up with a Sith Assassin, a double-sided light saber wielding melee warrior. Even at level 14, there were enough skills unlocked to fill up the better part of two 12-slot action bars.

Fortunately, BioWare had the presence of mind to arrange said skills by basic attack, control skill, ranged attacks and buffs and debuffs.

Once all of us had the chance to look over our abilities, the map loaded up and we waited for the signal to start. Each factions starting area sat high atop the actual battle zone and spawned a number of speeder bikes. Clicking on the awesome speeder bikes mounted your character on them and sent you flying down towards the map below.

This was a nice little feature and only got better when I found out that dying did not cause you to have a respawn timer. Instead, your only delay to returning to the action was the time it took to ride the speeder bikes back from your starting area.

For most of the 15 minutes, I stayed near the middle of three capture points hoping to see as much action as possible. This part of the map included a multi level structure which not only offered a strategic view of the battle field but some clever offensive and defensive options for using the terrain.

Each player, no matter what class, appeared to have a variety of simple damage and/or healing spells at their disposal, as well as abilities such as snares, stuns and immobilizing spells to control their opponents. This meant that every player was a threat. Luckily, it seemed that all of us were unfamiliar with the breadth of skills laid out in front of us, placing us essentially on the same level. The combat is fast-paced enough without feeling too chaotic.

I will do my best to find more time to play the different classes and maps offered up this weekend as well as checking out one of the panels featuring the new Star Wars MMO. Check back with us this weekend to keep up with everything we see on the show floor!