Enemies have been vanquished, cruisers conquered and worlds destroyed. Now its time to turn on each other as BioWare issue a PvP edict as the Republic/Empire war gets personal.
Read our impressions of Old Republic's main campaign right here.
Here's the part of the extended two-day Star Wars event hosted by BioWare and EA that we couldn't tell you about. Breaking up our trawl through The opening hours of Old Republic's main campaign was a brief and bracing burst of PvP action.
We'd already had a glimpse of player interaction with the epic Flashpoint sequence that saw us storm a Republic cruiser, one of many that'll score the main game like Stormtrooper blast patterns, but come the opening of the second day we're thrust back on to multiple character select screen and told to pick the one we couldn't touch previously: a Level 20 Vanguard. We're then plunged into a PvP Warzone, as we're given an overview of the situation.
The 'Zones are carefully constructed arenas that, much like the Flashpoints, offer an interactive cinematic moments reminiscent of the two trilogies, big on bluster and blasters. Each class, be it Bounty Hunter Merc or Sith Bodyguard, has a role to play in the battlefield. Vanguards, we're told, are the tanks of the Star Wars MMO universe, offering protection to allies with abilities like 50% defensive buff casts, while soaking up damage so others can get on with the job of, you know, winning the war and stealing the glory.
This is an ad:
Or the Badges, in this case. The developer is offering a neat nod to the popularity of collectable awards seen in the likes of Call of Duty in the multiplayer scene, and may be another concession to the wider audience it hopes to draw in to the MMO galaxy with the brand name. Awards of merit will build and roll into future matches, issuing you privileges and working towards your PvP progression system.
Collected Valor tokens will grant you unique gear and weaponry - not to mention the ability to show off to allies and foes alike - while those with the largest collection will reap in the benefit of being chosen as Group Leader. Post-match you can vote for an ally to receive a commendation for their role in the battle. However, detailed perusal of the wealth of awards will have to wait, as we're stuck straight into our first Warzone.
This is an ad:
Today's pitched squabble between Sith and Alliance takes place on Alderaan and in the shadow of three huge defensive turrets, control of which serve as capture points for the war's length. Big though the trio are, they're dwarfed by the outlying spaceships which hover over the land, which serve as base and objective both. The setup is simple enough; gain control of the turrets to fire on the opposing side's craft until its blown out of the sky. Lengthy energy bars on each mean its whoever holds the majority ground the longest will ultimately win.
When the match starts, or when you snuff it, it'll be in the landing bays of these titans that you'll begin. The battlefield is only a speeder bike ride away, with the automated flight soaring you around the structures below to give you a panoramic view of the landscape. It's what you'd expect from the game and setup, wide open areas dotted through with cover, and whose structures lack in any great detail, the bland blues only giving way to eye-catching beauty come the curved cannons of each turret. Still, aside from the automated commute your eyes will unlikely ascend heavenward, and instead be stuck on whatever danger is being cast by the enemy at any given moment.
The turrets are stationed in a straight line, left, middle and right of the map. Access to the central's control terminal is situated within a circular room with little cover, and with wide open access points to the north and south. Two small staircases to the left and right of the room lead you through tight corridors before spilling out into the open ground in front of the other turrets.
We talked previously how the game immediately becomes more appealing due to the licence, and there's definitely a sphincter-tightening moment when you hear that iconic buzz of a lightsaber and spot a whole group of them charging over the horizon and aiming solely for you.
Sith and Jedi alike are obviously the fastest movers in the game, and the Empire's best gain extra respect points with their wide-ranging Force Lightning which incapacitates any caught within its range, leaving others in the group to flow in with close-ranged attack barrages. While there's a much-needed balance chalked up through other Classes longer range and defensive tactics, the small crew of Sith prove to be the most dangerous element in the series of matches over the course of that morning.
Such is the ferocity of the fighting, over such a short space of time, and limited as we are to the one level, its hard to draw a concrete overview of how the PvP content impacts the The Old Republic as a whole. There's no denying the brief surge of pride that comes from disparate allies utilising speciality attacks strategically to take out a few desperate defenders of one turret base, or perusing the post-match stats in the hope for seeing we've made a better effort in team-based play.
While understandably separate from the main campaign, Warzones could offer players a chance to etch out group successes in the Star Wars universe without the need of encroaching on their enjoyment or story choices of the narratively-rich main campaign. Side quest or endgame in itself - an conclusive answer is yet to be decided.