MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic has been churning along pretty well since its launch late in December of last year. Developer BioWare is now preparing to release update 1.2 for the game, which will add a rather significant amount of content.
One of the features arriving in SW:TOR with the 1.2 update is the Novare Coast warzone, a team-based PvP area. During PAX East this weekend, I had a chance to try the new warzone for myself.
I hadn't played The Old Republic since the beta, where I had a go at being a smuggler. Finding myself dropped into a 7v7 capture-the-flag style PvP battle was a bit of a shocking way to become reacquainted with it. I don't always like PvP gameplay and I don't adore the Star Wars universe as much as I did a decade ago, so I was prepared to force myself through the warzone gameplay. Happily, I found it to be well done and I enjoyed myself tremendously.
The first round I played was, well, embarrassing. My entire team was slaughtered repeatedly and barely held on to any of the three bases for more than 30 seconds at a time. But in the second round, we all began to get a feel for the experience, and though we still lost, at least we lost with dignity, and I walked away with some strong impressions.
In the new warzone, there are three turret bases for which Republic and Imperial forces vie to control. Whoever controls two out of three when time is up wins — straightforward, and compelling. What I enjoyed most was how the layout of the terrain and the placement of the bases heavily encouraged the use of strategic, tactical thinking. While you could run your guys straight into their guys (the tactic that got us slaughtered repeatedly in the first round), the hills and architecture provide a great deal of opportunity for flanking and creative manoeuvres. The gameplay is as chaotic as anyone might expect of a zone that has more than a dozen blaster- and lightsaber-armed players in it but, importantly, it never becomes too frenetic to follow.
In addition to the warzone, the other big part of the game update is a detailed Legacy system. The legacy system lets players map out and codify the complex web of relationships that can develop when players create characters in an RPG. It also creates small bonuses from those relationships — families, after all, teach each other things — and encourages players to move through the story with multiple characters.
Update 1.2 will also add full UI customisation, a new Flashpoint (raid zone), and the massive slew of bug fixes and tiny tweaks that always come with any large MMO update. Massively reports that the update will be released this week; when I visited The Old Republic's booth, the only guaranteed time I was told was "this month". Either way, players should be able to dive into the new content soon.