Friday, 29 April 2011

SWTOUR Part 2 Combat & Gameplay

This segment, will not be filled with weapon and armor stats, as these are in constant flux, and as such, they change on almost a daily basis.

What I will try to do, is give you an insight of how the combat feels, and plays out. For the next few moments, I would like to place you in my shoes and I hope I can relay the feeling that I had at that time, with this very extended hands on time with TOR.

At level one, you have two main combat ability's. One of a single target attack, and the other is an AOE ability.
You also have an out of combat heal, which also lowered the heat you generated by using the Bounty Hunters weapons. This was a channelled ability, around 10 seconds to fully heal and get rid of that heat that you built up.
Another skill was in place to dispel heat, that you could use in combat. Though this did not fully remove all heat you gained, it did give you around 25% reduction. This would allow you at this level to gain another AOE. This was an instant cast, and had around 1 min cool down.

You also get a Recall button, this would take you to one of the many bind points in the world, this was on a 30 min timer.

None of these skills are far removed from the many other mmo's that I have played before. The names may have changed, but in all essence, they did what you would expect from any other game in the gene. They just felt right for the class that I was now playing, in this case the BH.

The key set up was also like other mmo's. Though at this early stage, the lack of an in-game macro system, my primary source spamming skills, was absent. No key binding that I could find, to change from the normal number keys, that assigned skills to the main skill bar. 
The queue system for skills, was also missing from the build we played. So you have to wait for a skill to finish on the global cool down, to activate you next skill.

As you would expect, I spent the early levels, bashing out a steady rhythm on my keys, that Mozart would of been proud of.

The first ten minutes, felt a little off. This may be due to the fact that, that I've spent my days, up until this point in another mmo. Or it could boil down to that the zoom out function, just did not cut it. But after not too long, it felt like I've played this game for weeks.    

Now I started my game play, like every other mmo, I have played in the past. One target at a time.
But it soon became evident, that this was getting me nowhere fast.
You have to remember that, SWTOR was designed for you to take on 3 or 4 mob's at the same time, and the sooner you adapt to this fact. The faster you progress, and your enjoyment of the game increases tenfold.

Most everything from the early levels comes in groups of 3 or 4. The best way I found on the day, was to take my AOE, the wrist rocket, pepper each of the mobs in turn.
The AOE on the BH, did good damage to the targeted mob, then around 20-25% of that damage was spread to the others that where in close proximity.
This kind of tactic worked out perfectly for groups that stayed together. By the time you got off 3 AOE's, you could take each out with your main single target shot, in 1 flurry.

But as you get a short way in, and you getting used to ploughing trough, wave after wave of mob's. They change up a gear.

One of the most channelling aspects of the game come when you have ranged mobs, mixed with a melee. Now I did my normal thing up to this point, start the combat with an AOE. Then low and behold, 1 mob runs at me with a melee weapon, another stays at range. The 3rd now runs and takes cover.
My tactics to this point, became null and void. I still gave each mob an AOE, but this only took half the HP from there bars.

So now I'm running and gunning. Bringing this melee class with me to the ranged class, 3 AOE's, heat bar was now full. Then 2-3 single target shots per target, is was what it took to take these suckers out.
Using your normal single target skill, diminishes heat, this gave me just enough to cast another AOE, on the 3rd mob that had just taken cover.
One click on my instant cast heat remove ability, gained me again another AOE. By far the highest damage skill I had at the time. Then one final single shot to take out the last target.

This was the first time I came really close to death. The channelled heal and heat skill, was now a must use, after each and every encounter.
I would of like this skill at this point to be instant cast, but playing this world solo, you have to expect to progress slower, than those that grouped at this stage. So it is what it is.

As far as I know, and the classes I played in the event. Every level you gain, you earned a new skill and/or an upgrade to an already existing skill. So do expect to take many a trip to your class trainer.
You will also find these have a very similar look and feel to other mmo's.

agro range set up for the many mobs. Trying to take on 6 at a time at this stage, in solo play. Will always end up with you dying is so many nasty ways.

Upon death, you re-spawn at a point that is close to you. You do not loose gear, and as far as I could tell you did not take a hit on your exp that you have gained.
What it did was, take you out of the action, on what ever quest you happen to be on, you gain around 50% of you HP back. Which you better heal before starting back, as this will get you back to the very place you just came from. You do re-gen HP over time, and your heat, in this case does slowly drop. But nothing in the way that could be considered effective in normal game-play terms.

Getting back to your quest point, brought on a whole set of new challenges. Unlike most games you can't take a path, that would allow you to missed whole host of mobs.
They little every part of the map, and criss-cross every road you happen to stumble across.

This is where the taxi system is now a great help. For you can be shoot past a great host of nastiness that stands between you and your target area. To unlock these points is simple. An icon on you mini map shows each taxi way-point, right clicking on the npc (droids in this case) this unlocks this location for later use.

The size of the starter world is a thing to behold. These are some of the smallest world you can encounter, so we were told. But these places are massive compared to others that I have played, in other games.
This starter area, in Rift terms, is about the same size as two normal game zones.
I expressed this to Stephen Reid, who calmly said these are tiny to those on other planets you will find.  

I was level 3, when I came across my 1st Vendor/Trainer  area. 
This is were I found the Flame Thrower ability. At this low noob stage, it's not really effective, as far as your DPS goes. Never the less, it was sure fun to use. I'm not sure why, but there is something about, flames and npc's, and the connection to faces, that gives me that warm fuzzy feeling. 
I hear later on, that the flame thrower skill have a full tree dedicated to its use. Though at this level, it was more a case of me saying, "Yeah I Know, I'm A Bad-Ass" and little more.

This area also has a small number of crafting benches, not the kind would would expect from say the crew skill would be using. They are more attuned to socketing some kind of upgrade, as far as I could see each item had one available socket to be filled. 
I distinctly remember something about colour crystals, when I plugged into one dedicated to my weapons. 

The more skills you unlock, the better the combat feels. You find it quite easy to start getting into a rotation going. With the mobs grouped to together or other wise. 

At no point did I feel that the classes I played over the weekend were all powerful. Just the opposite in fact. Almost every encounter, finished with me using the channelled heal skill. 
I guess when you play in a group, you could get a nice run going, and only feel the need to heal up, after a wave of 3-4 such encounters.    

I would like to say the combat is ground braking, but it is no such thing. It does however feel right for the IP, and you do get a sense, that great things are just around the corner.
It's a very hard thing to try to predict, how combat and a class feels in these most tender of moments at lower levels. 
What I can say, is this, as an mmo, will have you in combat more that anything else you have played to-date. It takes you to a sweet spot, that falls between mmo, and shooter. 

This is were the cut scenes are a welcome brake in you quest lines. You tend to have a more forward thinking approach, to the way you enter a combat situation. You are forever checking what is around you, and where a group of mobs that are close by, to see if they could come into combat rage with you. Picking you moment to strike, or hold off till the added danger has moved on, is an important step to staying alive. 

As for the auto facing, its really no big deal. You can not shoot anything that's behind you, I tried, and it does not work. I just pulled 6 mobs, and I knew if I didn't bolt fast, I would be deaded real soon.  I tried to weave my way along, hoping I could take 1 or 2 targets out before my incoming death took place. Apart from an odd shot, that I had to take a quarter turn to achieve, I only managed to shoot a couple of times.

And Darn do these this follow you. I ran off for what seemed an age. Trying my best not to pull more agro along the way, yet to no avail. By the time they were breathing down my neck, I have around 12 mobs all gun happy for my blood.
I hid behind a large tree, hoping they would forget about me, but being combat locked I did not have the use of my out of combat heal. So I kind of tried to make a brake for it, on 10% HP. Well I will say this did not end well for me, and again I was kissing dirt. 

Somewhere around level 7-8, I gain my first and only companion on this run, Mako. 
Not need for any panic buttons on these. There is atm a very simple control system in place, than many a player will instantly recognise. 

Passive mode, Combat or Aggressive mode. You can also turn heals on of off. I guess there is a little improvement in DPS when no heals are in use, but at this point its negligible. 
The heals used come in the way  of H.O.T.S, they do make you feel a little more powerful, but truth be told at this level, they will only prolong death not defeat it. 

She has as her disposal a single target ranged shot, and a stun effect, with I think was an AOE. This skill triggered randomly, so I did not notice its effect greatly. 
The added DPS though is very welcome, and now I would get through these quest chains a little faster. Even though my opponents had also upped there game. 

After around 20 min's or so, I kind of forgot she was there. She skipped in and out of view, such was the extent of the zoom function I mentioned earlier. I did notice you could take a lot of damage though. The damage output was by no means great, but anything that kept added damage from me, was also welcome, as by now, every fight I had a real chance of dying.

I also got an hour on the Trooper, my intended main when TOR hits. It felt somewhat the same in combat as the BH does. The same 2 kind of skills at level 1.
I did not make great headway on this class. But as far as the story goes, its way off that of the bad-ass BH.

Two classes, with a totally different conduct code, is quite compelling to play. One set on self glory the other a shinning example, to his team.

Not that the Trooper got everything his own way, early on in the game, there is a very evident, confrontation brewing, between you, the best of the best. And a somewhat stuck up officer, that does not like you, and would like nothing more than see you fail, and send you off packing.

Such was my dislike to this one NPC, I started to think of nothing more than, me and him in a room and no way out. Maybe this would, for a short time at least, shut this failed, combat shy, office roaming pain in the neck up. And he was not even human!
Oh I can feel a nerd rage coming on.

But like I said, from what I got to play of them both, you can see why they are intended mirrors of each other. The Flame Thrower was replaced with a Stock Strike. The same single target attack and one AOE. Different name maybe, but in all essence the same skills.

What makes both these classes compelling to play, is not the skills. It's the story. Both are coming from a totally different prospective, and the place then end up, are worlds apart. So you do over look what they have in common, to that of what sets them apart.

The story is so woven into everything, it hard to see where the combat ends and the story starts. I would say that group play would be more rewarding, and a vastly quicker way to get levels are you progress though the game.
But you can just do as I did on this weekend, and solo your way along. Quite happy that you are doing things they way you want to. Then you have no one to blame but yourself.

All in all, the combat is what I expected it to be. Quick, steady and lots of it. You are not going to have the feeling, at least on those classes I played, to feel all powerful. You'll die LOTS.
Passing the story element's in this game, would only detract from what BioWare have placed before you.

But if you did, in that mad rush to get to end-game, it will still an enjoyable playing experience.

It's better than most I've played, and on par with the best. But for those looking for the next big leap forward in combat mechanics, you'll need to wait a little longer, because TOR's combat ain't it.

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