Tales From the Backlog: Multiplayer Brawling in The Old Republic

I prefaced my time in The Old Republic writing about storytelling.  Decisions, consequences, feeling like my character’s actions carried some weight within the game world: that sort of thing.  It’s a very solo-focused mentality, and it seemed important to establish up front that my interest in this game sprung almost entirely from people talking about how well Bioware was able to cater to MMO apathetics like me.  My goal was to put that to the test, knowing I had absolutely no interest in engaging with the multiplayer community.

This is the entry I never thought I’d write.

It was an accident, really.  Vendors in The Old Republic only sell specific items, but they’ll buy or repair anything.  I was in one of Carrick Station’s market sectors on some task or other, and the clerk I wandered up to just happened to be manning the PvP Armor shop.

The boots caught my eye first.  They were ranked orange.  In Diablo II terms, that’s better than ultra-rare purple-ranked gear.  Orange meant boots were customizable, socketed to accept powerful upgrades and become the best footwear for my level.  For any level, really, since mods can be upgraded to even better ones for a pittance.  Functionally speaking, orange items never go out of style.

Aesthetically?  That’s a different issue.  Anyone who’s suffered the indignity of putting one those absurd conehead caps on their Dragon Age mages knows the sacrifices videogame saviors are sometimes required to make.  Most of my time in The Old Republic was spent in colorfully plated pants and a silly long-sleeved white canvas photographer’s jacket solely because they had such good stats.  Dying was extra humiliating because I’d always imagine the Imperial Instigators would steal the lunch money off my corpse.

The PvP armor vendor had the first thematically complete sets of armor I’d seen in the game: a polished gunmetal grey bucket-to-boots ensemble that snarled, “Drop your weapons; you have twenty seconds to comply.”  Nice.  Tailor made for a decorated Republic commando, and all it required was for me to reach Level 40…and turn in a bundle of multiplayer combat commendations.

Touché, Bioware.  That armor will be mine.

“Warzone” team matches come in three different flavors.  There’s a Conquest-style map where one side tries to prevent the other from planting bombs to breach a series of barricades until they switch roles.  “Alderaan Civil War” is won by whichever team can keep control of the most control points on the map, while “Huttball” is a bit like a rugby game in which people whack each other with lightsabers.  You can queue up for a Warzone match from anywhere in the galaxy at any time, and the game will courteously drop you right back from where you left when the match is over.

And they’re awesome.  My solitary adventures had left me almost completely unexposed to the other classes in the game, so teaming up with a bunch of jedi and rogues against a team of sith and bounty hunters introduced me to all sorts of powers I’d known nothing about.  People drop personal barricades, immobilize targets with arcs of violet lightning, knock aside incoming blaster fire with their blades, and whip out cables to reel in enemies from a hundred yards away.  The classes dovetail really well, too, allowing two or three characters of different disciplines to accomplish amazing things.  I spent one match alongside a jedi guardian whose shielding ability allowed me the luxury of dumping vast quantities of laser fire into the enemies trying to duel him.

I’ve also learned just how satisfying it is to cut down a high-level saber-jockey with nothing but a good assault cannon and a handful of clever gadgets.  A concussive blast here, cryo-grenade there, and the liberal application of highly-charged energy bolts can decide a good share of close encounters.  Who needs midichlorians when you can requisition the right kit?

The Warzone matches in The Old Republic are exactly the sort of optional content I like best.  They’re fast, fun, and convenient, totally unnecessary to enjoy the main story quests, but rife with rewards for the people who try them.  Even a couple matches will net enough commendations to pick up a cool item or two.  My sights were set on the entire line of Centurion commando armor which was easily doable with just one game a day while I worked towards Level 40.  Bioware knew exactly the incentive a player like me needed to try out their competitive content, and they pulled it off masterfully.

Because I’m still playing Warzone matches.  Turns out they’re even more fun in my shiny new armor.


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