Unequivocally, my favourite thing in the new patch for The Old Republic is Sprint being available from level 1. No longer do you have to wait until level 14! Now you can move around at an increased speed (when you’re not in combat) as soon as you start!
I admit that might seem a little odd. Patch 1.2 is, after all, a patch that contains a huge number of tweaks and additions. There’s a new Flashpoint, a new Operation, and a new Warzone. Ranked PvP will be in. There’s the usual onslaught of balance tweaks, changes, and fixes. There’s new crafting stuff – which may or may not mean Biochem is no longer essential at level 50 – as well as guild banks, and the interface is finally customisable. You can search the auction house by simply inputting the name of whatever you’re after. Oh, and the Legacy system is finally in.
So yeah, okay, you probably don’t care about poor old Sprint, which is only of interest if you’re below level 15. Fine. I’ll tell you about everything else instead.
Sprint aside, the most interesting things to me aren’t the new bits of content but rather the new bits of functionality. The ability to customise the user interface, for instance, is a very welcome touch, letting you assemble the various bars and readouts to your liking. If you want to arrange things so they’re like World of Warcraft then you can; indeed, one of the default settings does just that. You can move, scale, and tweak things, and it’s reasonably powerful and straightforward to use – at least, once you get over the initial burst of colour.
It’s not, however, going to be enough for everyone. Those who desperately want to be able to reskin the interface, or replace the health and Force/energy/whatever bars by the character portrait with huge vertical bars that take up half of the screen, aren’t going to be at all satisfied. It’s a bit of a halfway solution, I think, and I’m not quite sure how the community will react to it; most of those who want to fiddle with their interface aren’t likely to be happy with the limitations in place, while those who don’t really care… well, they don’t really care.
Still, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a positive step forward. While I haven’t made any major, sweeping adjustments, the ability to tweak the location of things like the target-of-target bar is much appreciated.
It’s nice to finally see the Legacy system doing something, too. You get some bits and bobs when your Legacy hits a certain rank, a few class and race specific goodies when you finish Acts of the class story, and there are a few more that require a certain Legacy level and a certain amount of cash on hand. If you level a character of any given race to 50, for instance, then you’re able to create a character of that race for any class – so yes, you can presumably create a Sith Pureblood Jedi Knight, if you’ve hit the prerequisites.
You can upgrade your ship with a mailbox, a training dummy, a vendor, and an auction house terminal, or reduce the cooldowns for Quick Travel and Emergency Fleet Pass. There’s a lot to acquire, and some of it’s related to companion relationships, alignment, and Social or Valor levels.
If you’re into roleplaying then you can also arrange all of your characters into a neat little family tree. Maybe your Consular is the son of your Knight. Maybe your Smuggler is his sister, and perhaps your Trooper is a long-standing rival. None of this appears to have any impact on the actual game, but it’s one of those little features I actually kinda like.
That said, a lot of the more interesting Legacy options (like getting bonus experience from Warzones or Flashpoints, which will hopefully make levelling alts both faster and more interesting if you want to try to avoid redoing the same quests over and over) are locked away in the “coming soon” tab – noted as being included in 1.3 – and the ones on offer are carefully calibrated so as not to upset the group PvE or PvP balance.
If you’ve finished an Agent’s class quest then all of your characters will be able to unleash an Orbital Strike, but only when accompanied by a companion (so not in group PvE or PvP), and only when a Heroic Moment crops up – a reasonably rare occurrence.
I’m not going to discuss how the crafting or balance changes impact things, because frankly it’s going to take awhile before anyone can make any sweeping declarations about that and I don’t really want to go into heavy theorycrafting. I will, however, quickly talk about the new Warzone – Novare Coast.
The quick and dirty description is that it’s a bit like Alderaan Civil War – a Capture-and-Hold gametype split across three points. In this case, the points are artillery cannons, and they’re hammering into reinforced bunkers. Whoever destroys the enemy bunker first, wins.
But the devil is in the details, because it doesn’t really play like Alderaan Civil War. Unlike every other Warzone, Novare Coast is a wide open map with few natural chokepoints but a fair amount of cover in terms of rocks and trees. You’re fairly free to move through it however you want to, which means that classes with stealth capabilities can easily slink around, while those with an above-average range can do some serious damage. It feels different.
It’s worth noting that the capture mechanics, too, differ from the norm. Capture speed appears to increase depending on the number of players trying to take control of a point at once, and if players stop trying to capture – or are interrupted by foes – then the cannon won’t take so long to capture if they restart a bit later. In other words, having multiple players at a point speeds things along, and even if you’re interrupted you can still take control quickly once you’ve dealt with the interlopers.
That said, you have to control at least two of the three cannons before they start damaging the opponents’ bunker, which means that the faster capture mechanics don’t make for a shorter game, and that it’s entirely possible to wrest a second control point away from your opponents right before you lose, and then desperately try to claw back a win by holding onto both for the rest of the match.
All in all, then, Novare Coast is actually surprisingly different to Alderaan Civil War. In fact, it’s probably my favourite of the game’s four Warzones – although this might well be because it’s new. Still: even those on seriously imbalanced servers will hopefully be seeing this regularly, as Novare Coast will support battles against players of the same faction (as will Void Star, as of patch 1.2).
Taking all of these new elements as a whole, though, I’m not quite sure how patch 1.2 will be received. It’s a definite step forward in a lot of respects; a number of long-standing issues have been resolved, there’s a fair amount of new content for PvP and PvE players alike, and the Legacy system will give players yet more reason to roll alts (which, thanks to Sprint being available earlier, are less annoying to level through the opening planet). Once the Ranked PvP gets going properly with cross-server battles, then PvP will hopefully take on a life of its own and won’t be so much of a problem for those on heavily imbalanced servers.
But everything new comes with a caveat. There’s a new PvP map… but it’s roughly the same type as Alderaan Civil War, rather than a 5-point Capture-and-Hold, or Capture the Flag, or Team Deathmatch, or a more esoteric game mode. The Legacy system is finally up and running… but it doesn’t impact the actual mechanics of the game overmuch, instead mostly adding a layer of (admittedly highly pleasant) fluff rewards. The UI can now be customised… but not to the massive extent that some demanded. It feels like a bit of a “safe” patch, despite the amount of stuff shoved in.
To some extent, though, thinking of it in those terms does the 1.2 patch a bit of a disservice. There’s plenty here for players of every bent, whether you’re levelling, raiding, or doing high-level PvP, and while some will inevitably be dissatisfied it’s still a rather massive patch which adds a hell of a lot of both content and functionality. If nothing else, I think most will agree that the addition of the UI customisation and Legacy system have pushed SWTOR into the state that it perhaps should have been in back at launch.
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