Star Wars: The Old Republic
When I walked into the small room where EA was demoing Star Wars: The Old Republic's PvP warzones for the first time at Comic-Con, I immediately went for the first computer I saw with a Jedi character. As it turned out, I was one of the few players in the room who had chosen to play on the Republic side. A group of friends who clearly had previous MMO experience had grabbed up all of the Empire spots, leaving me and a few EA reps to battle against them. And we got completely destroyed.
I got to check out the Alderaan Warzone, an instanced PvP match-up where both sides struggle for three turret control points on a snowy field. Players spawn in towers overlooking the battlefield and then ride snow speeders down to the actual conflict. The map is laid out in essentially the most straight-forward way possible -- one turret in the middle, one on the far east of the map, and one on the far west. Players must interact with a turret without being interrupted for about 10 seconds to switch it over to their side.
Upon landing my snow speeder on the battlefield, I bolted for the middle control point and grabbed it. No sooner had it switched over to Republic colors than a small army of Empire opponents showed up to ruin my day. There were no Sith lords on their side -- just a ragtag collection of rogues with blasters and sniper rifles. I leapt in, lightsaber swinging, using a variety of skills including a big Force shockwave and a lengthy combo that locks enemies in place when pulled off correctly. Despite my assumption that a lightsaber would make short work of these guys, I was cut down before I was able to get one of them down to half health.
Upon respawning, I hooked up with one of my Republic cohorts to try to take the east control point, currently the only one still neutral. The teammate I ran with was a tank class, so I got to check out the Old Republic's unique take on PvP tanking. Tank classes can throw a shield onto weaker DPS or healing-focused teammates. As long as that shield is on, a certain portion of damage they take will be pushed onto the tank again, allowing them to do their job even if enemies focus fire on weaker classes.
Another element that sets Old Republic's Warzones apart from PvP in other MMO is the use of power-ups. Tiny holograms litter the battlefield, and when they're active players can run over them to get a boost to speed, health, or attack power. If that sounds like something out of Quake, it's on purpose. The Old Republic dev team took a lot of inspiration from competitive shooters when designing the game's fast-paced PvP.
In the Alderaan Warzone, the Republic and Empire each start with 500 points that slowly tick down at a rate depending on how many control points they own. In the case of the game I played, my team had trouble holding a single point for longer than a few minutes, so it didn't take long for our points to drain entirely.
On the one hand, it's the sign of a correctly-balanced game that a highly-organized team can take down an opposing team that's just winging it, and it's to Old Republic's credit that I had a lot of fun and got a handful of kills despite being dominated. On the hand, I couldn't shake feeling strange as I watched my Jedi slice away at a guy with a blaster over and over again just to knock off a sliver of the opponent's health. In BioWare's efforts to balance the game for PvP, I'm a little concerned that Jedi and Sith characters in Old Republic are losing part of the reason they're so special and beloved by fans in the first place.
Then again, maybe I just suck.
To read more about the Old Republic, check out my E3 preview.