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Combat in The Old Republic

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"Attacking Enemies: To engage enemies in battle, left-click on them to target them. Move into attack range. You will know you are in attack range when one or more of the abilities on your action bar lights up. Then left-click an ability or press the hotkey associated with one of your abilities on the action bar. The action bar is located at the bottom of your screen.

Viewing Abilities: Any time you want to view your abilities, left-click on the Abilities button in the upper part of your screen to open your Abilities panel. To move an ability to your action bar, left-click the ability and drag it to a location on the action bar.

Looting: When you defeat an enemy, its defeated body will glow if it has loot. Right-click your enemy’s defeated body to open its Loot window. Then, right-click on any items in the Loot window to add them to your inventory.

Experience Points: Experience Points (or XP) are acquired by defeating enemies and completing missions. When you have acquired enough XP, you will gain another level. Leveling up allows you to become more powerful, acquire more abilities and take on greater challenges. You must find a trainer to learn new abilities.
"
―In-game Codex (Game Rules)[src]

Combat in The Old Republic is loosely based on KOTOR. However some experienced players draw a closer parallel to Bioware's Dragon Age II. [1]

Comparing Combat Systems

In KOTOR, combat was round-based, with time divided into discrete rounds, and combatants able to attack and react simultaneously. The number of actions a combatant could perform each round was limited. While each round's duration was a fixed interval of real time, the player could constantly reconfigure the combat system by pausing gameplay. [2].

In SWTOR, the KOTOR approach has been modified for use in a multi-player environment, where the concept of pausing in the middle of combat is untenable. Combat seems to balance between a time-intensive, calculations-based, tactical approach on one hand, and a reactions-intensive, controls-based, visceral approach on the other. In the first approach, effective combat hinges on adjusting character actions each round and gathering / equpping items that modify the calculations used for computing hits, damage, etc. In the second method, combat results are still affected by bonuses from equipment and skills, but the player's immediate situational awareness, presence of mind, and fine-motor skills on the keyboard or controller have a major impact. While it has been clarified that there will not be an auto-attack option in the game, it is not clear whether macros and keybinds will be available for user controls. [3]

One of the biggest differences between these two play-styles is the ability to keep a character from taking damage by manually dodging or evading. In the KOTOR games, movement had little effect in combat, especially in contrast to the Jedi Knight series, where a player's ability to recognize and react to enemy attack animations could be a decisive factor in a fight. The Combat Animation team has spent considerable effort in creating a combat system that has a cinematic feel, but that does not lock players into long animation sequences. Taking PVP settings as the high-water mark, the system is designed to stay responsive to the understanding, reflexes, and intuitions of human combatants. All the patient maneuvering and snap judgments that are present in an actual fight were part of the design considerations.[4] The resulting SWTOR tendency towards combat-in-motion has been noted by pre-release players, and this may favor the more dynamic approach; while combat is not a 1:1 fidelity to control inputs (as in some more challenging console games), it does create a more involved dynamic. [5]

Game Features

Cover

The cover mechanic creates a distinctive dynamic in combat encounters. In concrete terms, taking cover gives the character protection while charging up more powerful attacks.[1] Moving quickly between what are essentially immobile suits of armor can drastically change the results of battling with ranged weaponry and Force attacks. In a game that seems to favor mobility, being mindful of cover obstacles, which can trap a character as easily as protect him, is essential.[6]

Resource Systems

Resource systems that enable special combat actions are customized to the various character classes:

Smuggler / Imperial Agent - Energy
starts at 100 energy. Each ability used, uses a certain amount of energy, which is regained at a steady rate.
Jedi Knight / Sith Warrior - Focus / Rage
Basic attacks generate resource points, up to 12, while more powerful attacks consume the accumulated points. After combat, Focus / Rage points slowly deplete to 0.
Jedi Consular / Sith Inquisitor - Force
For the Advanced classes Jedi Sage and Sorcerer, the Force resource is apparently fixed at 500 points. For The Jedi Shadow and Sith Assassin, it is capped at 100, but has an extremely fast regeneration rate.
Trooper / Bounty Hunter - Ammo / Heat
The Trooper starts with 12 ammo points. When reduced to 0, the character must use an ability to reload or disperse accumulated heat (both of which work as a channeled cast). Details about the Heat resource are unclear.

Crowd Control

In general MMORPG terms, crowd control (sometimes abbreviated to CC) refers to the ability to limit the number of MOBs actively fighting during PvE encounters. In PvP settings, it can also refer to abilities that alter how other characters can use their abilities. Crowd control abilities are typically grouped into three broad categories: movement modifiers, action / ability rate modifiers, and forced action modifiers.[7] In SWTOR, all classes have multiple ways of inflicting CC effects during PvE play.

However, in PvP SWTOR has brought in a new system, called Resolve. In PvP, all classes gain a Resolve meter that all other players can see. This bar is located beneath the Health bar. It measures a character's susceptibility to crowd control. When a CC is used, the Resolve meter is filled up a certain amount, with stronger CC effects filling the bar more. Once this green bar is full, the color turns purple and the player is immune to ANY crowd control for a short time.[8] These details require that players make thoughtful use of CCs, rather than relying on lucky shots to stun an opponent or spam broadcast of fear to win a fight.

Casting Times

SWTOR combat appears to emphasize combat-on-the-move; thus, at least some abilities can be activated while in motion.[9] However other skills require cast times or are channeled, requiring a character to remain stationary for certain amount of time.

AOE Attacks

AOE attacks seem fairly sophisticated. Some may inflict varying amounts of damage to the main target and surrounding mobs, while others are focused into areas of a certain shape.

These aspects of AOE attacks prompt a player to actively manage targets and stay on the move, because even at low levels, players may be forced to manage several things in each fight, rather than simply pummelling one enemy for several seconds. For example, if a bounty hunter’s current target had 10% Health remaining, while the AI character next to him still had 60% Health, the tactical decision would be to target the 60% guy before firing a wrist rocket. The splash damage from that attack may be enough to finish off the weakened oppoent. Likewise, the bounty hunter’s flamethrower creates a cone-shaped attack channel; therefore, it is important to position your character well so that the attack hits as many opponents as possible.[10]

Buffs

Every class includes unique Buffs, including group buffs as well as targeted buffs. In most cases, identical buffs do NOT stack. For example, if four Imperial Agents each use their initial group buff (+15% Crit Chance), the bonus is still only +15%, not +60%. However, in a diverse team, with an Agent, a Warrior, an Inquisitor, and a Bounty Hunter, all their buffs will combine.[11]

Jedi Knight - Force Might

Increases the target's melee, ranged, Force and tech bonus damage and healing by 5% for 60 minutes. If the target is a group member, all other group members are also affected.

Jedi Consular - Force Valor

Increases the target's Strength, Aim, Willpower and Cunning by 5% and internal and elemental damage reduction by 10% for 60 minutes. If the target is a group member, all other group members are also affected.

Smuggler - Lucky Shots

Increases the target's critical hit chance by 5% for 60 minutes. If the target is a group member, all other group members are also affected.

Trooper - Fortification

Increases the target's Endurance by 5% for 60 minutes. If the target is a group member, all other group members are also affected.

Sith Warrior - Unnatural Might

Increases the target's melee, ranged, Force and tech bonus damage and healing by 5% for 60 minutes. If the target is a group member, all other group members are also affected.

Sith Inquisitor - Mark of Power

Increases the target's Strength, Aim, Willpower and Cunning by 5% and internal and elemental damage reduction by 10% for 60 minutes. If the target is a group member, all other group members are also affected.

Imperial Agent - Coordination

Increases the target's critical hit chance by 5% for 60 minutes. If the target is a group member, all other group members are also affected.

Bounty Hunter - Hunter's boon 

Increases the target's Endurance by 5% for 60 minutes. If the target is a group member, all other group members are also affected.

Companions

The AI used for companions during combat helps set SWTOR apart from other MMOs. Not surprisingly, the Bioware game 'Mass Effect' is used to describe how companions in SWTOR engage targets. Specifically, they don’t behave as a passive pet, merely adding damage over time; instead, they seem to select weak targets, and consistently disengage from mobs that have been neutralized with crowd control effects. Therefore, instead of babysitting a pet, players get the feeling of working with a competent teammate. This makes it easier to rotate through class skills without pausing to re-direct the companion to prevent him from ending an effect prematurely.[12]

MOBs

MOBs seem to be divided into three levels: Normal, Strong, and Elite. Informal observation during gameplay suggests that normal-level MOBs require 3-4 shots each, not posing much challenge when isolated. In contrast, Strong MOBs are manageable, but in combat with more than one of these opponents, a player will likely need to use cover and healing.[13]

When more than one player is attacking a MOB, the SWTOR system appears to assign the experience points to only one player character. Players who participated in the attack, but who will not receive experience, will see a white highlight on the MOB when it dies. the player who first damages the MOB claims it and gets all the reward unless the player is killed. [14]

PC Death

When a player's character is reduced to 0 Health, the character falls and a dialog box appears, offering the player 2 options for being revived: revived by a medical probe droid or being transported to the nearest medcenter.

The medical probe revives the character in-place. It also initiates a temporary stealth mode, preventing the character from being immediately targeted by MOBs in the area. Each time you select this option, the medical probe takes a longer time to appear. Free to play characters have a limited number of medical probes after Level 10.

The medcenter is typically located near the starting point of the quest or area. This provides a relatively safe place for re-entry to gameplay. The character continues with the gear possessed at the time of death, although with decreased durability, and any active missions are still incomplete. Gear durability may be repaired at the medcenter as well.

There are no direct penalties for using either revival option; however, the natural consequence of allowing your character to be killed is an increased length of time on each mission. This equates to greater expenses to the Durability ratings of your equipment.[14]

PvP Combat

Player vs. player combat, as in warzones, includes some unique elements.

Guarding

The advanced classes Juggernaut, Guardian, PowerTech, Shadow, and Vanguard feature a 'guard' ability that shares defensive abilities with 1 ally. The 'guarded' ally is shown with a blue surrounding aura. This ability also qualifies the guarding character for certain types of post-game rewards. Gold icons overhead note that various medals have been awarded for actions such as guarding, healing, or defending objectives. Accumulating medals during a battle equates to increased rewards at the end of the game.[15]

Capturing

In the warzones Alderaan Civil War & Novare coast the goal is to capture certain pylons or turrets. When the one team captures 2 or More turrets and successfully prevents the other team from capturing the certain turrets, the game is won. 

Tactical Considerations

Commentary from those who have played SWTOR pre-release also offers some insight on the following aspects of combat:

Approaching Encounters

MOBs also display challenging attack patterns. While some MMO’s seem to almost protect players from death, in SWTOR you sometimes have no choice but to engage multiple enemies at once. This means a player can’t casually focus on a single target, calmly pressing a pattern of keys. Instead, players must adapt and think on their feet. From this perspective, having an ironclad hold on enemy attention isn’t nearly as important as maintaining awareness of the field.

The implication of MOB difficulty levels and attack patterns is that players may be well served by a little reconnaissance---highlighting and identifying each MOB before initiating combat with any one of them. Each fight will be unique, discouraging players from simply charging in, weapons blazing. Even at early levels, players should approach each encounter strategically.[16]

Pace of Combat

The high number of MOBs that get involved in many encounters also affects the experience of combat. Where there are multiple things going on all at once, the pace can feel very fast. One danger of this tempo may be that a player gets tunnel-vision concentrated on her status bars rather than the overall situation. When combined with the difficulty of remembering what each skill actually does, it may be especially easy for new players to become overwhelmed, first mentally and then literally on the combat field.[17]

Some of the most apparent tactics for avoiding this may be: - attentive practice at early levels (to get a natural feel for what your abilities can and cannot do) - reconnaissance (scouting out the MOBs before firing at them) - combined fire (coordinating various attack types, as well as using effective teamwork with companions) - maneuver (not getting locked down to a single location)

Tanking

Tanking roles in MMORPGs can be handled in various ways, such as relying on dodging, parrying, or damage absorbtion. In SWTOR, the character classes are all themed, so that combat feels both appropriate for a certain class, as well as different from other classes. From a mechanics perspective, calculations central to preserving Health appear to move along a spectrum between 'avoidance states' and 'mitigation/durability'.[18]

Tank Classes

Jedi Guardian

Jedi Shadow

Vanguard

Sith Juggernaut

Sith Assassin

Powertech

Example of Applied Tactics

Pre-release PvP experience shows how some of these tactical issues play out for Force-using characters.[19] While other classes may not involve Force-based skills, they are likely to include abilities parallel to those mentioned here (i.e., various time delays for effects, CC abilities, more direct combat abilities).

Even the Jedi Consular seems fairly mobile, including a Force-based speed boost. This focus on movement requires thoughtful use of Force powers which range from insta-cast, timed cast (which require the character to stand still initiating the power), and channeled (which require the character to stand still throughout the effects of the power).

Crowd control abilities, such as confounding an enemy--–essentially tying him up and making him unable to perform any actions---were short lived. They cannot be continuously repeated, as with chain-fearing or stun-locking in other MMORPGs. Instead, MOBs are free to attack again after only a few seconds.

The emphasis on Force powers, lightsaber attacks, or tank-ability seems able to be varied according to personal preference. However, often the best results will stem from combining lightsaber attacks with Force powers. For example, intense focus on the most powerful Force skills in sequence does great burst damage, but drains a Consular’s Force resource completely. On the other hand, engaging in a “sustained fire” kind of tactic prevents the character from exhausting all Force power. This perspective on the game again draws attention to the tactical choices that will be involved.

Each attack action in SWTOR is accompanied with a unique animation. This allows players to recognize what actions their enemies are taking.[20] However, it is unclear whether the animations and controls provide enough time for players to take defensive action themselves (such as dodging an attack, as opposed to relying on armor, lightsaber defenses, or cover).

Roles

As player characters and companions group together in combat, each character will generally fulfill a specific role for the group. Understanding the roles allows the group to maximize its effectiveness. This is especially true against difficult targets. If a role is not being fulfilled by a member of the group, it will likely mean that the combat is more difficult than otherwise. In some cases, against difficult elite, champion, or special boss NPCs, it might be nearly impossible to succeed.

Within The Old Republic, each advanced class skill tree is designed to assist the player character in optimizing around a specific role. The role a skill tree targets is listed along the bottom of the skill tree panel, next to the name of that skill tree.

Tank

A character filling this role generally is expected to be able to take the majority of the focus from the target(s). This means the character will likely have lots of health and armor and other abilities to maintain threat from the target and stand up to the attacks.

Damage

Commonly referred to as a DPS role. A character fulfilling this role is expected to be able to deal lots of damage to the target(s).

Healer

This character is responsible for maintaining the health of the group throughout the encounter with the target(s).

Companions

Each of the companion characters that can be acquired througout the player characters story will be able to fulfill one or two roles. You can view the Companion Character articles to assist in understanding their potential roles.

These companion roles are most useful for solo gameplay. Depending on your player characters advanced class, you might benefit in a specific companion during solo combat. You can selectively choose which companion (of the companions your obtained) to join you, especially during your characters personal class quest encounters.

If you are in a group with four or more, companions are automatically dismissed and you will get a dialog box indicating so. However, they can still help you sell items from your inventory as usual.

External Videos

Star Wars The Old Republic TOR - Jedi Knight Lightsaber Combat(02:40)

Sources

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