This guide is intended for players who are new to PvP in general, especially to PvP in SWTOR.
If you are an experienced PvPer from other MMORPGs, this guide will only have minimal value for you, if any.
In SWTOR, PvP has two forms: Open World PvP, and War Zones. This guide is being written when open world PvP is virtually non-existent in the game (March 2012, as of Update 1.1.5) so will focus solely on War Zones. I will update it later should open world PvP become embraced by Bioware.
Note: this guide is not intended as a Strategy Guide. It is more of an Instructional Guide on the mechanics of PvP in SWTOR. It is not designed to teach you how to be "good", its designed to each you how PvP works, nothing more.
PvP stands for "Player vs. Player" combat, where players fight other players.
PvE stands for "Player vs. Environment" combat, where players fight computer controlled enemies in Quests, Flashpoints, and Operations.
DPS stands for "Damage Per Second", but has generally been used to define a class or ability which primarily deals damage.
CC stands for "Crowd Control", and generally refers to any skill or talent which can stun, slow, pull, push, mez or root an opponent.
Mez stands for "Mesmerize", and means "Stun which breaks on damage".
Root stands for an ability which stops your movement but you can still fight.
Bolster is a buff you receive in the 10-49 warzones, which raises your character in power as if they were level 49, but does not grant any new abilities. Does not apply to level 50 warzones.
Overview of PvP
PvP combat is dramatically different from PvE. PvP is far more dynamic and unpredictable than PvE, and requires a much higher level of skill, reflexes, and critical thinking ability. This means PvP is not for everyone, and not everyone can or will excel at PvP, even if they are great players in PvE. This is not meant as an insult to anyone, it is simply a fact of online gaming. The best advice I can give is to have fun, but understand that different players define "fun" in different ways, and to a lot of PvP-oriented players, "fun" means winning, not just playing. In general, experienced PvP players will have high, sometimes unrealistically high, expectations of their team mates. You should have a thick skin if you intend to PvP in any online game, even in SWTOR.
Obviously, the key aspect of PvP is the actual fighting that occurs between you and other players. Unlike PvE, where the enemy is generally weaker than you for the most part, PvP has no such balance. There are generally a few types, or categories, of characters you can play and encounter, listed below.
- DPS: a DPS class has but one purpose: deal damage. Not every DPS class is the same, however. Every Basic Class in SWTOR has an Advanced Class option which specializes in DPS. Some Advanced Classes are designed solely as DPS classes, while all the others have options in their skill trees to specialize in DPS if desired.
A DPS character, regardless of Advanced Class, seeks to deal damage as their primary purpose. In general, DPS classes fall into 2 categories: ranged DPS and melee DPS. You will need to quickly learn the difference between them, as their styles are different in how you fight against them effectively. But in general, the most important thing you can do when facing a DPS class is simply not let them attack you. Moving away, hiding behind obstacles, stunning them, interrupting their attacks and otherwise mitigating their damage is most important. Without their damage, they often provide very little other benefit to their team.
- Healer: a Healer has but one purpose: heal team members. There are some varieties to healer classes, but unlike DPS, healers are limited to only 3 classes per side. Jedi Knights and Sith Warriors cannot become healers. There are two categories of healers: primary healers, and secondary healers.
Primary healers are specialized in healing, and its virtually all they do in combat. They are very difficult to take down alone, and often require at least 2 people to kill them. Secondary healers do not specialize in healing, but have built-in basic healing abilities for minor healing/spot healing in crucial moments. These healers are often DPS classes or Utility classes primarily.
- Tank: in general, a Tank class is the class which wades into battle to take the hits, so that their team stays alive to keep fighting. You don't (can't) force enemies to attack you, like in PvE, but by using Guard, Taunts, and interrupts, you can make the opposing team's attacks almost useless unless they're focused on you, and then you rely on your team's healers to keep you alive. Thus, you'll either be taking a beating from all sides but you'll be living like a champ, or they'll continue to attack your healer but won't do much to him because you'll be shunting the damage back onto yourself via guard/taunt. Either way, you're soaking up damage and keeping others alive to do damage.
Tactics-wise, you want to master the use of Guard (primarily on your healer), to keep that healer alive who, in turn, will heal you. You also need to constantly use your Taunt abilities, as they work differently in PvP. In PvP, Taunt (and AoE Taunt if you have it) reduces enemy player damage *unless* they attack you. So, if they are on someone else, like your healer, they will do lots less damage with your Taunt applied, and then even less with your Guard taking off more damage. You need to stick close to your Guarded target at all times.
- Utility: a Utility "class" isn't really so much of a class, as it is a "spec" choice on how you build your character. A Utility class/spec has many talents and skills designed to be useful, but not necessarily damage or heal. Jumps, speed, stuns, pulls, pushes, knockbacks, slows, and protective abilities make up the majority of their actions in combat. There are 2 classes on each side which can be considered the best utility classes: Scoundrels and Sages for Republic, Operatives and Sorcerers for Imperials. However, to some extent, all advanced classes have skills and abilities that provide a lot of utility if you spec them for it.
Utility classes are specialized in... well... messing you up. Or helping their team. Or both. They are usually very easy to kill, however, as they are not durable, nor are they damage or healing powerhouses like DPS or Healers. Good utility players use every skill they have to stay alive and help their team, and can be a real distraction until you take them out.
In PvP, unlike PvE, death is expected and frequent, but carries virtually no penalty, other than respawning at your Revive point in the War Zone. So, unlike PvE, staying alive, while desired and important, isn't a requirement to achieve success. Sometimes, success in PvP involves your death, sacrificing yourself to achieve a goal or objective in the War Zone. In many cases, fighting the opposing team members is important, but equally often you'll find that the objectives of the War Zone supersede fighting the opposing players. Learning when to fight, and when to focus on the War Zone objectives is the first and foremost skill you will need to learn to become good at PvP in SWTOR.
There are four War Zones, each with their own rules and set of objectives. Learning each War Zone will take time and practice to become good, but here is a general overview of each War Zone, and their objectives and rules.
- Huttball: this War Zone is like a combination of Capture the Flag and American Football. There is a ball (the Huttball) which starts in the center of the map, and each team has an "End Zone". The goal is score points by possessing the ball (clicking on it, or killing an opposing player who has it) and then getting it into the other team's End Zone. You can run with the ball (but you suffer a movement penalty), and you can pass the ball to other players. When you first enter Huttball for the first time on your character, you'll see a new Ability which automatically appears on your Action Bar, "Throw Huttball", it looks like a gray, spikey ball. Clicking this key makes a "targeting circle" appear which you can aim with your mouse. Place the circle where you want to throw the ball, then left-click (your main mouse button). This will throw the ball to that area of the map. Obviously, you want to throw it where a team-mate is standing, and not where an opposing team player is standing.
Passing is the *most* important skill to master for Huttball. Running with the ball is inherently inefficient for the most part, although some Classes have distinct advantages in moving with the ball. Regardless, the single most efficient way to score is to pass the ball. This means that you also have to master positioning yourself to receive passes from your team, and also have to master protecting your team mates who have the ball. Lastly, you also need to master control of the battlefield to ensure the opposing team is not able to position themselves, or run the ball effectively. The most important area to control in this fashion is the center of the map.
The map also provides physical obstacles which make strategy and tactics important. Its a 3-dimensional map, with ramps to upper levels, and pits to lower levels. There are also two types of hazards: acid pits, and fire traps, which damage you if you are in them (acid pits) or in them at the wrong time (fire traps turn on and off on a predicable frequency, and can be timed). There are also two "air jets" in the center of the map which hurl you into the air at varying angles which you need to learn how to use properly.
- Void Star: this War Zone pits two teams against each other in a contest to break through 3 sets of doors in order to access a vital Data Core. The match has two rounds, where each team takes a one turn as attacker and one turn as defender. The attacking team's goal is to plant bombs in the doors to destroy them. The defending team's goal is to prevent this from happening. Planting a bomb is a "channeled" action, which means you have to stand still and "cast" continuously without being interrupted to plant the bomb. If a bomb is planted, the defending team can "Disable" a bomb in an identical fashion, by "casting" continuously for a few seconds to disarm, without being interrupted.
The skills you will need to learn most in this War Zone are purely observational and tactical. You must keep an eye on both doors in each part of the match, whether you are attacking or defending. This is the single most important aspect of the War Zone. Additionally, tactics are very critical to success, because without good tactics, the other team will succeed very easily. On offense, your tactics need to revolve around clearing one door or the other, so a team mate has the time to plant the bomb, and then to all defend that door from disarmament. On defense, your tactics need to revolve around continuously interrupting the attacking team from having enough time to plant the bomb, even if that means your certain death.
The map also provides some physical obstacles and barriers to overcome as well. Pillars and other physical objects often can be used to hide behind. In the second phase of the map, there are bridges which must be extended over a chasm, and players can be knocked into that chasm causing instant death. You will need to learn how to use the obstacles and bridges to your best advantage.
- Civil War: this War Zone pits two teams against each other in a contest to destroy the opposing teams space ship. This is accomplished by taking control of massive weapon turrets on the map, located on the east side, center, and west side of the map. Taking control of a turret requires a "casting" action for several seconds, uninterrupted. Once a turret has been captured, it continuously fires at the enemy ship for as long as its controlled. If the opposing team takes it, it will turn and fire at your ship. Each ship starts with 600 health, and each time a single turret fires it does 5 damage. Controlling 2 turrets would deal 10 damage every firing sequence, and controlling all 3 turrets would deal 15 damage. You win when the opposing team's ship is reduced to 0 health.
The skills you will need to learn most in this War Zone are observational, tactical and most importantly, team work. While all War Zones require good team work, this war zone, in particular, requires you to group up for combat, lest you easily get beaten. This war zone also requires higher levels of observational skill and communication, because much of the action going on can be physically out of view due to the design of the map (you won't be able to see all 3 main fighting areas at once). You will rely on using your Map ("M" key) to locate your team mates, as well as your chat to communicate where the enemy is, how many there are, and what the situation is. Tactically, your objective is to keep control of at least 2 turrets for the majority of the match. It is very difficult to control all 3, so most teams concentrate on keeping just 2.
- Novare Coast: this War Zone pits two teams against each other in a contest to destroy the opposing teams base, and in some ways resembles Civil War. This is accomplished by taking control of massive weapon turrets on the map, located on the North East, south center, and North West of the map. Taking control of a turret requires a "channeling" action for several seconds, uninterrupted. Once a turret has been captured, it continuously fires at the enemy base for as long as its controlled. However, you need to control *two* turrets to damage the enemy base, 1 is not enough. If the opposing team takes it, it will turn and fire at your base. You win when the opposing team's base is reduced to 0.
The skills you will need to learn most in this War Zone are observational, tactical and most importantly, team work. While all War Zones require good team work, this war zone, in particular, requires you to group up for combat, lest you easily get beaten. This war zone also requires higher levels of observational skill and communication, because much of the action going on can be physically out of view due to the design of the map (you won't be able to see all 3 main fighting areas at once). You will rely on using your Map ("M" key) to locate your team mates, as well as your chat to communicate where the enemy is, how many there are, and what the situation is. Tactically, your objective is to keep control of 2 turrets for the majority of the match. It is very difficult to control all 3, so most teams concentrate on keeping just 2.
How to Start as a New Player in PvP
When you are new, not only is the direct combat going to be a new challenge for you, but on top of that, you'll be trying to learn three (or four) new War Zones and the mechanics of how they work. Here is the best overall guide I can give you on where and how to start.
- Huttball: the first thing you should do, bar none, is learn to pass the ball. If you take the ball from the center pedestal, or if the ball comes to you, you should stop everything you are doing instantly, and attempt to pass that ball to a team mate. You should do this the first few times you play Huttball, and keep doing it until you've learned how to do it well. Passing the ball is the key to Huttball. You are obligated to learn this skill for the sake of your team mates. Nothing ruins a game faster than someone who can't pass the ball. By passing the ball as soon as you get it, this will free you up to learn the direct combat skills you'll need when fighting other players. Focus on learning the various classes, strengths and weaknesses, and how to PvP with your character.
- Void Star: don't try to plant bombs when attacking, just kill opposing players. Learn your situational awareness and the map. You should be constantly looking at both doors to see where your team is and where the enemy team is. Press the attack as hard and fast as you can, this is key as attacker. As defender, again, learn the map and situational awareness, and move to support the weaker side to ensure no one plants a bomb. If one side get wiped out, say so in chat asap. Learn to communicate.
- Civil War: don't try to capture turrets at first, just kill opposing players. Stay with a group!! Don't go off by yourself. Learn your situational awareness and the map. You should be constantly looking at the map ("M" key) to see where your team is and where the enemy team is. If one of your controlled turrets get attacked hard, say so in chat asap. Learn to communicate.
- Novare Coast: Focus on killing opposing players. Click to capture control points when you see others doing it. Otherwise, keep fighting. Stay with a group!! Don't go off by yourself. Learn your situational awareness and the map. You should be constantly looking at the map ("M" key) to see where your team is and where the enemy team is. If one of your controlled turrets get attacked hard, say so in chat asap. Learn to communicate.
Beginner Tactics Overview
As a beginner, you'll need to learn some basic tactics of PvP, some of which are similar to PvE and some of which are not.
- Resolve: Resolve is a meter, used only in PvP. This meter can appear above your portrait (see Preferences menu), and appears just below enemy health bars. It is white. Resolve builds up when you are attacked by CC skills, such as stuns, knockdowns, knockbacks and mezzes, but does not build on roots or slows. When you have full Resolve (when the bar is full), it will start to empty out, but you're immune to those attacks until the bar empties. Once empty, you're vulnerable again. Do not use Stuns, Knockdowns, Knockbacks, or mezzes on opponents with either a full bar, or a bar which is diminishing (bright white), as they will have no effect.
- Interrupts: if your class has an ability/skill to "interrupt" enemy attacks, you'll want to learn how to use these in PvP. Generally, there are a few types of enemy actions you'll always want to save your interrupts for: Healing, Channeled high-damage attacks, high damage attacks with a casting time. For example, most healing spells have a casting time (2-3 seconds usually). Interrupting these prevent healing and lock out that healing skill for a few seconds. This can be vital to kill healers. Also, many DPS classes have either casted or channeled high-damage attacks, such as Tracer Missile/Grav Round, Force Lightning/Telekinetic Throw, etc. Interrupting and locking these out for a few seconds can be vital.
- Stuns/Knockdowns: most classes has some sort of stun ability. Stuns give your opponent some Resolve, so be sure not to use a Stun unnecessarily, because you might just end up giving them immunity to stuns or other control effects at the wrong time, such as when they have the Huttball and are near your goal. Stuns can also be used as a 2nd form of interrupt against heals and casted/channeled DPS.
- Roots/Slows: some classes can root (stop the movement of a player, but not affect their ability to attack), and roots do not affect Resolve. Similarly, abilities that Slow your opponents don't affect Resolve, and are crucial to delay opponents from reaching objectives.
- Knockbacks: some classes can knockback or push opponents away. This ability is key in Huttball to knock opponents off of the upper walkways, and in Void Star to knock them off the bridges in area 2.
- Kiting: kiting is a term used to describe the action of running and fighting at the same time. The objective is to "kite" your opponent as you fight them to move them somewhere you want them, or to keep them at a distance while you kill them from range.
The most important things to learn as a new PvP player are as follows:
- Communicate. This is vital at all times in any PvP game.
- Situational Awareness. Don't run off randomly! Look at the map, make an intelligent choice. Team up.
- Combat Tactics. Learn your class, learn the opponent's class. Learn how to fight to win, or fight to achieve an objective. Browse Wikis and Forums to learn class skills and abilities, so you know what every class can do.
As always, feedback is appreciated.
Edited by Zaodon