Jedi Knight Impressions
LucasArts treated us last month to a full day of Star Wars: The Old Republic at their headquarters in San Francisco. Sado and Orionark leveled a Jedi Knight through Level 10. Read on for an in-depth account of our play session, including our impressions of the class' combat, storyline and companion mechanics.
Warning: We've separated the story section of this article into its own page as it contains spoilers for the entire Tython quest line, so skip it if you'd rather stay in the dark.
We started off our lengthy hands-on session with pre-made Level 1 Jedi Knights; Sado had a male Miralukan character, and Orionark played a female Human. The Jedi Knight approached combat in a distinctly different way from the other classes; unlike the ranged combat we experienced with the Trooper and Smuggler, the Jedi Knight predominantly operates in melee range. Rather than planning out encounters, we found ourselves charging headlong into combat. We made full use of the ability upgrades that augment melee and toughness as we leveled.
The Jedi Knight uses a Focus system resembling the Sith Warrior's Rage system where the player builds up action points using one kind of ability, and then depletes the resource using other abilities. The most basic attack named Strike generates one Focus per each successful hit, while Slash consumes three Focus per activation. The combat itself feels very combo-based; the biggest determinant of successful combat was to string together efficient attacks that build and consume Focus at a constant rate to deal the most damage. The first few levels of a Jedi Knight revolve around using Strike three times, and then the Slash ability when your Focus allows. This mechanic doesn't change much later on, and it grows in scale as you gain more abilities.
The Jedi Knight's combat pace quickened once we acquired Force Leap and Overhead Slash. Force Leap's 10-30m strike distance gives a very effective range counter; the Knight leaps from afar and deals a significant initial blow while building a little Focus. Using Overhead Slash once the Focus meter reaches its peak deals the high damage necessary to take on Elite enemies. Our go-to abilities for the duration of our playtime consisted of Strike, Slash, Force Leap, Sweep, and Overhead Slash. We specifically used Force Leap and Strike to build Focus, and the rest of the abilities to rack up big damage. Sweep worked especially well as an escape aid, as it struck multiple opponents at once while slowing their movement for a short period.
As we stated in previous hands-on roundups, downtime in Star Wars: The Old Republic seems virtually non-existent. We simply activated our passive heal (Introspection) after difficult fights, and our health replenished to ready us for the next encounter. We looted quite a few Medpacks, and these came in handy on several difficult fights. It was not unusual at all for us to come out of encounters without a scratch after T7 joined our party, as the companion aided the pace by tanking groups of mobs. The result of combining these two factors is a style of play where you are almost in a state of constant action.
T7-01 is the first companion the Jedi Knight acquires. We enjoyed the addition of a companion, and even found some very intriguing uses for them out in the world. All of T7's equipment slots included items and two to three modification slots were available on each piece. Some of these items had names like "Pants" and "Shirt," and they are potentially placeholder. The companion's abilities display similar to World of Warcraft's pet bar; a small action bar appeared to the left of our main action bar when we summoned him. T7 had basic follow and attack commands, plus an Electric Jolt ability used to transfer some of his aggro to the controlling player. Only three of four total ability slots were occupied, and this led us to believe our companion could gain at least one new skill at some point in the future.
T7 served as the perfect counterpart to the Jedi Knight's up-close-and-personal play style. He dealt a significant amount of damage -- nearly two thirds of our own personal damage output. He worked great for crowd control; we'd sic him on adds around a particularly difficult group of enemies or a single elite mob, and he served as a decent tank to soak up the extra damage we couldn't handle. We could also activate T7's Electric Jolt ability as his health dwindled, and then the enemies stuck to him would turn their attention back to us. Rather than functioning as a simple and passive pet adding damage over time, T7 gave us the feeling we had an active, competent teammate with us.
T7 and the Jedi Knight are a kiter's dream, as we found ourselves constantly taking on enemies far above our level that we wouldn't normally be able to defeat without this tactic. The Jedi Knight's Sweep ability on its own is fairly weak, but its movement impairment effect allowed us to attack an Elite mob and then run around him in circles. When we added T7 as an initial damage sponge and dissipated his aggro with Electric Jolt, we could engage almost any enemy we came across on Tython. Level gap became a non-issue, and regardless if we had to take on a powerful single enemy or a larger group of mobs, we could handle it with ease.
Companions did not attract their own aggro as we ran through the world; they only enter combat when the controlling player does. This is a big improvement over other MMOs where pet owners stealthily skirt around a group of enemies only to have their pet lag a little and beeline right through them, which results in the mobs attacking the player. However, the current lack of companion stances was a minor frustration point; we couldn't tell T7 to ignore aggro or be extra aggressive. For example, we lost track of him constantly when making the trek back to turn in quests; T7 would engage any time an enemy fired at us and then would proceed to stop following us to deal with the attacker, so we found ourselves repeatedly pounding the "Follow" button. We simply packed him up to avoid this situation and re-summoned him when needed.
T7 often chimed in during our conversations, but only during ones directly involving him. We couldn't talk to him directly out in the world as we could with companions in Knights of the Old Republic. His little quips, beeps, and boops were very reminiscent of R2-D2; any time he spoke a subtitle would appear with droid-esque readouts of his thoughts.
- Page 1 of 4
- Jedi Knight Story (Spoilers)