The arrival of the new sPvP gamemode Stronghold has raised a lot of complaints all of which come down to the same words: “Stronghold is PvE”. Is this accurate?
PvP means Player versus Player. Literally, Stronghold is not as “PvP-heavy” as Conquest because Player versus Player situations aren’t forced. Let me explain a bit what makes Stronghold different from Conquest as a type of PvP.
When playing in Conquest you know that you have to hold and fight for points. You are, from the start to the end of the match fighting against other players for the control of those points. Thus, you have to fight constantly, creating builds focused towards duels, teamfights and point-holding.
However, Stronghold is totally different. Your ultimate objective is to kill the enemy Lord (or get more points than the other team at the end of the timer) and you need NPCs to get there, NPCs that can destroy gates and melt Guards. You will (supposedly) fight for objectives like Mist Essence and Supply Channeling and, of course, you will fight when defending or attacking the enemy base.
So, what really makes Stronghold that different from Conquest. First of all, you depend on NPCs (hence, on “PvE”) to advance the game. Second, fights are not forced like in Conquest. You decide whether or not you want to fight for the Mist Essence or if you want to stop the guy who is about to get the supply.
Stronghold aims more towards an objective based PvP game mode. Does this mean that Stronghold is not PvP? If we base our thoughts on the literal description of PvP, we would see that it has fewer Player vs Player situations. The real question though is… “Is PvP restricted to Player vs Player physical (mechanical) fights?”, in my opinion it isn’t.
For me PvP is more than just people fighting. While it can take all the skill you want, it’s still more than that. For me Player versus Player extends to a “Battle of Minds”.
Strategy: A Mind War between Players
For me, Player versus Player goes beyond “kill and stomp the enemy player to win”. The strategy involved in both Conquest and Stronghold are what makes PvP really intense and fun. It all comes down to decision making. A good decision can simply win the game. Maybe you lost most of your teamfights, but if you rotate well enough and outsmart your enemy, you will most likely end up securing a victory.
I said Stronghold is an objective based PvP game mode. What does that mean? You have certain objectives to fight for (or even give up on), in order to build an advantage. Killing an enemy player awards your team with 5 points (apart from leaving the enemy team 4vs5 for a short period of time, of course). What’s going to really win you the game though are those Doorbreakers that, with your help, will bring the enemy gates down, earning 50 points for your team and a much more comfortable position on the map.
Then we have the Mist Essences which spawn at a set time. When those spawn, in my opinion, is where the action should take place. Heroes are simply too strong to pass having them by your side. They offer a great support both in teamfights and when you need to push towards the enemy base.
Of course, you can still plan a well-timed push with Doorbreakers while the rest of your team stops the opponents from channeling for the Hero. “Can you win that teamfight?” If you feel like you are able to do so, go for it. If not, you can always opt for a fast push. This is what’s called decision making.
Therefore, if you are more skilled than your opponent, you will surely take all Heroes, all the supply you want and you will even take their whole team down inside the Lord Room. That’s, of course, as long as they don’t push too deep in your base, or as long as they have someone that constantly hunts your team members down.
Stronghold offers less PvP situations than Conquest and that is one of the reasons the developers went ahead with its development. They wanted get away from a mechanical-heavy game mode such as Conquest and make people feel useful with a wider variety of builds than the one someone would expect to see in Conquest*
*With the 23rd June patch a lot of things changed. But that’s another topic.
Is it bad then, to be less PvP focused? In my honest opinion, it isn’t. Stronghold brings more levels of complexity on the table, with different strategies that were previously somewhat limited in Conquest. In the very end, it all comes down to what makes the micromanagement and the macro management of the game different.
One could say that micromanagement refers to skirmishes (1vs1 or 2vs2). That involves those ways you use to move your own players against the enemies and how well you understand their approach on the matter. Macro management, on the other hand, revolves around map awareness and the rotations you need to make in order to have the advantage over every situation.
Conquest uses much more micromanagement because of the rather tiny maps and the huge focus on Player versus Player (you have to kill other people in order to win any Capture Point). Macro management* is too dependent on decisions your team has to make while moving around the map. Those can be refined easy enough as the team spends more time in PvP.
*I don’t mean it’s meaningless, but it less important in comparison with micromanagement.
Stronghold offers the exact opposite experience. It focuses more on macro management thanks to the different objectives and strategies you can choose to follow. You still need that mechanical skill to win objectives or to catch someone off-guard and kill him, but being in a place that has you foreseeing upcoming scenarios in the way the game develops can definitely drive you towards victory.
Stronghold has been roughly criticized for being “pure PvE” or just a “PvE rush”. It doesn’t focus that much on the actual meaning of Player versus Player but that isn’t bad at all. It brings a different playstyle to it without making it less engaging or even less interesting.
While Conquest offers you intense and constant fights between players, Stronghold provides a deeper strategic experience.
Do both modes belong in PvP then? From a certain perspective, both are PvP. They offer a battleground in which players can fight or strategically outsmart their opponents.