I’m getting ready to start posting some of the SWTOR leveling guides for each class, similar to what I’ve been doing with WoW for the last three years. But before I dive into those I wanted to go with a simple leveling guide that can be used as a general source for everyone. So today I give you tips for leveling in general. Things to keep in mind or consider for leveling your characters. I’m sure that by now everyone who has the game is already on the road to level 50 if they haven’t already reached it, so some of this may only be applicable to your alts.
I know I’ve talked a lot about crew skills here lately, both on the blog and on twitter, but I think it’s worth discussing in a post like this as well.
The impact of Crew Skills while leveling depends a lot on which skills you chose, and how much resources (including credits) you have available going into it. The following list includes my suggestions for leveling all of your characters:
- Level all of your toons with Slicing.
- Do not level with Armormech or Synthweaving
- Think twice before choosing Armstech
- Consider Dual Gathering
- Consider Crafting and related Gathering
I suggest leveling all of your toons with Slicing because it really does make a huge difference in how many credits you’ll have available throughout the leveling process. When you reach level 50, by all means drop Slicing for something else. But if you don’t want to have to worry about how in the world you’ll have the credits you need for all those training costs, mounts, and so on then Slicing is the answer you’re looking for. And when you get slicing, level it up to tier 5 and do only tier 5 for the rest of your slicing career. Tier 6 slicing sucks, and tier 5 is incredibly profitable. When leveling with slicing, I have yet to have a character who didn’t have over 80,000 credits by level 25.
Armormech and Synthweaving are ones to avoid while leveling for a couple of reasons. First, because in order to make gear that’s really, truly worth using while you level you have to be willing to dump your credits into a Mission skill (or the Global Trade Network) to get the mats required for the blue+ patterns, which means you’ll be broke for most of your leveling career. Second, because neither of these professions offers anything other than crafted armor, making them the two least versatile (and most boring) professions in the game.
Armstech is similar to the two armor professions in how it works and why I would suggest that you avoid it. The one thing that keeps it viable is that you can craft Barrel mods for your tech classes. Unfortunately, barrels are used only by tech classes which means that half of the player-base finds this profession almost completely worthless (save gearing their companions).
Dual Gathering is a good option for you to consider because it allows you to collect resources that you can either use on your other characters or sell on the GTN for credits. As an altoholic, I send all of my mats to alts until they’ve become useless all around, and then I dump them on the GTN. This method does keep your bags rather full, so be aware of that, but I find that purchasing a single bag extension (5,000 credits) is plenty of extra room to accommodate dual gathering. Once you reach level 50 you can decide whether you like the idea of having a dual gatherer or if you’d like to consider dropping one (or both) of the gathering skills to pick up crafting or mission skills instead.
Crafting and a related Gathering is a good way to level, so long as you keep tips 2 & 3 in mind. The other crafting professions all have something to offer you while leveling. Whether it’s mods, gear for those hard-to-fill item slots, consumables, or explosives they all have something that you’ll find useful as you level. While crafting blue+ patterns is appealing for the extra stats and such, they aren’t important while you level. Sure, you might be able to make a chest piece that lets you take commendations for quest rewards instead of green items for one planet, but the time and resources you have to sink in to make it in the first place doesn’t really balance out (especially the higher you get in levels). The green patterns should be perfectly sufficient for leveling.
The default method of gearing up while leveling in SWTOR, as with most MMO’s, is via questing. Which includes both quest rewards and items that drop while doing said quests. This gear is rarely fantastic, but typically “good enough” to get you through the quests that are designed for your level. That doesn’t mean you should settle for quest rewards and drops, it just means that in general you should be able to get by with nothing more than that. If you’re looking for something more than that, read on.
Every world in SWTOR has commendations associated with it. These commendations can be used to purchase a number of different things, but we’re going to look at two of them in particular here. The first option is gear upgrades. In my experience, every planet has gear that you can purchase with commendations. The level of that gear is usually in line with the level range of the planet itself, usually from about the middle of its level range on up towards the top. The starting planets for example offer level 8 armor for the classes that start there.
Not all of the planets’ commendation vendors offer the same things. Here you might find boots and gloves and there you’ll find weapons, and so on. The gear that they offer also comes in two particularly appealing varieties: blues and modable. Blue gear is higher quality than the greens you’ll typically find, and you can often find blue gear that is significantly better than any greens of your level. Modable gear is “special”, and I’ll cover it in just a minute.
You can get gear from the commendation vendors for anywhere from around 5-7 commendations up to 10-20 depending on which item slot it is and which planet you get it from. The fastest way to farm these commendations is to do the heroic quests which can each be done once per day, or to find areas with high mob populations and obliterating them (though mob farming is significantly less reliable).
PvP has its own form of commendations. When you call it PvP gear, a lot of people immediately turn their heads away because they think of it in relative WoW terms in which PvP gear is frowned upon for PvE activities. In SWTOR, that’s not the case. Well, it is the case for level 50 PvP gear, but not for everything below that. The PvP stat, Expertise, only appears on level 50 gear, so all of the pieces below that point are simply potential gear upgrades that anybody can use.
You can get modable weapons from the PvP vendor starting at level 14. Most of my characters use these weapons from level 14 until sometime into their 20′s when I find another modable weapon that just happens to have a cooler look to it. You get blue and/or modable armor from the PvP vendor starting at level 20, though only 2-3 of those pieces are modable.
PvP items usually cost anywhere from 120-350 commendations. But unlike PvE where you usually get about 20-30 commendations during the time you’re there, I average around 120 PvP commendations per match which is 15-20 minutes. The prices look higher than the PvE equivalent, but there’s really not that much difference given how much faster you earn them.
This is quickly becoming the preferred method of gearing up your characters for most players. Modable gear is like white quality gear which has no stats of its own save for a tiny bit of armor, or some weapon damage if that. However, it has mod slots that allow you to make it much more powerful. As you level up your character you simply replace the low level mods with higher level ones and the gear essentially levels up with you. They’re like heirlooms in WoW, except that you don’t get any experience bonus for wearing them.
So the first benefit of modable gear is that it can level with you by simply replacing mods as you level. The second benefit is that you get to pick the way you look…sort of. You can’t change the look of modable gear, so don’t misunderstand me there, but because you can make that one piece of gear better as you level it means you can find an item that you like the look of and not be forced to replace it. In that way modable gear is like WoW’s new Transmogrification feature, though to much lesser degree.
You can purchase many mods from planetary commendation vendors, and each one costs 2-7 commendations in most cases. Mods are also craftable by the various crew skills so you can craft your own, have friends/guildmates craft them for you, or buy them on the GTN. If you would like to know which crew skills craft which mods, you can look at my SWTips: Crew Skills post for more information.
This is the route that I personally suggest that you take for leveling your characters. If you don’t want to bother with crafting mods, then you can easily spend your commendations on them and you’ll even receive a few as quest rewards here and there. I do prefer crafting my own, but that’s because I’m an altoholic and I have a professions obsession which forces me to always have access to all the things.
Class Quests vs. World Quests
Should you focus on your class quest or just do every quest you come across? Should you leave a planet once your class quests there are done, or keep going?
These are big questions for a lot of players right now. Unfortunately there’s not an exact answer that can be given because it’s really up to you.
Personally, I like to keep my class quest as the focus, but I try not to skip too many of the world quests because I know from experience that it’s easy to find yourself in areas where your gear just isn’t strong enough to keep you alive if you’re always skipping world quests. If I find that all of the mobs I’m fighting on my world quests are grey/green to me, then I start skipping quests. If I find that things are too strong for me, I back off of my class quest and focus on world quests instead.
Even though modable gear exists and it’s a great way to gear yourself up while you level, it’s not always easy to find a full set of modable gear at an early level. By not doing world quests you might be missing out on upgrades for those other slots. Leveling in gear that you’ve found in the area works just fine, but leveling in (non-mod) gear that you found 14 levels ago doesn’t work quite so well. As far as leveling and progressing your story goes, world quests aren’t all that important in and of themselves. However, skipping too many means you’re missing out on those upgrades which can really come back to bite you when you progress to the next planet.
If you feel underpowered for the current planet, don’t hesitate to pack your bags and head back to the previous planet to explore some of those quests you skipped. You’ll still earn experience, you’ll still collect credits, and you’re only making yourself better by doing so. On the flip side though, don’t feel like you need to keep questing on one planet just because you still have quests in your log. It’s perfectly acceptable to abandon every one of them and move on if you feel that there’s no challenge where you’re at.
Heroic Quests and World Bonus Quests
Heroic Quests and World Bonus Quests are both great for leveling your characters. They typically have good gear rewards as well, though most heroics offer only commendations which can be traded for gear or mods (see above) rather than actual gear.
Heroics come in two varieties that I’ve seen so far: Heroic 2+ and Heroic 4. The Heroic 2+ missions can often be soloed so long as you have the help of a companion, though some of them are tuned pretty high on the difficulty chart and you may be playing a class with little-to-no crowd control and/or healing capabilities which make it extra tough. In those cases you’re better off finding someone to run it with you where you can both have your companions out at once, or getting even 2-3 other players in on it.
If you really want to level quickly then you should try to do the heroic quests each at least once while you level. If you can’t find a group for them, and can’t solo it yourself, that’s fine you can just move on and ignore it. But if you get a chance to run it, you really should consider taking it for the rewards.
Heroic 4 quests can be really tough, and often they really will require a full group of four players. But again, I suggest you do them if the opportunity presents itself. While leveling my Trooper I’m able to solo a lot of 2 player content even without a companion because I have great survival, fantastic AoE attacks, and healing spells at my disposal. On my Smuggler, I can’t solo 2 player content even with my companion. And on my Sage I can solo Heroic 4 quests without a companion thanks to DoT’s, healing, bubbles, and kiting/LoS skills.
To sum up Heroic quests – Do them if you have a chance, always try them at least once if you can, but don’t worry about skipping them if you can’t get them done or are eager to get to the next planet to continue your class quest.
World Bonus Quests can have some really good rewards, and the story that goes along with them is usually pretty cool as well. In most cases I don’t bother with them because I’m ready to move on to the next portion of my class quest, but that’s me. These quests should pretty well be handled the same was as the heroics; do them if you can, skip them if you can’t.
From the few that I’ve done, I don’t remember the bonus quests requiring multiple players, but like I said I usually skip them.
Space Combat and PvP
This is the last topic that I wanted to cover for the scope of this post; the two odd ducks of leveling.
Space Combat is one of those things that most players either love it or they hate it. I’m one of those that are kind of in the middle sometimes leaning more to one side or the other. Space combat opens up once you get your ship, which for most people is somewhere in their mid-to-late teens. You get some really good experience from it when it first opens and some of the missions continue to be fairly rewarding while you level. Others are rewarding financially as they give a decent amount of credits, but near worthless for experience.
The great thing about space combat is that it’s short and sweet, and the rewards are usually worth the time investment even if you don’t necessarily love the activity itself. You should definitely give this a try to see how you like it. I suggest you try it on at least 2-3 different missions too, don’t just try the first one and decide that you hate it right away. I think the first mission kind of sucks compared to some of the others, so give it a second chance if you didn’t care for the first one.
PvP isn’t the fastest way to level by any means, but it’s still a perfectly legit way to do it. PvP matches reward experience and credits as well as PvP commendations (covered above) which can be used to purchase gear upgrades. Some players like to focus on a combination of PvP and Class Quests for their leveling. Rather than doing world quests they substitute PvP and rely on modable gear and their crafting professions to keep themselves geared up enough to handle class quests.
I’ve had a blast so far with SWTOR PvP, and as always I recommend everyone at least give it a try. As far as leveling goes it’s not nearly as fast as questing, but it’s definitely a viable option for SWTOR and one that a lot of people are having fun with. How viable this is for you will vary somewhat based on which server you’re on and which faction as those two factors have a direct impact on what kind of queue times you see. On my original server queues would sometimes last up to 30-45 minutes on a bad day as Empire, while my current server queues rarely last so long as 10 minutes as Republic.