The last few weeks I’ve put a lot of time into playing Star Wars: The Old Republic (SWTOR) and today I’m finally getting around to sharing some of my experiences with you.
I know that most of my readers come here for WoW related information on leveling and heirlooms, but for the immediate future I’m shifting gears over to SWTOR. I signed up for WoW’s annual pass so I’ll still be playing WoW at least until October 2012, and hopefully we have a chance to experience Mists of Pandaria by then to see whether or not there’s a chance that I’ll continue longer. For the time being I’ll be breaking my first rule of MMO gaming, which is that I never play more than one game at a time. All of that is for another post and another day.
This is going to be the first SWTips (SWOH-tips) post in which I share all of the nifty little tricks that I’ve found that can help you. This first post is going to be a bit of everything that I’ve found so far instead of being directed at a specific activity or something because I’m more eager to just share some information with you than I am to break this up into several posts.
Also, I’ll apologize in advance for the poor selection of screenshots. Apparently I’ve only taken seven since I started playing, and six of those are of PvP scoreboards. I’ll…try to fix that.
Classes & Advanced Classes
I wanted to start off with this one because it’s probably the hardest thing for people to wrap their heads around if they’re coming from other MMO’s.
SWTOR has 4 base classes per faction. Each faction’s base classes have unique names, but they’re actually the same classes on both sides with different names for everything.
Republic Trooper = Empire Bounty Hunter
Republic Jedi Knight = Empire Sith Warrior
Republic Smuggler = Empire Imperial Agent
Republic Jedi Consular = Empire Sith Inquisitor
Each of those base classes holds the key to the confusion, because at level 10 you choose to take an Advanced Class (AC). Each base class has two advanced classes, and choosing one prevents you from ever having access to the other. So basically the base class is like a tutorial to give you a feel for two different play styles at once. Once you reach level 10 you drop your base class and move on to your advanced class – for ever.
With 2 AC’s for every base class we’re really left with 8 unique classes for people to be. You’ll always be a Sith Inquisitor if that was your base class, but you’re actually either a Sorcerer or an Assassin as far as what your actual class is because it’s your Advanced Class that defines your character.
Each AC has it’s own set of three talent trees to spend points in, and even though one of the three trees is “shared” between both AC’s for every class, the talents themselves often change between the two AC’s. So while both the Sorcerer and Assassin have access to the Madness tree, the talents within that tree work differently for both specs because they’re completely different (caster vs. melee).
As the game stands right now you can pay to reset your talent points, so there is an option to repsec. However, there is (currently) no dual spec option so if you want to switch roles you’ll have to respec. Bioware has discussed, but so far declined, the possibility of changing your Advanced Class. At this time you cannot change your AC once you’ve selected it. So if you decide to be a Sith Assassin, you cannot become a Sith Sorcerer without rolling a new character. While I would personally like to have this ability, I can understand why they would not allow it and I will support their decision on how to handle it either way.
A lot of people get a bit upset at not being able to switch their AC, and that’s perfectly understandable. With the way that classes are handled though, if you were to relate this to WoW you’re basically asking for the ability to class change your Mage into a Rogue, or your Druid into a Warrior, your Death Knight into a Priest. Advanced classes are like classes unto themselves, and asking for the ability to change them on the fly is a bit much.
That being said, with how AC’s are handled in the first place, it can really suck for people to invest time into a character that could be either a Rogue or a Priest only find out at level 20 that you really wish you would have chosen the other AC, or you find that your guild needs a healer but you chose an AC that can only tank and dps and your only option is to reroll another character.
There’s a lot of “free” experience to be had in SWTOR. “Free” meaning that all you have to do is click on something and you get experience for it. These are typically called Codex entries which basically means that you’re exploring and learning about the galaxy.
You get codex entries for all kinds of things. Killing strange creatures, clicking on glowy blue objects, accomplishing objectives in PvP warzones, or talking to special NPC’s. Your character will make codex entries for those which gives you experience and gives you a place to look up information about the subject.
Glowy Blue Items: if you see something in the world that’s glowing with a dull, blue light – click on it. It’s either a quest item that you need anyway, or it’s a lore item that’s going to give you experience for a codex entry. These things come in all shapes and sizes from little datapads the size of your hand to massive rock formations. If it’s glowing, click it.
Monster Codex: If you’re out exploring and you see a strange creature roaming about – click it. In some cases you just need to be close to it and click it, and others you have to attack and kill it. If clicking doesn’t do anything, try to kill it. If you get an entry you get more experience, and if you don’t then just move on and ignore those creatures unless you have a quest to kill some more. Don’t just go for monsters that have health bars though, you can also get entries for friendly beasts.
Datacrons: These will have their own section further below since they’re kind of a big deal, but these are a great source of free experience with the added bonus of also increasing your attributes. Datacrons can be found on (I believe) every planet in the game, and there’s anywhere from 3-6 datacrons on each one. Some datacrons are incredibly easy to reach while other require extensive amounts of jumping, running, navigation, and even team work in order to reach them. I’ll give you some links for how to find these in the Datacrons section down below.
Training Crew Skills: When you first arrive at the Imperial/Republic fleet for the first time on a new character you’ll receive a quest to go train your crew skills and to talk to one of your trainers a second time after choosing the profession. However, since crew skills give codex entries, you’ll get free experience from talking to every skill trainer regardless of which three you’re going to choose and whether or not you’ve already chosen/accepted them. Take a peek at the Crew Skills section below for a tip on how to gain three levels just from talking to these guys.
[Update: Added] Companion Story/Dialogue Quests: As you start to gather your companions you’ll notice that every now and then they’ll want to talk to you someplace private. These take place in either a cantena or on your ship, and your companion will have a quest marker when they’re available. These quests allow you to get to know your companion more, build affection (or lose it) with them, and sometimes assign them special positions or roles within your character’s story. Every time you complete a portion of your class quest that’s somewhat significant, there’s a good chance that at least one of your companions wants to have a chat with you. Quests are quests, and that means experience.
PvP: Player versus Player Combat
PvP is something that I’ve been a huge fan of in WoW for the last 2-3 years and something that I’ve really enjoyed in SWTOR so far as well. In fact, I think I might even go so far as to say that I prefer SWTOR PvP to WoW PvP and that’s actually saying quite a bit.
No Brackets: Right now there is only one PvP bracket, meaning that all characters that can participate (level 10-50) will face each other in the same bracket. There is a mechanic in place, Bolster, which evens the playing field stats-wise (for the most part) so that the only difference between a level 10 and a level 50 is that the level 50 has access to 40 extra levels worth of spells. Don’t let level differences fool you though, it’s entirely possible for a level 10 to kill a level 50 in a 1v1 fight with Bolster. It’s not necessarily likely, but it is possible.
No Cross Server Queues: Because there’s no brackets, there’s also no cross server grouping. Instead, every time you step foot into a warzone, you’re facing other players on your server. Their main reason for doing this was to establish a community. When you’re facing the same batch of people over and over in PvP, you start to recognize names. This was something that had me a bit concerned when I first saw it, but after having experienced it I find that I actually love this feature. This is the one saving grace of Huttball after I got burned out on it, because you can face your own faction there. There are two people that I’ve developed a relationship with in SWTOR PvP because of these two features combined.
One of them I’ve only ever been teamed up with, but as we’re both healers we’ve done some of the most amazing node defense and defending the ball carrier that I’ve ever seen. The other is with an Imperial Agent who I frequently have both on my team and on the opposing team. When we’re working together we can take down level 48’s while we’re in our teens, but while facing each other we’re both the number one kill target for the other. Unfortunately for him, I have stealth.
Bolster: This is a buff that raises your stats to be comparable to those people who are higher level than you in the warzone. Bolster’s buff is percentage based, so it increases your current stats by the percentage associated with your level. What that means is, when you’re in gear that’s appropriate for your level, Bolster will make you as strong as a level 50 character in level-appropriate gear. If you’re undergeared though, that percentage doesn’t increase itself to make up for your lack of gear, it just increases your weaker stats. So if you’re level 14 in level 14 gear, you’ll be about the same as a level 50 in level 50 (non-PvP) gear, but if you’re a level 20 in level 15 gear then you’ll be roughly as strong as a level 50 in level 38 gear.
Resolve: Is a bar that shows up under players’ nameplates that marks how much crowd control (CC) they’ve been hit with recently. When that bar is full (it’s a whitish-bluish color) that player is immune to CC. There is a lot of CC in SWTOR and almost every class has several CC abilities by level 10 (melee force users don’t get reliable CC until level 24). Watch your opponent’s resolve bar carefully when you’re trying to decide whether it’s best for you to CC them or go for the kill as you may find that going for the kill is your only option and that one wasted global cooldown on CC when they’re immune can be the difference between victory and defeat.
Rewards: PvP is actually incredibly rewarding, especially at lower levels. Each victory will earn you roughly 1,000 credits, 40-90 commendations which can be used for gear upgrades, and experience that’s pretty close to what you would get from on-level quests. You can get your first PvP weapon at level 14, and it will take you 5-10 warzones worth of commendations to purchase it, but it will be significantly better than anything else you can get your hands on at that level. Level 20 is when the first set of armor becomes available which is also extremely powerful. Now, just to clarify here, this gear does not have the PvP stat Expertise on them, they’re just gear pieces that you can get only through PvP. Expertise is only available on level 50 PvP gear.
Expertise: This is the PvP stat, the one that increases your performance in PvP-only, and has no effect at all on PvE. This is only available at level 50, and it’s the one thing that make level 50’s harder to kill in PvP than anyone else. Right now a level 50 with full PvP gear on can defend a node form 4-6 people by themselves. BioWare is working towards splitting the level 50’s off into their own bracket once there are enough 50’s to actually have a bracket, but until then this is the major source of imbalance in PvP right now.
There are three warzones in SWTOR at this time, and they should all have at least some amount of familiarity if you’ve done PvP in other MMO’s.
Alderaan: This is a resources map similar to Arathi Basin or Battle For Gilneas if you’re a WoW player. There are three nodes (left, right, and mid) and you need to stay in control of any 2 of those for the majority of the fight in order to win. You can see who controls which nodes as well as the current standing of each team by looking at the icons in the top-right corner of your screen. Your turrets and your bar are colored green, your opponents’ is colored red, and uncontrolled turrets are grey. The longer you control the turret nodes, the more damage they deal to the opponent’s ship, and the faster you win.
The best tip I can give you for this warzone is to always cap the node from the opposite side of the enemy spawn locations. The nodes themselves grant Line of Sight, so unless the opponent has an AoE that they can target to get around the node, they have to spend extra time running in order to get to you and that extra time can be the deciding factor in capping a turret. People are constantly trying to capture these nodes at the wrong angle and letting the enemy hit them with a basic ranged attack to prevent a capture that they could have easily had if they would have taken 2 steps to the side.
Actually, the best tip I could give you is something that’s been chiseled into the foundation of the world since PvP became PvP – FIGHT ON THE FLAGS! Always, always, always fight on the flags. Never let your flag be captured because you weren’t paying attention or weren’t able to react in time because you were too far away from the node.
There’s a lot I could talk about in regards to the layout of this warzone and how to get around quickly and such, but I think I’m going to leave that for an actual Alderaan-specific guide that I’ll write later.
Voidstar: This is a defend and assault style map where each side gets a chance at being both offense and defense. It’s basically Strand of the Ancients for you WoW players. There are three walls that you have to get through in order to reach a computer terminal which is the primary objective. You get through the walls by planting bombs (8 second timer) which then have a 20 second countdown before they explode. The defenders are trying to prevent you from planting bombs in the first place, or defusing them (3 second timer) once you do get them up before they blow the doors open. Once one door is opened in a section, all the doors in that section open and push combat into the next section.
The second and third sections each have another gating mechanic that requires another 8 second timer to open the gate to reach the doors in the first place, but those happen instantly if you get the 8 seconds completed. There are two gates in the second section, and three in the third. Gates are opened singularly, so if you open only the left gate in section 2, the right gate stays closed. As an attacker, you want to open all of the gates, where the defender wants to keep all of them closed only until one is opened at which point their focus should be strictly defending the final doors.
Stealth classes have an edge in this map because they can maneuver around the map and plant a bomb while the defenders are away. That’s why defense and fighting on the flags is so important in this match. You should never leave the doors unguarded if you’re defending. Zerg tactics can sometimes work on this map, but team composition can make a huge difference as well. The team that the most AoE and/or the most CC typically wins.
Huttball: This is the capture the flag map, but with a twist – the flag can be passed around. There isn’t really a true enough equivalent to this warzone in WoW, the closest being Warsong Gulch, but I’m told there’s a somewhat similar map in Rift. I did play Rift, but I never did any PvP so I wouldn’t know. The point here is to grab the neutral ball from the middle of the field and carry it to your opponent’s side of the field to score a point. Killing the ball handler will cause the ball to be passed to a nearby member of your team (I think the person who gets the killing blow gets the ball, but I’m not positive), otherwise you’ll pick it up from the spawn point in mid.
There are 4 levels in Huttball. Ground level which has access to all of the other three and contains two acid pits which deal damage and apply a slow effect to anyone inside them as well as two air traps which launch players in random directions around midfield. The Pit, which is the lowest level and is located in front of the goal area by with no immediate access to the goal. Middle Ramp which has one entrance from the ground floor and then two exits onto the scoring portion of the ground floor, and also contains two fire traps on both sides of the field that deal significant damage. And the upper/outer Ramps that are accessed on the outer edges of the ground floor in midfield, which also contain two fire traps on both sides, and has a single exit onto the scoring side of the pits on the ground level.
Because of the multiple levels and the damaging terrain of this warzone, ranged classes have a definite advantage here. Crowd Control is even more deadly on this map than raw DPS thanks to the hazardous terrain, and knockbacks can really screw with your clutch flag captures.
My most important tip for Huttball is to put the spell to throw the ball somewhere on your action bars where it’s easy to get to. The spell name is “Throw the Huttball” and it does just that. It should show up on your bars by default when you entire Huttball for the first time. If your bars are full though, you can find it on the General tab of your skills window. I have my Throw button assigned to my ‘R’ keybind because I want it as accessible as possible when I’m playing Huttball. If you have the ball and you’re low on health, pass it off to a teammate. If you’re in a bad position and someone else is near the goal, pass it. Do not try to be a hero in Huttball. It’s better to pass the ball and get a point than to try to force your way through four opponents only to die with your face on the goal line and the ball in enemy hands.
Throwing the Huttball does require you to click on a target area when you activate it, you can’t just pass it directly to another team member. If your team is in the AoE they should receive the ball so long as they’re not in stealth. If you’re going to die and there’s nobody on your team to pass it to, you should do your best to pass the ball to an open spot on the map so that it’s reset to the middle of the field instead of falling into enemy hands.
If you’re still confused by all of that, just wait for my post on Huttball where I’ll go into a lot more detail and include screenshots and such.
Companions are sort of like pets/minions from other games, except that every class gets 5 (6) of them throughout the the game. Each class gets specific companions and they are given to you at specific points in your class quest storyline. You’ll get your first companion between levels 7-12 depending on which class you are and how strongly you stick to your class quest versus every other quest out there. Your second companion, the one who’s only a partial companion (no combat skills) comes with your ship which you’ll get someone in your mid-to-upper teens. The third and fourth companions vary somewhat between the classes as far as what level or what stage of your class quest you get them at, but you should get them in your 20’s. For example, my Trooper has 3 companions while my wife’s Smuggler has only 2, even though we’re at the same stage of our class quests.
You can have only one companion actively helping you in combat at a time. The number of companions you can have sent out on Mission quests (see below) or crafting items for you at one time is based on your level. You can only have two companions crafting/questing until you reach level 25 and open up the third.
Remember, companions are tied to your class quest, so if you’re eager for more companions you should consider cutting back on all of the other quests in the area and focus just on your class chain. There are way more quests available than you need to level to 50 anyway, so don’t feel like you have an obligation to do every quest on every planet before moving on. You can always come back later.
For a great source of companion information, I direct you to swtor-spy.com.
Presence: This is a stat that you’ll find on some pieces of gear which gives no direct benefit to you. This stat instead increases the health, damage, and healing abilities of your companions. If you like to play solo, then this is a good stat for you to stack if you like having your companion out to give you a hand. If you’re more of a group player this you can ignore this stat since companions count against your total group size.
Affection: Is a rating of how well your companions like you (or how much they hate your rotten guts). This increases (or decreases) the success rate of the companion’s Mission quests and impacts the roleplay options you have with that companion, including a chance for romance where it’s available.
Skill Efficiency: This increases the companion’s success rate with a certain skill and also decreases the amount of time it takes them to accomplish it. A mission may say it will take 4 minutes, but with a companion with high efficiency in that skill it may only take 3.5 minutes. Each companion has their own efficiency/critical scores that are already tied to specific crew skills and you cannot do anything to change which skills or what type of bonus they have.
Skill Critical: This increases the chance that your companion will have extra or increased rewards when utilizing your Crew Skills.
Crew Skills are SWTOR’s version of professions, and for the most part I love them. You, as the player, select three Crew Skills that your Companions will have access to. You get three, and only three. Of those three, only one of them can be a Crafting skill (you don’t have to have a crafting skill, you just can’t have more than one on the same character).
Crafting Skills: Armortech, Armstech, Artifice, Biochem, Cybertech and Synthweaving. These professions all craft gear, consumables, or item mods. You can only have one of these per character. You don’t actually craft anything yourself, your companions do all of the crafting for you.
Gathering/Mission Skills: Archaeology, Bioanalysis, Scavenging, Slicing. These professions are all used to gather items while you’re out questing, and they can be used as mission skills to get specific types of items. Both you and your companions can gather nodes while you’re out in the world(s), but only your companions can go on the Mission quest portion. With the exception of Slicing, these professions all give you the basic materials required by the crafting professions.
Slicing gathers lockboxes which most often contain credits, though it can also give you access to schematics and mission quests for all of the other professions. Slicing received a nerf in the most recent patch 1.0.1 which significantly reduced the amount of credits you can farm with it. Prior to that nerf, I was able to farm 100,000 credits on my level 23 Trooper. After that nerf I get about the same amount of credits from a day’s worth of farming that I used to get in about 3 hours. Exact numbers are still being tested, but it looks like the nerf was fairly significant.
Mission-Only Skills: Diplomacy, Investigation, Treasure Hunting and Underworld Trading. These crew skills, to my knowledge, do not have any nodes that you can gather from, and instead require Mission quests to level. These crew skills are required if you want to be able to make Blue or Purple quality gear with your crafting professions as they are the only reliable method of obtaining the rare materials required to craft them.
Datacrons are shiny little cubes that you can find throughout the various planets of SWTOR. Clicking on them typically gives you a bonus to one of your attributes of +2, though some can give +3-4, while others will give you a Datacron Fragment which you combine with others in special locations to form more powerful datacrons. I haven’t done the combining yet so I don’t know the details for those, but I do know you can do it and have found two of the stations that you do it in, so I’ll know more about it once I find some more pieces and can put them together.
For the best resource I’ve found online for datacron locations, I direct you once again to swtor-spy.com. You can also search for them on YouTube. I prefer video walkthroughs to written instructions and screenshots, so if I can’t find what I’m looking for on one site I’ll try out another.
There are two reasons why you want to hunt these datacrons down. First, because they are permanent increases to your attributes so by not going after them you’re making yourself less powerful than you could/should be. Granted, not all of them are useful for every character, such as +2 Aim on a Force user, but you should at least go for the ones that you can benefit from. Second, these are also Codex entries, meaning you get more “free” experience just from finding them.
More to Come
I’ve got plenty more tips for you, but we’re already pushing 5k words on this one and it’s a big mish-mash of all kinds of stuff thrown together as it is, so I don’t want it to get much bigger.
If there’s anything in particular you would like for me to cover, feel free to leave your suggestion in the comments below. Otherwise I’ll just keep on keeping on with whatever happens to be peaking my interest at the moment when I start writing the next one.