Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Another SWTOR Legacy Complete

So I finished Chapter One on my Imperial Agent earlier this week which resulted in achieving my second SWTOR legacy.  My Imperial Agent continues to be a lot of fun to level as a Sniper, focused mostly on the Engineering tree.  I'm still primarily using Kaliyo as my questing companion.  She makes a decent tank and is able to soak up the damage long enough for me to get most of the bosses down.  I still don't have her as geared as I should, as I still need to grab an ear piece and implants for her.  I wish there were more of those types of things available on the GTN.

I'm also spending a little bit of time on each of my 6 other characters that I'm leveling, attempting to maximize the time spent leveling with rested xp.  So far that seems to be working fine.  Since I've found the end game content to be less than inspiring, I'm not necessarily in any big rush to get any of these last 7 toons to max level.  Right now, a lot of the interest for me in SWTOR is in the leveling process itself.

I've also done a little bit of PvP on my level 50 Trooper, which has been fun.  It seems like SWTOR is either going to need to do some server consolidation, or is going to have to get cross server warzones introduced sooner rather than later.  Nothing kills interest in end game like 30-60 minute queues for the same four warzones.

So right now, on my Imperial Agent, I'm working my way through the bonus series on Nar Shadaa - somethingg I skipped completely on my Republic Trooper - before beginning Chapter Two.  The Nar Shadaa bonus quests have been really good so far, including a couple of decent Heroic quests as well.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Blending Advanced Class Representation

So having gotten my first SWTOR character to max level, I've now focused on leveling many of my other SWTOR alts.  I've also decided to re-roll two of my classes to make sure that I get the chance to level one of each advanced class as well.

As a result, my Jedi Sentinel and my Smuggler Gunslinger will both be getting rerolled as a Jedi Guardian and Smuggler Scoundrel.  After checking, I've got about 5 hours of played time in both characters, and it's definitely easier to reroll now, than to finish the next 140 hours on both characters and then realize that I want to go back and  level two more of each class.

See, on the Empire side, my Imperial Agent (the Empire counterpart of the Smuggler) is leveling as a Sniper (which is the counterpart to Gunslinger).  The Imperial Agent is currently level 31, so would obviously be abandoning a much larger investment of time.  My Sith Marauder is level 14, so it's not incrementally a ton more time, but I'd still rather restart a level 10 rather than a level 14.

It also gives me the chance to get all of my Republic toons on the same server.  Right now my Smuggler Gunslinger is on a different server, so I can reroll on my main Republic server and be able to fully take advantage of all the legacy features.

Once that is done, it will just leave me with one server transfer to do once that ability goes live - moving my Imperial Agent to be with my other 3 Empire characters.  Although I may debate moving them all to the same server to be able to fully take advantage of legacy abilities.  We'll see how that goes.

I may also try leveling a couple of toons purely through PvP just to see how that compares from a leveling time standpoint.  Right now I don't have enough data points to do a very strong comparison, but hopefully that will change within the next few weeks.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Ding! First Level 50

So I finally managed to get my Republic Trooper to Level 50.  My total played time to 50 was 6 days, 5 hours.  This wasn't a straight hard core play through as this was obviously the first toon that I've leveled, and I also managed to max out all 3 of my crew skills while leveling.  I also spent a fair amount of time at the Galactic Trade Network getting rid of some of the excess materials that I generated by doing so.

So I have to believe a much faster played time should be possible, but we'll see.  From an endgame standpoint, I've been doing some PvP since without a group finder in game yet, that really works the best with my schedule.  So far, I've managed to get up to Valor Rank 14, and am close to having my first piece of Battlemaster gear.

My plan is to finish leveling my Imperial Agent next to see the Empire side of things, then go back to working on my Jedi Knight on the Republic side.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Final Push to 50

So I'm now on the last planet on my Republic Trooper - Corellia.  I'm still finding the switch to a Gunnery spec, using Elara as a healer companion is working extremely well.  I've also almost finished leveling all of my crew skills.  Both Armormech and Underworld Trading are maxed, and Scavenging is at 390/400.  I've been a little disappointed with Armormech as a crew skill.   I haven't really found any benefit to it while leveling at this point, although I'm guessing some of the higher level gear that I can now craft might be helpful if I start doing more flashpoints and operations at end-game.

However, if you're interested in a crew skill that will be helpful to you while leveling, Armormech probably isn't it.

The levels seem to take a long time to complete in the high 40's, although I don't know how much of that is because I've been spending a fair amount of time finishing up my crew skills as well as working the Galactic Trade Network to sell of a lot of raw materials that I've collected while leveling.  From 46 to 47 took about 5 hours and from 47 to 48 took about 6 hours.  At this point, I'm at 5 days, 21 hours to 48.

On the Empire side, I recently hit 30 on my Imperial Agent.  She's continuing to level with a Sniper / Engineering spec which is working quite well.  It's lots of fun blowing stuff up!

Her played time to 30 was 2 days, 7 hours, so she seems to be progressing a little bit faster than the trooper.  I'm leveling Armstech with her instead of Armormech, but again, it doesn't seem too helpful, at least so far.

As soon as the Trooper is done, I'm going to push to finish the Imperial Agent and will then probably just alternate between factions.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Nerfs to Combat Medic Hurt Leveling

So I've been working on my Trooper for several days now following the release of patch 1.2. While I was looking forward to the patch in terms of the expansion of the Legacy system and the changes to crew skills, I hadn't focused as much as I should have on the impact that the changes were going to have to the leveling capabilities of my Combat Medic Trooper.

There were really just a few basic changes that directly impacted the Trooper while leveling:
  • Field Triage now reduces the cost of Medical Probe by 1 (down from 2).
  • Supercharge Cells now restores 1 Energy Cell (down from 2) when used and increases all damage and healing dealt by 5% (down from 10%). The shield applied by Kolto Bomb now reduces damage taken by 5% (down from 10%).
  • Trauma Probe now costs 2 Energy Cells to activate.
The net result of these changes is that on my combat medic, I'm running through ammo much quicker than I was before the patch. On most fights, I'm running out of ammo pretty quickly trying to keep Tanno alive. Combine this with the fact that my heals are not hitting for quite as much after the patch and it becomes a serious challenge to keep Tanno up on most encounters with Elites.

After several days of trying to get my groove back with combat medic leveling, I eventually caved this weekend and switched back to a Gunnery spec. So far, I'm having much better results with Gunnery, using either Tanno or Elara as a companion. Demolition round got a pretty significant buff in the patch, although Grav Round received a bit of a nerf, increasing it's cost and cast time. However, as long as I don't spam it constantly, I'm not finding ammo to be that big of a deal for Gunnery at this point.

I will say that I'm disappointed at the changes to Combat Medic. I was really enjoying being able to level as a healer and to have the viability of that approach significantly hampered by a patch is a bit annoying.

I have managed to get my Trooper to level 47 and am working my way through the Hoth bonus series before heading off to my final planet - Corellia.

After finishing the Trooper, I'll be switching next to finishing up my Imperial Agent who is sitting on Alderaan at level 29.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Belsavis Thoughts

While I'm all about the push to 50 at this point on my Republic Trooper, questing my way through Belsavis has me wanting to try the same content on my Imperial Agent. It's interesting, because it's not a particularly inspiring quest line for the Republic.

Apparently our friends at the Republic have been keeping all sorts of nasty prisoners stashed away on this planet Belsavis and there's been some pretty inappropriate stuff going on. It's been an interesting story line, both from a character standpoint and also overall and I'm anxious to see it to its conclusion.

My boy Tanno and I continue to rock through everything in our way. He's still making for a top notch tanking companion and we have very little difficulty with just about anything.

After I finish my Imperial Agent, I think I'll be heading back Republic side to try a Jedi Guardian - tanking spec with a healing companion eventually.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Turning Leveling On Its Head

With most MMO's in the past, it's always been the default conclusion that it is significantly easier to level as dps. Being a tank just meant that things were dying really slowly, and in the model where questing generally involved "go kill 15 of fairly easy mob A", being able to kill them quickly was key to a quick leveling path. Leveling as a healer generally wasn't even generally a viable option.

One of the things that I've found very interesting with SWTOR so far is that they seemed to have turned this model somewhat on it's head. As someone who really enjoys playing a healer in other MMO's, I've been very pleased that running as a healer is a very viable leveling model, particularly using one of my tanking companions.

I haven't tried doing the same with a tanking class and a healing companion yet, but I'm assuming it works equally well. The main surprise with leveling in SWTOR is that the standard dps model does not seem to be quite as effective as the other two, at least from what I've found so far.

The difference is definitely the presence of large numbers of elite mobs that need to be defeated, very often in groups with non-elite mobs and potentially other strong mobs. These elite mobs can be defeated by a dps / dps team, but it very often involves trying to clear a few of the ancillary mobs out, dying, rezzing and refocusing on the elite mob. With a tank and healing companion, these elite mobs can almost always be taken out without anyone dying and without any issues at all.

It makes for a much more challenging and interesting questing experience in my mind, but for people that are used to that same old "go kill 15 bad guys" scheme, I can imagine it would be very frustrating.

Luckily, there is a tank / healer combination available for every class in the game. Some classes pick up their corresponding tank or healer companion later than others, but for essentially all, it's basically within the first planet or two, and for many of the classes (Imperial Agent, Bounty Hunter notably), you pick up your tank / healer within the starting area.

I've now finished Chapter 2 on my Republic Trooper and am now driving for the finish line. I've hit level 41, finished the Operation Talon quest and am off to Belsavis.

On my Imperial Agent, she's hit level 28 and is just about done with the Tatooine bonus series, so she'll be off to Alderaan soon. I'm very interested to see how that one looks from the House Thul vantage point. I wasn't a big fan of the Republic side of Alderaan, so I'm hoping it will be more interesting on the Empire side.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Hard to Take a Break

So I'm still working my way through things with my combat medic. Not many of my other toons have been getting much attention as I'm anxious to get at least one character all the way through to 50.

The addition of Tanno Vik to my tanking squad has made leveling even easier. Although I've noticed that Bioware has been kind enough to space the mobs out a little more, so it's harder for him to pick them all up.

So far I'm really enjoying the class story of the Trooper, but I'm also anxious to see some of the other stories.

The legacy system has me really questioning my path forward with respect to other alts. My highest level Empire character is sitting at level 25 and is on a different server from my Trooper, so wouldn't be able to take advantage of any of the legacy features. My next highest level toon after that is somewhere around level 11 and is on yet a third server.

What I'm debating is if the rewards of the legacy system are interesting enough to be worth abandoning the time that I've spent leveling the other characters to restart on my Troopers server. My initial reaction is no. I semi-useful ability on a long cooldown and the ability to start new characters with new species probably isn't enough to get me to walk away from a lot of hours of play time, particularly on a level 25. But we'll see.

For now, I continue to crank through things with the combat medic. I'm rolling through Hoth right now, wondering why in the heck all of those people are standing around out in the cold.

My other big complaint with the SWTOR leveling process right now is that so many of the questing sections are instanced and there are so many trash mobs, it's very very hard to take a quick break "out in the world" while leveling. You really have to completely finish / clear the area you were working on before you can take a break, and sometimes that can take quite a bit of time. When you may get interrupted by a phone call, or a question or a child with a boo boo, that doesn't make for the best leveling experience. Especially if you've started clearing mobs for a zone, only to have to deal with something in real life, only to return to the game to find it's logged you out and you're now back outside the instanced areas with all the mobs you just spent 20 minutes clearing respawned.

I'm also questioning the difficulty of the leveling process a bit. It is very challenging to kill trash packs that include elite mobs, or an elite and a strong, or two strongs. I often can't do it with a double dps team, without killing a few things, first, dying, respawning, and then taking out the last few mobs. While I've found leveling as a tank / healer combination to be an effective fix for this, it seems odd that the standard dps leveling model doesn't seem to work all that well.

I might be having a different experience if I was running more flashpoints and was better geared, but at least in my view, the questing experience should work well either way.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Combat Medic Leveling

So after struggling through Alderaan, I decided to make a switch after completing chapter 1. Since I was heading to the Republic Fleet anyway for some much needed R&R, I paid a visit to the Skill Mentor (who is not next to your training by the way - a little further down the hall) and paid for a respec, deciding to try out leveling as a combat medic using M1-4X as tank rather than going dual dps with Aric.

My first surprise was that apparently your first respec is free.

Working my way through Balmora, I've been incredibly surprised with how easy it has been to quest and level. I have no trouble at all keeping Forex healed up. I'm able to keep him topped off and do a fair amount of dps'ing myself to make sure things die more quickly.

He does have some problems holding aggro at times given how he likes to pull, but I'm always able to heal through it and it doesn't take him long to pull any stragglers off of me. It should be able to micro manage Forex's abilities a bit more to avoid this issue, but so far, since it hasn't caused any problems, I haven't bothered with the extra hassle.

The thing that I've been really impressed with is how easily Elite level mobs go down now. Before switching to combat medic, taking on an elite level mob usually meant that Aric was going to be needing a rez, and I was going to have to be shielding myself and using my cooldowns to make sure I didn't die before the boss did.

Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't.

As combat medic, I'm able to keep Forex healed, dps a bit myself and end up finishing every fight with both us at full health or close to it.

From every recommendation that I've seen, you're better off using this combination with Cybertech as a skill so you can keep Forex really well geared. I'm currently an Armormech, so I don't have that benefit, but still not having any problems.

Once I finish up Balmora, I'll be picking up a new melee tanking companion, so I'm anxious to give that a try for a bit to see if that works better from an aggro standpoint than Forex. If I find I like Forex better, I might consider switching to Cybertech at that point.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Chapter One Complete!

So I managed to finish Chapter One on my Trooper Commando over the weekend after overcoming yet another system bug. I finished questing through Alderaan, went back to Coruscant to visit with my grandma the general, and then was told to go find Tavus on a ship in the middle of nowhere.

So much like my issue with Tatooine, the ship that I'm supposed to find Tavus on also isn't appearing on my galaxy map.

So far, the only way that I've been able to find to correct this is to switch to my desktop at home to move my Trooper to where he needs to go. Unfortunately, if I'm traveling, that may mean that it could be a week before I'm able to resume work on that particular character.

I did finally get a response from SWTOR customer service to my three tickets on my Tatooine issue after about a month. The response was basically - we noticed you figured out a way around your issue, so these tickets are now closed. Apparently the folks at Bioware are not at all interested in figuring out what the actual problem was and solving it.

It's sort of a shame in a way, because for someone who is generally an altoholic, this is a really fantastic game. The quests are both more interesting and more challenging than their WoW counterparts, and the class quests give the questing experience a lot of potential for variety.

I would likely be playing SWTOR a lot more than I am if it wasn't for the overall buginess of the gameplay and the fact that it continues to run really badly on my laptop.

So at least for now, it will continue to be something that I play mostly on the side. I will likely be getting a new laptop in another month or two, so we'll see if that improves the gameplay issues at all.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Questing Through Alderaan

I've just started my Trooper Commando on making his way through the quests on Alderaan and two quick observations.

First, why do so many damn mobs on Alderaan have to be elite. It's a good thing you get an on-the spot rez versus a corpse run, because I tend to die way too much while leveling on this game. It wouldn't be quite as bad, but my supposed tanking companion is apparently made of tissue paper. WTB Hunter Bear. PST with offer. My dps companion is much more effective at taking things down, but then I'm the one that has to do the tanking.

Second observation on Alderaan is that after meeting the actual people of Alderaan now, I'm no longer sorry that Darth Vader blew the place up. What a bunch of a-holes. I now totally understand. I'm sure Vader just vacationed there at some point and was treated like crap by some petty so called royal Duke or something. Power up the Death Star boys!

I'd like to get at least one toon to max level sooner rather than later, so I'm focusing more on my Trooper these days, rather than co-leveling with my Imperial Agent.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Tatooine adventures

I've managed to make it to Tatooine on both my Imperial Agent and my Republic Trooper at this point. Both have hit 25 and have purchased their first speeders. To me, it seems incredibly unfair that my Trooper is hitting Tatooine with four companions in tow, while my Imperial Agent only has two.

Of course, the downside is, now I can't decide which companion to use for leveling with the Trooper, and I have no such decision to make on the agent. After submitting several tickets, I never did get an answer from Bioware / EA customer service about not being able to see Tatooine on my galaxy map on my laptop. I was able to log on from the desktop at home once I got home from traveling, and it showed up just fine on the desktop. I must say, I'm very disappointed in the customer service from Bioware / EA. I was expecting better. All the tickets are just sitting there listed as "Open" with no response at all.

I'm continuing to enjoy both characters a great deal. At this point, the class questline for the Trooper seems a bit better, but they've both been a lot of fun. I'm also debating between companions on the Trooper at this point. I've picked up the tanking robot, but strangely enough, he seems to take a lot more damage than good old dependable Aric. Aric doesn't hold aggro as well, but you're not holding aggro at all if you're dead. So I might give the healer a try for a bit to see how that is, and then stick with Aric.

At some point, I need to just focus on one of these and drive them to completion, but so far, it's working OK switching back and forth between the two.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

On From Nar Shaddaa

I finished the class and main story lines of Nar Shaddaa yesterday on my Imperial Agent. My Republic Trooper is almost done with Taris and will be heading there next. I'm only a few bars away from getting my speeder on the Imperial Agent so that's pretty exciting.

Leveling the Imperial Agent continues to be pretty straightforward. Kaliyo continues to improve as a tank as I continue to get better gear for her. I'm not a huge fan of Kaliyo as a companion however, so I'm hoping I'll get someone that I can replace her with later on.

I've picked up my second companion already on the my trooper (which seems incredibly unfair, but I guess compensates a little for the first companion coming so very late). I'm leaning toward focusing on one of these two characters for a bit to just try to drive one toward the level cap a little faster. I'm really interested in seeing what the legacy system does, so really want to get far enough to start messing with that. These two existing toons are different factions and on different servers, so I'm guessing they won't both benefit.

In any case, Larisa, my Imperial Agent, is now sitting at level 24, almost to 25, and is heading for Tatooine. Karman, my Republic Trooper is level 22 and finishing up Taris. Interestingly enough, it seems like he's going to outlevel Nar Shaddaa by the time he gets there, but it's possible the Republic questline there is shorter. We'll have to see.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Leveling Through Balmora

I've been able to make a lot more progress on my Imperial Agent, getting her from level 12 to level 20. She's almost completely through Balmora, just have a few annoying giant bugs to deal with and then I'll be out of there (I think)

Interestingly enough, I thought the general quests in Balmora were better than the class quest line for Imperial Agent at least. The class quest series didn't have a whole lot to it and was pretty short, but helping the Empire repel a Republic backed resistance movement and exposing the involvement of the Republic was really interesting.

I've continued to find Sniper pretty good for leveling. As I've progress, I've been able to pick up some talents that have been more focused on survivability and have also picked up more gear for my companion that have helped improve her survivability as well.

On the Republic side, I've been focused on my Imperial Trooper. He's sitting at level 14 and I feel like is almost complete with the Coruscant quest chain. It'll be interesting to see the Republic side of Balmora if in fact that's where I'm heading next. The Republic home planet quests have been a lot more interesting for me than the ones on Dromund Kaas. The idea of a planet devastated by a Sith attack and having to help address some of the ramifications in terms of gangs that have developed, infrastructure problems and political issues has been kind of fun.

I had picked up Slicing as a Crew Skill on my Trooper and I'm just curious though why people are leaving their safes in the street all over the planet? Not really the best place to store a safe full of credits.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Some initial thoughts on leveling

I've finally managed to tweak things to the point that SWTOR is now playable on my laptop, which opens up a lot more time for me to work on leveling while traveling. I've got very mixed feelings about the game after my initial attempts and starting and leveling new toons. Right now, I've leveled an Imperial Agent and a Republic Trooper out of the starting area and have gotten pretty far on a Sith Warrior and Sith Inquisitor as well.

I still don't have any particular character that I'm feeling very attached to unfortunately. I find myself finishing up the early stages on these characters and feeling more depressed or sad than energized to keep going. Unlike some of the other MMO's that I've played, SWTOR really brings home the feeling that you're just a minor cog and that there are things going on that you're not even aware of that may completely screw with your gameplay sometime down the road.

I haven't gotten any distance on a single character without feeling bad either about something I had done, or feeling like I had somehow been betrayed. While I've enjoyed the game itself, it has really left me not feeling particularly motivated about continuing.

The feeling of being caught up in politics is also one that has turned me off a bit. It's bad enough that I've got to be immersed in political bullshit in real life, I don't need Democrats versus Republicans translated into Republic versus Empire when I'm trying to play a game.

So, I'm going to keep trying and see if I find a character that seems to click. The ones that I haven't tried at all yet are Smuggler, Bounty Hunter and Jedi Knight. I'm thinking Smuggler and Bounty Hunter might at least eliminate the feeling of being caught up in a larger machine, since those folks tend to operate on their own anyway. Jedi Knight has potential too in that I really liked the way my class operated as a Sith Warrior - just wasn't a huge fan of the story line. I started a Jedi Consular but very quickly decided I wasn't that big on a character who attacked by throwing dirt at people. Felt a little bit like playing my 3 year old.

So at the moment, I've got characters scattered across a variety of servers and a variety of classes, so I'll definitely need to do some consolidation if I manage to get any of these to 50 and if they ever open up server transfer.