SWTOR Newbie Guide
Star Wars The Old Republic Newbie Guide by enutt
Hey! I’m not a noob! I’ve been playing (insert your favorite MMO) for years!
That’s what I thought also when I first started playing the SW:TOR betas. Unfortunately, the relationship between SW:TOR and other MMO’s is reminiscent of the relationship between the British and the Americans: two peoples separated by a common language. There are enough similarities that the veteran WoW player will feel right at home, and enough differences that it can lead to some bad early decisions and frustration. So, for those who were not able to participate in the SW:TOR betas, here are a few notes to help ease you over the learning curve.
As you have probably already seen, each faction has four classes, each with two advanced classes which provide specialization. The classes are mirrored between the two factions, so each class on the Republican side has an Imperial counterpart. For reference, the mirrors are: Jedi Knight (JK) = Sith Warrior (SW); Jedi Consular (JC) = Sith Inquisitor (SI); Trooper (Tr) = Bounty Hunter (BH); Smuggler (Sm) = Imperial Agent (IA). The advanced class selection becomes available at level 10, and a quest giver will point you to the appropriate NPC on your capital planet (Coruscant or Dromand Kass) or fleet station, depending upon where you are when you hit level 10.
A major difference between SW:TOR classes and other MMO’s such as WoW, is that in SW:TOR, every class is a druid. What I mean by this is that every class is capable of filling multiple roles (tank/dps/heals). Even after specializing, the advanced classes are capable of filling some combination of tank/dps or heals/dps. The deep specialization doesn’t start until you flesh out your talent trees, and at lower levels this has almost no impact on play, allowing you to effectively play any class you want and specialize into your chosen role as you progress. It also makes leveling easier because every class is capable of putting out respectable dps.
One caution: at this point, the advanced class decision is irreversible so do a little homework before you make your decision.
As in other MMO’s each class has a primary attribute (strength, aim, cunning, willpower), and they are not always intuitive to the new player. For instance, a Trooper/Bounty Hunter (sometimes confused with a WoW warrior) is a ranged fighter, so his primary attribute is Aim, not Strength. Jedi Knights/Sith Warriors are close-in fighters that rely on Strength. Consulars/Inquisitors rely on Willpower to make channel the force or bend it to their will, and Smugglers/Imperial Agents rely in Cunning, even when using their blasters and sniper rifles. Finally everyone relies on Endurance in order to survive more damage.
This last point is very important as when the game launches there will be a lot of noobism in the early stages. In one Flashpoint, I saw a Trooper roll “Need” on an armor piece that was +Str, +End. When questioned, his reply was that since it was heavy armor it was his. It was a very noobish response about rolling on an item that was clearly meant for a lightsaber-wielding Jedi Guardian, not blaster rifle toting Trooper.
Another thing that you need to unlearn/relearn for SW:TOR is the relationship between armor types and stats. Strength shows up on both heavy and medium armor, as does Aim. Cunning shows up on both medium and light armor, as does Willpower. Eight different primary stat/armor combinations, eight different advanced classes. Coincidence? I think not. So make sure you are choosing, buying, rolling for the items that fit your class both in stat and weight.
As you may have heard by now, SW:TOR has put the RPG back into the MMORPG genre. The story is the essence of your character, with decisions here impacting your light-side (LS)/dark-side (DS) progression, your companion’s affection (and romance), and even the branches that your story takes in the future. It controls when you get your companions, your class weapon, your starship. It will even get your character (tastefully) laid if played correctly. (My IA got laid by two different NPC’s on different planets by the time he hit level 20. Take that James Bond!)
The classes may be mirrored, but the class stories are not. Each class (but not advanced class) has its own distinct story line, and this will probably drive you to consider playing more alts than you might in other games, not just within your starting faction, but in the opposing faction as well.
In short, do not skimp the class quests. They should be the core of your adventuring, not the periphery.
Each non-class quest/chain is also a story, with these decisions impacting your character in the form of LS/DS points, character progression, and even story progression. Kill off that enemy NPC early and you may pick up some quick LS/DS points, but let him hang around for a bit and you will at least get more story, and sometimes the opportunity for more points or even other quests.
In SW:TOR, reputation takes the form of light-side/dark-side point progression. LS/DS points are awarded for all class quests and many of the side quests, and are based upon the decisions you make in the course of your dialogue and actions with the NPC’s. LS/DS progression has a number of impacts to your character including companion reactions (some do not react well to opposing decisions), gear availability (there are special items available for progressing levels of LS/DS affinity), weapon color, and even your character’s appearance (if you notice you pupils turning red, then you may be making too many DS decisions). LS/DS points counteract one another keeping you neutral. I’m not sure if there is a benefit yet to staying neutral, and I noticed while role-playing my IA that I tended to make as many LS decisions as I did DS decisions.
Each time a decision will award either LS or DS points, a white star (LS) or red triangle (DS) will appear in the circle of the decision control. You can either role play and let things fall as they might, or you can scan the available decisions and choose the one that awards the desired points. Having tried both, I found that I preferred the first approach as the point-maxing approach tended to detract from the role-playing experience.
Did you ever get frustrated in WoW with that special/elite mob that you had to group up in order to take down, but there was no one to group with? Hogger anyone? In SW:TOR, your companion is your default group. You companion can be your tank, your dps, your healer, depending upon the companion and their capabilities. With a properly outfitted companion you can take down any single (non-heroic) mob in the game, and sometimes the heroics as well. Companions can be used to augment player groups as well by providing the extra tanking/dps/heals the group might lack. While not a full replacement for an extra player (the AI is good, but not that good), it makes up for at least half a player when grouping.
Companions bring four major capabilities to the game: 1) they correct your class deficiencies by providing the roles that your class (especially your AC) may lack; 2) they allow you to exercise your crew skills even when you are otherwise occupied; 3) they can be sent off to sell the trash items in your inventory, saving you a long slog back to a vendor; 4) they give you someone to talk to on those long lonely runs across the zone.
The first capability is immensely powerful. Playing a healer? Then the companion is your tank. Playing a tank? Then it is your healer. Playing dps? Then the companion can be a tank, healer, or help in in dealing out face-melting dps.
The second capability is as utilitarian as the first is powerful. Unlike other MMO’s your crafting/gathering skills are vested in your crew instead of in your character. Combined with the miracle of interstellar communications, your character can be questing with one companion while your other companions are off crafting, gathering, and performing missions on your behalf.
Companions have the same traits, armor, weapons, combat mechanics as your main character. Each companion also provides two bonuses, distinct to that companion, to the crafting, gathering, mission tasks that they perform. And finally, each companion has a distinct personality that controls the way that the decisions that you make, and the gifts that you provide, impact their affection for you.
Each class has five distinct companions that will join you at various stages of your travels. Your first companion joins you in your starting zone towards the end of your class quest line, normally between levels 8 and 10. You generally get introduced early to this companion as an NPC, and may even end up questing with the before they officially become “yours”.
You also get a non-combat companion, a droid, at the same time that you get your starship (around level 15). The droid provides all the same capabilities of your other companions, except for following you into combat, and in addition will fix your meals, care for your crew, and keep your starship spotlessly clean.
One of the major challenges that I experienced during beta was figuring out how to maximize the value of the companion by keeping them occupied while I was doing other things. Running around the capitol cities (where I was unlikely to get into combat), I would send my companion(s) off on gathering assignments or missions as I was running from quest-giver to quest-giver. Once I got my droid, I’d queue up crafting tasks while I was off questing with my combat companion.
In short, your companion(s) are your best (non-guild) friends in the game, so make good use of them.
Gear in SW:TOR follows the grey/white/green/blue/purple progression of quality level that is familiar to WoW’ers. This is an area where it is easy to make some early, critical, mistakes. Especially coming from WoW, we are used to replacing those previous-level blues with higher level greens. In SW:TOR, however, the really good gear, such as that which you get from flashpoints (dungeons) and class quests, is slotted, meaning it can be upgraded as you level. All slotted gear is at least “blue” in quality, and never needs to be replaced, only upgraded. Different pieces of slotted gear can have a different look, especially armor pieces, so occasionally you may want to swap out one slotted item for another for aesthetic reasons. No problem. Take your pieces to an enhancement station and for a small fee you can remove the mods from one item in order to place them in the other.
Note: in the last beta build I noticed that the slotted items got recolored as orange, making them easier to distinguish from the non-slotted quality items.
Gear falls in the following broad categories: armor (head, chest, leg, foot, hand, wrist); weapons (guns, blades, shields); tech (ears, implants, relics).
Gear modifications provide stat bonuses (strength, aim, cunning, willpower, endurance) and at higher levels (20+) may add combat bonuses as well (power, crit, defense). Mods may be applied to slotted armor and weapons (and potentially other items although I did not encounter any during my limited testing). The mod categories are: armor plating (armor only); mods (armor and weapons); enhancements (armor and weapons); crystals (weapons only); barrels (guns only); and hilts (blades only). A fully upgraded armor piece will have level-appropriate armor plating, mod, and an enhancement. A fully upgraded weapon will have a level-appropriate barrel/hilt, mod, enhancement, and crystal.
As in other MMO’s questing will not always keep your gear current. The gaps can be filled by crafting, buying from standard vendors for credits (white/green quality), buying from commendation vendors (blue quality) for commendations (badges in WoW parlance), and buying from the Galactic Trade Network (GTN, aka the auction house). LS/DS slotted items can be purchased from a vendor for credits with the appropriate Light/Dark level. In beta some specialty vendors sold blue quality items for credits, but I do not know if that will persist into the general release (and they were frightfully expensive).
Quests consist of two components: dialogue/decision-making, and actions. Every quest has a dialogue/decision-making component and some consist of nothing but dialogue. Most quests have an action component as well such as travel to, find, kill X, collect Y. In SW:TOR, I encountered few “grind” quests (killing ridiculous numbers of mobs for items with appalling low drop rates), and the few that I did encounter were able to be completed in a short period of time.
Quest givers are grouped in such a way that they are either in the same area or encountered on the way to the region where the questing will be performed, almost invariably in association with your class quest. So the easiest way to avoid running back and forth across a zone is to take your class quest, gather the side quests on your way to the class quest objective, complete the side quests while pursuing the class quest, and then turn them in on the way back. In WoW terms, this is more similar to the WotLK and Cata quest progression rather than vanilla or BC.
Some quests will be designated as “heroic” (trust me, you won’t mistake which ones these are), and designated as requiring 2+ or 4 players. Unless you are much higher level than the quest, these cannot be completed without the recommended group, even with your companion. “At level”, the 2+ heroics can be extremely challenging, if not impossible, for 2 players + companions.
Some quests have bonus levels that appear as the quest progresses. Have to knock out those turrets? Get a bonus if you nuke X number of their defenders at the same time.
In some cases the bonus quests go through multiple levels that update as you progress. The bonus quest objectives are always in the same area as the main quest objectives, and the one constant to these quests is that the greater the effort, the greater the reward, so it is almost always worthwhile to take the time and complete the bonus requirements before turning in the quest.
Quest rewards take a number of forms: experience (all), credits (all), LS/DS points (most), companion affection (most), gear/mods (most), commendations (some, all bonus quests).
The experience, credit, gear/mod rewards are similar to other MMO’s and don’t require further elaboration. Commendation rewards are similar to the badges/tokens received in other games and can be redeemed at special vendors for gear and mods.
LS/DS points and companion affection are based upon the decisions made during the dialogue phases.
Note: Commendations can only be redeemed in the zones in which they are awarded, and cannot be converted to other commendation types. Therefore you should always spend your remaining commendations before leaving one zone for a higher-level one.
Note: The LS/DS points and companion affection accrue during the quest but are not awarded until the quest is turned in. This means that if you make really bad decision during a quest that impact your LS/DS standing, or your companion’s affection rating, you can abandon the request before turning it in. There is another way of “cheating” the decision making during the dialogue phase in order to min/max the outcome, but I am not going to share it at this time as it severely detracts from the role-play.
The mechanics of combat in SW:TOR are pretty much like other MMOS. You push buttons to select the mob (Tab), and to leap at the mob, hit the mob, shoot the mob, fry the mob, crush the mob, taunt the mob, nuke the mob, and carve the mob into little bitty cauterized pieces. In other words there a delightful number of ways to dispatch anything that gets in your way, each accompanied by its own stunning visual animation. So much so that at some time you may be tempted to just sit back, stop pushing buttons, and enjoy the show. DON”T! Because here is where SW:TOR combat differs from the others. THERE IS NO AUTOATTACK. Thats right, as soon as you enter spectator mode, your character pauses its attacks to survey its handiwork. Needless to say, this can have a dramatic impact on the outcome of the battle. Hopefully you remembered to bring your companion along so they can continue to tank/dps/heal, blissfully unaware that the “boss” is standing visually awestruck. Enjoy the moment if it occurs, and then get back to pushing those buttons!
Also as in other MMO’s, your character’s combat talents and abilities stack, growing more complex over time. Some abilities are for prep, some for dealing/healing damage, and some are for finishing the fight. An example is the Sniper who by level 20 has 5 abilities that when used together, start and end most fights almost immediately. COVER (instant) allows the Sniper to take a covered position behind either an obstacle or a shield, LAZE TARGET (instant, 60s cooldown) makes your next snipe a critical, SNIPE (1.5s, no cooldown) deals a large amount of damage, AMBUSH (3.5s, 6s cooldown) does even more damage, and TAKEDOWN (instant, 12s cooldown) pretty much destrys anything less than an elite mob that is under 30% health. One rotation could be COVER, AMBUSH, LAZE TARGET, SNIPE, TAKEDOWN. Total time: 5 seconds + 3 GCDs (@ 1.5s) = 9.5 seconds from the time AIMED SHOT opens to the time that combat, hopefully, ends.
Let’s examine a different combination however. The LAZE TARGET has a 20s duration. Also, there is a talent that reduces the actiion (cast) time of the AMBUSH by 1s upon a SNIPE critical. A second talent makes SNIPE instant cast upon entering cover. If I rearrange the rotation, it becomes COVER, LAZE TARGET, SNIPE, AMBUSH, TAKEDOWN. Total time: 2.5 seconds + 2 GCDs = 5.5 seconds from the time the SNIPE opens combat to the time that it ends. That’s a 40% decrease in the amount of time spent in polishing off a mob. It also makes you pretty uber-leet when your target dies barely understanding that the battle even began.
One thing to note about SW:TOR mobs, they are a lot more gregarious than some of their sword and sorcery counterparts. Unlike other MMO’s where a target will stand off, alone with his thoughts, in blessed isolation; the SW:TOR mobs like to stand together chewing the fat, discussing yesterday’s Huttball results, and generally supporting each other when the stuff hits the fan. Often you’ll decide to pick off that lone lookout, only to discover that he had two or three (sometimes 4) buddies nearby that suddenly notice that he is in peril. If there are only two targets, then at least one is a special. And if there truly is only one, then check the portrait for a gold frame because it’s a trap, and that one is an elite.
Overall, combat is a lot like pre-Cata WoW, (if you played WoW) allowing you to build rotations based upon abilities and talents that maximize your output and minimize your time. It also gives you the ability to look up from your action bar and actually enjoy the show instead of having to constantly scan for which ability is coming off of cooldown next. If you liked the Star Wars movies, the action is definitely worth watching. Just remember: KEEP PUSHING THOSE BUTTONS!
In SW:TOR there are three classes of crew skills that can be learned by a character: crafting, gathering, and mission. A character can learn up to three crew skills, but only one can be a crafting skill. As in other MMO’s there is a correlation between which crafting/gathering/mission skills work best together, so the best approach is to choose your crafting skill first (if any) and then choose the corresponding supplemental skills.
One gathering skill that is definitely worth mentioning is Slicing, which is a virtual license to print credits. There are goody boxes in the zones that can be sliced for loot, and the missions almost always return as many or more credits than expended. While surely not the only lucrative gathering skill, especially once the game launches and the economy becomes more robust, Slicing is the most straightforward way of turning game time into credits.
Last but not least. You’ve run from one end of Tanis to the other and worn out enough pairs of boots to outfit the Republican Army. When do you get to give you aching dogs a rest? The answer is: level 25, 40,000 credits, plus another 5,000 for the ride of your choice, and you are on your way to rollin’ with your Jedi homies. Remember that if you purchased the DDE or CE versions of the game, that your first ride is free, although you will need to pay for the riding skill. During beta, I did not experience any issues accumulating the necessary funds by level 25, even while honing my crafting and mission skill levels. Credit accumulation seemed to increase pretty quickly after level 20, so if this holds up after launch you should not have too much difficulty getting your ride by 25.
Feeling social? If you are, then you are definitely in the right place, because SW:TOR has some very distinctive incentives to engage in social behaviors. For those new to MMO’s there are a number of ways to socialize with your friends while in-game (such as the chat channels) that will be very familiar to veteran MMO players. There are in-game guilds that allow you to associate with like-minded players (although many of the advanced guild mechanics such as banks etc. are still under development. See the Dev posts for more details). And, you can group with other players in order to take on more challenging content (heroic quests, flashpoints, operations), or just to have company while doing your quests. Again, this will be familiar to veteran MMO’ers, so let’s talk about the social aspects that will be new to both audiences: holocalls and social points.
When two or more players are grouped, the game will allow all of the players to participate in the quest dialogue phase (assuming that all players have the same quest), even when they are not in proximity to the quest giver. Allow me to give an example: Players A & B arrive in Coruscant, and Player A runs over to the Galactic Senate Tower while Player B strolls over to check out the market; Player A encounters a quest giver and initiates the dialogue; through the miracle of intergalactic communications that put the Verizon network to shame, Player B receives an invitation to join a holocall with Player A and the quest giver, allowing them both to accept/turn-in the quest at the same time.
Too good to be true you say? Wait! There’s more. Although sharing the same dialogue, both players get to interact with the quest giver and make decisions just as they would if they were solo, with the game randomly determining which player’s decision will be used for the video sequence. Don’t worry, if your decision produces a different LS/DS result than your friend’s, you still get rewarded based upon the decisions you made, not based upon the ones that were selected for the video. This means that you can happily choose to blast that worthless scum (and collect the bonus DS points), even if your more kind-hearted friend chooses to be merciful.
Still too good to be true? Wait! If you subscribe now (or even if you don’t) you get SOCIAL POINTS! That’s right, for a limited time (sometime between now and when the galaxy implodes), every time you group with your fellow players and engage in the quest dialogues, you receive social points for your responses. The number of points you receive each time varies based upon some arcane formula known only to a few Jedi masters (and perhaps the Emperor), but as the points accumulate, you advance in social level, unlocking valuable social rewards that are available from the so-named vendors in the capitol cities (during beta there were social vendors in the fleets as well, but I am not sure if they still exist).
So, in summary, not only can you group with others in order to add to your enjoyment, you can decrease your questing time by delegating the accept/turn-in responsibilities, and get paid social points to do it. Are you feeling social now?
Hopefully, if you are still reading, you have found this guide to be informative, or at least entertaining. At least it might help you avoid the embarrassment of having to spam zone chat for answers to questions that everyone else seems to know.
Enjoy the launch, and welcome to the galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic. Have an enjoyable time, and may the Force be with you.