Star Wars: The Old Republic | Slapping the big button marked RESET

If you look at the 'story' of Star Wars: The Old Republic, one of the common things said about it is that it was released before it was ready. Another is that, after years in development, it was behind the times. With Knights of the Fallen Empire it seems to be trying to hit a big, fat reset button and bring itself up to date.

Back to basics

Knights of the Fallen Empire was billed from the start as the back to basics expansion. What makes a Bioware game special? Its the story, the story and the story. After some successful feature expansions and some mixed quality story expansions, Bioware was going to go back to story. By taking a leaf out of Guild Wars 2's book and bringing in episodes. Far from being bad, this is a good thing. Nothing makes an MMO better like borrowing ideas from other MMOs, as long as they are well implemented.

So there is a new glossy video, to start with. This is something not done on this scale since the launch.

Further to this, the story is being reset. Gone is the endless war between the Republic and the Empire. Instead, there is a new common enemy. You will have your personal story reset, having been out of commission while all this happened and waking up to a brave new world. This is as close to SWTOR 2 as we are going to get.

This ties in nicely with a new catch up mechanism (borrowed from World of Warcraft) where you can start (buy) a new character at what is now the maximum level.

Resetting the systems?

Its not just a story reboot, however. Its becoming more and more apparent that SWTOR is resetting a lot of systems. In fact, most of them. The only thing yet to be touched is class and I would not expect that to change. You don't reset all your systems and add a new class to balance unless you are completely crazy.

So here is the A-Z of system resets. At least some of these will make you want to dance around the room if you are a SWTOR player.

Cartel Market

On the plus side here, the Collections UI is getting some love. Its a good idea, its just unwieldy. Also rarity is being made clearer - it will now be Bronze, Silver or Gold.

The changes to packs are more mixed:

  • Most pack items will be cool things only - Armor, Mounts, Decorations, Toys.
  • Each pack will have one cool thing and one Companion gift.
  • You will be able to buy packs in set of 5.
  • Hypercrates will now have 30 packs.
  • When a pack is removed, the items in it will go into the new Bronze, Silver or Gold packs. These are item type specific. There will be, for example, Armor Packs, Decoration Packs, Mount Packs. You will always have a chance to get an item of a better quality, but never worse. So Bronze packs may give Silver or Gold items, but a Silver pack will never give a Bronze.
  • If an item type does not have enough items to create three tiers of packs, there will just be a single Grand pack. This covers colour crystals, emotes, pets, companion customisations, titles, dyes, etc.
  • There will also be less direct sale items, but more direct sale specials of popular items.

Now, there is definitely good in this. Firstly, packs of 5 are good, as are the Bronze, Silver, Gold packs and the Grand Packs. I also really like the idea of direct sale specials. This should reduce the insane prices on some of these items too. On the down side, of all the things that could be a secondary item, they kept Companion Gifts. Why???? Wouldn't all those little things like colour crystals, emotes, etc. be better? One big and one small item?

There have also been a lot of questions about Cartel Reputations and the Jawa Scrap system. Perhaps those can go, but, be aware - if anyone tries to take the Jawas out of my stronghold there will be hell to pay. They can convert into inactive NPCs like the dancers and bar people, but you can't have them back.

Companions

The companion system is one of the strengths of SWTOR, but still has its flaws. Changes come in two types. The first is a set of changes meant to allow you to use the companion you want to use and make it easier to do so. No longer do you need to choose an irritating companion just because you want the role they fill. Instead you will chose a role for them. Also, the need to gear them is gone, so you don't have to worry about gearing them or about gear levels limiting your choice. But, you can still put gear on them. So you can concentrate on making them look ridiculous rather than making them effective.

The second is how the companions are being used in the expansion. Firstly, you will have access to some new, non-class specific companions through your story (as opposed to through your wallet).

Crafting, Mission and Harvesting Skills

This has been tidied up some. Gone are the 'levels' of crafting where, after hitting say 400 in Thingymajig you had to go back to a trainer before you could keep levelling. This is replaced with 8 grades which indicate a level range (this includes Augments). Gone are green and blue versions of item, they're all now blue. There are some tweaks to what can be created by different skills. Also:

  • Reverse Engineering no longer makes any sense, but is apparently better. I think it lets you destroy items to get a schematic for a better version.
  • All crafted armor is Adaptive (meaning its orange and you can put mods in it).
  • All schematics need a component, which is just a way of combining some mats before you combine more mats.
  • It also sounds like mats from the mission skills like Underworld Trading will be needed more.
  • Reusable Biochem and Cybertech items are gone, along with droid armor.
  • All mods from Operations can be Reverse Engineered for their schematic, but gear can't be.
  • The new fancy Operation equivalent gear you can craft needs mats from personal Conquest goals, so you might need to actually do those. It has no set bonuses and you can't make relics.
  • There are no longer any skill limits on harvesting nodes - you can harvest them and skill up with them. But you will get more materials if your skill level is higher relative to the node level.
  • Crafting and mission times are down.
  • Quite a few crafting items are being removed to streamline things a bit, but you will get an equivalent item so no need to do anything about it.

Leveling

Since the 12x XP boost has been very popular, the leveling experience has also been altered. Its not quite the same as the bonus, but its still much stripped down. Missions are now divided into the following types:

  • Critical Path (follow the purple triangle): These are the class missions and core planetary story missions and will get you from 1-60 on their own. This should feel a little more natural to first time players than just doing the class stories and will reduce the feeling that you are spending all your time running around rather than questing. However, it still makes levelling quicker. Yay.
  • Side Missions (gold triangle): These are additional missions you can complete if you want to.
  • Heroic Missions (gold arrow triangle thing, also used for other repeatable missions): Heroic missions are still there and have undergone some changes. They are now all 2+, complete in the field (most of the time), will transport you to the mission area and be available from the Weekly Missions Terminal. They all have a weekly reset and better rewards.
  • Exploration Missions (star triangle mash up): This is everything left over and remains in place for those obsessed with completing all the things, or as a change.

The only thing not clear from this is if you will be forced to do all of the planetary stories each time. You can't skip parts of the class quests, but it would be great if, on leveling an alt, you could skip the planetary quests marked as critical and instead do some side/exploration missions or even heroics. This means you would be able to reduce repeated quest content.

Finally groups are being tweaked to make them the best leveling experience in all cases and ensure bigger groups don't screw you over.

Flashpoints

Essentially, Level Sync has been applied to all Flashpoints. Actually, its more complicated than that. Why have one way of doing things when you can confuse people with two?

  • All the story-important flashpoints now have a solo mode, so you can see the story without needing to come into contact with real people. They are repeatable in case you want to go back. You will be lowered to the level of the Flashpoint for this.
  • Most Story Mode Flashpoints are now Tactical. This means they are role neutral and you will be bolstered up to the required level and gear. Loot is adjusted to be useful for the classes and levels present.
  • Hard Mode Flashpoints also get bolstering but between levels 50 and 65 only. You will need the tank, healer, double dps set up.
Flashpoint Solo Mode Tactical Mode Hard Mode
Athiss No Yes Yes
Assault on Tython Yes Yes Yes
Battle of Ilum Yes Yes Yes
Battle of Rishi Yes Yes Yes
Black Talon Yes Yes Yes
Blood Hunt Yes Yes Yes
Boarding Party Yes Yes Yes
Cademimu No Yes Yes
Czerka Core Meltdown No Yes Yes
Czerka Labs No Yes Yes
Depths of Manaan No Yes Yes
Directive 7 Yes No No
Esseles Yes Yes Yes
The False Emperor Yes Yes Yes
The Foundry Yes Yes Yes
Hammer Station No Yes Yes
Kaon Under Siege No No Yes
Korriban Incursion Yes Yes Yes
Kuat Drive Yards No Yes Yes
Legacy of the Rakata Yes Yes Yes
Lost Island No No Yes
Maelstrom Prison Yes Yes Yes
Manaan Research Facility Yes No No
Mandalorian Raiders No Yes Yes
Red Reaper No Yes Yes
Taral V Yes Yes Yes

Operations

The headline: all operations will be raised to level 65, which is the new level cap. They will all drop relevant gear and vanity rewards such as mounts and decorations.

Story Mode will be accessible from level 50 to 65 with a bolster, meaning you can level through Operations in the latter part of the game. There will be a daily Story Mode Operation in the Group Finder. There is no mention of whether this needs 8 or 16 players.

Hard Mode will have an 'operation of the week' approach with bonus rewards. This encourages you to switch around rather than just run Eternity Vault because Soa is awesome or some other Operation that turns out to be easier than the rest.

Nightmare Mode will be available for every Operation that had one apart from Eternity Vault and Karagga's Palace.

Planets

This isn't under levelling because its not really for people levelling. But it is about levels. All planets will now have Level Synch. This means that you will be brought down to the level of the planet you are on if you are a higher level, but will earn rewards appropriate to your level (at least XP). Please see Guild Wars 2 for further details.

Given the Great Naked PvP Debacle and the fact that SWTOR don't do public tests, I expect this to be Bugged As Hell on launch. Once thats fixed, there are pros and cons. On the pro side if you love a particular planet, you can do all of the things it offers and skip most of another. It also allows Bioware to use the planets and their environments for other rewards without having to add 'special' mobs that adjust to the player, as they do in Bounties. On the down side, boosting won't be a thing any more. Nor will going back and massacring swathes of the planet for achievements in seconds.

Stats

Primary stats are gone and are being replaced with Mastery. This is something quite uncommon in MMOs. Only Guild Wars 2 really has gear that is usable by everyone. SWTOR isn't going quite that far, and there is no mention of light, medium, heavy armor types being removed. Plus weapon limitations will remain, which seems to be the one thing all MMOs agree on.

Other than this there are some tweaks. Surge is gone (and thus so is Healer Gear). The effective cap for Crit has been removed and it now always gives you something. Endurance has been tweaked to improve health. Base weapon accuracy is now 100%, meaning you only need Accuracy for higher level mobs (I think - I can't see any other purpose for it). Tank Gear remains and you will always get either Power or Endurance plus something else.

There are also tweaks to Conquests But the best change? The most awesome system fix? No longer having to redo your keybindings for every new character.


Header image by włodi from London, UK (The Big Red Button Uploaded by Yarl) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons