SWTOR: The Good, The Bad and the Class Story Leveling Event
Super-rapid XP gain focused on only one small element of the game is a double-edged lightsaber.
Pre-ordering the forthcoming "Shadow of Revan" expansion for Star Wars: the Old Republic gives subscribers a unique 12x experience boost for class missions. That's a substantial boost - it allows characters to shoot through the whole leveling process very quickly by doing story missions only, bypassing all planetary storylines, side quests, heroics, flashpoints and war zones and reaching level cap by focusing only on class stories.
This limited-time boost, which the SWTOR team is calling "The Class Story Leveling Event," is kind of awesome for some players, and a high-speed nightmare for others.
Players who know the game, who already have a few high-level, high-powered characters with maxed-out crew skills, tons of materials, bushels of unused planetary commendations and credits to burn will have no problem with this system, and it will allow them to experience all eight class stories in a short amount of time.
Players without a bottomless pit of resources and cash, or who are newly-arrived to the game, will have a much harder time with this accelerated leveling.
Personally, I fall somewhere between those two positions. I do have a number of high-level characters with maxed-out crew skills, and a goodly amount of planetary commendations, but the Galactic Strongholds expansion drained off a significant amount of my cash resources, and in order to recover from that, I ended up selling off a lot of my crafting materials. Which helped, but didn't come anywhere close to recouping my losses.
So it becomes a good news - bad news situation, where the awesome points are tempered by some not-so-awesome points.
Good News: You can rocket all the way to endgame in a matter of hours. During the early levels, completing one story mission will give you a full level (that evens out later on; by around level 45, a mission was worth about half a level). I started with a level 14 Sith Marauder on Friday, and by Sunday morning, he was level 50 and on his way to Makeb. A fellow on Reddit posted a screenshot proving that he had hit level 55 after only 8 hours of play time.
Bad News: For me, that was an expensive playthrough, and the character has been vastly under-geared the entire time. It was fun ripping through the Sith Warrior storyline again, but a lot of the missions were frustratingly difficult because the character's gear was well behind the curve.
A few times, I had to stop what I was doing, swap over to my Cybertech character, craft a full loadout of green-quality Might and Cunning armoring and mods (one set for the Marauder, one set for heal-tank Treek) and transfer them over just to be able to survive some of the fights. And because I'm still hurting from the Strongholds expansion, that meant I had to take my Cybertech dude out for scavenging runs on low-level planets, and run a bunch of Scavenging and Underworld Trading missions to get the mats.
I would have simply bought the mods off the GTN, despite my relative poverty, but the crafters have caught on to this strategy and are gouging speed-levelers with very high prices for all gear mods - even the green-quality stuff you could barely give away before the 12x XP boost came into play. Again, this won't be a problem for wealthy, well-stocked players (like the Redditor, I imagine, who is probably a much better planner than I), but for my broke ass it was a financial strain and a time-sink, and for players trying this out on their first character, it's going to be rough.
Good News: You can blast through all eight class stories in a matter of days.
Bad News: To see the full scope of the game's stories, you only need to complete all of the classes to Act III, and then take one Sith Empire and one Republic character through Ilum and Makeb. Those stories aren't significantly different from one class to the next within the same faction - a few lines of dialogue will be different, but the story arc is the same.
Good News: You can quickly build a full range of all combat types in both factions. You can have a tank, healer, striker and support character for both the Empire and the Republic in almost no time.
Bad News: Speed-leveling leaves the player with almost no idea on how to actually play those characters effectively. Kinda the same thing as when people used to buy power-leveled characters in other MMOs off of eBay, or from gold-sellers. Even if the character somehow ends up with awesome endgame gear (which is not the case here), the player is faced with toolbars full of unfamiliar combat skills, and only a vague idea of how to mash them. I ripped through the Sith Warrior storyline entirely solo, skipping all heroics and flashpoints and not even grouping up for the tougher story missions. Consequently, I have only a few vague notions about how the class works in a group, and most of that is from my experience as a group tank or healer trying to keep crazy-ass Marauders from wiping the group.
Good News: Skill training is free with this boost.
Bad News: It kinda has to be because if you're only doing class missions, you're making very little money. And what little money you are making will need to be spent on frequent gear upgrades.
Good News: Makeb opens up at level 47, and has GSI Satellite terminals at the quest hub locations that bumps your gear up to high-level so you can complete level 50+ missions when you are still in the 40s. And you get good gear and stuff from Makeb missions. And the Makeb main story missions count as class quests for the 12x XP boost. As do the Ilum main story quests.
Bad News: If you are playing through for the awesome stories, jumping ahead to Makeb at level 47 will spoil the ending of your class story and the outcome of the Ilum story arc.
So, with these points in mind, here are some recommendations:
- Mix in a few heroics here and there. Watch for people looking for groups and sign up - most of these missions can be shared so you don't need to fish around all the NPCs and quest terminals trying to find them. Heroics will cut into your rapid XP gain, but they will provide you with much-needed gear upgrades, money and group-play experience.
- Join a guild for even faster XP gain. That 10% boost on top of 12x accelerated gain will speed things up a lot.
- Focus on using just one companion, rather than swapping between all of them. Your companion is just as useless with low-level trash gear as you are, and you are going to have enough trouble keeping yourself within the gear curve. Unless you have wealthy, resource-laden alts, you won't likely be able to keep all your companions current.
- Plan on needing a complete gear overhaul for the character and that one particular companion every 15 - 20 levels. If you hit Corellia wearing all the same stuff you were using on Tatooine, you're going to die a lot. If you don't have the means to craft your own high-level gear, or enough comms for three or four complete mod loadouts, try one of these methods:
- Run side-missions and grind mobs for cash so you can buy stuff on the GTN
- Run heroics for the gear rewards, but probably don't try to run as main tank or main healer
- Do warzones, get comms, trade for PvP gear
- Join a guild, make bargains with guildies
- Beg on fleet
- If you can afford it, get Treek. Her ability to switch between tanking and healing, and her ability to dish out some serious damage in either mode when decently-geared, can usually compensate somewhat for lackluster gear and makes her the best all-around companion for any class. Swap in your regular companions for dialogue bits, but keep Treek geared up with cheap Bounty Hunter/Trooper gear and use her for fights.
- Run Makeb right away at level 47 if you don't care about spoilers. The stuff you get from there will no doubt help complete the final act of the original class mission.
The "Class Story Leveling Event" runs until the "Shadow of Revan" expansion launches in early December.
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