I spent this past weekend playing Star Wars: the Old Republic, while I probably should have been focusing on Elder Scrolls Online instead. ESO is the big "buzz" game, and we like buzz. But SWTOR was having one of their Double XP Weekend events, and I still have a ton of alts that haven't yet hit level cap. I have 11 characters on Harbinger, and only 2 of them are 55 and geared for endgame.
Since my time is fairly divided these days, and I no longer have 80 or so hours per week to dedicate to one single game like I used to do, accelerated XP events are a godsend. And I still pay a sub for SWTOR, so I figured I should take advantage of that. I had 3 characters I wanted to work on over this weekend: a low-level Sniper, a mid-level Vanguard, and a high-level Sorcerer.
I started with the Sniper. He was level 12 when I began, and my goal was to get him to level 20 so I could finally equip the cool-looking custom-made sniper rifle I had crafted for him ages and ages ago. He was still adventuring on Dromund Kaas, which, like Coruscant for the Republic players, is kind of a "drop-off zone" for people just getting introduced to the game.
On the one hand, I made it to 20 in no time flat. Double XP from the event, combined with Cartel Market boosters plus the guild bonus - I was level 20 well before I finished the planet. The last time I ran through Dromund Kaas, I was probably level 15 or 16 by the time I got to my ship and headed off into space.
On the other hand, the event drew in an awful lot of people, and General Chat was even more hostile than it usually is. General Chat on Dromund Kaas and Coruscant is kind of nasty at the best of times - it's populated by the players who are clever enough to have made it through the starter worlds, but who have no real interest in playing the game all the way through. Or by players who only made it through the starter planets because of dogged persistence rather than any kind of skill or intellect. Or by players who have been involved with the game for a long time but are bored and looking for a distraction, or a trolly debate about religion and/or politics.
That's at the best of times. At the worst of times, like Double XP Weekends, the craziness dial is cranked up to 11. It's terribly entertaining to watch, but if you're actually trying to find group members for a heroic or, God forbid, asking for advice, it can be frustrating.
It took me a while to find a group for the big 4-man area heroic, and the group I found for it was less than ideal - brand new F2P players (at least one of them completely new to MMOs in general; SWTOR was his first) who had not yet learned about advanced classes.
Again, double-edged sword: on the one hand, it's always good to see new players joining in because it means your game is continuing to grow. On the other hand, there's no way you're going to make it through the heroic alive. My approach was to take a few minutes to mentor the newbies, take them up to fleet and introduce them to advanced classes, then haul them back to the heroic area and eat a few deaths while we slogged through it.
The next character I worked on was the high-level Sorcerer. My goal was to bounce him from level 50 to level 55, and then to get him to Oricon so he could blast through those quests and get the full set of purple gear.
Makeb is kind of a unique leveling experience, similar to Nar Shaddaa or Corellia. There's no big, open world to run around and explore - just a bunch of little "islands" with a few quests on each one. These islands are more spread out and numerous than Nar Shaddaa neighborhoods, and there are only 2 or 3 quests on each one. Plus bonus quests, which actually seem to count for more XP than the normal quests.
Anyway, it makes questing a little bit slower, because you're only doing 2 or 3 at a time instead of 5 or 6. The consumable Enhanced XP buffs are less effective because you are spending so much more time traveling and less time turning in quests. I personally found that the heroics were too time-consuming to be efficient for rapid XP gain, so I ignored most of them and just focused on the fast soloable stuff.
The Double XP Weekend was good here. The chat wasn't filled with trolls and I was able to hit 55 well before the end of the planet's storyline, which meant I could bail on the frustrating boss fight against the Archon and just book straight to Oricon. But, because I have an army of alts to level up, and the weekend doesn't last forever, I had to park him there.
The Trooper was my Sunday project. Alderaan is not my favorite planet, but the enhanced XP meant my character would advance quicker, and the fights would therefore be made slightly easier. Easier fights means less time spent on the planet. The Vanguard Trooper started out at level 36, and my goal was to get him to level 40.
I didn't quite make the goal on this one. Four levels might not seem like all that much, especially with double XP, but Alderaan is a lot of walking, and, since he was already over-level for most of the quests there, XP gain was slow. Ideally, I should have just focused on the class questline and booked to the next planet, but I wanted to be done with Alderaan.
This character was actually more challenging to level, because he was already slightly over-level for the quests on the next planet as well. Balmorra didn't shoot me up through the levels like Dromund Kaas and Makeb had done for my other toons, and I had to spend nearly all of that character's money on buying equipment upgrades for his neglected companions.
Double XP can absolutely help with rapid leveling, but it can't fix months of neglect and crappy decisions. And leveling too fast can make gearing up a bit of a challenge - you outgrow gear quicker than you can afford to replace it. This isn't so much of a problem with high-level guys making that last stretch to level cap because you have an end in sight. But if you start out at a low level and focus on just that one character, keeping your gear current can prove problematic. The gaps start getting larger because you're not earning money or barter stuff any faster.
My three-tiered experience with this Double XP Weekend has given me some insight on what these events can mean for different kinds of players:
- For new players, fast advancement makes for a more thrilling and engaging introduction to a game.
- Casual or time-limited players with mid-level characters seem to get the most benefit from these events. If you can gain two levels in your limited play-time instead of just one, it puts you that much closer to your maximum potential and makes your game time more rewarding.
- Alt-junkies like me benefit greatly as well. If you have characters spread across a broad range of levels and want to get them all up to cap eventually, these weekends are aces, baby.
- Hardcore players seem to receive the least benefit, or the benefits they receive seem to be offset more by the drawbacks. Having their game flooded by noobs and filthy casuals makes it a bit harder to get any real work done.
- Guild leaders and recruiters may find they have a lot more new people to pull in. And some of the new blood might even stick around after the event ends.
Star Wars: the Old Republic has another Double XP Weekend coming up at the beginning of May, from May 2 - 5. But they're not limited to just SWTOR - keep an eye on our news feed for similar events in your favorite MMOs!
How do you roll during XP-boost events? Let us know in our comments!