It’s December 2011 and the game has been released to the slavish mob and is an absolute delight to play. After being involved in numerous Beta Testing weekends (playing all the characters I had no intention of investing time in once it was officially released, namely ‘Light Side’ Republic characters like the Jedi and Smugglers) The Hublet and I, thanks to his quick work, were two of the chosen ones who got advance access to the game over a week before the official launch.
The Hublet favours Tank and went down the path of a Sith Warrior, and I’ve enjoyed watching him play and see Force-actions in combat. Initially I created a Bounty Hunter and, once I completed all the Heroics and Quests on my starting planet of Hutta, chose to become a PowerTech and Tank instead of Heal. This is my first MMO experience, and I’m completely blown away, and having observed my own fighting style I felt a Tank was more suited to how I played. I didn’t want to be a DPS as the game is littered with them, and instead opted for Tank as this will prove to be valuable in later Group activities.
However, as historically The Hublet has always been a Tank we decided that I would go back and create a new character – I voted for my beloved Bounty Hunter – but would pursue the Healing option and become a Mercenary, as there always seems to be a big need for Healers and, if I could master the art of keeping an eye on my Group and ensure I let the Tanks and DPS get in on the action while I hovered around the edges and kept their strength up, I would be invaluable to both The Hublet if we ever played together, as well as any Group I joined.
This is merely our thought process on things, however you may favour the Light Side (shame on you) and choose a Republic character, or you may be drawn to the Dark Side (they have cookies, doncha’ know) and choose an Empire character. Either way, you are going to be swamped with decisions along the way.
Firstly you need to choose what Server you want to play on:
- PvE stands for Player vs. Environment and means other Players cannot attack you without you agreeing to a duel or fight.
- PvP stands for Player vs. Player and means that Players from the opposing faction can attack you at any time.
- RP-PvE / RP-PvP stands for Role-Playing and means that you remain in-character at all times with no option to fight or duel with other players. Please also remember to choose a Server in the same time zone that you are, one that will be populated by people who work when you do, sleep when you do and play when you do, so that you will always find a healthy amount of people online to provide assistance in missions that require a Group of people.
Secondly you need to choose your Allegience:
- Will you be Republic or Sith Empire? The Republic are usually considered ‘Good’ while the Empire is usually considered to be an ‘Evil’ faction. The beauty of the game is that regardless of whether you choose Republic or Empire, Good or Bad, you always have an element of personal choice during interactive decision making parts of the game, wherein a ‘Good’ character can choose an amoral path, and a ‘Bad’ character can choose to do good and show mercy (which can either win or lose you affection points depending on which Companion is accompanying you).
Thirdly you need to choose your Class, and this is something that should be determined by your playing style. 1-Up.com have provided an excellent Class Guide, giving a meaty breakdown of the various Republic and Empire Class options (and also some assistance on which of these Classes suit the further advanced Class choices of Tank, DPS and Healing that you will be faced with):
- Jedi Knight which suits offensive close combat styles
- Jedi Consular which works with Mastery of the Force / a Protective style
- Smuggler which is a very Agile Class
- Trooper who are able to handle heavy weapons and wear heavy armour
- Sith Warrior suits an offensive close combat combat style
- Sith Inquisitor works with Mastery of the Force / an Offensive style
- Imperial Agent which is a very Agile Class
- Bounty Hunter who, like the Trooper, are also able to handle heavy weapons and wear heavy armour
Fourthly you need to choose your species/race from 8 playable options.
You are now ready to enter the game.
Next, at some point while on your starter world you will gain a Companion:
- This is a character that will follow you around and perform a set function as needed, whether it’s to heal you during combat or fight at your side. You need to ensure their affection levels for you remain high, otherwise you risk them becoming be so disgusted by your choices that they leave you, and I found that while I was leveling up my character the assistance provided by my Companion was invaluable. I found the SWTOR Companion List, compiled by SW:TOR Strategies, to be absolutely essential in learning a little more background story as well as getting some useful tips on how to raise Companion affection. I would also recommend you follow them on Twitter (@swtorstrategies) for regular updates.
After that, once you leave your initial starter world and land on your next world/space station you will be faced with the decision of which Advanced Class you should choose. You need to decide if you want to play a character that is Tank, DPS (Damage Per Second), or Healer. When you go into battle in a group situation, you will need a balanced mix of Tank, Healer and DPS players:
- The Tank classes exist in order to take damage for the group and protect the others from being attacked. Their job is to keep the enemy’s attention on them, stopping the enemy from attacking others in the group who are usually less armoured and less able to take the amount of damage that a Tank can. They need to have what MMO players refer to as a high ‘Threat Level’ which means that the computer controlling the game needs to ignore its usual target of Healers (if you take down the Healer, everyone else eventually dies) and see the Tank as a threat, so the Tank need to be drawing attention to itself and wearing strong armour and holding the meanest weapons. Tanks need to be the first in and the last out of fights;
- The DPS classes are tasked with killing the bad guys. This sounds easy, however it takes skill to deliver a punishing amount of damage on a target without undermining the Tank’s job and drawing the enemy’s attention onto themselves. They need to inflict as much damage as possible on the target, but will need to be regularly healed and protected as they run around like little monkeys shooting up everything;
- The Healer classes are essential to everyone as they will restore the health of the Tank and DPS classes when they inevitably take damage, keeping them alive in order to either Tank or kill enemies. They are precious and need to stay at the edges, avoiding close combat and ideally not taking too much damage. They need to wear strong armour as, although they carry weapons, their focus is on healing and not damage. A good Healer needs quick reaction times and steady nerves, they need to be aware of the health levels of their team and proactively react where needed.
Once your character passes Level 10 and you have decided which Advanced Class to pursue, you will now have access to your Skill Trees. Each class has 3 Skill Trees to manipulate, which each allow you to improve a different skill set. Each time you advance a Level you gain 1 point to spend on your Skill Trees, and you will need to decide how best to spend your points. Remember that your choices always influence which skills are available and the group role that you will play (Tank, Healer or DPS). You can either focus on a single tree or spread out your points between all 3, but remember that overall you will only be able to earn enough skill points to reach the top tier of a single tree. You are allowed to reset your points and reassign them at any point, which is great when you’re level 10-30 and want to focus on defence and attack, or when you’re at level 40-50, king of the world, and want to focus on purely attack as you no longer need defence as you’re wearing an amazing amount of armour.
I found the Skill Tree Calculator provided by DarthHater really helpful as it allowed me to plot the course of my Skill Trees and decide where to spend my precious points. Follow them on Twitter (@realdarthhater) for regular updates.
Sadly the decision-making part of your brain is not done with its workout. Once you’ve chosen your Advanced Class and spent your Skill Points, you need to decide what Crew Skills you want to master, you get to choose 1 Crafting Skill, 1 Gathering Skill and 1 Misson Skill. This is a really helpful option that allows you to send one or more of your Companions away to fulfill a task, and you can queue a number up to maximise your return. Your Companion will be unavailable to you while on this task, so don’t send them off when you’re about to go into battle and could do with their healing or fighting help.
These options will allow you to send out crew to gather resources, craft items for you to wear or sell, and even to undertake their own missions, bringing back to you a variety of benefits and rewards. Your choice of Crew Skills depend heavily on your choice of Advanced Class. For instance, if you’re a Tank you benefit from being able to make your own heavy armour or weapons; if you’re saving up for something nice then you can sell or auction your returns to raise credits. I’ll again refer you to the lovely DarthHater site as they’ve provided a comprehensive breakdown of the Crew Skills available and the suggested combinations for your 3 choices depending on what you hope to gain. Remember that just like your Skill Trees, these Crew Skills can be changed whenever you want so if you no longer want to focus on making your own armour you can drop Armormech for something else.
Ok, get out there you crazy kids and go kick some Rancor bahookie. As I come across them, I’ll add tips, hints, cheats, guides, useful links and anything else I can find to benefit your playing experience. Have fun.