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- Star Wars: The Old Republic
The galaxy is a cold, unforgiving place. Plenty of hardworking adventurers like yourself with hearts of gold (and eyes for credits) risk their necks out there every day in the titanic struggle between the Republic and the Sith Empire. Your heroics may go unnoticed or even viewed with malice, while some yokel like Jar Jar Binks in the right place at the right time gets made a senator. Where’s the justice in that? Well, it may not be a fair galaxy, but you’re not without some friends. GR is here to help turn you from daydreaming farmboy to legendary war hero with some pointers to thriving in The Old Republic.
1) Know what you want to be when you grow up.
The starting classes in SWTOR are somewhat deceptive; while they determine your basic abilities and potential, they are not your final class from a gameplay perspective. The Jedi Knight, Consular, Smuggler, and Trooper on the Republic side, mirrored by the Sith Warrior, Inquisitor, Imperial Agent, and Bounty Hunter on the Sith side, are more akin to “story classes” that determine your starting planet and your character’s story arc as you level. These four basic classes all have their own unique abilities, but it’s not until you leave the first planet and reach your faction’s main hub that you determine how your character will end up playing for the rest of its life.
It’s there where you choose an advanced class—each of the four basic classes splits off into two different advanced classes that each have their own distinct talent trees and roles in battle. A Bounty Hunter, for example, can either become a Powertech or a Mercenary. The Powertech can be played as a tank or dps, while the Mercenary can be a healer or dps. It’s not until this point (which is around level 10, give or take) that you make your real class choice, which in most MMO’s happens during character creation. Make sure you research and know ahead of time what advanced class you want to play, because this choice is a one-way ticket. If you change your mind, you’ll have to start a new character from scratch.
2) If you’ve never seen it before, kill it.
While it may not be the most tolerant thing to do, it’s definitely prudent to kill every new enemy type you encounter, even if it’s a little out of the way and you don’t have any quests relating to it. SWTOR is chock full of bonus quests that will automatically activate if you kill a new eligible creature type that you’ve never encountered before. These bonus quests task you to kill more of that same creature type and give you a nice XP boost when completed. They’re a good way to supplement your other quests, and you can often kill two birds with one blaster when a new creature also gets added to your codex for even more XP.
3) Travel off the beaten path—you just might learn something.
Completionists don’t need to be told to explore every nook and cranny of the game world, but even if you’re not, you’d do well to deliberately check out-of-the-way areas if you’re interested in maximizing your character’s stats—you might just stumble upon a Datacron. Distinguishable from a moderate distance by the soft glow they emit upwards, a Datacron is a small metal box that contains a historical record from an event that's even older than the Old Republic (old, old republic?). Accessing a Datacron adds the account to your codex for another minor XP boost.
But that’s not all—Datacrons have spoils to give, either in the form of collectable items that may form parts of a greater whole later on or in permanent stat gains. That’s right, many Datacrons will give you free stat boosts just for seeking them out! Granted, it’s only a few stat points here and there, but it does add up collectively over time for those of you who min/max your stats.
4) Pick off the weaklings first.
Even if you’re not a power-hungry Sith lord, thinning the enemy’s numbers by preying on the weak is just good fighting sense. SWTOR introduces a several-tiered system of enemy (mob) type: Weak, Standard, Strong, Elite, and Champion. Baddies in this game like to travel in packs, and oftentimes you’ll be faced with three or more enemies of varying types. A good rule of thumb is to pick off the lesser foes before taking on the bigger ones. For example, if you engage a group of two Standard mobs led by one Strong, your best bet for survival would be to eliminate the Standard ones with significantly less HP and save the Strong for dessert. Enemies ranked higher than Strong are probably too tough to take solo, so grab some friends! And that leads us to…
5) Two sabers (or three or four) are better than one.
There’s no shame in enlisting help from fellow star-hoppers. Even the Emperor surrounds himself with a trusted inner circle of followers. And when it comes to questing, playing with others pays off more than going it solo. You see, each time you reach a dialogue branch in Bioware’s typical brand of conversations while grouped, you’re awarded a small allotment of social points, which in turn “level up” your social rank. A high social rank eventually enables the enterprising player to purchase social items like speeders and themed gear.
What’s more, while social items are initially just for vanity, the gear is completely modifiable and is more than capable of being used in combat should you choose to throw some good mods in it. So it’s not a bad idea to group up with other people just for the added social points, even if you can handle the quests on your own.
6) Companions are people, too.
That is, unless they’re a Trandoshan, a Twi’lek, a Wookiee, or hell, even a droid. Anyway, the point is that your companions are important and you shouldn’t neglect them. Your first order of business when you start getting a choice in companions should, of course, be which companion to rely on. Make sure to pick a buddy that complements your own chosen playstyle—if you’re playing a tank, you should probably roll with a companion that can pump out dps. If you’re a dps yourself, you might want to bring a healer that can keep you alive while you dish out the damage.
And once you’ve decided on your companion of choice, make sure you keep their gear as up-to-date as your own! If they wear the same armor type as you do, the hand-me-down strategy of giving them your old pieces as you nab upgrades is a very efficient way of keeping them well-equipped. If you wear different armor types, always be on the lookout for gear that your companion can use before you decide to pawn it off to a vendor or auction it.
7) Consult the codex before you pick out crew skills.
At the same time you have to decide on your advanced class, you also get the chance to decide on three crew skills (otherwise known as your professions, for those used to other MMOs). With a whopping 14 crew skills spanning three categories—gathering, crafting, and mission—picking three that synergize well with each other is a tall order for the uninitiated. Fortunately, the codex will come to the rescue if you check it first by telling you the types of materials obtained or used by each crew skill as well as exactly which other crew skills benefit from it.
It also doesn't hurt to check in with the codex in general while you're still learning the ropes. It may not be a Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, but the codex is a very helpful little tool. You can consult it for information on your class and the game mechanics, in addition to a Corellian Corvette-load of lore about planets, species, organizations, and history within the game world.
8) Think twice before touching your PvP-ness.
As it currently stands, SWTOR’s PvP is the shakiest aspect of the game at launch. Warzones (read: battlegrounds) are not bracketed by level and use simple stat buffs on lower-level players to “equalize” the playing field. The problem with this is that stats aren’t everything. If you jump into a Warzone at level 10 (the earliest you can), you’re going to get slaughtered, period. This is because you barely have any abilities learned, while the level 45 Consular over yonder is blasting you with the full fury of his spells and talents.
If you just love PvP and insist on trying to p'wn the other faction, you’d best hold off until you’re at least level 20-25 or so, when you’ve got most of your class’ core abilities learned. If you’re too impatient for that, well… imagine playing a Rogue in WoW without stealth. Good luck with that. Take it with a grain of salt, however, because this is the one tip that’s subject to change once Bioware finds their footing with balancing the PvP game—and hopefully installing some much needed level brackets.