06/01/2015

Crew Skilling in 3.0

Ever since 3.0 came out I've been addicted to crew skills, logging half a dozen alts every day purely to send their companions out on missions. This is an interesting change, as I had been pretty uninterested in crew skills for months pre-3.0, only really bothering to craft the occasional low-level augment to sell or to restock someone's stim supply.

I think what's made the difference to me is that I'm a reverse engineering junkie. At level 55 I was pretty proud of the fact that I had RE-d all the blue and purple versions of the high level craftable ear pieces and implants, and every single one of my alts (plus their companions) had crafted pieces in those slots until/unless they happened to get something better. With a whole bunch of new schematics in the game now, the race to discover all the new schematics is on once again.

There have been some changes to crew skills though, and some of them are a bit confusing since they weren't really announced beforehand and not documented in the patch notes either.

Bye-bye, Biochem?

Bioware already threatened us with the notion of removing re-usable Biochem consumables before Rise of the Hutt Cartel came out, but in the end they didn't go through with it back then and just made the level 55 reusables a little less powerful than their blue non-reusable versions. This didn't bother me and I kept using my reusable purple stim anyway.

With 3.0 the day has finally come though... no more new reusables. You can still research purple versions of the new medpacks, adrenals and stims, but they are just a little bit more powerful than their blue counterparts and disappear on use just like any other consumable.

I'm being told that this was needed because people felt that they "had to" make all their alts Biochem in the interest of min-maxing. I can't really relate to this, as out of all my characters only two are Biochemists. The reusables were great for my main who raided twice a week, but my alts only ever made it into progression content infrequently, and for those occasions I was fine with sending them a stack of (non-reusable) prototype stims.

With that said, I'm not hugely broken up about this change, but I'm not entirely sure how to feel about it either. Reusables still feel extremely practical, even if the new blue stims are better and dirt cheap to make (not to mention that they stack to 99 now - up from 10 -  meaning that you could carry loads around without clogging up your inventory). I keep the buff from my old reusable up at all times simply because I can, and then I sometimes forget to upgrade to something with higher stats that's better for progression content even when I really should.

An Embarrassment of Riches

One reason why the lack of new reusables isn't as big of a deal as it could be is that crafting materials are available in abundance and so consumables are dirt cheap to make. Bioware has dramatically increased the amount of materials you get from harvesting out in the world (at least in the new content), and there are absolute shedloads of nodes around, especially on Yavin 4.

Up until now, I never felt that there was a point in the game where going out into the world to gather would be more convenient and/or profitable than simply sending your companions on gathering missions, but now I'm not so sure anymore. I mean, I still send my minions out to gather simply because it's something they can do even when I'm not playing, but the returns just seem kind of meagre compared to manual gathering. Even a mission with rich yield generally rewards only eight pieces of any given material - I could get the same from going to Yavin and picking up two plants. Seriously, it's pretty bizarre. It's actually encouraging me to do dailies more often because then I feel like I'm multi-tasking by earning credits and reputation at the same time as gathering.

Reverse Engineering Changes

Reverse engineering has been changed as well. For one thing, getting augmentation kit components is now equally as easy/hard for all professions, as everything costs the same amount of materials to make (usually two of each type of material for that tier). From an immersion point of view it's pretty silly that you need the same amount of metal to make a chest piece as you do to make an earpiece, but it's nice that you don't feel screwed anymore if you only happen to have the crafting skill(s) that needed lots of materials to make pieces for reverse engineering.

The whole RE system itself has also been overhauled, and from what I can tell even the people on the forums are still scratching their heads about it a little. If you need a little reminder, this graphic shows how it used to work. Maybe that image just makes your eyes glaze over, but it does convey the idea that the system has always been kind of complicated. The most important point in my opinion is that each piece of green gear could lead to the discovery of three blue pieces, which in turn could lead to five purple pieces per blue piece.

This has now been changed in ways that make sense but at the same time are a bit confusing in their inconsistency. For example the three blue levels don't always have the same three prefixes in their name anymore, so instead of Critical, Overkill and Redoubt you can have Expert, Fervor and Veracity in some cases. I've seen "Absorb" on a blue as well. I was so used to the old prefixes that I'm still trying to wrap my head around what the new ones stand for.

Bioware also took out some options that used to lead to nonsensical stat combinations, so for example you can't discover recipes for medium armour with defense on it from the new gear. (No tanks use medium armour and no type of smuggler needs it.) This makes sense but confused me a little initially when the game told me that I had no more schematics to discover off a certain green item when I'd only discovered two (out of supposedly three) blue upgrades, or when reverse engineering a blue item led to fewer than three purple improvements.

The one undisputed upside to the new system is that they made reverse engineered schematics more powerful overall. It used to be that the blue and purple versions only added secondary stats, but now they also increase the amount of primary stat on the item, to the point where the currently available craftable purples are on par with raid drops. That is definitely nifty.

Adaptive Armour

On my Synthweaver and Armormech I also noticed that they finally gave both of those professions sets of adaptive armour to craft. Part of me thinks that this is too little, too late, considering that people have asked for this since the Cartel Market first came out  - by now it's really more about legacy-bound gear than about adaptivity. Not to mention that all the gear sets for each profession seem to look identical. But I suppose a small bone thrown to crew skill fans is better than nothing.

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