24/11/2015

Flashpoint Levelling: Up to 29

I wasn't planning to make my next post about my flashpoint levelling experiment quite so soon, but I'm progressing so quickly that I feel like I need to write it all down right now or I won't be able to keep up. In my last post I mentioned being level 17 after doing the Black Talon and completing associated quests. Four flashpoints later I'm already 29! Those levels are sure flying by, and I feel like I've already learned a lot.

By the way, you'll never guess which flashpoint I got as my first random after the Black Talon. I was so full of anticipation, maybe slightly worried that I'd get something that was originally tuned for level 60 and which might turn out to be really hard... and then I got: Hammer Station, the original 15-21 flashpoint. Woot?

Hammer Station
I levelled: 17-20 (and then dinged 21 from handing in the "do one random flashpoint" weekly, which once again gave way more XP than is reasonable at this level)

I had barely set foot into this flashpoint when I realised that something was off with my bars. I'd copied my keybinds over from my main and had tried to arrange my abilities in the same way, but while doing so I had been sloppy in terms of identifying which Mercenary "scan" corresponded to which Commando "probe". Once I'd sorted that out, I realised to my horror that I didn't have my free heal yet (Kolto Shot)! As a result all our pulls consisted of me frantically spamming expensive heals on people until I overheated, then Vent Heat and pray that everything would be dead before I was full on heat again. Fortunately I was able to train Kolto Shot after that run - apparently it unlocks at level 18 now.

Despite of me being woefully underequipped in the healing department, we did reasonably well. The other group members were three damage dealers of level 28, 50 and 65 respectively, and they seemed to have a healthy amount of interest in their survival (they clicked kolto stations, and the Sorcerer would bubble people and add some heals of his own if things got hairy). At a higher level I might have felt a little insulted by their efforts and their lack of faith in my ability to heal, but to be honest in that run I really wasn't very reliable. Still, in the end we only had one painful incident with multiple deaths, and that was on "that" pull at the start, which everyone knows is a pain. I was the only one who survived, because after everyone else had gone down I ran for it like a little girl until the rest of the group caught back up again and returned to finish off the rest of the pull.

Even though we did OK on them, some of the bosses also seemed to hit quite hard. The tunneler droid's debuff on whoever had aggro seemed to inflict almost hardmode levels of pain (and I had no dispel yet /cry), and Battlelord Kreshan's AoE similarly seemed to slice anyone's health to bits who just happened to stand in it.

As I mentioned in my previous post, I picked up scavenging as one of my crew skills, so I had a grand old time with that, though I noticed that scavengable corpses seem to disappear more quickly now if you don't grab them right away... I'm pretty sure it's not just my imagination. It's also worth noting that since all the 15-65 flashpoints officially scale you up to 65 now, any mats you gather in there will be rank eight. So running flashpoints for specific mats, like Red Reaper for Electrum back in the day, is definitely a thing of the past.

What I didn't mention was that I picked up slicing as my third crew skill! I have no expectation to level it at this point, but I was curious whether just having it, even at level 1, would allow me to access various slicing contraptions in flashpoints. The answer is yes! I found the elevator that commenter Joseph Brown mentioned in my Flashpoint Friday post about Hammer Station and greatly impressed my party by being able to unlock not just one but two shortcuts for us.


Queen of the unlockable shortcuts

When we did the little light/dark side choice about halfway through the flashpoint, one of the dps instantly instructed us to "spam that space bar", which gave me a bit of a nervous twitch, but since it was just that one really short cut scene with no dialogue, I wasn't too bothered. I just wonder why they were!

Overall, it was a pretty nice run though. I also realised that I really like the sound of Nico's Blasters (which I gave to my Merc to wield - not like I've had much other use for them so far).

After the flashpoint I was surprised to find that I actually had the debriefing quest to talk to Darth Malgus again at the holoterminal. I noted in my Flashpoint Friday about Red Reaper that these seemed to be gone with 4.0, but apparently that's just a Red Reaper bug or something, because Hammer Station apparently still has it, and so does Athiss which I did later (spoiler?).

Red Reaper
I levelled: 21-24

Speaking of the Red Reaper and its missing debriefing mission, that one came up next in my random queue. And yes, it still had no chat with Darth Malgus at the end to wrap it all up.

This was another run with three dps (of levels 47, 60 and 65 respectively) and went very smoothly, even though one guy said that he'd never done it before. If anything, I was the noob - I got myself knocked off that bridge near the end, and on my first attempt at running back I managed to aggro some turrets that we had skipped so I had to /stuck as I couldn't use the elevator while in combat.

Still not having a cleanse was annoying on Darth Ikoral, though not problematic. I was still glad to see Cure available on my trainer after that run.

Also, I got to slice another lift! Those crew skills are really paying off.

False Emperor
I levelled: 24-27

This was probably my worst run so far, though it was still far from terrible. This time my three dps (of levels 29, 50 and 60 respectively) just didn't seem particularly competent and flailed around a lot: standing in red circles with no regard for their health but hitting kolto stations when people were fine, breaking CC and generally showing little survival instinct. There were a fair few deaths but we muddled through. I just couldn't help but think that these guys would have been pretty screwed without a healer.

At the start someone also managed to start and space-bar through the entire intro conversation before I'd even zoned in properly.

After the second boss the level 50 left with a "sorry gtg". I pulled out Mako for the next pull and was rather amused to see her tiny little figure act as a tank. Then we got a level 17 dps as replacement.

HK-47 was seriously hard! And not just because of my fellow group members' flailiness; he just hit like a freaking truck every time he focused anyone. Sometimes I couldn't even keep people up with my single target heals and the kolto stations combined, though I managed to stay alive and kept at least one dps up for long enough for the other two that died to come running back. I can only imagine what a right nightmare that boss must be without a healer.

Finally, there was some minor random loot drama where people got annoyed with one guy for needing on a pair of boots. He apologised and said that it had been a misclick, offering them to anybody else who wanted them as they were BoE. The level 17 then declared that it was pointless now since they were already bound to the guy who had hit need. I commented to say that I thought she was mixing up WoW and SWTOR, as I can't remember Bioware ever implementing anything like that (but vaguely recall it being a thing in WoW a long time ago).

Towards the end of this flashpoint I got my first AoE heal, which was very gratifying.

Athiss
I levelled: 27-29


Adding some dps 'cause my party's awesome.

Another relative softball, this flashpoint started off with a level 56 tank and two level 65 dps. I felt quite excited to run with my first tank! Of course he then had to "reboot" and dropped group after the first pull, just to be replaced by a level 16 dps. One of the level 65 damage dealers also left soon after, but was replaced by another dps of the same level.

Regardless, this run was super smooth and an interesting contrast to the False Emperor run that came before, because it felt like I was just along for the ride and these guys would have been completely fine without me. I even saw someone use crowd control once! Mostly it seemed to be the power of the high levels though, as the 65s were able to tank whole pulls without too much trouble, even though they should have been quite squishy.

It also felt like I was getting a lot less XP though (I only barely managed to hit 29, having gained less than two full levels that run), which makes me wonder whether the wonders of flashpoint XP don't work quite similar to the grouping bonuses for missions after all. Those are based on how much XP each party member is earning, which means that anyone at max level who doesn't actually earn experience themselves anymore also contributes little to nothing to the rest of the group's bonus XP. At least that theory would explain why this run seemed to net me so much less than the previous runs that all had either only one or no max-level characters in them. Something to keep an eye on in future runs.

But hey, at least I got to level my bioanalysis.

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