18/04/2020

Character Boost

I've never been a fan of level boosts in MMORPGs. I don't have any "moral" objections to them, along the lines of "back in the day we had to go up in levels barefoot and uphill in the snow, so you must too or it won't be authentic", but to me they just feel like they're promising an experience that probably doesn't actually come true for a lot of people, namely that of skipping the supposedly "boring" part and jumping right in where the fun begins.

Obviously I'm biased because I generally enjoy levelling, but my point is more that even if you don't, time to level isn't the only thing standing between you and that mythical fun at endgame: there's also knowing how to play your class, feeling invested in your character and the game, and more, and none of those things are included with the price of that level-up token.

Plus there's also the issue of players who don't even have the slightest idea what their buttons do jumping straight into endgame group content and making life difficult for others, but I'll admit that I haven't experienced this being as much of a problem as I initially expected when WoW first made character boosts mainstream in the run-up to the Warlords of Draenor expansion. Maybe people generally have the sense to not queue for a random dungeon straight away when they can't even tell what they're supposed to do with all those abilities on their bars; I don't know.

Anyway, SWTOR introduced character boosts with Knights of the Fallen Empire and has given out at least two of them for free to subscribers since then, but I never used them because I simply didn't see the appeal.

However, this morning I found myself at the character creation screen to roll up a new Assassin to tank master mode flashpoints for our alt guild on Imperial side, and when I noticed those free tokens still waiting for me I actually paused to think. I didn't really have any particular urge to start on the inquisitor story yet again as I still have two characters that have it in progress, and I wanted this character to be ready for endgame as soon as possible. That... actually seemed like the perfect occasion to use a boost. So off I went.


I felt a bit confused when my newborn Assassin was spat out on Odessen, actually wearing the exact gear set that had been displayed on the character creation screen - that never happens - but I quickly found myself back in my usual new character routine of emptying my mailbox of several dozen promotional items such as titles, speeders, pets etc. - if Bioware ever decides to just auto-grant all these things to any new character I'll be one happy woman.

I also noticed that my new Togruta was dark sided and Deception spec by default - which made sense as it's probably the easiest to play of the three Assassin specialisations, but it meant that I had to be off to the fleet to retrain. I thought it was interesting that the game only plopped a relatively small number of abilities on my bar - I guess someone at Bioware decided that starting someone off with literally all of a level 70's abilities on their bars would be a bit overwhelming and I don't think they are wrong. It does require the player to take an interest into what else is hiding in their ability list though if they want to do more than just bumble their way through the main solo storyline.

Having retrained on the fleet, I wanted to fly back to Odessen and was chagrined to discovered that I had zero credits and therefore couldn't actually afford to do so! (Though I also noticed that I had been given three crew skills that were all trained up to 600, with Synthweaving, Archaeology and Underworld Trading apparently being the defaults for inquisitors.) Fortunately the button to launch the Jedi Under Siege intro took me back to Odessen for free.

I was actually pleasantly surprised by how well Jedi Under Siege works as introduction for a brand new character. Both Lana and Major Anri (on Empire side) spend a fair amount of time expositioning, which I think can feel a bit belaboured if you're playing through the entire proceeding and following story in one go and already know what's going on, but as a starting point for a new character it's not bad. It reminds you of just where you are, and it throws several talking points at you that invite you to think about how your character feels about certain things, such as the big factions, loyalty, slavery, Sith politics etc.

It did feel a bit weird to basically be given the option to go saboteur mere minutes after having created the character to be a specific faction, and I took it out of curiosity more than anything else, but I have to admit that it didn't really feel earned. I don't know if I'll continue down this path on this character or just stick to tanking group content.

Speaking of that, gameplay-wise Jedi Under Siege also makes for a much better tutorial than KotFE or KotET ever did in my opinion, as there is relatively little combat but the mobs are on the slightly tougher side, giving you a chance to practice rotations and cooldown use. The final mission in the library could even be considered a very basic tutorial for group content, because while Malgus is utterly OP compared to a random pug, dealing with a large number of silver and gold mobs that have annoying abilities such as stuns and stealth detection gives you a feel for the sorts of things you're likely to encounter in flashpoints later on. Of course in my particular case it helped that I already know how to play a Shadow tank (for a given value of "know" - I'm not exactly very good at it), so I only had to figure out which Assassin ability mapped to which Shadow one.

All in all, it was a much more pleasant experience than I had expected as someone who's always frowned on character boosts. I guess I managed to find that rare sweet spot where it really does work (experienced player who wants another max-level alt for a very specific purpose).

4 comments :

  1. I too have a character boost token that's never been used and have often wondered what's the sense in having it since I enjoy the experience of leveling and going through the story again. Glad to know you found a good use for it.

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  2. I rolled yet another assassin dps late in 4.0 exactly because of this. She has never entered her story (Well, she did enough of the first scene to be called Darth Imperius and I was like wtf? And then quit). She sits there, crafting conquest and filling up when my main-assassin already has a lockout on something. At that point, I had JUST done another 2 Inquisitors during DVL (one for the whole story, One was and is in Balmorra), and I was needed in about 1 hour to get into, I think, TFB HM, so, it worked for me. But I do feel very detached of her as a person, so, maybe Jedi Undersiege would work for her. Who knows? :P

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  3. I likewise have two character boost tokens (in WoW) that I haven't used. I also like leveling and can't see the point. I am glad you found a good home for one.

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  4. Hehe, sounds familiar, but I'm guilty of having used some, in different games!

    They were all pretty forgettable experiences, but I was really glad for 2 of them. Number one was a 60 boost in WoW for my Mage (hint: I don't like playing Mages in general) and number 2 just a year ago or so when I had mostly switched from Horde (nearly all toons at a high level) to Alliance (had only leveled one char to max, and one other high) so I used one oft the boosts I had and bam, instantly back in the game and only had to catch up 10 levels instead of 110...

    I even wrote a whole wall of text in 2018: https://battlestance.org/2018/08/13/on-character-boosts/

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