23/04/2019

When You (Can't) Go Back

Bhagpuss, MMORPG connoisseur extraordinaire, has decided to give SWTOR a try at long last and has been busy pushing out first impressions posts pretty much every day since. I've very much enjoyed reading them so far because Bhag's opinions are always well-articulated and often somewhat different from the mainstream, which makes them extra interesting. As an unabashed fan of the game, I've also been pleased by how much he's been enjoying it so far, especially as I didn't expect it to be his cup of tea at all. He himself has expressed surprise at how entertaining certain features have turned out to be when he didn't really expect to like them very much at all.

Seeing all this talk about and screenshots of starter planets made me wistful for my own days as a newbie. Of course you can't go back to that, but you can always roll up a new alt, right? Well... there's that "alt creation fatigue" I've been talking about in previous posts to consider though. What to do?


I eventually compromised by firing up the character selection screen of the Satele Shan, where for some reason I have no less than four characters, none of which had even hit level ten or chosen an advanced class. There's Shintar the Mirialan trooper who I believe I originally created out of a desire to play with Redbeard, though I wouldn't swear that this was my motivation at the time. I tried to go dark side on her though and quickly found myself disliking the character (never good for an alt that shares your main's name).

Then there's a human Jedi consular, the only male character I ever created. I'm not sure now why I created him on an American server... maybe I knew that I'd struggle with connecting with a male character and didn't want this to "taint" my regular legacy?

Then there's the agent I created back in the day when Mr Commando and I were at the peak of our desire to level characters together and found that our regular server was down one evening, while a US server was up, so we decided to go there instead. We made it to level three (back when that took more than three minutes) before our regular server came back up and we dropped our new agents like hot potatoes, never to return.

And then there's the Togruta I talked about creating in this post from nearly four years ago - I levelled her to four and then never touched her again.

After carefully considering my options I decided that the Togruta knight would be the most fun to start up again... mostly because I had an outfit idea for her. (The outfit designer has made me so shallow.) I chose the option to turn her into a Guardian and off I went.

The best thing about playing on Satele Shan was that I had no legacy there; I only got to create it once I reached Coruscant. (In fact, I somehow managed to completely miss the legacy creation prompt; it was only because I found myself thinking "Shouldn't I have a legacy by now?" that I checked the icon in the top bar and there it was, flashing at me to choose my legacy name.) Legacy is a great system in many ways, but I have to admit that as a long-time player I also see it as a downside sometimes that you can't ever truly feel like you're starting over because thanks to your legacy you already own all the datacrons, all the class buffs and more, and have a bank full of materials at your disposal.

It feels like it's been forever since I bothered to hunt for the classic datacrons for example. The ones on Tython were easy enough to remember, as was the first one on Coruscant, but in the Black Sun territory something funny happened: I looked a the map and thought "I really can't remember where the datacron is here..." but then just set out to explore the map as I normally would. And what do you know, as I was picking up some archaeology crystals in a corner, I suddenly looked at the stack of containers next to me and knew that this was it. I couldn't remember where to go exactly; I just knew that I could and should continue climbing up those containers until I could reach a pipe, and then I just kept intuitively putting one foot in front of the other until the datacron was mine. The memories!


I also had fun working on my crew skills. I actually had a use for those rubat crystals and got excited to find gathering nodes around the district!

While on the fleet I purchased the Coruscant stronghold. It's still my favourite, but on Darth Malgus I've pretty much got it as I like it and have no particular desire to make any big changes. I was kind of surprised to find it only costing seven credits - to be honest that immediately made me think that this must have been a special put in place for the game's seventh birthday back in December and that nobody remembered to revert the price afterwards. Not that I minded or think that it should be particularly expensive, but seven credits felt like an insanely good (and oddly priced) bargain.

The one thing that put a bit of a downer on things again was the insane ease of combat and levelling speed. I found it very striking that Bhagpuss noted that he hadn't bothered to learn more than four skills on his smuggler because what was the point? I of course trained everything the game would let me, remembering the good old days when this was actually a useful if not required thing to do because enemies didn't all die in two hits. I also tried setting T7 to dps for a bit but eventually just sent him away entirely whenever I wasn't about to do a story cut scene. While on my own this allowed me to use a few abilities at least while fighting in a heroic area, even if the mobs still didn't manage to get me to half health before dying.

And then there's the levelling speed... as I said the Guardian started at level four, but only a couple of hours of play later I was already in my thirties and still not even halfway through Coruscant. Originally you were meant to be around level twelve around this part of the story. I suppose I haven't been helping myself by choosing to do this thing just as Bioware launched another double XP event, but it still makes me itchy. How can you enjoy playing a lowbie if the game doesn't allow you to be a lowbie for more than a couple of hours?

Maybe this is another thing that's making me shy away from creating more alts: I'm actually not sure I would find the low-level gameplay engaging enough to hang around if I came to the game as a new player now, and seeing the sheer OP-ness of every new alt just reminds me of the unease I feel about current levelling and kind of makes me miss the way things used to be pre-4.0.

13 comments :

  1. I wish they implemented an option to replay class/planet stories on already existing character and also made combat harder. When I started playing SW:ToR in 2016 solo gameplay was already gimped to the ground. Story bosses were extremely disappointing, even if I put a companion into the passive mode. I was so excited when I noticed the story difficulty toggle, but found out, that it had no impact on vanilla stories.

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    1. I definitely wouldn't go back to replay any story bits on a character that has already done them; it's enough of a struggle for me to get all my alts through them! That said, the more time passes since 4.0, the more I do wish there was some sort of way to adjust the difficulty of more content upwards, even if it doesn't seem feasible in the open world.

      I also can't help but wonder whether it's even on Bioware's radar that this is an issue for some players, or whether they are just happy to be courting the "I'm only here for the story and combat might as well not exist" audience.

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    2. I've got really attached to my (main) characters, and every time I replay a class story I feel a little bit guilty. Also it's kinda weird to see another name on the screen, when I'm playing a certain class; my memories keep telling me that there should be the name of one of my mains.

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  2. I wish the Gree item (White Acute module?) would work all the time and reset the XP gains back to the pre-4.0 days. Sometimes it is nice to just sit back and enjoy the whole leveling journey. The xp boosts are nice if you just want to replay the class story, but sometimes I want to feel connected to the whole 1-50 world.

    Amusingly, I have a toon on Darth Malgus that I've barely played. She's one that also needs to do things like all the datacrons, only has one class buff, etc. In a way I'm loathe to play her because once I do I know I will lock myself out of various complete-once things. I kind of enjoy knowing I can do it versus actually doing it.

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    1. I was thinking today how much fun I'd have if they gave you some sort of option to lock XP gains completely. I suspect I'd have a whale of a time trying to find out just how far you can get during each chapter of the game without levelling up at all.

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    2. Yes! I wish I could turn off XP gains for some characters so that I could stay in a PvP bracket. I really enjoy low level PvP before gear becomes an issue or I need to have a bunch of abilities on my hotbars.

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    3. I always figured "twinking" like that would be a bad thing, but considering how anaemic the lowbie queue has become (at least in part because people level out of it so quickly) the good would probably outweigh the bad at this point.

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  3. Thanks for the link love! I'm having a great time so far. Going to make it to fifty with no trouble I think. Then I'll definitely sub for a month to get Preferred status and try a Dark side Class.

    I think the xp I'm getting as F2P is significantly slower, fast as it feels, because both you and Pete from Dragonchasers mention being in the mid-30s on Coruscant whereas I was only 28 when I left there and I tried to do everything. I've now finished the Class story on Taris plus a huge quantity of Planetary Arc and side missions and I'm still only Level 33.

    The Legacy thing is interesting. I've been getting Legacy xp for a while and I've had pop-ups saying my Legacy level has dinged but I haven't seen any quest or info about what a "Legacy" actually is. I certainly haven't named one! I was under the impression it was just a fancy way of saying my Account but maybe not. I do like not knowing what's going on but I suppose I am going to have to go and read this stuff up eventually.

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    1. At this point reduced XP for free players actually sounds kind of appealing! Makes the idea of creating a spare F2P account suddenly a lot more interesting again...

      A legacy is basically your "family" of characters on a server, and as you level up more characters, you unlock more optional perks for them such as additional quick travel options. Account-level would be another step up and is mostly used for things like Cartel market unlocks. If they are account-wide, then all your legacies on all servers automatically have access to them.

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  4. How can you enjoy playing a lowbie if the game doesn't allow you to be a lowbie for more than a couple of hours?

    This. So much this. That's why I feel that the tuning could be done so much better in SWTOR.

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  5. Even in WoW's Burning Crusade/Wrath of the Lich King, I would absolutely dominate in "open world" game play, and it didn't bother me.

    I stopped making alts in WoW when it became apparent that you never had to press more than one button to get a mob down. That level of OP means that you're actually missing the "hotbar combat" you came for. Domination is good, domination without effort is not so good!

    What keeps SWTOR from falling into that trap is that each pull is three mobs, or one weak mob and one strong mob. To get all the mobs down you will execute some sort of rotation. Since you don't want to "waste" your big ability on a mob with 1 pixel of health left, there are actual decisions to be made, and your "rotation" can be slightly different from pull to pull.

    I do find that playing lower level characters is less engaging because they have fewer abilities. You'll press that one button because until you level that's the button you have.

    I can do things like solo the eternal championship, PvP and Raiding (I mean OPS... totally OPS!!!). These "high intensity" activities just don't draw me in though. I knew that going into SWTOR way back in 2012, since the bulk of my "high intensity" experience is in WoW.

    tl:dr Domination is OK as long as you have to actively do something to make said domination happen!

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    1. Should also mention that if you scaled the newbie zone to challenge the hardcore Operations/PVP crowd, an actual newbie would be in for a soul crushing surprise!

      Sure, true newbies are rare these days, but they'll be even rarer if they get one-shotted coming out of the opening cinematic! :D

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    2. I agree and disagree. I agree that things don't necessarily have to be challenging as long as you have fun executing a rotation. I disagree that you still get to do this in SWTOR, as at this point even golds seem to die in three hits tops unless you make sure to go in without a companion.

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