Gearing After a Month, Tacticals & Set Bonuses

Onslaught has been out for a month, there's still a lot of stuff I haven't seen or done, and I'm loving it! Let's talk about gearing though.

My tentative first impressions after only a few days were that Spoils of War seemed a lot better than the PTS had led me to believe, and this positive impression has only been reinforced throughout the last month. I reached item rating 306 a few days after making that first post, and since then I've basically been... kind of done? It still feels weird to say that.

I feel confident in saying that it's never before been this easy to get your character fully geared in the highest item level available, not even back when you could get the best gear from hardmode Eternity Vault during certain weeks. Even better, since all this gear is now legacy-bound, your entire legacy is instantly geared to the same level. I have several bank tabs full of 306 gear for all slots, so any new alt of mine that dings 75 can just grab a full set and be powerful instantly. It's pretty amazing.

Now, this random 306 gear is not "best in slot" exactly, since there are things to fine-tune, such as amplifiers and augments and what not - but these feel very much optional and like something for min-maxers. For your everyday play, any set of 306 gear is going to be just fine and feel great.

It's fantastic to feel so liberated of the need to grind for gear. SWTOR has never been a game that had gear grind as its main focus, but Galactic Command and Ossus shifted the needle towards requiring a lot more effort than used to be the case pre-5.0. It's nice to see the game shift back towards a more casual-friendly system that frees you up to focus more on things like story and alts.

For those who like to optimise and as a secondary objective for everyone else, there is the option to work on changing your stat balance, or to collect different Tactical items and set bonuses, two of the new features of the expansion.

I saw someone compare Tacticals to legendary items from WoW's Legion expansion, but never having played that I can't comment on how accurate this comparison is. The general pitch of "items that can change the way you play/use certain abilities" didn't particularly excite me in theory, but now that I'm seeing it in practice I'm quite liking it.

For example my Commando main has two Tacticals, one that changes the interaction between one of my cooldowns and my main AoE heal, making AoE a bit more ammo-efficient, and another that buffs one of my main single-target heals and makes it castable on the go. As a general rule I find the AoE healing one most useful in operations and use the single-target healing one in flashpoints, but it's not a hard rule and it's interesting to me to test them in different environments, which I'd say means that the system is working as intended! Unfortunately not all classes/specs currently have equally interesting Tacticals from what I can tell.

The set bonuses similarly apply a mix of minor buffs and small ability changes, and there is entertainment value in collecting different ones to mix and match for different purposes. Is the six-piece bonus of one set interesting enough or should I only go for the four-piece and get a small buff from another two-piece set bonus? There are a lot of possibilities.

If I had to point out any weaknesses in the system there would be two so far: The first is that the acquisition of both Tacticals and set pieces feels heavily lopsided towards the vendors right now. While I'm glad that the vendors are there as an option if you're after one specific piece, as a general rule I'd prefer to get gear from doing the content itself (whatever it is). When one of our Sentinels got an awesome Tactical during a Traitor Among the Chiss run and then proceeded to lay waste to everything that came after the boss that had dropped it, it certainly made for a memorable afternoon!
Technically many sets state that they are best acquired from doing this or that, but from my experience you usually have enough tech fragments to buy what you're after from the vendor long before you get anywhere close to acquiring something useful from a drop. And if the item isn't on the vendor at all, you're just flat out of luck. For example I've been after the Apex Predator set for Commandos for a while, and it's supposed to drop in the Dxun operation, but after weeks of killing things in there I haven't seen a single set piece drop from any of the bosses - I only have the belt because it randomly dropped as shared loot from Dreadmaster Brontes on story mode of all places.

The other issue I have is that the sheer number of Tacticals and set bonuses is clearly posing balancing challenges for Bioware, and so far it seems that if these don't work out in your favour, they don't really have any sort of plan for dealing with it. For example I had bought four pieces of the Nimble Master set for my Guardian because the four piece set-bonus sounded extremely fun, but literally one day after I'd acquired the fourth piece, they changed the set bonus to something completely different that I did not like at all, which meant that the set went into the bank (there was no option to refund it) and I had to start over from scratch.

Four million credits and twelve thousand tech fragments is not the end of the world for me as someone who plays a lot, but I still felt cheated and I could easily see a more casual player, for whom this may have been all their savings, quitting over being screwed over like that. I think Bioware will have to think about how to handle changes like that going forward - I don't think just leaving players out in the cold and telling them to deal with it is a good way of doing it when collecting these sets is supposed to be an aspirational aspect of gameplay.

On the whole though, Spoils of War gets a definitive thumbs-up from me!


  1. I'm really not a fan of gear grind myself, but I find it *really* weird that with 2 weeks (if I read that right) you can already have the max item level. I suppose you played more than average, but you didn't have 2 weeks of vacation and powered through every waking minute. That just feels a little *too* fast.

    But on the other hand, at least SWTOR never felt as bad as WoW where if you just take a quick one month break you might have to start the gear grind all over again, I did like that a lot.

    1. I did take two days off and did play a lot during those first two weeks or so... but yes, it is quite fast. Then again, it's not like there's nothing left to do, it's just that the item level grind is done. And with how much more they integrated the legacy system into Spoils of War, you do feel heavily encouraged to level and gear some alts, more so than ever before I'd say. It's almost like your first set of gear is a legacy perk that then makes all your alts stronger.


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