LotS PTS Day 1 - WTF Is Going On?

So here I was, making a post full of happy musings about what combat styles will mean for me... and a few hours later the PTS went up. Great, I thought, maybe that can answer some of the questions we have! Me and some of my guildies were on there in a flash to check out what exactly Bioware had meant when they said that this first phase was going to be about Guardian combat styles only. Does that mean that all the Force classes will be able to play as Guardians only or...?

I was not prepared for what I found. Nothing on the PTS right now has anything to do with the whole "switching advanced classes" thing... instead it seems that Bioware is actually also planning to revamp all the classes, by pruning a lot of abilities and re-introducing something similar to the old skill trees, yet different. I was just like... WTF? Why wasn't there a peep about this on the livestream?

On the forums we're being urged not to panic, that this is all early stages and likely not final. Which is fine, but I'm still somewhat alarmed that they were planning to change up the class system that much and didn't even care to mention that when announcing the expansion.

I'm kind of glad now that they started the PTS with Guardian since that's not my main, so it's a bit easier not to freak out entirely. But it's still very bewildering. I went to see the special PTS trainer and the abilities it gave me at level 75 weren't even enough to fill out two action bars. I queued for a warzone and got into an all-Guardian arena where I flailed around very ineffectively, struggling to find buttons that I could push that weren't on cooldown. Later I found out that there was a known issue with the PTS training droid and it only gave out half of your intended abilities.

As a bit of a contrast, I then did a veteran mode Mandalorian Raiders with my guildies and we absolutely destroyed everything, even with half of our abilities missing. The final boss only had about twice the health of a normal player. Then we read that content scaling's apparently broken on the PTS as well. How do we know what's a bug and what's a feature?

Speaking to the training droid multiple times afterwards did fill up my bars a little more, but not a lot. A lot of basic abilities were still missing, such as our interrupt, stun breaker, or Saber Throw (a Guardian's only ranged ability). Others were present but suddenly limited to a single spec when they used to be available to all Guardians. There was a very long post explaining the specs on the forums but to be honest with you I still found that very confusing. This kind of skill tree really needs some sort of visual to be easily understandable. Swtorista made a valiant attempt at creating a graphic for the Focus path and posting it on reddit, but honestly I was still confused because when actually playing I found that not everything was actually working as laid out by Bioware either. Again, what's a bug and what's a feature?

My initial thoughts on ability pruning are this: I don't like it much, but I can see the logic behind it. There are probably a few abilities that they could remove and we'd all be fine. I was a bit sad when my Commando lost Pulse Cannon and Stockstrike back in the day, but I got over it. And if I'm being honest, part of the appeal of doing things like playing in the lowbie PvP bracket is that things are simpler there, without classes having 27 different cooldowns. But the current iteration of the PTS feels like it's taking it too far.

As for returning to some sort of skill tree... mweurgh. I liked the game's original skill trees and was a bit sad when they turned into a mere line with Shadow of Revan. But the reason Bioware did that was to make things more straightforward for new players, and this feels... more complicated than what we started out with? The whole "taking away abilities and making you choose between them" thing reminds me of modern World of Warcraft and I don't like it there either. Suddenly there'll be right and wrong ways to spec again, and we'll likely lose access to some abilities that add a lot of flavour to each advanced class. A Guardian without Saber Reflect sounds pretty sad to me to be honest! Plus do we really need advanced classes and specialisations and these combat styles on top of each other? It feels like they're taking away some of the complexity of "choosing the right buttons on your action bar while playing" and simply shifting it towards "choosing the right abilities while speccing your character" - is that really more fun?

I'm not sure Bioware will be doing themselves a favour with this added complexity either. They just added all these set bonuses in Onslaught... how confident are they really in being able to adjust everything so that nothing clashes or becomes unbalanced or outright weird? As an extremely simple example (which I'm sure will be fixed in time, but there'll be lots of these), I started my session on the PTS by buying the gear set from the vendor that my Guardian also uses on live... and then realised that it buffs an ability that doesn't actually exist on the PTS right now. I'm also thinking of how my guild's current master mode progression relies on characters being able to chain every single cooldown they have - so that means all those fights will need re-turning. You're creating a lot of work for yourselves by having to straighten that all out, Bioware.

I really want to have faith in them here, but at the same time I'm struggling to get on board with this particular vision. I'm really curious about what Commando and Sage testing will be like now, since those are the classes I know best and where I'll feel any changes most sharply. I'm just kind of taken aback by how unnecessary all this feels. The ability to swap between advanced classes as announced on the stream was going to be enough to change things up and people's reactions to that seemed to be largely positive. This... not so much.


  1. Bioware be like "in your face". :)

  2. Simplification can mean only one thing... invasion. The consoles are coming ;)

    1. Props for the episode one quote, though I'm a bit dubious about the console theory. It seems pretty late in the game's life to decide to port it to consoles... and I reckon even two action bars worth of buttons are still too much to make the game playable with a controller. It's just one of those things that certain people can't stop dreaming about so they see it in every cloud.

  3. The easiest way to handle the set bonuses is to make them stop working past level 75. (Wow does has with a number of things.)

    They really needed to lay out their current ideas for class revamps, combat styles, and loadouts. Sure, it wouldn't be the final form, but at least we'd have some idea of how it all was intended to hang together.

    1. If a set bonus buffs an ability that doesn't exist anymore, there's no point keeping the set below level 75 either though. And then they'd have to come up with a whole host of new sets for level 80, which still adds more work. Plus I was under the impression that these were supposed to offer a type of horizontal progression that doesn't get obsoleted every time our item or character levels go up. (SWTOR isn't WoW after all!)

    2. Fair enough. I guess it depends on whether it is easier to change an existing set versus just creating a new set. With all the changes coming I was just assuming that new sets would be needed. Thinking about it, I suspect that my 'learned response' to MMO expansions is that anything previously stated will be tossed out the door if the devs decided they have a cooler (hopefully, better) idea. :sigh:

      (While Swtor isn't Wow, boy sometimes the gameplay reminds me very much of Wow. I can remember, for example, when I first tried the beta how the gameplay strongly reminded me of Burning Crusade's style of gameplay (a good thing, back then).)

      But I digress. When I mention another MMO I'm just trying to give a non-hypothetical example for discussion purposes. It helps me not go off the deep end with speculation. :)

      I am glad to see calmer WTFs. I think that will get through to Bioware better than all the current popcorn-drama elsewhere.

    3. Yeah, SWTOR was very much a "WoW clone" in terms of gameplay at launch. But Bioware has since taken a completely different approach to how to deal with content as it ages, focusing on keeping everything relevant instead of just piling new things on top all the time (which is something I value a lot).

      I think with this, more than anything people are just reeling from the massive communication failure of announcing one thing on the stream, teasing the PTS, and then putting something completely different up for testing that nobody had mentioned before. Hopefully things will become clearer and calmer once we can get straightened out what exactly is supposed to be happening.

  4. Speaking as somebody who plays focus guardian, I'm not liking the choices presented. Take the level 60 choice as an example. In PVE play, preparation is glorious. In PVP however, you won't get any use out of preparation and your really want Unleashed.

    So I have to burn 2 loadout spots so I can be effective in either environment. Keep in mind we don't know how many of loadouts were getting. We also don't know if switching loadouts requires cold hard cash.

    As a side note I also don't want to wait all the way until level 60 to get preparation!

  5. I will be playing whenever that expansion goes live. How this shakes out will probably determine whether I bop in, see the story and leave or get another year out of it like my last visit. I am extremely skeptical of these changes based on similar team moves in other MMOs (little warning about massive changes tends to be a very bad sign), but I will wait until I actually get to play it to pass judgment.

    1. I'm still hopeful that it won't be as bad as it seems right now. I suspect that the fact that it's very unfinished and the lack of clear communication around what it is we're seeing makes everything seem worse than it is.

  6. Delfae @Star Forge12 July 2021 at 18:15

    Oh hey, I actually saw some of you guys--that is, -- on the test server Friday! xD

    I seem to be in the minority, because I actually expected a class rework. They did mention that new expansion = class rebalancing in the livestream, and with base classes now being story only, folding those abilities into the new "combat styles" was a thing that was going to happen... but the current state of PTS is definitely a mess.

    Still, overall, my guildies are taking a "wait and see" approach. There's a LOT that we don't know, and it's obviously unfinished. In principle, most of our longtime players are looking forward to changes, since they've been playing various specs so long that they've gotten bored. The two guildies who playtested vigilance were mostly irked that Saber Throw and dispatch weren't included in the default loadouts, but they are in the options given in the forum thread, so it's not like they're gone forever.

    My own testing was pretty basic ("do the rotations work?") since I don't really play guardian. But my initial gearing adventure (in defense A) lead to some amusing conversation:

    Me: ...no force clarity. Wait, which set do I take then? Am I stuck with LoP?

    Guildie 1: Try Undying.

    Me: Can't. Defense A doesn't have Blade Blitz.

    [long pause]

    Me & Guildie 1 together: I guess flawless riposte.


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