Early Musings on Combat Styles

When combat styles were first announced, I said that "depending on the exact details [this feature] has the potential to be a huge game changer or to make no difference to many players at all". In a follow-up post I tried to think of some ways in which I could/would utilise the ability to change some of my characters' advanced class but admitted that based on my personal play style, I couldn't think of many.

Four weeks into Legacy of the Sith, it's time to admit that I've ended up being firmly in the camp to whom combat styles make no big difference. I've toyed with a few ideas, but knowing that whatever choice I make would be permanent (for now) has kind of put me off the whole thing for the time being... plus as I've said previously, for me my characters' class and spec are a big part of their identity. I've rarely even changed specialisations, as I'd rather use a desire to try a different spec as an excuse to roll up another alt.

So I've not even done the mission to pick a second combat style on any of my characters - I've just untracked it on all of them and then forgot about it. (Part of me actually feels like this must be slightly offensive to the devs... "We put all this work into this new feature and you're just ignoring it?!")

That said, there's no escaping the fact that a world in which base classes/origin stories and advanced classes/combat styles are decoupled from each other feels very different in some ways. It used to be that if I saw another player out in the world shooting lightning, I immediately knew that they were a) a dirty Imp and b) a Sith inquisitor in specific. Now they could be any kind of Force user... a Jedi even! Unless you're in a PvP instance, it's hard to actually tell the difference between members of the two factions - as far as I can see, the only giveaway is the little note saying "Republic/Empire player" at the bottom of the tooltip if you hover over them, but nothing you can easily spot at a glance.

You could adopt a philosophical view on this matter and say something about how that just goes to show that people are ultimately the same everywhere and that war is pointless, which is something I strongly agree with in real life, but in a game based around a deeply ingrained faction conflict, it feels rather odd.

Even looking purely at my own faction it bothers me slightly that I can't tell a character's origin story anymore unless they are low level and have a class-specific companion out. However, I can't really explain why. I guess I just liked being able to identify players that were "like me" in the sense that they'd played through the same story, even if that knowledge had no practical use in the way knowing someone's combat style does.

Within my guild, combat styles have also added a level of confusion in the sense that after years of playing with many of the same people, I had a pretty good grasp of who had what alts and was capable of what. Now Sentinels are suddenly also Shadows, Gunslingers are sometimes Scoundrels, and who knows what else. It would be interesting to see the stats on whether there are any particularly popular combinations across the player base as a whole.

Looking at the strangers I encounter out in the world, my vague impression is that a lot of players went for a stealthy combat style if they didn't have one before. I complained on Twitter about my experience doing dailies, waiting in front of a clicky objective, and having someone pop out of stealth to "ninja-click" it ahead of me as soon as it respawned multiple times.

Warzones have also seemed more clogged with stealthers than usual to me, at least initially - and it was very obvious that many of them had absolutely no clue how to play a stealther in PvP. Then again, that might not necessarily have been due to them trying a new combat style, but could just as well have been inexperienced players trying their hands at PvP for the first time in order to earn some of the new reward crates. It'll be interesting to see whether people will hone in on some kind of "meta" in terms of what's the "best" combination of combat styles, even if I'd rather not see the community go down that route.

In general it does seem like people are getting good use out of the feature - I've seen many happy comments from players who love to level alts about how refreshing it's been to combine a familiar story with an unfamiliar play style. I also created a baby knight on Star Forge for whom I chose the Shadow style to see what that would be like, but didn't get very far before the pull of focusing on my home server and gearing my main there became too strong again.

Also, while putzing around the NA servers, I noticed that some sub-10 alts I had on Satele Shan and who'd never chosen an advanced class were apparently auto-assigned a combat style, though I can't tell for certain whether this happened with 7.0 or before. Too bad all the choices were the opposite of what I was going to choose for them, but I guess that's my own fault for leaving them in that state for too long. I can always delete and re-roll them if it really matters.

On my main I'll just continue pondering my options for now. I've pretty much discarded my initial idea of perhaps going Mercenary for my main's secondary style as it wouldn't really serve any purpose. Comparatively, choosing Vanguard for example would enable me to also tank on that character, or going Scoundrel or Operative would enable me to bring a different healing style to operations (which might be handy as those two are particularly OP at the moment). I just can't quite decide. I keep coming back to the notion that usually, if I want to play a different role or style, I'd just log on an alt - I do have something for pretty much every situation after all! However, the new setup for ops missions punishes this play style, as completing the quest to earn a reward crate requires you to be present for every single boss kill inside the operation - meaning no more swapping to a different character just for one boss to help out. Not if you want to earn any of the rewards, anyway.

But while I continue to fail to make any decisions on that front, I'll admit that one thing that has made me consider my play style at least a little is the loadouts feature that came with combat styles, aka an easy way to switch between different specs, utility point distributions, gear sets, action bar setups and outfits with a single button press. While it's true that I very rarely respec any of my characters, it's not something I've never done. On my Scoundrels for example I've dabbled in both healing and dps, and my Sage healer respecced to Telekinetics for some fights during master mode chapters because I just couldn't beat them any other way. And I did kind of like the experience of playing around with more than one spec there; it was just annoying in practice to rearrange my bars, remember my utility point setups and so on every time. With loadouts, I actually made a point of creating both healing and dps loadouts for these characters for both PvE and PvP, and it's been fun to have more flexibility on that front without too much additional UI fiddling. We'll see whether that goes anywhere.


  1. How is the state of Combat Styles and Loadouts currently?

    First reports indicated it's either not user friendly designed or heavily bugged. Or both.

    Did they patch something?

    1. I like that you ask me about the state of combat styles when I just said I haven't used them myself, haha! To be honest I wouldn't be surprised if they were tied to at least the odd bug here or there - e.g. the one where your loot discipline resets and you get no loot from reward crates, as I've heard so many people complain about that but I haven't encountered it even once on any of my characters.

      Loadouts are pure awesome and all of the complaints I've personally seen about them were basically from people not understanding how they work. Admittedly it can be a little unintuitive at first that unlike in some other games, it auto-saves everything you do to your current loadout, which means people often end up overwriting their setups by accident and then blame it on the feature being broken instead of user error. But I've found it super easy to use and 100% smooth once you know how it works.

    2. I think the main issue is that people were treating using the Combat Styles tab as if it was like changing specs in Wow. That's what Loadouts do, not Combat Styles. Combat Styles are for picking a new spec and getting a set of defaults. Which you then adjust to be saved as a Loadout.

      Think of it this way: Combat Styles tab is like getting all of your talent points refunded. Loadouts are how you swap between the specs you've setup your way.

      I've renamed the first Loadout as Builder and activate that any time I want to create a new spec or Loadout. That way I don't overwrite an existing Loadout.

    3. "I like that you ask me about the state of combat styles when I just said I haven't used them myself, haha!"

      Ja, i'm sorry. I just assumed you would have heard something about this topic while playing with guild mates, even if you don't have first hand experience.

  2. I've only picked a few characters second Combat Style. Until I am playing a character consistently and feel like I 'need' to pick a second spec I'll just keep them with one Combat Style. What I have settled into is selecting a stealth-capable Combat Style for those that don't have one. That's mainly to make chain running Heroics less combat heavy. Sometimes I just don't want to fight everything under the sun.

    For my classes that can stealth I've picked a Combat Style that gives them access to a role they didn't have. That is, access to a tank Combat Style if they were a healer and vice-versa. I figure that will give me the most flexibility going forward.

    So far I've only chosen one character to have the opposite factions combat abilities. Most of my characters are strongly light or dark so it just feels weird to choose a different option for them. My one Shadow who is trending dark felt appropriate to go with Sorcerer abilities, though.

    I do like the options Combat Styles bring. I've gone from being someone with a lot of alts (though not armies as some folks create) to someone who focuses on a smaller subset of favored alts. Having Combat Styles gives me more options without needed to roll up / gear up more characters. Now if I roll up an alt to see a variation of a story or for experiments I can delete them without feeling like I did the wrong thing.

  3. It's one of those things that sound like a killer feature for a new game or one where you're massively looking forward to play that expansion, which is sadly not the case for me right now. But for example I loved my Scoundrel from a story, looks, etc perspective since I started her and kinda hated the gameplay. I so would have switched at Level 30 latest and if I ever get back to leveling her that's one class where I will instantly get a non-Smuggler spec (except for stealthing maybe :P). But I guess I am mostly in agreement here. It could be nice, but I don't really need it NOW. I already have those 10 alts and now I can only make them a little better somehow, not avoid having them. I mean, I like alts - but just to experience all the stories and have played all the specs, I could've done that with like 4 less of them...

  4. Nice post. I'm also in the camp of those for whom combat styles make little difference, with most of my alts only having their original class. Of those who have picked a second class, my experimental lowbie toons have been fun(a Dark Side Operative Trooper, a Gunslinger Bounty Hunter), but my more established toons have been... well. There's some cognitive dissonance that comes with 'wait, that toon isn't what they've been for the last 3 years.'

    Loadouts are amazing, though. I was forever worried about changing spec in the past to run dps, etc. Much faster now. :)

  5. I have to say, I really appreciate the whole second combat styles for my healers (merc/mando less so, but still) because it REALLY helps me actually doing story stuff/solo stuff. I enjoy op/scoundrel heals... but I despise the dps in it. Sorc I can do, just don't enjoy. Even my main-merc is now also a PT (for shits and giggles and it certainly has been giggles), and I'm kinda enjoying it.

    Mostly, I've chosen secondaries for toons to whom secondaries would make sense story-wise - be it because they've gone through KOTFE 12 and learned something new about themselves, or even later on? (My main merc has never even started story, but I never recovered from losing PT abilities we used to have and I just love going back and forth) That way, it feels like they're still.... them. However, most my toons, although having a "pre selected" secondary style, haven't really gotten it yet.


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