Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
SWTOR combat styles

While a few people have actually tried to play through a MMORPG without killing anything, for the majority of players a lot of the time taken up by these games is in combat. Thus whether you like a particular class' combat style is an important factor in choosing which class to play. Before I played the SWTOR beta weekend, I had planned to play a Jedi Consular as healer on release. But having played all 4 main classes now, I changed my mind.

The Jedi Consular, and his alter ego the Sith Inquisitor, are somewhat comparable to mages in other games. They have ranged spells that deal damage, and crowd control abilities to handle multiple mobs. So far, so good, but the devil is in the detail: The crowd control spells don't last very long (8 seconds for the first one you get, 4 seconds for the second one), and most of your "ranged" spells have a range of just 10 meters, which is awfully short. You can cc one mob in a group from 30 meters away, and then attack the others while they are running towards you. But that tactic fails if it turns out that the mobs are carrying blasters, and they shoot you from 30 meters, while you have to do the running to get into range of your other spells. Combat gets easier around level 9 when you get your companion, who is a tank. But personally I am not a big fan of pet classes (I never had a high level warlock or hunter in WoW because of that). Of course all classes in SWTOR have companions, but I'd rather have a healer or ranged dps pet than one in the front line. So while the Consular / Inquisitor are certainly very playable, I personally didn't like their combat style all that much.

I didn't try a Jedi Knight, but I did play the Sith Warrior, and I presume they work the same. The Sith Warrior was fun to play. Combat is very much melee, but there are enough other abilities to make that interesting to play. The damage output wasn't any worse than that of the Inquisitor, but defense was less complicated, being passive by better armor. That means less clicking to switch targets when fighting groups of mobs, and leads to a better flow. I might play a Jedi Knight and make him a tank, but I think I want my main to be a healer, and the Jedi Knight / Sith Warrior is the only main class that can't heal others.

I then played a Smuggler, which I assume works the same as an Imperial Agent. Combat of the Smuggler is ranged, using blasters and grenades. This is the class that has the only really NEW combat mechanic, using cover. When you target a mob and there is cover available somewhere, you will see a green ghost outline, and pressing the cover button or "F" will roll you there into that cover position. From cover you can use abilities that don't work when you are standing, like a charged shot. That works for small values of "works". The smuggler starting zone is obviously designed for the class, with rocks and crates placed just about everywhere to provide cover. But even there you often enough run into situation where there is either no cover, or the cover isn't BETWEEN you and the mob. You find yourself crouching behind a rock, while the mob shoots you from the side. Cover also isn't much use against melee mobs. Sometimes you just have to crouch in the middle of nowhere to be able to use the abilities you can't use standing, which feels a bit silly. But the grenades are a lot of fun.

The class I finally liked best for my future healer main is the Trooper (does the Bounty Hunter work the same?). The Trooper is a ranged class, with in my opinion better ranged attacks than the Consular / Inquisitor. He starts out with a shot that not only deals damage, but also does an AoE knockdown, which effectively doubles as a sort of crowd control. In spite of being a ranged class, the Trooper has good armor. And he still works very well in close range and against melee mobs. Unfortunately I didn't have time to play him up to the level where he gets the advanced class and the healing abilities. But I trust that he isn't too bad as a healer, and will try that class as my first character on release.

Overall I found the Knight/Warrior and Trooper/Bounty Hunter easier to play, in terms of clicks and keys to press per encounter. If you like more complicated combat styles with more buttons to press, the Consular/Inquisitor or Smuggler/Imperial Agent might be the better choice for you.
If you're aiming for a main healer role on your Consular or Inquisitor you'll be choosing the Sage AC for Jedi or the Sorcerer AC for Sith. When you choose those AC's (at level 10) you immediately receive passive skills that increase the range of your "spells" to 30M and the duration of your CC to 60 sec. I think you just needed to stick with those classes a little longer.

The short (10M) range for spells on the base classes was only added in a recent build. I'm guessing Bioware hopes it will acclimate players to life as a squishie at melee range for those who will be choosing the melee AC's (Shadow or Assassin) for their Consular/Inquisitor.
I played the smuggler to level 15 last night and the cover thing was a bit annoying at times. I did get a cover generator shield-thing though, I think when I specialised into Gun Slinger, that resolved the issue of crouching unprotected.
Tobold writes: The class I finally liked best for my future healer main is the Trooper (does the Bounty Hunter work the same?). The Trooper is a ranged class, with in my opinion better ranged attacks than the Consular / Inquisitor.

Perceptive of you. Bioware seems to be subtly tilting the balance of power and quality of living in favour of the gun classes, anticipating that Force classes will be popular in and of themselves. As an example, Trooper/BH healers get a 'smart heal' at end game and of course continue to wear heavy armour, which is a survivability advantage over Consulars. Vanguards (trooper tanks) can begin building aggro from range (unlike we poor Guardians who have to fancy-leap in and hope it's off cooldown/mobs haven't started moving) and their damage reduction is mitigation rather than avoidance based, meaning less spiky and easier to heal efficiently.

I'm sticking with my choice, but swinging that lightsaber isn't going to be a bed of roses. Perhaps that's as it should be.
I don't think you played long enough to fairly judge the classes, especially the Inquisitor/Consular classes. They take the longest to get a good feel for their style of play, since one advanced class leads to ranged while the other leads to melee. So it's the most difficult class to truly get a feel for and takes at least until level 20 to understand the advanced class you are playing. No one should really be making class judgments until at least mid-game, level 25.
I played a Consular this week end and found that you get your range back at level 10 when you choose to be a Sage.

The ranged spell get their 30M range back and the CC lasts for 30s.

I think the limitation stays for the other spec you choose at level 10.
No one should really be making class judgments until at least mid-game, level 25.

It's not a judgement, it's a choice. If there is one thing a decade of playing MMORPGs taught me, it is that "play through the suck now to get to the fun later" is a flawed concept. I'm NOT playing a class I don't have fun in combat with until level 25 in the hope that it will get better than. I played several classes to level 12, and that is about as far as I would go to just see what class I like.
I was not in the previous betas, but got a BH to 20 this weekend. The BH has Death from Above which is a quite awesome effect where you levitate and rain a quite effective AoE/knockback on them. Even more satisfying is if there is one force mob that is low health that charges you. The missile not only does considerable damage but has it's own knock back. Very Terminator. I enjoyed the missiles enough I think will level as the middle tree before healing at 50.

Being on the Dark Side, on tough pulls, I make my BH pet tank. I have them attack the NPC elite first. The NPC starts attacking Maku, perhaps blowing some cool downs. I can get them down by 25% until they switch to me.
I first tested SWTOR a few months ago and it was good to see a lot of improvements. The Smuggler/IA cover is now much better and once you get the shield generator it defaults to this if there isn't a cover point near. These classes still suffer from the age old problem of shooting people in the face who are standing next to you hitting you with melee attacks. I found the Trooper was much better at avoiding this with it's knockbacks/knockdowns so I've chosen the Trooper and Inquisitor as my main characters, the Inquisitor's force lightening just plain works whether at range or melee distance, especially when you get the talent which removes the cool down.

The change to the Jedi Consular's Project skill animation is a big improvement, when I first tested, it pulled a huge engine out of the ground every time no matter where you were and was the main reason I switched to the Inquisitor.

I was disappointed to see the fake leveling path choice was still in though. After completing the class mission prologue on Dromund Kaas at level 16 the class mission gave me a "choice" of a level 15 mission on Balmorra or a level 21 mission on Nar Shaddaa. I had hoped this had been removed or re-leveled but no, just bizarre!

BioWare's improvement to the appalling space combat mini game was to just make it easier, this really should have been removed from the game altogether and it's embarrassing to see it still there in a BioWare game. Even just a group turret shooter would have been an improvement and made more sense.
A major consideration for me has been the stories (since this is an mmoRPG) and not just the combat mechanics. This is why I chose to play all of the classes to about level 10. I never like ranged classes, but I loved the Bounty Hunter - both the mechanics and the story. And yes, you can choose healing for your BH.

As for the pets/companions, it is my understanding that these will change while leveling.

The Consular story is boring, but I decided to finish it out to see if it got any better - and it did! I have to say, out of the 4 "force" classes, the Consular has the best quests and scenes for acquiring their first light sabor.

So my favorites for mechanics+story? Smuggler, BH, Inquisitor, and Sith Warrior - followed closely by the Consular just for the lightsaber building.
When I 1st made an SI and found I only had a 10m range on my lightning I was a bit put off by that, so mostly just used my saber. When I swapped over to be JC instead, I already knew how it would play, so it didn't bug me too much. My biggest gripe it that you don't have any kind of charge-in thing on a melee toon in the 1st 9 levels. Mostly I'd just run at mob groups and hit the "Project" skill right at 10m and be in melee range before it hit. Project + Double Strike would take out the 1st mob before I took any damage, most times. Then I'd only have 2-3 other mobs to finish off. Force Wave was annoying becuz it'd knock things back more than 10m, so I'd never use it. Plus it did nearly no damage anyway, so it was just more of a pain than it was worth in the low levels.

At 10 I chose the Shadow route, so I didn't get any range increase. However, I did get Stealth, so I could go run up behind a group without being detected, pop a backstab and a project and that would kill any single "non-strong" mob. It'd also totally drain my mana bar, so I actually found just running in with Project and using Double Strike as my main attack was still the most effective thing on a damage-per-mana-used basis.

I only made level 11, so those whopping 2 points that I put into my dps tree didn't make much of a difference yet, since all they did was a slight increase to my 50% chance damage proc.

I think I have to agree with Tobold -- I loved the Trooper. The others I've played have been all right, but the Trooper I absolutely loved. I only got it to 10, but that was enough to pick Commando and put a single point into the healing tree :-P
You should've at least played through consular to sage so you got your spells to 30m range and better CC since you complained specifically about those aspects lacking. I think a radical change at level 10 is a valid amount to play to
You should've at least played through consular to sage

I did play through Inquisitor to Sorceror. But I didn't use damage spells any more, because I only played the Sorceror as a healer in the Black Talon instance, which is why I missed the change in range of the damage spells, if there was one.
I enjoyed playing Trooper the most as well.
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