In anticipation of Onslaught‘s debut next month, I’ve spent some time on the PTS testing out gear and gearing though the new Spoils of War system. SWTOR is again making big changes to how loot is acquired, and the team is using the PTS to gauge reactions and tweak things before they go live. The quick response from Bioware has been great to see. Things may not be perfect by the end of October, but I’m thinking things are on the right track.
Currently gearing works like this: get your tier set either through Galactic Command or operations/pvp, tweak your stats; repeat three or four more times, substituting Galactic Command for or skipping to Ossus at the last tier. Repeat for each character.
Spoils of War aims to both smooth out and mix up this process. The first step is to get the top level of random gear drops. We know there are 19 levels of gear, but I don’t think of them as tiers like we have now. I ran two Veteran Mode and one Master Mode flashpoints this week and went from item rating 278 to 284. Onslaught will shower us with loot, and we’ll be getting golds before we know it. If anything, there might be too much loot. I have recieved doubles and even triples of the same item from one boss. Even if one is an upgrade the rest are going straight into the Deconstructor. After each boss now there is a pause as everyone stops to play the inventory management mini-game before moving on to the next encounter. This is not super exciting. If all that extra loot is really just intended to be ground into Chuck Bux, I’d almost prefer cutting out the middleman and getting fewer, more focused drops along with more Tech Fragments.
Much of the gear is not perfectly itemized but we spend so little time with each piece that it hardly matters. Something important to remember is that all this gear is legacy bound.and we’ll only have to go through this first stage once before we have gold sets to share with our alts.
Once we’re rocking 306 gear, the next step will be to acquire sets and Tacticals. Traditionally, this has been tied directly to the first step, but it looks like getting our sets might be a separate chase. Beyond getting lucky with the random vendor or Kai Zykken, I confess I’m still confused about how we’re supposed to get class set bonuses. Completing sets has been the benchmark for our readiness to tackle tougher end game content since the game’s earliest days, and I’d like some clarity about how players will do this.
The main issue with the PTS right now is that I feel like we’re testing the system piecemeal rather than as a whole. If you recall the flow chart that Eric Musco presented during the first Spoils of War livestream, the focal point that Renown and Deconstruction orbit around is the big green “Play What You Want” circle, but right now we’re really only able to access a narrow slice of that circle. Chain running Hammer Station is not really how I want to play. The new operation is dropping loot now, so the wedge is getting bigger, but it’s hard for me to judge the whole if the main focus of Spoils, playing what you want, is not fully integrated into the system.
My impression is that gearing through Hammer Station and relying on the vendors will be a massive pain. To be honest, I’m okay with that. Please, Bioware, please, don’t make speed runs of veteran mode flashpoints the best way to acquire gear.
I’d hope to see specifics about where and how to best get our class sets and Tacticals. Currently, if someone in my guild needs, say, set boots, I know which bosses to target to get them what they need. Will that be the case in Onslaught? I’d rather help someone get an upgrade after beating a boss than telling them to grind Tech Fragments and buy or gamble for what they need from a vendor. Moreover, players and teams dedicated to more difficult content, whether it be Operations or competitive PVP, need certainty in gearing. This is not news and should be an important lesson I trust Bioware remembers learning during Galactic Command’s teething stage.
I’m also somewhat amazed to see Spoils of War move away from modular gear. Ever since we got our first orange weapon on a starter planet, the flexibility afforded by modding gear has been a strength and hallmark of SWTOR’s gear system. Leaving aside the fact that it is not fun to replace a favorite weapon with a non-modable one for even a short period, I don’t want to lose the option to tweak and adjust my stats.
I did get more modular gear from Master Mode Hammer Station than Veteran Hammer Station and most of the drops I got from new operation on Dxun were moldable. I assume this is by design, but I’d prefer the game not be so stingy with armorings, mods and enhancements.
I don’t play a ton of video games, but Spoils of War reminds me of Diablo 3 with its flood of loot, most of which we’ll turn into Blood Shards/Tech Fragments in hopes of Kai Zykken selling what we need on the weekend or getting lucky with SWTOR’s equivalent of Kadala on Fleet.
I don’t think that’s necessarily bad. I have the impression that gearing to best-in-slot in Onslaught will take some work (even leaving aside Amplifiers), but I’m not clear on how getting to “good-enough-in-slot” will be. When I ran Hard Mode operations during Rise of the Hutt Cartel and Shadow of Revan, I never had a full set of best-in-slot gear. Even getting best-in-tier was a long process. Since 4.0, we’ve been spoiled by how relatively easy it is to get the absolutely best gear possible. Getting actual upgrades from a boss is kind of a rare occurrence these days; while running on the PTS with friends we were laughing about how we couldn’t remember the last time we got upgrades or even dreaded side-grades in Hammer freakin’ Station.
That said, I still wonder how many hoops we’ll need to jump through to get to “good enough” whether it’s for Operations or PVP or soloing. I’m fine with “good enough” being different in Onslaught than it was during Fallen Empire, but it is something I hope will become clear before the expansion launches.