Dual Wielding: 12x XP in Star Wars: The Old Republic

Dual Wielding: A series featuring two bloggers writing on one topic and answering the question, “If the pen is mightier than the sword, what happens when you dual wield?”

Make sure you don’t miss Kunzay’s take.

After taking a look at what makes for ideal leveling, this week I will be sharing my thoughts on the latest round of 12x XP in Star Wars: The Old Republic. When the return of the XP buff was announced the timing could not have been better. I had purchased the “Choose Your Path” promotion in March which meant my 60 days of sub time would run out shortly after the XP buff had begun, the perfect incentive for remaining a subscriber. I’ll admit, I was excited about the increase in leveling speed. One of my biggest pet peeves with leveling in MMOs is when it is extended unnecessarily in order to retain subscribers or to encourage the purchase of XP boosts. Or both. With the 12x XP buff in SWTOR, characters can be leveled by playing exclusively through the class stories. Not only does this make the process quicker, but it also emphasizes one of the stronger elements in the game: story. However there is a dark side to the XP boost, one that became readily apparent after a few days of playing at the accelerated rate. So today I’d like to list some of the pros and cons of having such an accelerated leveling experience and suggest a better solution.

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Pros

Let’s start with the good stuff. One of the things I look for when leveling in an MMO is for the pacing to be set by the story rather than by a need to prolong experience gains in order to keep players in game. So many MMOs have a ridiculous amount of filler content while leveling. As a result I often lose sight of the main storyline because it can be hours of gameplay stretched out over several days before I get back to the primary narrative. With 12x XP, the class story matches your leveling speed almost perfectly. Currently I’m level 50 and not quite through with my class storyline so it actually appears to outpace the story a little. I’m not sure if that’s because the buff outpaces the questing eventually or if I’ve participated in enough side activities (Flashpoints, Warzones, etc.) to have pushed myself ahead, but whatever the case it’s close enough. Because of the XP multiplier I could navigate from one quest to the next without needing any filler projects to move forward. As a result I was actually able to follow (and enjoy) the Smuggler class story.

Secondly, the accelerated pace of 12x XP works well with the time I have available to play MMOs. Normally I would have to play a game exclusively for weeks on end in order to make any kind of progress toward end game however with the buff I am able to play SWTOR 2-3 days a week and still feel like I’m moving forward at a fair clip. This may be a personal character flaw, but there have been times when I have moved on from a game because the leveling process simply took too long and I began to feel like I wasn’t accomplishing anything. With a limited amount of time to devote to gaming and an interest in two or three titles at a time it is in my favor to make tangible progress with short play sessions.

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Cons

There’s really only one problem with the XP boost, but its significant enough I may turn it off when I start leveling a second character. After a couple of days of speedy leveling I grew disinterested and started playing far less. This was partly due to the fact that I started playing Marvel Heroes and Trove again, but it also had to do with the lack of variety in my play sessions compared to when I first started playing SWTOR. For the first 35 levels of SWTOR I spent my time in Flashpoints, Warzones, Galactic Starfighter, and questing equally. Yes, this broke up the questing and storyline a little but it was at my discretion and kept the gameplay interesting. However once the XP boost was in place I avoided these other activities because the XP rewarded was marginal compared to the class story.

Yes, I could have continued to pepper my play sessions with the occasional Flashpoint or Warzone and perhaps the second time through I will, but it’s hard to argue with efficiency when your goal is to reach the new Shadow of Revan content. For now I’m going to press on with the class quests and mostly ignore other activities so that I can get to Yavin, Rishi and Ziost but with subsequent characters I am going to either turn off the XP buff or try breaking up the class quests with other activities and not worry about out leveling the zones. I may also I try turning the buff on at times and off at others and find a happy medium. Regardless, I don’t think I could level another character using only class story quests.

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Concluding Thoughts

Instead of the semi-permanent 12x XP boost I would prefer the double XP that Bioware has offered in the past for short durations. What I like about the double XP event is that every activity gets a small XP boost which means you can continue to play diversely but a little more quickly than usual. For the most part you are able to play through the planetary quests, class quests, and a few other odds and ends without drastically out-leveling content. Even if you do get ahead you can easily get your character level back on track because of the short duration of the event. In other words, I prefer things the way they already were, though perhaps with more frequent double XP events.

There’s one other alterative, one I don’t actually expect to happen in SWTOR or any other traditional MMO. That option would be for studios to make a drastic shift away from vertical progression and introduce new content that is playable by characters of (almost) any level. Lately I’ve been playing a lot of Trove and Marvel Heroes and the feature I appreciate most in both of these games is that “end game” or the equivalent is introduced midway through the leveling process and scales in difficulty with your progression. The whole reason I am in a rush to reach 55-60 in SWTOR is because I want to see the most recent content while it is still current. If I could somehow participate in the latest patches while I level I wouldn’t be in such a hurry.

World of Warcraft made an attempt at this with the instant level 90 boost. SWTOR is using an XP boost as a means of catching up players. But neither is the best solution; yes, they allows new players to experience current content rather than waiting months to reach the appropriate level but it devalues all of the old content in order to do so. Personally I like leveling as a benchmark of character growth, so I don’t want it to go away all together. What I would like is for characters or content to scale so that after a few tutorial levels (like the first 10 in Trove) I can continue leveling anywhere in the world. Unfortunately that’s just not possible with a linear, story driven MMO like SWTOR.

So is 12x XP a good thing or not? I would argue that it serves its purpose so in that sense, yes it is beneficial. However I think it’s a fix applied to an outdated system; the system itself should be better. The issue isn’t whether players should have the option to bypass so much content by leveling quickly, the problem is gating content by level in the first place. Some gating is necessary in order to give players time to familiarize themselves with a class (tutorials) or to allow studios to do some linear storytelling. However both should be done sparingly so that players can move more freely from zone to zone, story to story, expansion to expansion, growing their characters in power without being limited to a single linear path that takes a hundred hours to complete. 12x XP is a wonderful band aid, but it’s still a fix applied after the fact. I would rather see more games like Trove and Marvel Heroes or even Guild Wars 2, where character level is still a mark of progress and relative power but not a gate restricting players from new content. Remove the gate and there will no longer be a need for XP boosts.

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One to X: SWTOR, Trove, and Marvel Heroes

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update on this project, but then that’s the nature of pursuing something like this; it takes more than a couple of days to reach max level in an MMO. Last time I had reached level 60 on my first hero in Marvel Heroes and level 50 in Final Fantasy XIV. Since then I’ve more or less abandoned FFXIV but I have continued to work on other heroes in MH2015. I have also stepped back into Star Wars: The Old Republic and Trove where I’m working toward my first max level character in both games. I’m not quite there yet with either, but I’ve made significant progress.

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Star Wars: The Old Republic

My healing Scoundrel was level 35 when the 12x XP kicked in, however during the weeks the buff has been available I haven’t made it very far. I could have easily leveled to 60 by now if I had only been playing SWTOR, but the XP multiplier in addition to my renewed interest in Trove has really killed my motivation to play the Star Wars MMO. However I have made it to level 50, which was the level cap when the game launched. I have a little more of my class story to finish and once I do I’ll move on to Makeb. My plan is to continue this character utilizing the 12x XP so that I can start playing the Shadow of Revan content. Not only would I like to see the new zones, flashpoints, and storyline, but I would also like to start earning the credits I’ll need to raise up an army of alts.

Once I’ve reached level cap on my Scoundrel, the plan is to continue with a second class in the game but this time I may turn off the XP buff, something I never thought I would do. I like the speed of 12x XP but I’d like to experience the planet storylines and I also prefer to diversify my leveling experience with Flashpoints, Warzones, and Galactic Starfighter matches rather than limiting it to just class story. I’m thinking I’ll start a Sage next, or maybe a Sage and a Commando so that I can test out both of the other healing specs in the game.

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Trove

In case you missed it, you may want to check out this post on why I think Trove is such a great game. I’ve been back in the voxel MMO for a couple of weeks now and I’ve made some significant progress toward level 20. My Dracolyte is now level 17 but the progression at this stage is slow going and I’ve spent most of my time lately playing the Candy Barbarian instead. Both have a playstyle I enjoy but right now the Candy Barbarian is by far my favorite. Currently my Barbarian is level 12 and at this rate I may surpass the Dracolyte class and reach 20 for the first time with this sweet warrior.

I’ve mentioned this before but I’m going to say it again, the thing I love about Trove is that the leveling game and the end game are so similar that there is no reason to rush. Once you reach level 10 you have reached “end game.” At that point you can pretty much participate in everything that you will be doing at level 20 with the difficulty level increasing as you go. Thus the first 10 levels are a kind of extended tutorial, giving you time to grow familiar with your class so that once you reach the “Uber” zones (Trove’s high level maps) you have the class knowledge and skill sets to continue the leveling process through end game content.

Marvel Heroes

As I expected, I picked up another hero rather than working toward gearing out my first 60 for end game content. My approach to Marvel Heroes will likely be leveling multiple classes to 60 rather than focusing on what the game offers at max level. Of course, that might change if I find a hero that I like well enough to continue progressing but for now I’m content to continue leveling heroes. After X-23, I started to play Ms. Marvel until the Avengers XP boost was announced. At that point I switched to Black Widow and in a few short weeks I had my second hero up to level 60. This weekend I began playing up to level 10 with the other available Avengers—I have enough eternity splinters to purchase one—and decided unexpectedly on Hawkeye. I had already purchased him along with Black Widow back in December when all heroes were half off (they were only 225 Gs!), so I still have my eternity splinters to spend at a later time.

I actually tried Hawkeye last, assuming there was no way he would be my favorite of the bunch but surprisingly he was. I like the archer/ ranger archetype in general and Hawkeye has a great assortment of trick arrows—explosive, electric, poisonous, etc. The downside is that he runs out of Spirit quickly so I have been maxing out points in his basic attack as much as possible since I am reliant on it for damage. He can also be a little squishy but so long as I leave enough spirit to use his dodge ability to stay at range, I’m usually okay. Plus his Rocket Arrow is powerful enough that I can nearly one shot elites; dead mobs aren’t much of a survivability threat.

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The Future of One to X

Currently I’m pretty content with these three games. Once I’ve reached max level in SWTOR and Trove I plan on leveling multiple classes/ heroes in all three games. I may swap in DC Universe Online for one of the games at some point to finish my level 17 Green Lantern but otherwise there aren’t any games grabbing my attention right now. Rift and The Elder Scrolls Online were on my list, and WildStar might be as well if it does in fact go F2P, but none of these games are attractive enough to set aside what I’m currently playing. If that continues to be the case, then I may retire this idea for now or I’ll continue to cover my progress as I level new classes in SWTOR, Marvel Heroes, and Trove, discussing the differences between the various classes during the leveling process. That could be interesting, but it’s definitely not in line with what One to X was supposed to be.

Nevertheless, I’m happy with the progress I’ve made. Once I finish Trove, SWTOR, and possibly DCUO, that will be five new games in which I have characters at max level. That’s a far cry away from the days when WoW was the only MMO in which I could play end game content. It’s not like I need max level characters in every MMO, only in those that I like well enough that the time invested is worthwhile. If nothing else, I would say focusing on reaching end game in several titles has helped me find the MMOs I like enough to keep playing. Playing until end game while time consuming, is a good way to give a game a fair chance to prove its worth. What I’ve found is that I largely prefer games in which end game is a non-issue like Marvel Heroes and Trove. Ironic, isn’t it? That in my pursuit of reaching end game, I discovered I would much rather play a game without it.

#NBI2015Safari: Han Solo vs. Superman

For this week’s screenshot submission for the #NBI2015Safari, I’m giving you all a sneak peek at a surprising piece of concept art for the upcoming Star Wars: Episode VII. At this point I’m sure you have all seen the trailer featuring the return of Han Solo. What you may not be aware of is the unexpected Star Wars/ DC crossover that will be featured in the film. SPOILER ALERT: The following spoilers are completely made up. If you’re concerned about learning significant plot points that won’t actually appear in the film, now’s the time to stop reading. You’ve been warned.

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Does this fortress look familiar? That’s right, the last son of Krypton has abandoned earth after an embarrassing defeat at the hands of Ben Affleck and is hiding out on Hoth. Mistaking Chewie for a mutated California Brown Bear, Superman uses his heat vision to make a disturbing Wookie-skinned rug for his crystal palace. As you can imagine, Han Solo is a little upset. Armed with only a blaster and the intestinal tract of a tauntaun, Han sets out to bring justice to the Man of Steel. You may be thinking, “Han Solo doesn’t have a snowball’s chance on Tatooine to defeat Superman,” but don’t be so sure. Remember, the Corellian managed to defeat Boba Fett on accident while blind. What might he be capable of with all his senses in tact when he’s actually trying?

All right, so maybe none of this is exactly what one might call “in touch with reality,” but it is a stunning picture of the Hoth landscape. Hoth is currently my favorite planet in Star Wars: The Old Republic, and this is just one of many screenshots I’ve captured of the planet surface. The color palette is simple but spot on. Of all the winter biomes I’ve seen in MMOs this one is my favorite. You can feel the glare of the sun reflecting off the surface of ice and snow; it is stark, harsh, and indifferent toward the wellbeing of its inhabitants. Below are a few additional screenshots of this Hoth-some planet (I’m so sorry, that was really bad).

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