SWTOR: More Info On Terror From Beyond

Mega Garden Slug Will Slime Your Ass!

BioWare have posted a developer update on the latest piece of end-game content coming in Game Update 1.4: Terror From Beyond.

Here’s a brief snippet:

This Operation introduces the next tier of progression in Star Wars: The Old Republic, including a new set of PvE gear. The hard difficulty mode for Terror From Beyond is balanced for players wearing a full set of Campaign gear, which can be acquired from Operation: Explosive Conflict. Augments will become increasingly more important the deeper you get into Terror from Beyond. Story mode will be available for players who just want to see the sights, but it’s no walk in the park.

Read the whole thing here. There’s no word as to when this will be on the PTS but be assured we’ll let you know when it is.

Over to you: is there anything in this info that has you interested in particular beyond the fact it’s new end-game content? Share your thoughts!

SWTOR Space Combat Popularity: Some Stats

For those who play space missions in SWTOR, there was an interesting snippet of information released by BioWare in the past day.

In response to a forum thread on how many people actually play space missions, Allison Berryman responded with this:

To address the question in the title of this thread, I talked to Jonathan Crow, a Gameplay Telemetry Analyst here. The data that we have shows that nearly half of all currently active players have played at least one Space Combat Mission in the past 30 days.

So there you go – I’d expected the numbers to be a little lower than that.

Over to you: did you realise so many people played space missions? Did you actually think the stats would be higher? Let us know.

Enter The Chevin: SWTOR’s Latest World Event

BioWare have release a teaser video via the Imperial News Network, plus this one sentence of interest:

Rumor has it that the Chevin are making their move and that their presence will soon be felt on the Smuggler’s Moon, Nar Shaddaa

The video:

So – what do you think? There’s not a huge amount of information to go off, but does this look good to you as SWTOR’s next world event?

Solo Malgus Kill: Go The Assassin!

I’m sure it’s not unique, but I’m always fascinated by solo kills and this SWTOR solo kill is no different.

This time it’s a Sith Assassin called Stevoo on the Master Dar’Nala Server, knocking over Darth Malgus in the False Emperor Flashpoint – in hard mode no less.

Having a healer companion doesn’t hurt obviously, but it’s still an impressive feat.

Have a look for yourself:

Over to you: have you pulled off a similar feat or does it seem a little too much like hard work? Post your thoughts below!

[Thanks to Jedi Consulars for the heads-up]

Cunning Ambitions: Gunslingers as Team Players

It’s with enormous pleasure we introduce another new column at TOROZ. Cunning Ambitions is dedicated to everything Smuggler and Imperial Agent. It’s a double pleasure introducing this column, as its writer, Kate DiBella, has broken the drought of female writers. Welcome Kate!

Hello everyone, and welcome to the first instalment of Cunning Ambitions – your resource for all that’s Smuggler/Imperial Agent!

According to the most recent stats, Smugglers and Agents are the least popular classes in SWTOR. Of those that do exist I’d be willing to bet that a good majority are alts, and not the main characters of their players. The reasons for this are many and varied, but hopefully I can try to enroll a few more to our sparse ranks through this column. With the launch of SWTOR locally only a week ago, many of you may even see the smuggler as a good class to try out, at least until those much-delayed server transfers come through. 😉

Today, I’m going to talk about a specific Smuggler advanced class: the Gunslinger.

Solo vs. Party Gunslinger

Playing solo as a Gunslinger is great fun, and really suits the ‘feel’ of the character – the lone ranger on a quest for glory and riches, that they’d rather not have to share.  Armed with twin blasters, medium-weight armour, a superior attitude and a trusty agro-magnet companion, you can take on just about anything level-appropriate out in the main universe.   However, to fully experience all that SWTOR has to offer, you’re going to need to team up with other players to take on most of the Heroics, Flashpoints, and Operations (henceforth referred to as “group quests”, for brevity’s sake).

Playing in a team requires a very different mentality to playing solo for the Gunslinger.  Where before, you might have thrown in Thermal Grenades and Sweeping Gunfire throughout the battle (I certainly do, especially the grenades :D), you now have to be a lot more careful about what you hit, and when.

There’s no ‘I’ in Team

The number one consideration (and this is not restricted to Gunslingers) is communication. It is absolutely essential that you establish the roles of everyone in the group before you embark upon the meaty parts of the quest.  You need to decide who is tanking, who is healing, and who will be dealing the damage (DPS). As a gunslinger, you are primarily ranged-DPS, though you can also act as an off-tank (more on that later) in emergencies.

Also important to determine at this stage, is who has what Crowd Control (CC) abilities.  Yours is Slice Droid, and as the name suggests, it only works on droids.  Like all CC abilities, it will incapacitate one enemy for 60 seconds; any damage (splash or direct) will cause it to end early.  Not all group quests feature enemy droids, but there are enough that this can be quite handy.

Once roles are determined, it’s time to get started.  While things may vary dependant upon the classes present in the group and the preferences of each player, there is typically a common sequence I like to follow:

(This strategy assumes that a healer, a tank, a melee DPS and myself make up the group)

– I position myself at a distance where Thermal Grenade and Vital Shot become lit up in my shortcut bar, preferably behind natural cover, but otherwise my Cover Screen will do.

– Usually, those with relevant CCs will pick their targets (ones near the edges are best; ones that are pre-determined and marked are even better) and start using them.

– While those are warming up, the tank will run/leap to the strongest remaining target and use their aggro-pulling moves to get the attacks hitting them.

– As soon as those two things happen, I send a Vital Shot at whatever is attacking the tank directly, then switch to start wailing on the weaker and ranged enemies.

– As soon as they are dropped, I focus on whatever the melee DPS is fighting, then take out the CC’d enemies.

– Rinse. Repeat.

In a group like this, it should be the ranged DPS’ job to get rid of as many of the weaker/ranged opponents as quickly as possible.  Often, when ranged enemies are involved, this can mean that the Gunslinger will draw their fire away from the tank.  Don’t panic!  This is what you’re made for.  Remember how I mentioned off-tanking?  Well, you’ve got a host of tricks up those sneaky, smuggling sleeves.

Early on in the game, Ballistic Dampers will be your greatest defence.  These give you 3 enemy poundings that cause 30% less damage, and they’re triggered by entering cover.  Keep an eye on the amount you have left, and where possible exit-and-re-enter cover to reset them when you run out.  Dodge, Defense Screen and Hunker Down can also protect you should you happen to draw the fire of something beyond what you can handle. If this happens, and the tank is still alive, the best and funniest (I think) skill in the game, Surrender, can be used.  This is exactly what you see Smuggler-trainers doing in town – when they throw up their hands and coins go scattering everywhere.  It drops your threat, and should hopefully send the unwanted enemy back at the tank.

If not…it’s Dirty Kick and Blaster Whip time; and a prayer to the gods of Smuggling might not hurt, either!

This is one type of strategy out of many that I’m sure exist, but it’s an example of a few of the useful things a ‘slinger can do as part of a team.

Top Tips

  • Communication, communication, communication!  Seriously, I can’t stress this enough, especially once you hit level 30. You can’t just rush blindly into most party areas like a bull out of a gate, or your whole group will be slaughtered.
  • Your Skill tree will have a lot to do with your success, even though it may not seem like it does early on.  For DPS, you’ll want to mostly stack points into Sharpshooter especially Cover Screen, Steady Shots and Ballistic Dampers (don’t bother with Percussive Shot, Sharp Aim, and Trip Shot), a few points can go into Streetwise skills, and you really only need Black Market Mods and No Holds Barred from Dirty Fighting (though Mortal Wound and Open Wound could be of use, if you have the points to spare and use Vital Shot a lot).
  • The ideal cover is natural (whether rock/crate/etc.) but the cover mechanics can be finicky until you are used to them.  The best thing you can do is to set ‘Take Cover in Place’ to something more useful than the default of Shift+F  (I reversed the bindings for take cover and take cover in place, they are found in Preferences>Key Bindings>Targeting).  If you have time to set up before a big fight, roll to a decent natural cover position, then take a step back.  Enter ‘take cover in place’, which will bring up your cover screen, now you have the added protection of natural cover, with the bonuses of your cover screen (you did invest in those Ballistic Dampers, right?).
  • Keep an eye on your Energy.  Below 60, it is slower to recover, so try to space out your energy-using skills early in a fight with regular bouts of ‘Flurry of Bolts’.
  • Always upgrade to weapons, mods and armour that improve: 1. Armour, 2. Cunning and 3. Endurance.
  •  Keep an eye on your healer; if they die, everyone dies.  If you see them coming under fire, start attacking whatever is hitting them and draw the fire onto yourself.  It’s easier for a healer to worry about healing you and the tank, than having to also try to protect themselves in the mix.
  • Thermal Grenades and other Area of Effect (AoE) attacks, fun as they are, have no place in most group quests.  They usually end up drawing far too much aggression from the enemies, and can drop crowd control abilities early.  Save them for the end of a battle, or for soloing.

Most of the above I have found through my own research, gameplay and trial and error.  I do not yet have a level 50 Gunslinger, and am in no hurry to get there (fun is in the journey, not the destination, after all).  However, I do hope I can be of some help, especially to those new to the class, or a little unsure how to play them.  I had very little help when I began, and even something as simple as explaining what on earth a CC was and how it affected me would have been great.

Feel free to comment if you have any questions, comments, or constructive criticism about what I’ve said.  Also, please let me know if there’s anything you want me to cover in the future, I’ll try to do my best to accommodate.

Thanks for reading, and stay sneaky! 😉

Heavy Damage: What’s your poison?

Now that I have reviewed all three Tank specs, I’ll be pitting them against each other to decide what Tank is the “best” for certain situations. I have played all three tank classes to 25. From my experience I would have to say for any situation, the best all-round Tank is going to be the Vanguard.

The Vanguard has very good mitigation and is very versatile – I love its ability to go from ranged to melee in its Tanking. Even though most of its hard tanking mechanics are up close (about 4-10 metres) it still has a wide array of damage abilities that can be used from afar. One such ability is Mortar – it is devastating to trash mobs and is a great opener (before you get Storm as a distance closer) to generate some decent threat on a harder mob. I use Mortar for clearing the way of those trash mobs that like to block paths to quest objectives.

The Vanguard does have some pitfalls – I’m not a huge fan of the “Ammo” pacing mechanic. I find it’s much easier to run out of Ammo than it is to run out of Focus on my Guardian. The other thing that the Vanguard is missing is an early-level closing ability. By closing ability I’m referring to an ability that closes the distance between you and your target – it could also be called an opener.

Some people might think I’m contradicting myself because a bit higher in this article I spoke of how the Vanguard was great at range, well he is, but when your group is needing a Tank like a Wookiee needs a comb, the Vanguard has to be up close and personal.

The Shadow has my vote for second best tank on the grounds that it’s probably the most versatile tank I’ve ever got to play, not to mention it’s up there in the fun factor. Having stealth on a tank doesn’t seem like a big deal, other than when you don’t feel like fighting a bunch of trash mobs on your way to an objective. Stealth in PvP is an entirely different beast altogether.  On the Alderaan Warzone it’s very useful for stealthing and capping the turrets. On HuttBall your force sprint is great. In Voidstar it’s a decent ability to pop off when playing offense to plant the bomb, if your team can distract the opposing force on the other side.

The cons on the Shadow are few but pretty big from my point of view. Being another mitigation Tank, they have substantially lower armor than the Guardian and Vanguard. The Shadow doesn’t have a distance closer other than Force Speed which only gets you close – it adds no hate or damage. Project isn’t bad but it’s no Mortar or Force leap.

The Guardian is your standard melee tank. Good mitigation and threat on a single target, and has probably the best opener of the three: Force Leap. Once you obtain Force Push, the combo of the two is extremely effective in both PvE and PvP. Another great attribute of the Guardian is that they can go from Tank to DPS with the click of a button. Switching stances can take you from a tank to an off-Tank DPS . The Guardian is also the class I recommend for any beginner Tanks, for the simple fact that it’s your most traditional tank, doesn’t involve all the focus and involvement that a Shadow does, and its ability to be a damage dealer with relative ease compared to the Vanguard. Riposte is a really big part of Guardian tanking after you start in the Tank tree of the Guardian Advanced Class, as it gives you a defensive buff that helps a lot.

One big thing about Tanking in SWTOR that you’ll have to learn (or if you’ve played other MMO’s, forget) is that DPS players are responsible for the adds and trash mobs. Your focus is the big guys. Hold their hate and keep their focus. As long as your team knows that the DPS players should be picking up the adds and burning them down, you’ll stay alive and be able to keep your team alive. In PvP, make sure you have Guard on the Huttball runner, and Guard on any healer you can talk into healing you during the Warzone.



New Flashpoint and expanded Karagga’s Palace Operation announced

Talk about not resting on one’s laurels. Bioware’s James Ohlen has provided a sneak peek on some new content launching next month.

Not much is being given away about either but here’s Ohlen’s teaser:

Next month we’re going to be releasing a new Flashpoint and an expanded Operation. The new Flashpoint involves a plague that could have significant repercussions across the galaxy. It takes place on a brand new world and involves some pretty epic battles. I can’t go into much detail, but be prepared for something different. The expanded Operation takes the existing Karagga’s palace scenario and more than triples it in size. It includes three new boss monsters and some pretty epic set pieces.

The last boss of the Karagga Operation is pictured in this post. I haven’t checked out any of the current Operations yet, so talk about me needing to play catch-up!

On the SWTOR forums, there’s already some debate over releasing new content versus fixing bugs in current content. Stephen Reid has responded on that as well:

And so begins the eternal MMO battle between ‘more new stuff’ and ‘fix the bugs’.

The development team is large enough that essentially, we can do both. We have many people working on analysing, triaging, fixing, testing and deploying new fixes to ensure the game’s stability – and we also have many other developers expanding the game and creating new content.

How about you – are you keen on new content already?

Unofficial Oceanic PvE Servers Announced

It’s been months in the making, but all of the Oceanic guilds that have worked together, have pulled off some unofficial Oceanic servers. Harbinger (US West) looks like being the primary PvE server, with Jekk’Jekk Tarr (US West) also having a lot of oceanic guilds on it.

For the stats geeks, you can see the numbers breakdown here.

It’s one of the final pieces of the pre-launch jigsaw for Oceanic guilds in particular, and well done to all the guilds who worked through the whole daisy-chain process!

Over to you: will you be jumping on one of these servers once the game goes live?