The Third Edge: 1.4 Balancing for Mercenaries / Commandos

The Third Edge is devoted to everything Bounty Hunter and Trooper. Our resident guru in the area, Jemima, knows her stuff and what she doesn’t know she knows where to find it. Drop Jemima a line if you have ideas for future columns!

The news of coming Mercenary/Commando changes in 1.4 has been out for a day or two now and as usual the ‘balancing’ is nothing if not contentious. To this end, I’ve put in my own two cents and assembled a few of SWTOR’s leading theory crafters in the world of all things Mercenary and Commando to give us their ideas, insights and predictions as to what these changes are going to mean for all of us.

The Expert Panel:

JEM plays Jet, a Valor Rank 73 Mercenary, as well as a Shield Tech Powertech on the Dalborra server and is GM of Aftermath, a leading 16-man progression guild.

KRIPT is one of the Dalborra server’s most renowned PvP Mercenaries and a member of Notorious Synergy.

AERRO is an Arsenal Mercenary and an officer of Chosen, a 16-man World Progression guild on Prophecy of the Five and is the author of the MMO Champion guide  ArsenalBountyHunterAreYOUDoingItRight?

Onto abilities:

Electro Dart and Cryo Grenade now have a 10-meter range

Jem says: This is a nerf. To be able to use our one and only stun we now need to be in melee range, and that’s exactly where we don’t want to be.

Kript says: This change was more for the Powertechs but has also affected Mercs / Commandos. BioWare should have noticed this and changed the range back to 30m for this AC.

Aerro says: If I looked at this without taking all things into consideration, this is most definitely a nerf. We may or may not have gained things to offset this nerf, but overall it is a nerf. Our utility in Huttball (Arsenal/Gunnery) already felt minimal.


Using a crowd control ability on an already controlled target now applies reasonable Resolve gain values by comparing the incoming control effect to the greatest of existing control effects. As a result of these Resolve changes, unorganized teams will no longer pay huge penalties for overlapping control effects at critical moments.


Jem says: Resolve won’t fill up as quickly allowing more and longer CC times. Fantastic if you’re the one dishing it out. Not so great if you’re the recipient. I think Bioware intended them to be Marauders/Sentinels, but I have a nagging suspicious we’re going to be an unintended casualty here. Beyond the universal 2-minute release from everything, most classes can free themselves from at least some forms of cc every 20-45 secs. Yet we can only Degauss once every 2 mins if talented.

Kript says: This is something I need to see for myself when 1.4 is out. Resolve has always been a touchy subject on the forums and I want to test this before making judgement.

Aerro says: In a way I am glad for this change. Even when queuing with 3 others, you get players on your team with poor CC knowledge that sometimes change the match for the worse. However, Mercs/Commandos are going to soon be on the low end of this change. Having Tracer as our primary, getting interrupted means running around in fear for what seems like forever. Adding in the CC changes means we will now run around in fear followed by being CC’d while we watch our friends die.


Mercenaries and Commandos now have a 30-meter interrupt, Disabling Shot. This ability interrupts the target’s current action and prevents that ability from being used for the next 4 seconds.

Jem says: Look, an interrupt is a good thing. Healers should no longer be able to kill us with the same speed a Marauder/Sentinel or Sniper/Gunslinger does and it’s a meaningful change for PvE. But I’ve been a long-time proponent of that fact that an interrupt was not going to be our panacea in PvP. Our dependency on Tracer Missile/Grav Round makes us a one-column temple. We need a way to stop being interrupted far more than we need a way to interrupt others.

Kript says: Well it’s about time, right? We have been asking for one on the forums for months and the amount of times I’ve been rejected from a raid group or rated WZ because of no interrupt is staggering. Good move BioWare.

Aerro says: I whole-heartedly agree with what Jem has stated. An interrupt being added to our skill list is definitely a nice PvE change, especially for those of you who raid in an 8-man environment. Having more interrupts readily available is a positive for this. As for PvP, our utility was to put the pressure on the healer or DPS and use melee as the interrupters. It may be a 12-second cooldown, but I would much rather have an ability that made Arsenal Mercs / Gunnery Commandos immune to interrupts for a select duration. Bodyguard Mercs / Combat Medics already have that with Energy/Combat Shield, so I much would rather have a talented form of that.


Afterburners / Concussive Force: Rocket Punch / Stockstrike now immobilises the target for 4 seconds instead of knocking it back. Damage caused after 2 seconds ends the effect.

Jem says: This was the change I was looking for – an immobilisation ability I can near on spam.  But I needed it IN ADDITION to the Rocket Punch knockback.

By my calculations I need around 24 seconds of casting time and 30 seconds total to kill an opponent with decent gear and a few abilities that mitigate or offset damage – like bubbles, heals and temporary immunity. Surely balance in PvP is giving me the potential to do that and then relying on my skill to achieve it? This change gives me about half that time and replaces a knock-back (which most classes can’t mitigate) with immobilise (which many can). It’s actually a big, fat nerf and it makes ledges in PvE HEAPS less fun.

Kript says: I’m against this move and I’ve gotten very heated on the forums about this. The knock-back has been a huge part of my play style. As a ranged class we need to keep our distance from a target and, yeah sure, we can run back, but other classes have something to close that gap, ranged can keep shooting, Powertech / Vanguards can pull us back and others can leap to us just  few seconds after.

I would have loved to have seen it changed to ‘Rocket punch knocks target back and roots target for 2 seconds’. BioWare have let Mercs down with this change.

Aerro says: I’m not quite sure why this change was even added. The suggestion forums exist for a reason (so I thought), and nowhere did I see this as one of the major suggestions offered by the community. A root is great, but not when our kiting abilities are already lack-lustre. Rocket Punch / Shockstrike was a great way to cut a few GCDs out of melee on you, but now it seems only useful if you’re *running*. Rather than give us more of a reason to run, I would appreciate something that stopped us from having to run, such as a knock-back that roots the target when talented.


The knock-back previously caused by this skill generated enough Resolve that it was actually detrimental to the Mercenary / Commando’s ability to further escape the attacker.

Jem says: Interesting. I wonder if an external factor forced them to switch to an immobilise rather than change the amount of resolve applied by knock-back.

Kript says: Was resolve the issue here? In PVP you want to time everything and when you knock them back you want to make sure your target isn’t coming back right away, by staying on high ground and knocking them off. Well then, resolve wasn’t an issue.

Aerro says: Generating half a resolve bar for a Rocket Punch knock-back was absurd to say the least. If it were cut in half or just removed, I think the community would have appreciated that more than having the new version. Again, more emphasis on Arsenal Mercs / Gunnery Commandos having to escape targets instead of ‘manage’ them.


Tracer Lock / Charged Barrel: Now each stack additionally reduces the activation time of your next Healing Scan / Advanced Medical Probe by 20% per stack.

Jem says: This one is my absolute favourite!! I would argue that if I can get 3 tracers off on the same guy and keep the stacks up I probably don’t need to instantly heal myself for less than a med pack. But, I didn’t think it was possible to link another thing to Tracer Missiles / Grav Rounds, let alone a heal, so well done there. Completely unexpected. [/sarcasm]

Kript says: This got me excited! A 3rd instant heal, if used right. A 5-stack takes no time to get up. Add that with a Power Surge / Tech Override heal and a WZ med pack we can get 10 -13k health back in no time at all. Some may think it’s a little OP, but I guess we will see.

Aerro says: After testing this on the PTS, I can say that I definitely love this change. I haven’t had a first look into its affects in PvP considering there were zero queues, but I can imagine that it is probably one of the greatest strengths of this patch. As for its usage in PvE, unless heals are seriously scarce, its most likely going to be avoided by those trying to maintain their highest DPS possible. It does get rid of your Tracer Lock stacks on use, so ‘wasting’ it on a heal will not only take away a GCD from your rotation, but also nerf your Rail Shot in the process.


Pinning Fire: This ability’s snare has been increased to 70%.

Jem says: I’ve never really noticed the effect of this in PvP, maybe the extra 20% slow will make a little difference but it’s only for 2 seconds, so I don’t think it’s going to be a game breaker.

Kript says: I personally don’t use Pinning Fire. I’ve felt the slow isn’t really needed in PVP because of too much open space and not a lot of room to kite.

Aerro says: This change does not seem like a buff, but more so a form of balancing. Expect to see little to no results from this change, so take this ‘buff’ lightly. The only benefit of this talent seems to be against melee… who aren’t after you. Most melee have a major gap closer, so slowing them down doesn’t change much, especially if their gap closer is a leap. It’s still a positive change so I’ll take it. It’s better than nothing, right?


Over to you: what are your thoughts on the 1.4 changes?

30 Troopers Fighting Together

I stumbled across this great video on the official forums. Alpha Company are a Trooper-based roleplaying guild, “full of current and former military members as well as military enthusiasts”, which becomes pretty obvious if you watch this:

Very cool indeed – I love guilds with a difference, or in the case a distinct uniformity.

For the Republic!

Come GET some!

Wow! Not since the ‘Hope’ trailer have I been this jazzed.  Troopers ROCK!

Some people recently asked me what the heck a trooper was, and I was like…what? Then I had to think about it. Besides the iconic stormtrooper/clone trooper, how many people actually know where the original word ‘trooper’ came from? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, a trooper is a private soldier in a cavalry or armored unit.  Almost anyone who has seen movies has seen images of cavalry, right? John Wayne’s works like ‘She Wore a Yellow Ribbon’ and ‘The Undefeated’? You know, the guys on the horses? Charging in to save the day in the nick of time? What? You DON’T? Sheesh…what do people learn these days…?

Ok, back to basics. Cavalry units, that is soldiers who fought from horseback, were generally thought of as elite forces, separate from the rank and file of infantry, artillery, etc. That fits this new update from Bioware to a ‘T’. These soldiers of the Republic are anything but common. And the video… I won’t ruin it. Just…watch it. Watch it NOW! Even if you plan to play Empire, you need to see this stuff:
[Read more…]

Tanks in Star Wars The Old Republic: more than beef

We have been hearing a lot of stuff about tanks on the SWTOR forums lately. The iconic armored forms of the stormtroopers and Boba Fett come to mind specifically. Hence the focus of Bioware into the Trooper and Bounty Hunter classes. In this installment I will be discussing the Trooper.

We see troopers for the first time in Episode IV. The rebel soldiers who try and defend the Tantive IV from the Devastator’s assault get pwnerized pretty badly by the men in white suits. Yes the men in armor go down fast when shot, but come on! Stormtroopers are not supposed to be heroic, right? They are the BAD GUYS, right? They shoot so badly they became a mythos all their own. Who hasn’t heard of the Imperial Stormtrooper marksmanship academy? The one place in the galaxy where the only one who is safe is the target? They get killed when people miss them, one bangs his head on a low beam… the list goes on and on. They are NOT heroic. It only gets worse for the poor troopers as the movie progresses, an entire platoon getting chased by a lone smuggler, getting outfoxed by an old man in a brown robe, yeesh…

Then we get Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back. The Imperials utterly devastate the Rebel base on Hoth, but somehow manage NOT to capture any of the big shots they were aiming for in the first place. Oops. And then to add more insult, in Episode VI who beats the Stormtroopers? An entire legion of troops gets pwned by a small band of commandos, a Wookiee and a bunch of Ewoks. Sigh. It just doesn’t pay to be an elite soldier in Star Wars, does it?

Now before anyone starts screaming about me not defending the stormtroopers – I do. They get a bad rap. When they are facing the heroes of the movies, of COURSE they are going to lose. It would not be a good story otherwise – but let’s look at it objectively. What are Stormtroopers for? They are there for the heroes to show up, outmaneuver or out-fight. Troopers are not heroic in the original trilogy. Even the Rebel troops on Hoth and Endor were there to put emphasis on the hero’s actions, not to actually do anything else.

Then we see Episode II: Attack of the Clones, which showed a very different kind of trooper from the Stormtroopers that we all knew and laughed at. These guys actually had a clue. They actually hit what they aimed at, and when they did, they devastated it. Games like Republic Commando showed a very gritty take on what it was to be a single cog in a huge military machine. I am not going to go into the stuff from the Clone Wars series because I don’t watch it. We all know what happened in Episode III. Most of the Jedi Order were taken down by troopers when Order 66 was given. Was it easy? No. Did a lot of the troops die doing it? Yes. The ones facing Ki Al Mundi lost a bunch of men when he deflected their fire but they took him down in the end. It was a major cinematic moment in Star Wars and it was the troopers who did most of it.

So… Heroic troopers. Special Forces like Delta Squad from Republic Commando are much easier to sympathize with than TK421 ever was. They have personality. Scorch in particular still cracks me up when I hear some of his one-liners, even today. We never see their faces, all we see are their personalized helmets. But it doesn’t matter. We remember them. We remember Sev counting his kills. We remember Scorch saying ‘You want a big crater or a small one?’. We remember Boss saying to a Trandoshan that tried to ambush him ‘You lizards need to realize that I am a lot more scary than you.’

Speaking of scary, we had seen Kyle Katarn be scary and epic in the original Dark Forces, but then we found out that he was a Jedi. Er, sort of a Jedi. He was a lot better as a mercenary than as a Jedi in my opinion, but that is just me. The novelizations of the game absolutely rocked. ‘Soldier For The Empire’ should be required reading for anyone who plays anything Star Wars. The later games were good, no question, but the best was when he was a not-so-common soldier.

In the book Allegiance, by Timothy Zahn, we see Stormtroopers as they were intended. Elite troops. Not gods, but very, very good at what they do. They are not supposed to be common soldiers, so when the heroes beat them, it is supposed to be hard. Not ‘Oh another squad of stormtroopers, I will use my left hand this time, it will be more of a challenge.’ He makes that part of the book believable. The rest was good, but not great. The stormtrooper parts though, ROCKED.

The trooper in Star Wars the Old Republic seem to be taking a similar approach. These are not cannon fodder. These are not people who die from near misses. These are beings who can wade into the thickest fighting and stand there while the bad guys throw everything they have at them. Beings who can unleash hell on their foes while taking the best the enemy can throw at them and laughing at it. Characters who can take and hold an enemy’s attention so that the squishy beings around them don’t. They are tanks.

Tanks in real life are mobile, they are offensive and defensive weapons. They can take punishment while dishing it out. Tanks in games are usually grouped into two general kinds. The uber-tank, like the Tanker from City of Heroes, who just takes the punishment so that others don’t have to. I have seen a tanker stand off Lord Recluse, all by herself, for ten minutes. She just stood there, taking the hits while the group respawned. Then there is the DPS tank who can take some punishment, while dishing out punishment as well. This is actually more like the soldier Shepard from Mass Effect 1 and 2. That character could take damage, but oh man could that character dish it out as well. The commando from Tabula Rasa, for those of us who played it, went this route. Heavy armor, insane amounts of damage done, often in area effect.

That seems to be what Bioware is shooting for in this MMO. Heavy armor, heavy weapons and lots and lots of ammo expended. Sounds like fun.

Over to you. Do you want to give troopers as envisioned by Bioware a try?

Photo courtesy of:

Courage and ‘Hope’

Last year was absolutely EPIC at E3. The cinematic trailer for The Old Republic was a masterpiece. The Sith assault on the Jedi temple on Coruscant in ‘Deceived’ has to be seen to be believed. No one doubted that Star Wars: The Old Republic was going to be epic before that trailer.

After it? There was such a huge response that the SWTOR website crashed. Everyone was looking forward to E3 this year. But then Lucasarts and Bioware did it to us again – I expected a meal and they gave me a five course, full service banquet. They were not content to give us a new trailer, no…

Players will have personal starships. Oh did I not say that right? PLAYERS WILL HAVE PERSONAL STARSHIPS!!!!! Ah! I very nearly went in my pants when I heard that. I don’t CARE if there is space combat now. Knowing Bioware and Lucasarts, if they have starships, there will almost certainly be more to do with them that use them as houses. But I don’t care now. I get my own personal Republic Gunship! YAY! The images were just so cool, and the bits of PvP footage rocked as well.

But then, on the heels of that… They rocked my world. I have so few words. I am almost unable to type, I was so dumbfounded. If you have not seen the ‘Hope’ trailer, do it. Now. You will not be sorry. Spoilers follow this so watch the trailer first.

Oh my god. I have never been a huge fan of Jedi. They were too overpowered, too strong, too fast, too tough for normal people to beat. Sith likewise. Can you possibly imagine someone like Darth Vader falling to a Rebel Alliance trooper? I couldn’t. Until now.

The setting, Alderaan. All Star Wars fans know about Alderaan, the homeworld of Princess Leia, the world destroyed in Episode IV by the Death Star to make a point. The cinematic opened with peace, and then, darkness. The Sith of course as is their wont, invade and destroy. The only thing in their way? A small force of elite Republic Special Forces troopers. But cannon fodder these guys are NOT.

The Sith in charge of the attack on Alderaan is the same one that later lays utter waste to the Jedi Temple – Darth Malgus. This is at the start of his career, he doesn’t have the mask yet. But after the ending, we know why he wears it. I am amazed he survived at all. I guess hate makes a good anaesthetic.

The Republic set an ambush for Malgus and his troops. They don’t have the personnel to fight him one-on-one. So they fight guerrilla style. And when the narrator said ‘For the Republic’ I very nearly jumped out of my chair to charge myself. Dark Side of the Force, ha! Meet grenade launcher, heavy repeaters, thermal detonators and courage! They were swatting black robed forms right and left until Malgus himself entered the act. But even the kind of courage that the troopers had, has its limits. I was stunned when the senior trooper got his tail kicked by Malgus’ Force lightning.  When he was kneeling there about to be killed, I was almost in tears. And then she made her entrance.

I said I never cared for Jedi, and that is true. They always seemed too over the top. But the consular who dropped into the fight made my day. She wasn’t the focus of the battle, but she kept Malgus busy long enough for the troopers to win. She wasn’t invincible. Malgus was obviously better with a lightsaber than she was, cutting her double bladed one in half. She was powerful, I mean, come on! How many people can block a lightsaber with a bare hand? I think it was the same kind of thing Yoda did when he faced Dooku and Palpatine’s Force lightning in Episodes 2 and 3. A lightsaber blade is energy right? That means it can be deflected with great effort. Maybe a bit over the top, but it was very cool to see.

And then the TROOPER saved the day. How many times does a lowly trooper save a mighty Jedi? And how he did it… Omg, that was epic! The look on that Sith Lord’s face was just priceless. I mean I can see the guy thinking…

‘This Republic scum is pathetic! Tackling me, trying to hit me with his hands? Sheesh… How stupid can he be? Wait a moment, what is that in his hand??? A GRENADE!!!’

I laughed out loud when I saw that. High and mighty Sith might be tough, but raw courage can take them down if given the chance. Admittedly Malgus was still on his feet and the trooper was not. But it gave the Jedi time to recover and prepare to hit Malgus with the Force. And THAT is the whole point of this. Teamwork wins wars. Individual prowess means nothing, it is working as a team that makes such things possible. Sith are mighty combatants, true, but if they fight as individuals, they can be taken down, albeit at a massive cost in lives. And that was what won the battle for the Republic, the Jedi and the soldiers of Havoc Squad working as a team to fight and die if necessary.

If you notice, the Jedi’s arrival allowed the troopers time to regroup and fight back effectively. And that means more to me than any special effects or showy force powers. She was not the prime focus of the battle, she was there to keep Malgus occupied until the soldiers, the common foot slogging soldiers, could win the day. Smashing Malgus into the mountainside was almost an afterthought. This was after he had been burned by incendiary grenades, showered by blaster fire, and had a grenade go off in his face. No wonder he wears a mask now…

I found myself crying at the end of that trailer, and I strongly doubt I was the only one as the Republic fleet came to the rescue. It was… I truly have no words. It was epic was about the best I can do.

Such a game as Star Wars: The Old Republic is shaping up to be will be good no matter what. But if THIS is what we can look forward to, such surprises, such epic stories, such… sheer scope and grandeur… Such… Star Wars!

I personally think we have a contender here. We have something epic that may finally, after so long, live up to the franchise.  It may finally be Star Wars. Oh, by the way, the website crashed again, I read something about 25000 hits in about ten minutes or something like that. I have occasionally had my doubts. But now I truly have ‘Hope’…

And we have personal starships!!!!!! YAY!!!!

Over to you, what do you think of this announcement? I know I am going to watch the trailer again. And again, and again.