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Smuggler’s Holiday or A Little Edge Gaming

January 3, 2012

To preserve balance in the universe, for every pious lightsaber there must be a cad with a Shakespeare beard and a blaster. A few highlights of my diversion from the serious business of taking it on the chin for the Republic:

1. Skipping all quest content, apart from what’s necessary to get off Ord Mantell, through Coruscant, and into the XS Freighter. Getting ship at 13. I mean, really, who plays this game for the story?

2. Killing a few tough enemies through the creative use of terrain. SW:TOR’s mob “leashing” is a little less tight than that of other games, and enemies are occasionally unable to make the same terrain hops as the player. A good example is the level 8 elite on Ord Mantell on the way to the shore, near the datacron. When engaged from the datacron hill, he will make a beeline for the player, but when the player hops to higher ground, he will not hop with us. He will turn around and begin taking a longer route to the player’s new position. He will not reset, because his logic dictates that the player has not become unreachable, but merely reachable differently. When the player hops down to the initial level, he turns back to seek the simpler route. The dance continues as the Vital Shot bleed is ticking.

Actually, this second point is relevant to the first, because getting your ship at 13 (which requires stealthing past the majority of Coruscant’s hostile zones to the class quest instances, and receiving very few gear rewards) is all fun and games until you have to kill a 16 elite, Fabizan, in the final showdown. Which is non-trivial, because he makes short work of poor level 13 Corso with his bomb ability. Corso never did learn to move out of the fire. And we have no gear. The answer to the problem is that Fabizan does not run as quickly as we do, stops to cast his bomb, and his grappling hook ability requires line of sight. Once Corso buys the farm, the encounter therefore turns into a kiting game. Our old friend, Vital Shot is always up and ticking, we save our Dirty Kick as the immediate response when Fabizan grappling-hooks us, and we keep running. Ducking around the corner of the corridor at the instance entrance and running up the small flight of stairs on the instance’s other end provide opportunities to cast a couple of heals without being interrupted by the grappling hook. Flashbang in emergencies – though Vital Shot tick will break it, it’ll prevent him from flamethrowing and grant a second of running time. Repeating the cycle carefully brought him to a well-deserved faceplant.

3. Slicing. Yes, yes, I know. But considering we’re not questing on this guy, the old cash cow is a legitimate tack to avoid staring into the hollow eyesockets of privation. Besides, it was a good way to find out what the buzz is all about, and post-nerf, I must cheerfully report, the going is still good. With two lackeys sent out for boxes at all times while exploring, PvPing and playing TORFox 64, aka the space combat, the smuggie is at about 360 at level 20, having made about 170,000 credits in revenue overall. No longer gamebreaking, and probably not worth it compared to questing/vendoring/crafting income at high levels, but a good life for a true independent spacer who loathes to run planetary errands.

4. Exploring. Nothing quite like gaining a  level or two solely by sneaking around and discovering areas on Hoth, Corellia and Ilum. And – maybe it’s the EVE lover in me – there’s nothing wrong with slicing a few high-level lockboxes along the way, as opposed to camping Ilum’s treasure chests, which were the source of recent banning controversy. Besides, Ilum’s overrated. For my dirty dealings, I prefer Corellia’s shipyards.

5. Levelling through PvP/space combat. It’s viable and effective, especially if one’s winning. In the warzones, I see the beginnings of a Horde/Alliance or Defiant/Guardian pattern in that the ‘bad’ guys tend to do better. In the other games, the trend is weaker than perceived, but still statistically relevant. In TOR, especially given distinct server communities, it’s still hard to state this with confidence, but it is my gut feeling. The PvP scaling system (wherein hp and coefficients are scaled up to make low-levels competitive with high-levels)  is innovative and better than nothing, but it does not confer true equality. Higher levels have access to more abilities, such as cc, more versatile healing, interrupts. And level 50s in particular, have access to expertise gear which makes them even more effective against artificially souped-up lowbies.

Still, I slid into my old role of battleground healer comfortably. And the warzones, of which I was originally skeptical, are growing on me. Alderaan Civil War feels much more dramatic than its close cousin Battle For Gilneas, thanks to the voice acting and setting; Huttball is a genuinely innovative (at least in MMO terms) take on capture-the-flag and, again, the designers did a great job of conveying an underworld bloodsport atmosphere. Huttball is the conceptual winner here: it’s actually tactically deep, and I would be interested to see two competent premade teams go at it, leveraging the z-axis and line of sight, in particular. Voidstar is very plain, and together with Alderaan, suffers from the mindless-brawl-by-flag syndrome. Moreover, in part given the number of knockbacks and crowd control available to everyone, and in part owing to the designers’ decision to allow DoTs to prevent the channelling of bomb planting and turret capture, these two battlegrounds are heavily biased toward continuous-defence strategies. In Alderaan Civil War’s case, in my experience, the early rush frequently decides the game, with very few comebacks ever taking place.

Anyway, enough of that. My Jedi Guardian halo should be returning from the dry-cleaners’ shortly, and the Scoundrel is due to cool his heels in carbonite.


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