This is a quick overview of the very first SWTOR 7.0 PTS that launched this week. It’s written by Endonae and features BioWare’s news recap, PTS changes overview and Endonae’s personal opinion on the matter

What’s on SWTOR 7.0 PTS right now

The first PTS update for 7.0 gives us a glimpse into what BioWare plans for combat and gameplay in the next expansion Legacy of the Sith. This first PTS update only contains potential combat changes for the Jedi Guardian Combat Style only (Combat Style is the new word for Advanced Class), so it includes all three Guardian Disciplines, but not for Juggernauts. 

The combat changes themselves completely change how abilities and passives are granted and the number of abilities and passives given to you are reduced significantly.

Every 5 or 10 levels, starting at level 10, you are either given a discipline-specific ability or you get to pick 1 of 3 options.

The options include a mix of existing abilities, Discipline passives, and Utility effects (yes, Utilities are gone too). Sometimes there is only one ability available and two passives, sometimes all three are passives, sometimes all three are abilities.

Here are a couple of examples of choices you have at two different levels for the Focus Discipline:

At Level 15, you can choose between

  • Blade Burst (passive) – Blade Storm becomes and AoE and applies a slow
  • Saber Throw (ability)
  • Energy Barrage (passive) – adds Energy damage to Blade Barrage and it now immobilizes the target. 

At Level 70, you can choose between

  • Saber Reflect (ability)
  • Blade Blitz/Mad Dash (ability)
  • Enure/Endure Pain (ability)

The choices for passives mainly distinguish between buffing AoE damage, buffing single target damage, or providing some sort of defensive benefit. The core rotations do not appear to have been touched at all.

Tactical items and set bonuses also do not appear to have changed. Passive effects are currently listed in the Abilities window under the advanced class. 

Right now, you can’t actually make these choices on the PTS. The devs have just provided two complete sample builds that make all the choices for you.

So using the example levels, in Build A, you would get Energy Barrage and Blade Blitz while in Build B, you would get the Saber Reflect and Blade Burst.

If you’re interested in looking at the full list of choices for each discipline, you can attempt to decipher BioWare’s forum post:

~Levels 1-5 – These are not Discipline specific

  • Strike (1)
  • Slash (1)
  • Force Leap (1)
  • Blade Storm (4)
  • Blade Barrage (5)

~Level 10 – Gain Ability

  • Focused Burst – Single target burst damage ability.

~Level 15 – Choose one ability or passive

  • [B] Blade Burst – Blade Storm becomes AoE and slows.
  • Saber Throw – Gain the Saber Throw Ability.
  • [A] Energy Barrage – Adds Energy Damage to Blade Barrage and it now immobilizes the target.

~Level 20 – Choose one passive (applies to Focused Burst)

  • [A] Zenith – Increases critical chance after using Focused Burst
  • [B] Focusing Strike – Focused Burst deals 15% more damage.
  • Unstable Focus – Focused Burst now hits in AoE.

~Level 25 – Gain Ability

  • Zealous Leap – A short ranged leap with high damage.

~Level 30 – Choose one passive (applies to Zealous Leap)

  • [A] Zealous Discovery – Reduce the CD of Combat Focus every time you activate Zealous Leap.
  • [B] Zealous Defense – Receive a small shield every time Zealous Leap hits a target.
  • Zealous Annihilation – Zealous Leap now also hits in AoE.

~Level 35 – Choose one ability or passive

  • [A] Focused Mediation – Dealing damage with Force Energy generates AP.
  • Awe – Gain the Awe Ability.
  • [B] Critical Conditions – Critical hits with Force Energy reduce the Cooldown of Combat Focus.

~Level 40 – Gain Ability

  • Force Exhaustion – Slow the target and apply a high damage DoT.

~Level 45

  • New ability granted but there is no choice to be made and it is not discipline specific

~Level 50 – Choose one passive

  • [A] Battlefield Command – Taking damage reduces the Cooldown of Force Leap.
  • [B] Path Carver- Increases AoE damage done.
  • Defiance – Build AP whenever you are stunned.

~Level 55 – Gain Ability

  • Concentrated Slice – A strong single-target weapon attack.

~Level 60 – Choose one passive

  • Second Wind – Lowers the cooldown of Unleash. Unleash now also heals you.
  • [A] Preparation – Leaving combat now reduces the remaining cooldown on some skills.
  • [B] Narrowed Focus – Taking AoE damage now generates AP.

~Level 65

  • New ability granted but there is no choice to be made and it is not discipline specific

~Level 70 – Choose one Ability

  • [B] Saber Reflect
  • [A] Blade Blitz
  • Enure

~Level 75

  • New ability granted but there is no choice to be made and it is not discipline specific

~Level 80 – Choose a passive

  • [A/B] War Master – Force Leap grants immunity to movement impairing effects and grants Dispatch.
  • Purifying Sweep – Sweep now applies debuffs.
  • Through Peace – Reduces Enure’s Cooldown.

Should you choose the Defense or Vigilance Guardian, the ability paths are as follows:

Defense A

  • Blade Burst
  • Antagonizing Assault
  • Critical Slash
  • Critical Defense
  • Defiance
  • Narrowed Focus
  • Saber Reflect
  • Through Peace

Defense B

  • Kinetic Barrage
  • Marked Assault
  • Guardian Focus
  • Marked Focus
  • Trailblazer
  • Preparation
  • Enure
  • War Master

Vigilance A

  • Burning Barrage
  • Cauterizing Brand
  • Burning Offense
  • Searing Meditation
  • Battlefield Command
  • Preparation
  • Enure
  • Through Peace

Vigilance B

  • Blade Burst
  • Branding Burst
  • Force Skewer
  • Critical Conditions
  • Trailblazer
  • Narrowed Focus
  • Blade Blitz
  • Purifying Sweep

Right now, it seems like a majority of the community strongly dislikes this significant ability pruning for one reason or another, though some players are excited about the prospect of not having to worry about so many different abilities.

SWTOR PTS 7.0 Guardian Abilities BEFORE the Combat Styles changesSWTOR PTS 7.0 Guardian Abilities BEFORE the Combat Styles changes
Example of Abilities set currently live in SWTOR
SWTOR PTS 7.0 Guardian Abilities AFTER the Combat Styles changesSWTOR PTS 7.0 Guardian Abilities AFTER the Combat Styles changes
Example of Abilities set in the currently available SWTOR 7.0 PTS

Personally, I agree that the game is way too complicated, though I think there are better alternatives to reduce complexity than removing a massive number of abilities. The current solution feels way too heavy-handed and has too many significant drawbacks. 

You can also provide your feedback to BioWare about these changes on the forums here.

The alternatives

If BioWare wants to simplify combat and gameplay, there are better alternatives that don’t involve removing a massive number of abilities.

Based on the recent PTS update, it seems pretty clear that BioWare is quite interested in reducing the complexity of combat and gameplay in 7.0. They are attempting to simplify combat and gameplay primarily by pruning a massive number of abilities, either by removing them outright or forcing players to choose between several.

Many people, myself included, believe it is an absolutely terrible idea to heavily reduce the number of abilities.

I do agree with BioWare that this game is quite complicated. Almost no games are released these days that have remotely close to the number of buttons that SWTOR has. However, I feel that there are many ways that combat and gameplay could be simplified for new and casual players without having to sacrifice so many abilities.

Below are all of the alternatives I could think of that would make the game a lot more friendly to new and casual players without drastically reducing the number of abilities we have. I know that not everyone will agree with all of these proposed alternatives. My goal here is to offer some constructive criticism that still accomplishes what BioWare wants while appeasing a greater proportion of the player base.

  • Adhere to a strict color code for ability icons, passives, and procs based on the type of ability or effect it is. This way, players can tell at a glance what sort of effect an ability have without having to read it. This color coding should be 100% consistent. No deviants.
    • Example: ALL heal ability icons are green (could perhaps break this into single-target being dark green and AoE being light green), ALL defensive cooldowns are blue, ALL CC abilities are yellow, ALL attacks are red (could perhaps break this into Single Target being dark red and AoE being Light red), ALL utility abilities are orange, ALL offensive cooldowns are purple. If you don’t like one of these colors, please don’t get hung up on that. This is only an example.
    • Yes, this would be annoying at first and perhaps not look as pretty, but it would help new players out a ton.
  • Reformat ability tooltip information to be more clear and concise. Example:
    • [Ability Type]: Damage/Healing Done/Mitigation Provided (if applicable, single number ONLY)
    • Cast/Channel/Instant/Off GCD
    • Cooldown (indicate if it has no cooldown)
    • Resource Cost (indicate if it is free)
    • Range
    • Intended Use: Rotational/Situational/Not Used In This Spec
    • Damage/Healing Types (Single-Target vs AoE/Periodic vs Direct/Force vs Tech vs Melee vs Range)
    • Armor Piercing? Yes/No (if applicable)
    • Other special effects of the ability
    • Current RP description of ability animation at the end!
  • Simplify damage mitigation on defensive cooldowns to be only damage reduction, self healing, reflection, and defense chance. Convert damage mitigation from Reduced Damage Taken, additional Armor, partial Absorption, and anything else to one of those simplified categories. Tanks could maybe keep things that buff shield chance/shield absorption.
  • Utilities can be streamlined slightly. Perhaps 6 per tier instead of 8. Still pick 9 utilities total though.
    • All 100% mandatory all the time utilities should become baked into the combat style or ability. For example, Cloud Mind’s DR, which is one the two main defensive cooldowns for Sorcs, should be part of Cloud Mind itself rather than being a utility that you have to pick. Utilities that let you cast or channel on the move are another example of something that should be part of those base abilities.
    • Garbage utilities that no one should ever take should be removed or their effects should be moved to another utility.
    • Utilities with different effects depending on discipline choice should be removed.
    • This might be way too far, but extremely situational abilities could be granted by utilities. For example. Overload could be granted as a Heroic utility rather than being a base ability but includes the effects of Electric Bindings. Similarly, Whirlwind could be included as another ability option, but includes the effects of Haunted Dreams and Dizzying Force baseline.
  • Provide default ability layouts for each spec rather than just placing new abilities into the next available slot. By default, auto-hide abilities that are not intended to be used at all by the spec. This behavior is on by default but can be disabled in the settings.
  • Eliminate Internal/Elemental vs Energy/Kinetic damage type wording. Replace it with Armor Piercing/Bypasses Armor/Ignores Armor. This is the only meaningful distinction between Internal/Elemental and Energy/Kinetic Damage.
  • Eliminate Weapon Damage wording. It should always say Melee or Ranged damage in the tootip. This makes it easier to tell what other defensives mitigate the damage.
  • Streamline Resolve.
    • Rename Resolve to Crowd Control Immunity or something that makes it more clear what Resolve does.
    • Specify which abilities generate Resolve and how many purple bars they generate.
    • Purple bars should be divided up such that the effect that generates the smallest amount of resolve generates 1 purple bar. Similar to how the Rage resource works for Warriors where you can’t have half of a Rage.
    • Make it so that the CC break ability grants a full bar of resolve upon activation. (Remember, the point is to make things easier).
  • Reorganize, consolidate, and confine discipline passive effects based on effect type.
    • A discipline passive should only have one type of effect. For example, the same passive should not provide some sort of DR and some sort of damage boost.
    • If a discipline “passive” grants a debuff/proc/temporary effect/active effect. That should be the only thing provided by that discipline passive. For example, the Destroyer discipline passive currently increases damage dealt by DoTs by 10% and grants the Destroyer proc. It should not do both of those things.
    • Flat damage boosts and cooldown reductions should be rolled into the base ability when possible. For example, an ability unique to the discipline should not have a cooldown reduction granted as a passive at a later level. Just give the base ability that reduced cooldown innately.
    • The same passive should not be upgraded twice and passives/procs should not be upgraded at all by another passive. Just roll them into the intitial passive. Example: Juyo Form initially generates 5 stacks of Juyo Form and Annihilate initially generates 3 stacks of Annihlator. At Level 52, Indefatigable Onslaught increases the maximum Juyo and Annihilator stacks by 1 each.
  • Minimize the number of buffs that appear in the buff bar. If something is expected to have (near) 100% uptime, just make it a passive. The biggest offenders here are the class buffs, DR procs, and some damage increases/stat boosts. Example: Focal Alacrity for Lightning and Juyo Form for Annihilation should be made passive. Annihilator stacks should not exist. Yes this sort of thing can have minor balance implications, but those can be addressed directly as needed. For the most part, I don’t think they will really matter though in the grand scheme of things.
  • Streamline the stats. This one might be a bit more controversial.
    • Merge Mastery and Power (also Force/Tech Power) into Power. Your average player does not know or care about the difference. Having both do almost the same thing only creates confusion. This makes it very clear that Power just increases damage and healing done.
    • The crit chance lost by the removal of Mastery can be made up by increasing base crit chance and the amount of crit chance provided by each point of Crit Rating.
    • Shield Rating and Absorb Rating should be combined just like Crit Rating and Surge were many years ago. This will get rid of some gearing diversity between tank specs, but tank gearing is far more complicated than it needs to be and the shield isn’t even relevant on all fights anyway.
    • Defense Chance can be switched to a tertiary stat like Shield/Crit/Alacrity/Accuracy so that tanks still have to balance their gear around two stats.
    • Redistribute stat allocations on Armorings, Mods, and Enhancements such that Armorings only provide Endurance, Mods only provide Power, and Enhancements only provide a tertiary stat. Augments can provide Power or Endurance and an associated tertiary stat (Endurance with tank stats, Power with non-tank stats). This redistribution should help to retain the current difference in health and damage output between tanks and non-tanks. The rest can be made up through discipline passives. This will subsequently eliminate overly complex A/B/R variants and reduce the amount of required min/maxing.
    • Diminishing returns and stat thresholds should be indicated to the player in the character sheet. You shouldn’t have to look at a guide outside of the game to see this information.
  • I think there is a little bit of room for ability pruning, but only for truly redundant or useless abilities. Clear downgrades and abilties that are not used at all by a spec could be automatically hidden by default rather than removed outright. Basically you would introduce a setting enabled by default that would remove those abilities from your bar whenever you changed specs but you could still pull them out from the abilities panel. This behavior could be disabled in the settings. Useless abilities could also be removed from a spec, but treated as upgrades more often as well.
    • Example: Missile Blast is only used by IO mercs and only used against targets that are below 30% HP. There is no need for Arsenal and Bodyguard to have access to that ability. It could be auto hidden in general or at least removed for Arsenal and have Heatseeker Missiles treated as its ability upgrade.
    • Example: Mercs have 4 AoE Abilities. Almost all other specs only have 2-3. Explosive Dart is garbage for all specs. It could be flat out removed from the game.
    • Example: Vicious Slash, Assault, and Retaliation are almost never used by Vengeance. These could be auto hidden by default, or perhaps Retaliation could be turned into Impale just like Smash is already turned into Vengeful Slam.

I know this was long. Thanks for reading the whole thing! It’s hard to do a TL;DR for something like this. The main bullet points cover the main ideas though and the sub points focus on specifics. 

About Endonae

Endonae is a main Sorcerer and a veteran NiM Raider. He’s also an avid decorator. His many contributions to the community with are mostly in the form of extensive and in-depth class guides, which you can find here on VULKK.com.

Author Lokzmir
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