BioWare brought up to the SWTOR PTS 7.0 more of the planned Combat Styles Changes – Snipers and Operatives along with new UI elements!
This article is an overview of all the new things on the latest update released on the SWTOR PTS 7.0 this week and it’s all mixed with heavy analysis and opinion on the introduced changes. Sit comfortable and enjoy!
A Closer Look at the Combat Style Changes on the PTS
Sniper and Operative changes were released to the PTS yesterday along with our first look at a work in progress (WIP) version of the new UI for the Combat Proficiencies screen that will replace Disciplines and Utilities in 7.0. The updated Combat Proficiencies screen also works for the Guardian and Sentinel changes, so players on the PTS can now choose their own build rather than being given one by the devs. Not all of the proficiencies fully work, but you can still read what the intended effects are. The Republic mirror version of the Combat Styles are unavailable for the Sniper and Operative, similar to how the Imperial mirrors are unavailable for Guardian and Sentinel.
I would like to apologize in advance for not being able to list out all of the new passives that are available, so I will not be able to provide a full translation for Republic players. It was much easier when I already had a full list of the new proficiencies to work with that were provided by the devs on the forums, but that is not available for Sniper and Operative, so I would need to fully transcribe everything myself, which is just waaaay too much. Honestly, a list doesn’t really do the changes justice anyway; it helps immensely to actually interact with the UI. I will still translate things for the specifics I mention though, so even if you aren’t familiar with Imperial terminology, you shouldn’t have any trouble following along with the rest of the article.
A Clearer Look at Ability Pruning
Now that we have four examples of Combat Styles on the PTS as well as a preliminary UI, it’s a bit easier to see the direction that they’re moving in with these changes for 7.0. There are several things that all four Combat Styles on the PTS have in common. Most notably, core rotations and spec playstyles are mostly untouched, especially for the DPS. Essential Discipline passives that facilitate a correct rotation are given automatically every 5-10 levels.
New abilities from this progression system are given every 15 levels, beginning at level 10. New discipline passives are given every 10 levels starting at level 1. “Pick 1 out of 3 options” are given every 5 or 10 levels when no ability specific to your spec is given. Every spec has 1 choice where they have to pick 1 of 3 abilities. This happens at level 70. Every spec on the PTS picks from the same pool of 3 abilities, except for Guardian / Jugg tanks where Enure / Endure Pain is given to tanks automatically, so that option is replaced with Awe / Intimidating Roar. The other two abilities they have to choose from are the same for all 3 specs.
Personally, I find it absolutely insane that players are still receiving important pieces of their rotation so deep into the leveling process. Many players find the game too hard because the game hasn’t ever even attempted to teach people how to play. This has been a major issue for the entirety of SWTOR’s history. Core rotations (including both abilities and passives) should be done by the end of Act 1 around level 30 or 35 (which concludes with a story mission Alderaan). Other essential tools like a strong AoE ability, gap closer for melee, and maybe a DCD or two should be given during Act 1 as well. The rest of the leveling process should focus on letting players practice and refine their rotation. Only after they receive their full rotation should they begin receiving secondary improvements and more situational abilities.
Each spec also has 2 choices where they pick between 1 ability and 2 passives. These abilities are the same for each spec, again except for Jugg / Guardian tanks where they pick whether to have Guardian Leap / Intercede rather than Awe / Intimidating Roar, which becomes a replacement choice at level 70. It seems odd to not just have all 3 specs pick between Awe or 1 of 2 passives and just have Guardian Leap / Intercede directly replace Enure / Endure Pain for the level 70 choice rather than have it randomly flipped for a single spec. Maybe it’s just a PTS oversight, or perhaps it’s a deliberate balance decision.
Many of these ability choices come bundled with the utility effects that buff them and retain specific Discipline bonuses as well. For example, Vigilance / Vengeance retains its +15% DR while Enure / Endure Pain is active since that is a Discipline passive, while the other specs do not gain that benefit on that ability. Meanwhile, Enure / Endure Pain now has the cleanse effect from the utility as part of the base ability. It is unclear whether it is intentional that all utility effects are rolled into those abilities or if they are being selective and attempting to create balanced ability choices.
Ability Choices Are The Real Problem
All of this means that there are 5 abilities that you currently have access to in 6.0 will potentially be locked away behind choices in the new progression system for 7.0. Out of those 5 abilities, you will get at least 1 back, but can get up to 3 at the same time if you want. Here are all of the abilities that are locked behind choices for the 4 Combat Styles currently on the PTS:
- Operative / Scoundrel
- Infiltrate / Smuggle or Flash Bang / Flash Grenade or Holotraverse / Trick Move
- Tactical Overdrive / Hot Streak or 1 of 2 passives
- Debilitate / Dirty Kick or 1 of 2 passives
- Sniper / Gunslinger
- Hololocate / Hideout or Orbital Strike / XS Freighter Flyby or Ballistic Shield / Scrambling Field
- Target Acquired / Illegal Mods or 1 of 2 passives
- Maim / Below the Belt or 1 of 2 passives
- Guardian / Juggernaut
- Saber Reflect or Blade Blitz / Mad Dash or Enure / Endure Pain (this option is replaced by Awe / Intimidating Roar for tank spec)
- Cyclone Slash / Sweeping Slash or 1 of 2 passives
- Awe / Intimidating Roar or 1 of 2 passives. The ability choice is replaced by Guardian Leap / Intercede for tank spec.
- Sentinel / Marauder
- Force Camouflage or Blade Blitz / Mad Dash or Guarded by the Force / Undying Rage
- Transcendence / Predation or 1 of 2 passives
- Force Clarity / Furious Power or 1 of 2 passives
I am most frustrated by this decision to lock abilities behind choices. It is far worse than the few abilities they decided to remove completely. It is made worse by the fact that the abilities one Combat Style has to choose between are not necessarily as strong as the abilities another Combat Style has to choose from. In other words, the ability choices do not affect everyone equally. For example, Operatives / Scoundrels aren’t really giving up anything for PvE content since Infiltrate / Smuggle and Flash Bang / Flash Grenade are practically useless in PvE while Sentinels / Marauders only get to keep 1 out of their 3 most powerful defensive cooldowns.
Both Sniper / Gunslinger and Sentinel / Marauder players will also be put into a difficult position if they’re forced to pick between providing group utility and their own damage output since the options alongside Ballistic Shield / Scrambling Field and Transcendence / Predation increase your own DPS. No player should have to make a choice like that. Engineering Snipers / Saboteur Gunslingers are particularly worse off because they effectively don’t even get a choice since they use Orbital Strike / XS Freighter Flyby rotationally, though the other two specs still benefit greatly from the ability for situations where they can pre-cast or AoE.
Actual Pruning Is Less Than We Thought
Here are all of the abilities and some notable effects that were completely removed from the Combat Style:
- Operative / Scoundrel
- Sleep Dart / Tranquilizer
- Sever Tendon / Tendon Blast
- Overload Shot / Quick Shot
- Tactical Superiority / Stack the Deck
- Countermeasures / Surrender, but you can choose a passive that adds its old effects to Evasion / Dodge
- Revitalizers / Surprise Comeback utility (made Stim Boost / Pugnacity into a DCD)
- AoE DR is not present at all for this Combat Style
- Sniper / Gunslinger
- Evasion / Dodge, but you can choose a passive that adds its old effect to Countermeasures / Surrender. It seems like you won’t keep the 75% Force / Tech DR since that is not listed in the new passive, but the Hold Position Advanced Class passive still references that effect, so it’s unclear at this point.
- Guardian / Juggernaut
- Freezing Force / Chilling Scream
- Force Clarity / Furious Power
- Guardian Leap / Intercede (okay, it’s not gone, but it’s now tank only)
- The 50% movement speed boost from the Focused Freedom / Unshackling Rage is now a permanent effect of Combat Focus / Enrage only for the Focus / Rage spec
- Sentinel / Marauder
- Awe / Intimidating Roar
- Leg Slash / Crippling Slice
- Pacify / Obfuscate
- Force Stasis / Force Choke
Please note that the above list does not necessarily include all notable effects. For the abilities, I was able to directly compare what is on live vs what is on PTS, but since the passives are moved around a lot, it’s harder to say what’s changed and it’s more subjective as to what is important vs what isn’t. I only included what I happened to notice.
I also want to specify that AoE DR is still present on all Combat Styles besides Operative / Scoundrel, I did double-check that, so it’s possible that this is just a PTS oversight. In addition, I want to clarify that BioWare basically just merged Evasion and Countermeasures into the same ability, but the way they did it where each Combat Style has a different ability name, animation, and icon, makes both of them feel more distinct while leveraging existing assets.
It’s interesting to see the differences between what was pruned for Sniper and Operative compared to Guardian and Sentinel. One could conclude that BioWare is taking a much more conservative approach to ability pruning after hearing player feedback since Sniper and Operative didn’t lose anything nearly as significant as the other two Combat Styles. It seems reasonable that they could go back and significantly revise the ability pruning done to Guardian / Juggernaut and especially Sentinel / Marauder since they just flat out lost a majority of what makes them capable in PvP while that doesn’t seem to be the case, at least not to nearly the same degree compared to the changes to the other Combat Styles.
Cool New Passives and Ability Effects
It was easy to overlook the new passives and ability effects given to Guardian and Sentinel in the first round on the PTS since ability pruning took center stage and we didn’t have any Combat Proficiency UI to engage with that would enable us to actually create our own builds. Many of the new passives you have to choose from are quite creative and will help a ton in making the different specs feel more unique beyond just having different animation sets.
- Combat / Carnage has several passives you can choose that increase your movement speed and one that makes it so you deal more damage based on your speed. It really feels like they’re trying to make Carnage more about speed in general. We already had that with the emphasis on alacrity, but now it will feel even more like you’re a disciple (or forefather?) of Master Yoda’s Ataru Form.
- Medicine / Sawbones provides you with a ton of versatility in how your different heal abilities work, granting you a lot of freedom to optimize your healing for each fight. I am very curious if BioWare plans to offer similar choices to the other healer specs, or if this focus on versatility where you’re constantly tweaking and tailoring your healing abilities to different fights is meant to be what differentiates Operative / Scoundrel healing. It’s also possible that BioWare is trying to ground the Operative playstyle by making it reminiscent of the work that real anesthesiologists do where they’re constantly modifying the balance of different anesthetic chemicals to keep people sedated and not feeling pain while preventing them from dying.
- Defense / Immortal has several new passives you can pick that make you stronger against taunted enemies, potentially leaning into the notion that this tank is more single-target oriented as opposed to being more AoE-oriented like Assassins are. Defense / Immortal still has several AoE options available as well, so it should still be competent in fights with lots of adds.
- Concealment / Scrapper has a greater emphasis on dealing critical damage thanks to a new passive for the spec that makes Stim Boost / Pugnacity increase your critical damage dealt by 20% (does not affect crit chance, just crit multiplier) and several other passives you have to choose from that increase your critical chance and reduce the cooldown on Stim Boost / Pugnacity.
- Focus / Rage really seems to be leaning into having very high amounts of Focus / Rage (as in your mana) as well as high uptime on Combat Focus / Enrage, which has additional effects unique to each discipline. For example, in addition to the current Focus / Rage generating effect, Combat Focus / Enrage grants the 50% movement speed boost previously on the Focused Freedom / Unshackling Rage utility as well as unleashing a burst of energy when activated while you are maxed out on Focus / Rage.
- Each of the Sniper / Gunslinger specs seem to be centered around modified effects of Laze Target / Smuggler’s Luck that are unique to each discipline. Marksman / Sharpshooter keeps the old effect of Laze Target / Smuggler’s Luck and it gains an additional charge, while there are other passives that allow you to use that ability and Ambush / Aimed Shot more frequently, so they really want you to feel like you’re sniping people. This Combat Style definitely feels like it’s more of a work in progress though, as these effects feel more incomplete.
What’s even more impressive is that BioWare has managed to create a set of choices that still feel impactful, but don’t seem to have a significant effect on the rotations themselves. The choices you make are still the cherries on top of the cake that is your core rotation.
It does feel like these changes are primarily aimed at non-endgame players though. Raiders and PvPers have many of their most useful tools locked away behind unnecessary choices. PvPers specifically won’t get to fully benefit from these more unique feeling choices either because they’ll have a strong incentive to choose the more PvP-oriented options. It does feel like every spec has a PvP-oriented build though with most choices offering 1 option that has PvP-specific bonuses, so they aren’t getting left out in the rain. It remains to be seen how the Operations can still be played, especially in Master Mode, where you already need to utilize all of the tools available to you.
At this point, I think I can live with most of the pruning they’ve done, so long as they continue to be conservative about it. I am quite excited about these unique new passive and ability effects. I’m also very intrigued to see what new Combat Styles they could create. Chris Schmidt did mention that switching to this new leveling progression system and separating the Combat Styles from the Origin Stories would enable that. I’d love to see a new Combat Style inspired by Count Dooku, one of the greatest duelists of his time.
I still really hope they reconsider forcing us to choose between abilities that we currently always have access to. I still want to use all of them!
SWTOR PTS is only accessible when BioWare needs it to be. This is a testing environment and it will be full of bugs and unfinished things. Also based on the current test phase you might be limited in your freedom of what you can do and where you can go.
The testing phases for SWTOR PTS 7.0 are focusing on certain aspects of The Legacy of the Sith Expansion and you will be asked to participate in specific events and/r check out certain new things that may be added with the latest update.
The server may go down frequently. Your characters may be deleted between testing phases or even between server updates in the same testing phase.