Okay, it’s been a few weeks since Star Wars: The Old Republic kicked off the Knights of the Fallen Empire expansion and story, and in that time, I’ve been able to run through my two “main” characters through the content-my Imperial Agent and my Smuggler. (I do plan to run the other six “main” characters through, but I will probably not spend as much time on certain activities, as detailed below.)
As with a number of recent posts, I’m going to slap that big old “read more” tag on my story review, so that those interested in avoiding spoilers can do so. But with this post, I’m going to cover some of the stuff that impacts the game as a whole, which requires no special knowledge of the KotFE story.
One of the biggest changes involves equipment. Prior to the expansion, every bit of equipment was geared to specific classes; Aim attributes were key for the Troopers/Bounty Hunters, Cunning for Smugglers/Agents, Strength for Knights/Warriors, and Willpower for Sages/Inquisitors. Companions could use equipment based upon those four stats as appropriate: Jaesa was best with Willpower equipment, while Guss was a Cunning fellow. In theory, this meant that in flashpoint content, a perfectly balanced team of four-one of each class, I mean to say-would not have a conflict on loot rolls, because it would be obvious who would benefit best from that. (MMO vets know just how much of a pipe dream that concept is.) But it also meant that people who were new to the game and disinclined to read up on things could be confused by all these stats.
I don’t have much sympathy for that, incidentally. The learning process is the learning process; people who were there at the beginning of the game had to start the same way. You learn by reading and doing.
The expansion has changed all this. Now, all four of those statistics have been folded into a single Mastery stat, which means any bit of equipment is usable by everyone-well, within certain details: heavy, medium, and light armor restrictions still exist, and weapons of the characters are still regulated, so you won’t see Vector whipping out an assault cannon. But if you find medium armor, it won’t matter if it looks like something a Smuggler would wear or if it’s something a Jedi Knight would wear: both would be able to use it with equal facility.
Another big change-actually, a whole heap of big changes-impacts companions. Those stats I mentioned before for companions? Completely irrelevant now. Gear no longer has any impact at all on companions. (There are posts on the forums that claim otherwise, but the dev intent clearly indicates that if this is true, that’s a bug-so don’t expect that to stay that way.) Instead, your level and your Presence score is what impacts their effectiveness. Additionally, the companions no longer have a set role; where once your character would have a melee tank companion, a ranged tank, a melee DPS, a ranged DPS, and a healing companion…now you can set their roles manually. Bowdarr the Wookiee can be a healer now; C2-N2 (for the truly mad among you) can be a DPS companion. Their skills are not necessarily all identical: setting Kira as a tank has her using a Force Pull to bring enemies close, while T7 would use a set of cables to do the same thing. Same mechanics, different style.
Affection has changed as well into Influence. Companion stories are no longer based on Affection, but at predetermined points in the class stories. (Some of these are apparently broken; I can confirm that Skadge wasn’t able to be listed as “complete” as of the last patch prior to today.) A higher influence score impacts their effectiveness. There’s a new cap on this, too, so maxed out Affection will get a companion to level 10 influence-and there’s a lot more levels to it now.
Companions with high Influence and a character with a high level are startlingly effective, especially if the companion is in a healing role. So much so, in fact, that the healing has a significant nerf incoming in today’s patch. The jury’s out as to whether or not this nerf is appropriate or too much.
There’s also some restructuring going on with abilities and skill points, and folks who have been with the game for a while have seen this before; I’m not going into specifics, but it’s the same sort of deal when the level cap raises: some abilities come sooner, some later, and a couple new ones are put in. It’s annoying how skills you can use before the expansion are suddenly unusable until you get to a higher level after it happens, but it is what it is.
So that’s the mechanics; took a bit more wording here than I’d anticipated, and there’s a lot to cover with the meat of the expansion, so I’ll save that for the next post. We’ve covered most of the big changes here; the arguably biggest one is tied in to the story of the expansion: what happens when empires fall? And what role do the player characters play in all of it?