Patch 1.6 has been up on the Public Test Server for nearly a week, and so far, it’s full of excellence for the end-game experience. First, PVE gets parity with PVP with the 99 Tionese commendations being handed out in a mission, ala the Recruit / Recruit Mk2 mission. Second, there’s a new Warzone to match the launch of Operation:Asation (aka Terror from Beyond). Third, a new tier of PVP gear is being launched to match the new-ish PVE gear, the Dread Guard set. There’s also this space thing, but I know nothing of it, since I don’t do space missions enough to grind up to heroic space mission capabilities.
The giving away of an entire Tionese set (minus one commendation, as a full set costs 100 commendations) means that players no longer have to go through the grinding process of normal-mode level 50 flashpoints to get gear of high enough quality to take on Hard Mode flashpoints and the launch-level Story Mode operations. This is a good thing. While grinds have a place in the MMO world, of course, baseline gear grinds are some of the most annoying ways to spend time. Other grinds, like the HK questline, datacrons, Oorokeet eggs, etc., offer unique rewards like ability improvement, pets, companions, schematics, mounts, and unusual gear. They have a goal that feels “special” and not like the player is “just keeping-up-with-the-neighbors”. This patch allows people to spend their game time on those “fun grinds”, vs. “drudgery grinds”. It also means shorter grind times for guilds getting new members geared and up-to-snuff for harder content.
With patch 1.6 and the Tionese giveaway, BioWare is free to design new content with a convenient baseline to tune against, making this good for future content development. The free artifact-gear will undoubtedly also mean more freepers[i] will spend Cartel Coins on the “wear artifact” unlock, bringing EA/BioWare more money, and it also means that we won’t be seeing as many Recruit-geared players in Operations or Hard Modes.
The new Warzone is awesome. It is to PVP what Asation is to PVE. It’s still got its share of bugs and therefore needs work before being ready for prime-time, but that’s what the PTS is for. I cannot wait to see this deployed on the live servers – it’s a hootenanny and a half to play. Space, on the other hand… while it’s good to see that the space mini-game is being given more content, I’m not a big space player. While I enjoy the on-rails space game, it doesn’t hold my interest compared to a full free-movement space environment game.
This brings us to the new gear tier for PVPers, the Elite War Hero. It is very good to see a new set out, since it keeps progression moving and adds something for serious and semi-serious PVP-ers to work towards. That said, a new set of PVP gear comes with downsides, most particularly that it does further widen the “stat gap” between Recruit gear (both Mk1 and 2) and the top-tier PVP gear. That however, shouldn’t be too large a problem since BioWare is offering up the War Hero gear at the BattleMaster prices. They have also marked the BattleMaster set for removal – not from characters, but from all vendors. For completionist crafters, and those who like the look of the “featherhead” gear enough to buy the orange BM gear from those crafters, the number of people able to make the set becomes a fixed-maximum number, one that over time will only shrink. Because this change eliminates the BattleMaster weapons as well as the armor, PVE gear acquisition can be significantly affected. Those weapons are an expedient path to a +41 PVE crystal, and one of the most efficient paths to a black-core crystal. I have several 50s, and on most of them, even the ones I never intended to play seriously, I did enough PVP to get the BM weapons. I’d even go so far as to say that those weapons incited me to play more Warzones than I otherwise would have, and led me to realize that I actually like healing PVP in SWTOR (something I HATED in WoW). It was a big draw for me, and as I consider myself pretty typical among altoholics, I imagine there are a lot of players who feel likewise. Since new 50s get a +31 crystal for free in the Tionese set, it’s not a huge offset.
1.6 changes a lot of things in the game – some with outright brazenness and others with great subtlety. Unlike 1.5, which brought cultural change more than actual gameplay change, 1.6 progresses the mechanics and strategies players use to play the game.
[i] Thank you, Diedre Hollis, for that term. FWIW, Freeper is NOT derogatory at all. Listen to the Corellian Run podcast or TORWARS podcast to lean about Freepers, Darth Sunshine, and other fun things.