The euphoria of reaching the level cap for the first time is often followed by a great uncertainty: what happens now? A whole host of new game features open up at level 50, features that the leveling process does little to prepare players for. The options can be daunting and bewildering. Just what are “daily” missions, and what is so great about them? Should I focus on Hard mode Flashpoints? I am not in a guild, should I join one? What are Operations, and can I eat 12 hours before I attempt one? Fear not, new level 50 reader — all of these questions and more will be addressed after the jump.
Did You Mow the Lawn and Do Your [DAILY] Missions?
After reaching level 50 you will gain access to several new mission chains on the planets of Ilum, Belsavis and Corellia. Because players can repeat them once per day, the player community commonly refers to these missions as “dailies.” Needless to say, running the same dailies day in and day out can get repetitive. So, why should you?
The answer is very simple: these missions provide excellent compensation for a relatively small amount of work. You can complete most daily missions within just a few minutes and on average they provide about 9,000 credits per mission. Players can routinely make well over one hundred thousand credits for less than an hour’s worth of effort.
Aside from padding your bankroll, dailies also provide “Daily Commendations.” Similar to the planet-specific commendations that you acquired while leveling, Daily Commendations are used to purchase powerful relics, implants and earpieces. These items make a great addition to your arsenal and are on par with, if not occasionally better than, item drops from Operation-level bosses.
The “Mission Support Vendor” NPCs found across Ilum, Belsavis and in the Black Hole area of Corellia are the only vendors who accept Daily Commendations. Rakata-level earpieces and implants cost 120 Commendations, while Campaign-level relics cost 200. A dedicated player can slot five top-level items — an earpiece, two implants and two relics — on his character without ever setting foot into an Operation.
Naturally, this will take a considerable amount of time and dedication: these five items will run you 760 total Daily Commendations and at present players can earn a maximum of 36 per day. This may sound like a lot, but a committed player could amass the requisite number of Daily Commendations to purchase all five items in just over three weeks. And remember, the endgame is designed for players to progress and strengthen over an extended period of time, not overnight.
Learn to Walk Before You Run: The Importance of Flashpoints
Hard mode Flashpoints are another game feature that opens up at level 50. Like the name implies, Hard mode Flashpoints are more difficult versions of the Flashpoints you encountered while leveling to 50. Many of these Flashpoints begin in the Fleet proper, while others are found either on Ilum or on the Ziost Shadow (Empire) and the Gav Daragon (Republic) fleet shuttle subzones. This link provides a list of all the Hard mode Flashpoints available to both factions.
Completing Hard mode Flashpoints benefits you in several ways. Firstly and most obviously, there is a daily mission — [DAILY] Galactic Conflicts, acquired in the Supply quarter of the fleet — that rewards Columi Commendations upon completion. Columi Commendations are used to purchase excellent Columi-tier equipment, which will be useful if you intend to run Operations.
Furthermore, there are a series of additional [DAILY] and [WEEKLY] quests associated with completing specific Flashpoints, each with their own rewards. The 1.2 Legacy patch also introduced 4 new “vehicle achievement” quests, one of which awards a new mount — the Aratech Ice — for completing all eight Hard mode Flashpoints. The upcoming 1.3 patch is additionally rumored to include a new daily for completing a random Flashpoint, though the incentives are currently unknown.
Finally, Hard mode Flashpoints provide players with the experience necessary to take on an even more rewarding — and more challenging — aspect of the endgame: Operations.
Operations and You
In Star Wars: The Old Republic, one of the overarching goals of endgame PvE combat is the successful completion of Operations. Operations are special zones in which teams of 8 or 16 players attempt to defeat a scripted encountered. The boss mechanics and environmental behavior of each Operation are unique to that challenge, and victory requires players to approach every Operation with a different strategy. Operations demand much from a player, but as a reward provide access to the best equipment in the game, bar none.
Though Operations become available as soon as you hit level 50, they are not something to be entered into lightly. To be effective in an Operation you will need some of the highest quality gear available. Even then, victory is not assured; success only comes through the hard effort of a well-oiled team working in perfect synchronization. With this in mind, Operations should be seen as something like a capstone on the endgame PvE experience: rewarding in their own right, but requiring an immense amount of preparation. Acquiring the best equipment is a time-consuming process but fortunately there are several ways to gear-up — and as with many long journeys, the final destination is only part of the fun.
It is worth noting that there are several different types of Operations. Firstly, Operations come in two different “sizes,” an eight-man and a sixteen-man version. Secondly, every Operation has at least two difficulty settings — “Story mode,” often referred to as “normal,” and “Hard mode,” which amps up the difficulty in favor of better rewards. As of this writing a third difficult setting, “Nightmare,” is available for all but the most recently-released Operation, Denova: Explosive Conflict. Nightmare is currently the most challenging of the three possible Operations settings.
Whether you are running dailies, completing Flashpoints or attempting Operations, possessing the appropriate gear is an absolute must. Endgame equipment, both PvE and PvP, is unique in that it is divided into “item sets” that provide additional bonuses for equipping multiple pieces of gear from the same set. Currently, there are fourteen PvE item sets in the game, each of which grant two unique, class-specific set bonuses. The first set bonus requires that any two pieces of gear from the same item set be equipped, the second bonus requires any four.
For example, if a Sith Assassin obtains and equips two different pieces belonging to the Survivor’s Gear Set, then he would unlock the item set’s two-piece bonus which increases Dark Ward’s shield chance by 5%. Item sets are naturally suited for different Advanced Classes, so be careful — just because you can equip the armor, and just because it boosts the correct primary stat, does not mean that that item set is the one for you!
Gear in an item set falls into one of five different equipment slots: Head, Chest, Hands, Pants or Boots. However, that does not mean that only one “Head” or “Chest” piece exists for an item set. On the contrary, within an item set each piece of gear will belong to one of four “tiers” of quality: Tionese, Columi, Rakata and Campaign. Tionese-tiered gear is the lowest quality, but also the easiest to acquire, while Campaign gear is the best but most difficult to get your hands on. Returning to our earlier example, it is possible that our Sith Assassin may have two different pairs of handwraps — say, Tionese Survivor’s Handwraps and Rakata Survivor’s Handwraps. Each belong to the Survivor’s Gear Set, and each count toward unlocking the item set’s bonuses when equipped. However, the Rakata Survivor’s Handwraps has better stats than the Tionese piece.
It is very important to note that players can equip any combination of Tionese, Columi, Rakata and Campaign gear in the five available tier slots and still retain the two-piece and four-piece bonuses. Players need not equip four pieces of Columi gear in order to attain or keep the four-piece bonus for that specific set.
Below is a breakdown of how each tier can be acquired:
- Tionese gear can be purchased one of two ways: with Tionese Crystals, obtained from defeating Hard mode Flashpoint bosses; and with Tionese Commendations, which are obtained by either defeating the final boss of Hard mode Flashpoints, or from Story mode bosses in “The Eternity Vault” and “Karraga’s Palace” Operations.
- Columi gear can be purchased with Columi Commendations, acquired from the “[DAILY] Galactic Conflicts” mission available in the Supply quarter of the fleet. Furthermore, Columi gear drops from all Story mode bosses in the “Eternity Vault” and “Karagga’s Palace” operations. Some Columi gear can be attained by defeating the final boss of various Hard mode Flashpoints. These bosses drop an “unassembled” piece of Columi gear, which functions like a token that can be turned to vendors in the the Supplies quarter of the fleet for the relevant gear. Below is a list of which Hard mode Flashpoints have a chance of dropping what unassembled pieces:
- Headgear – Kaon Under Siege (Republic and Empire)
- Chest – The False Emperor (Republic and Empire)
- Pants – Directive 7 (Republic and Empire)
- Off Hand Weapon – The Battle of Ilum (Republic and Empire)
- Main Hand Weapon – Lost Island (Republic and Empire) (Note that this Flashpoint can also drop a Rakata-level chest piece, the only Flashpoint to do so).
- Boots – The Foundry (Empire), Maelstrom Prison (Republic)
- Hands – Boarding Party (Empire), Taral V (Republic)
- Bracers – The Black Talon (Empire), The Esseles (Republic)
- Rakata gear drops from all Hard mode and Nightmare mode bosses in “The Eternity Vault” and “Karagga’s Palace” Operations and from the Story mode bosses in the “Denova” Operation. Uniquely, the Rakata chest can also be attained by defeating the final boss of the Hard more “Lost Island” Flashpoint.
- Campaign gear can only be attained from defeating Hard mode bosses in the “Denova” Operation and from defeating the Nightmare Pilgrim worldboss located on the planet Voss.
A fifth type of gear, “Black Hole” gear, is available from the same vendor that sells Campaign gear. Black Hole gear is purchased with Black Hole Commendations, which are acquired through completing specific [WEEKLY] missions, as well as both versions of the “Denova” Operation and the Nightmare “Karraga’s Palace” Operation. It is important to note that Black Hole gear does not count towards the retention of set bonuses. However, this does not mean that this gear is worthless. On the contrary, some pieces of Black Hole equipment have stats that are equal to or better than Rakata gear. Moving Black Hole armoring, mods and enhancements to gear belonging to an item set allows you to retain the item set bonuses, but with upgraded Black Hole modification stats. Also, the Rakata chest piece has been notoriously difficult for some players to obtain. Rather than pull your hair out, you could purchase the Black Hole chest for 60 Black Hole Commendations, remove the mods and insert them into a Columi chest. It is important to note that Black Hole armor mods are bound to the “type” of gear they come from — for instance, armor mods removed from a chest piece can only be used in another chest piece.
It is also advisable that you check the Galactic Trade Network from time to search for gear upgrades. Crafters are able to create some top-notch pieces of gear, including Rakata-level implants. Most crew skills offer two or three items that are statistically equal to top-level Operations gear.
“Witty Guild Name” Wants You!
If you have managed to level your character all the way to 50 without joining a guild, you are not alone. However, the vast majority of players taking part in endgame PvE are in fact members of guilds. If you plan on attempting Hard mode Flashpoints and Operations on a routine basis, you should strongly consider joining one.
Beyond the obvious social elements, guilds can provide greater access to crafted items and their materials through connections to other players with high-level Reverse Engineered or looted schematics. Guilds often pool their resources through the use of Guild Banks and it is likely that you will find materials there that could not have been found unless you have taken part in Flashpoints or Operations yourself. Utilizing the crafting resources of an entire guild is a far less time- and credit-consuming endeavor than attempting to be completely self-sufficient.
How Do I Know When I’m Ready For Operations?
The answer to this question is different for every player and every team. Operations will ask you to do more than just stand still and tank, heal or deal damage. You will be asked to solve puzzles, employ crowd control, interrupt boss abilities, exercise judgment for major cooldown usage and monitor multiple other mechanics that will challenge your ability to multitask. You should enter an Operation if you feel comfortable with your Advanced Class role and believe that you can play relatively error-free over a long period.
Beyond that, there are a few good rules of thumb to abide by:
- The player community generally agrees that the Story mode versions of “The Eternity Vault” and “Karagga’s Palace” Operations are easy enough that they can be completed by players wearing mostly Artifact-level gear and a few Tionese or Columi pieces.
- A full Columi piece item set is usually a good indication that you have attained enough gear (and skill) to attempt Hard mode “The Eternity Vault” and “Karagga’s Palace” Operations.
- A group of players with mostly Rakata gear should have little difficulty completing the “Denova” Operation at the Story mode difficulty, and should begin taking progression pulls for the Hard mode Denova.
Studying encounters beforehand is good preparation for an Operation. You do not want to earn a reputation for repeatedly being killed by the same or signature mechanic of a specific encounter. Researching the encounter will arm you with valuable information that will help not only your performance, but also the performance of your group as a whole. If asked to perform a specific duty in an Operation that you do not understand, you should ask your Operations leader to clarify that responsibility — ignorance increases the likelihood that your actions with precipitate a wipe.
Good communication means boss kills and it is common practice for Ops groups to coordinate over voice chat programs such as Ventrilo and Mumble. These are free applications and can be downloaded in a matter of seconds (although the server on which the programs run does typically have to be paid for, usually by the guild or an individual at a rate of about $5-15/month). At minimum, you should be able to listen to the commands of the Ops leader and be ready to respond verbally, rather than having to type a response in the Ops chat window. This type of communication is an invaluable asset when attempting a challenging boss encounter. If you think the group is going about something the wrong way, then consider alerting the Ops leader that you have seen a video or read a strategy that deals with a difficult mechanic differently. A single suggestion can turn the tide of a fight.
Last but not least, a positive attitude is an intangible but valuable part of your Operations arsenal. You do not want to play the role of a player who brings down team morale or someone who exhibits immature behavior. A polite, mature and motivated demeanor is something that will get you invited back to an Ops group, especially if you display combat talent. Good luck and have fun!