Jedi Consular Impressions
For fans following Star Wars: The Old Republic, curiosity about the Jedi Consular extends back to learning about them at last year's press event. Thankfully, we were finally able to get our hands on this class at last month's Jedi Immersion Day in San Francisco. After several hours of play time and ten solid levels, we have a much clearer image of what it means to play the Republic's most mystical class.
We started off our journey as Jedi Consulars as Level 1 characters on Tython. Our characters were pre-made; Dover played a male Twi'lek, while Emlaeh played a female green skinned humanoid that appeared to be a Mirialan. Similar to many caster classes in other MMOs, the Jedi Consular starts as a simple mix of ranged abilities and default attacks to finish. Initiating combat with the Project ability and following up with the training saber quickly becomes the obvious mode of play; however, this combination of melee and Force abilities quickly diminishes as you progress through the opening area and gain access to new skills.
This shift away from melee happens as early as Level 2 with the addition of Telekinetic Throw -- a channeled ability that pelts your target with small rocks, slowing their movement speed. Combining these two starting ranged abilities allows the Consular to do fair amounts of damage, all the while keeping their opponents safely beyond the reach of melee attacks. This ranged focus continues at third level with Force Wave and at fourth level with Stasis. By the time Consulars reach Level 5, the default Saber Strike ability reduces to something worked in between cooldown rotations or used to finish an extremely weak target.
Acquiring the Stasis ability also gives Jedi Consulars a new powerful rotation to help defeat groups of mobs without taking much, if any, damage. When attacking a group of three targets, the Consular can initiate battle with Project followed by Stasis to immobilize one target. This damaged and immobilized target is now out of the battle for ten seconds, and allows the Consular to focus on another attacker. Targeting a second attacker with Telekinetic Throw followed by a Force Wave to repulse any melee attacks normally leaves the second attacker with very little life, if not dead already. Project is off cooldown by this time, so the Consular re-targets the wounded immobilized mob to unleash a double damage attack (Project does 100% more damage to targets in Stasis); this is normally enough damage to kill that target as well. If either of these weakened mobs are not dead, then the Consular can quickly finish them with Saber Strike. This leaves the third target already damaged by Force Wave, and easily dispatched by Telekinetic Throw. This entire sequence takes less than 30 seconds, and unless all the mobs are ranged, the Jedi Consular takes only a small amount of damage.
By the time Consulars reach Level 5, they already picked up their next rank of Project with Telekinetic Throw Rank 2 just ahead at Level 7. This quick ranking of skills without adding new attacks solidifies a ranged combat style. The ranking system for Jedi Consular abilities replaces the previous ability completely, leaving a more powerful skill that costs the same amount of Force points. The Consular starts with a pool of 100 Force Points at their disposal, and this did not increase as we gained additional levels. Therefore, ability rotations remain consistent, and only change after acquiring entirely new skills.
Adding in Force Potency at Level 6 aids a caster rotation by increasing the probability of critical hits with Force-based abilities. Force Potency also increases the effectiveness of Benevolence, a Force heal available at Level 8. This skill heals a moderate amount of health and allows the Jedi Consular to endure much harder fights. This addition is important because the game's difficulty noticeably increases around Level 8, as players can access their first Heroic quest and general mobs become significantly heartier. This escalation is probably a response to the fact that most players are around Level 8 when they receive their first companion.
This entire package is wrapped up with Meditation, the Jedi Consular's out of combat heal. As we noted multiple times over the last year, this heal does wonders towards maintaining a fast paced feel to combat. As Consulars can hop from group to group using short cooldown abilities and out of combat healing, they spend far more time actually in combat with very little downtime.
Jedi Consulars receive their first companion while working through the class story on Tython. Qyzen Fess, the Trandoshan detailed on the Companions page of the official site, joined around Level 8, but players may be able to get him at earlier levels if they progress through the class story and ignore side quests.
Qyzen operates similar to how pets function in other MMOs. The companion control window had three options -- "attack", "follow", and "Charge" -- with a fourth ability slot that was empty. The Charge skill looks similar to the Bounty Hunter's "Rocket Charge" with Qyzen zipping across the battlefield to slam into a target. This ability causes AOE damage and is designed to gather a great deal of aggro, presumably to tank for the Jedi Consular. Unfortunately, the charge ability was broken in our build and the attack only did one point of damage to the targets; this made it very difficult to get him enough aggro to tank.
This broken ability meant that Qyzen basically acted as a free DoT, instantly choosing a target at the outset of battle. We could direct him using the "attack" command, but this normally was not necessary. The one exception would be when inconsistent pathing caused Qyzen to be much further behind us then we thought, and it forced us to direct him on a ranged target simply to reduce incoming damage.
Pathing issues aside, the companion combat AI is what sets it apart from the AI exhibited by many MMO pets. Qyzen engaged targets more like a companion in Mass Effect then a pet in World of Warcraft. He appeared to choose weak targets and always disengaged crowd controlled mobs without any input from the player. This last part made it much easier to use the Consular's skill rotation without needing to direct Qyzen to attack specific mobs or worrying about him breaking a Stasis prematurely. As people with extensive experience using pet classes in MMOs, we feel the AI is not groundbreaking but still a definite improvement.
Apart from combat, Qyzen was an active part of the early Jedi Consular story and participated in multiple conversations. However, we only noticed him interjecting his opinions on quests that directly related to his story and not during random side quests. Qyzen spoke entirely in what we assume is Trandoshan with English subtitles. Also, we were not able to talk with Qyzen outside of story moments, unlike companions in KOTOR who you could talk with at any time.
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