19 Dec 2011

SWTOR: The Broken Mess of Crew Skills

Over the last few days I’ve been digging into the crafting system in Star Wars: The Old Republic. This isn’t something I really got into during beta – I was too busy waving around my lightsaber and shooting lightning from my fingertips to be concerned with harvesting materials and making pointless items.

I’m regretting that decision now, as I’d have loved to provide some choice feedback on the system. Other people may have found SWTOR’s biggest flaw, but for me crafting is about even with my issues on Space Combat.

For those of you yet to dig in to the intricacies of fabrication in Bioware’s MMO, here’s the run-down. At level 10-ish you gain your first companion, and with this you can learn Crew Skills. There’s three categories: skills that make things, skills that gather things and skills that send your companion on missions. Credit where it’s due, the last two choices are interesting as they allow you to focus on questing while your companion does all the tedious work of banging rocks together.

But pick a crew skill that makes anything and be prepared for a whole galaxy of redundancy. Let me explain.

The Artifice crew skill allows you to make lightsaber and blaster gems, lightsaber hilts, enhancements, shield generators and so on. There are two main types of lightsaber hilt: might hilts for melee classes and resolve hilts for Force wielders. There’s a few more variants in the later levels but those are the two main types.

For this example I’m going to focus on the Resolve Hilt. When starting out as a novice Artificer you’re able to craft Resolve Hilt 2, a Premium quality (green) item that’s usable at level 9. Once you’ve made a few you can Reverse Engineer them to get some materials back, plus the chance to learn how to make a Prototype quality (blue) version of Resolve Hilt 2. If you make a few of these and reverse engineer them you might learn how to make the Advanced Resolve Hilt 2, an Artifact quality (purple) item that’s also usable at level 9.

You might think this is a fair deal – you can do a bit of work and find out how to make a great quality hilt. Except there’s a Resolve Hilt 3 that’s usable at level 11. Why bother doing all that reverse engineering if there’s a better hilt just round the corner?

This isn’t just an abberation of crafting compressed at the lower levels. The mass of Resolve Hilts continues all the way to Advanced Resolve Hilt 23, usable at level 50. That’s a new basic hilt every 2 levels. Including variants that’s a total of 67 resolve hilts just to get you from level 10 to endgame.


It’s not just hilts we’re talking about either. The Artifice crew skill has 1144 different items that your companions can learn how to make. About two thirds of those are minor upgrades that could be removed immediately without any impact on the game. Comparing this to World of Warcraft in Cataclysm, Enchanting can craft 352 different items while Jewelcrafting can make 667.

Moving back to SWTOR, you might be thinking that with this huge number of lightsaber parts that there’s at least a market of players out there desperate to snap them up? Guess again! Most lightsabers that you get as quest rewards don’t have modification slots. Those that do come pre-filled with the latest set of parts for that level – there’s no assembly required here!

Add to this the number of items that get thrown at you as quest rewards and it’s often easier to wait for your next upgrade to be handed to you instead of spending time and money on doing it the hard way. Besides, it’s not as if the content is challenging enough to encourage you to spend money on fine-tuning your gear.

So why have all this choice? Why flood the Crew Skills with a whole slew of items that serve no real purpose once applied to the game? I know that players have been crying out for a richer crafting experience, but this is not it. It’s just the illusion of choice.

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