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Another status update

Well, the christmas break is over, and tomorrow, my work schedule will start again. My guildmates are familiar with it…due to work, I usually am away from Tuesday to Friday, Sat or even Sunday, so my game-time is limited quite a bit. That’s ok though, as it will keep me from burning myself out.
Of course, this will also limit the time available for blog-posts. I DID prepare a few that will be published within the next few days, and random thoughts or ramblings will be posted whenever I get a chance too, so there WILL be updates.
Just wanted to point that out, and thank you for the reading this…I hope you enjoy the posts here

Level 50

Aye indeed, as seen above, Cravon has reached level 50 yesterday. I am glad I managed to get there before my normal work schedule starts again, which usually limits my playtime mostly to the weekend and the early days of the week.
At the same time, I did not want to rush it at all, because I wanted to enjoy the process. I have said it before, I will say it again: To me, leveling is an important part of the game. I am kind of sad when I see players use the “OK, I install the game, then level to cap, and THEN the game begins” type of attitude.

Leveling isa great way to get into your class and role. Sure, healing only yourself and/or your companion is not the same as healing a group, but I DID learn a lot from right situations with (accidentially) huge pulls or tough bosses (Stark, I am looking at you). Also, running FPs or doing other group content at lower levels lets you learn how to get by with only a few of your abilities. It can be HELL to level up without having to do much healing, and then trying to heal a group in a hard mode instance right away.

I have enjoyed the leveling tremendously, thanks to the questlines, and am now looking forward to any level 50-activity (upcoming stuff too) and of course, alts.

Time to have a drink with on Cravon, huh? =)

Zone review: Voss

Design/Atmosphere:
At first I was put off about the look of this world, as it reminded me a bit of both Rivendell and, for some reason, of some of the night elf-zones in WOW. However, I soon figured out that it’s simply very beautiful and stunning. It is mainly covered by forests, with a nice dusk/autumn-y vibe to it. There also is a rather scary area, but I don’t wanna spoil anything regarding that. And a pretty big world as well!

Quests:
Now, lemme begin by saying that I DID enjoy questing here. The quests were fun, interesting, and added some variety. There were two things I didnt enjoy as much, one just “a bit odd”, the other rather frustrating. The “bit off” thing was that I for some reason didn’t find myself very interested or intrigued by the Voss/oracle-questline. I dunno, that just didn’t do anything for me. However, there is a certain questline about proving your worth, going through a series of challenges (no spoilers), and that one I found to be both very inventive and fun.
The FRUSTRATING thing happens in the bonus-quests. I love the bonus quests, the idea and how they’re executed. However, there is one quest (and some bonus ones that belong to it) that require you to find the remains of a Sith-starship. And here the fun totally ended, as the devs went WAY overboard regarding amount of mobs in the area, and their difficulty.
See, I LOVE challenges, and without trying to sound cocky, I have faced some pretty tough fights, and with some tactic, won them. However, that area made me wanna log off and take a break. The bonus quest there involves you killing a bunch of “strong”-level mobs. They hit very hard, so when using your tank, you’re busy healing a lot. However, each comes with at least one normal mob next to it, sometimes two. Even if you force-lift one (and your companion doesnt break CC), your companion is pretty low on health when the other normal one is dead.
By that time, he hasnt even started fighting the strong one. I died about 7 times in that little zone, did a suicide run just to cross a bridge CRAWLING with them (running through, ressing on the other side), had a res-timer of 10 minutes, and had to res at a medcenter…a 5 min trip back to the quest zone from there.
I don’t know whether no one did this stuff in the beta, or whether Bioware thought “OK, it’s bonus quests, dont do them if they’re hard”, but this was WAY too hard, and sucked the fun out of the quests for about an hour.

I don’t mean to scare you off though, the rest of Voss is a LOT of fun, the story picks up even more speed, and pretty much everything is manageable, so: 8/10 (-2 for the Sith-starship-area, unfortunately).

In general:
Voss is both beautiful and full of secrets and cool quests. I guess the zone I talked about is gonna be nerfed, stuff like that simply happens with a new game (anyone remember how tough some parts of WPL were in vanilla WOW, even when you weren’t there alone? Andhorral anyone?!?). I enjoyed being there a lot =)

Love? (lore-related)

Warning: Moderate spoiler-alert! If you play a male Sage/Shadow and don’t wanna be spoiled regarding your romance-companion, better skip this one! =)

By now, you have probably heard about the fact that everyone gets a “romance companion”… companions you can be romantically involved with in game. It depends on the class and gender of your character which one it is.
Now, in my case (male Sage), that romance companion is Nadja Grell. You meet her late in the game, during chapter 2 of your storyline…she is the daughter of one of the members of the Rift Alliance. Eventually, she becomes your companion, and if you choose so, your romance companion.
Starting the whole process is not difficult, and the conversations with her on your ship have the potential to give you a LOT of XP. Also, it’s an interesting aspect of the game that is worth exploring.

HOWEVER… I am pretty sure a lot of people are pretty up in arms about this, especially lore-fans and hardcore-roleplayers. After all, especially in the Old Republic, it was very much frowned upon for a Jedi to be romantically involved with anyone. And there even is a low level quest on Tython, asking you to spy on two Padawans to find out if they have a relationship, reporting them to their masters.

And now, you have become this Jedi Master, you take on the Force-sensitive Nadja as your Padawan and…start a romantic relationship with her, ending in proposing to her.

I can on one hand understand the backlash, the fact that people are a bit confused about this and point at the Jedi-philosophy on love (a dangerous path as it can lead to the Dark Side…think Anakin and Padmé). However, what would be the alternative?

That’s when we get into “lore vs. game-design”. Sure, it would be more CORRECT and true to the lore to not give romance companions to Jedi. However, we also have the option to collect Dark Side points, making decisions more fitting to a Sith, killing people for revenge…surely something that would get a Jedi Master expelled from the Order.
But… if they WOULD take away those romance companions from Jedi, it would mean a) less XP gains from the quests related to it, and b) some aspect of the game forbidden for Jedi.
So in this case, it would mean you don’t have this choice (you don’t HAVE to get involved, of course), and I think that would make others complain just as loudly.

So maybe, it would be a good idea to calm down a bit and just roll with the punches. If you are totally serious about the lore, there surely are other things that don’t belong, and as I said, you have a choice to simply don’t go there.

By the way: Sith aren’t too crazy about stuff like this either. If you think about it, feeling love for someone else lead to a pretty big set-back for the Empire, since Darth Vader turned on his master because of the love for his son. (Yes, that’s a long time after the Old Republic, but you get the point) Darth Malgus and his deeds in one of the prequel novels is another example of love interfering with a Sith’s plans a bit.

So… if you don’t care that much about lore-integrity, there is another interesting aspect of the game to discover. If you can’t stand the thought about going against the Order’s stance on relationships, then ignore the questline and don’t start the relationship-line. You ARE missing out though, because some of the conversations involved are very well-written, reminding me of a movie quite a few times. Check it out!

Sage healing rotations (or not…)

I recently read a blog-post regarding another game, dealing with rotations as a healer, pointing out that healing was more about priorities than a set rotation. I feel the same way… your use of abilities is highly situational, and you have to make choices what is needed.

Let’s take a look at our healing abilities:

Benevolence is a fast, but expensive heal. Without any talents, it costs 50 Force, which is only 5 less than the bigger, slower heal. The latter heals for a larger amount though, so this is more of an emergency heal, useful for example for tight situations or when someone in the group is taking moderate damage.

Deliverance is said longer cast, costing 55 Force at first, healing for a larger amount. I will add some thoughts on using it in a minute. I’d like to point out though that this is probably the spell I use the most, much more than Benevolence.

Healing Trance is our channeled heal. It is nice for moderate damage and emergency heals, and with the right talents, it can become a very useful tool. More on that in a minute, too.

Rejuvinate is our HoT. Small, but inexpensive, with a great benefit. More on that… ah, you get the idea.

Force Armor is our “bubble”. I use this a lot, especially when for tanks and my tank companion. You can put talent points into a talent, increasing the amount of damage the armor will absorb before it breaks. You can also use it for other group members of course. Luke was nice enough to point this out in a comment on one of my articles (LINK), recommending to put FA on each party member BEFORE the pull, then meditating to get your Force back up to full. That way, they have some extra protection, and any damage absorbed is damage that does not have to be healed up, so FA is one of our cooles tools. (Thanks, Luke! =))

Salvation – Our AoE heal. It has a range of 8 meters… not amazing, but that’s not exactly small either. If you have your tank and a melee DPS or two close to the boss, they will benefit from the heal once used, and it IS very powerful, great for emergency situations. I have managed to keep some friends alive through very high incoming damage with this. The other thing to consider is that it does have a cast time, so as usual, part of your job is to anticipate damage. If you know that there will be some burst damage very shortly, it helps to get casting before it comes in, otherwise it might just be too late =)

Restoration. Our dispel, with some added insta-healing. I can not stress enough HOW important it is to remove debuffs. A lot of the mobs in WOW apply stacking armor-lowering debuffs (think “Sunder Armor”), and many of them can be removed with this (this goes for other debuffs as well, such as internal damage DoTs). The low amount of healing it does isn’t amazing, but again, every little bit helps.

Rescue. Probably inspired by “Leap Of Faith” from WOW, this can pull the person you put it on to you, and it also lowers threat for that person. Imagine one of your melee DPS is pumping out a bit too much damage, getting threat, being attacked. With Rescue, you can lower his threat and pull him to you. Just pulling him might give the tank a heart attack, because the mob would probably follow, but there is a good chance that the threat-lowering is efficient enough to make the mob focus on the tank again. Also, being able to pull that stray DPS out of a bosses AoE-attacks is a nice option. Sixty second cooldown, so make sure you don’t waste it too early.

Channel The Force. A weird one, but insanely useful when soloing story-bosses. I have saved my butt (and that of my companion) a bunch of times. It has a looong cooldown, but it puts a HoT on you and your companion and it does reset your stun. Stunning the boss means interrupting him from damaging you and your companion, and might give you time to breath and heal back up. Also, you can use the Stun to interrupt some of the more harmful abilities…I did mention HOW important interrupting those is, right?

Talents

I already wrote about my talent spec, and I’ll soon go into more depth regarding that. For now, let’s point out that you can use talents to:

  • Increase the amount of damage your FA can absorb
  • Lower the Force cost of your healing and damaging spells
  • Increase your willpower

Now, that leads me to…

“Mini rotations”

I mentioned that healing is situational, and mostly priority-based. However, there is a concept I call “mini rotations”… chaining two or three abilities together for emergency situations
Best example: The tank is at low health, you need to heal him up very quickly.

Method 1: Use Force Potency, which raises the crit change of your heals by 60%, and has two charges, then cast Deliverance twice. They will most likely crit…hopefully.
Method 2: This is a bit more complicated, but can really help a LOT: Put a Rejuvenate onto your target, then use Force Potency. If you have put two points into Conveyance, your casting time for Deliverance now is lowered by ONE SECOND. When you first get the spell, it has a three second cast time, which is LOOONG. However, with the talent Immutable Force, you can lower that by up to 0.5 seconds. 2.5 seconds plus Conveyance means that you can cast the spell within 1.5 seconds. Add some alacrity rating to your gear, and it will be even a bit lower.
Right now, at level 49, when I use this “mini rotation”, my cast time for Deliverance is 1.4 seconds, and with Force Potency, the chance for it to crit (with some crit rating on your gear) is pretty good.
Sometimes, you even are able to get off Deliverance TWICE at 1.4 seconds, which is why you wanna use Force Potency before triggering Conveyance.
This will pump out quite a bit of healing quickly, and therefore can be a life-saver.
In a nutshell: Rejuvenate – Force Potency – Deliverance twice.

UPDATE: A comment by Luke, one of the readers of this blog: “Lowering cast time to <1.5 sec isn´t making any difference – even instant powers have 1.5s  “hidden cooldown”; – you can’t cast them faster (abilities that doesn’t have Force cost like Force Potency / Channel Forcr are exceptions). Still, Alacrity can be good for longer powers.
Ill keep an eye on this and try!

Another situation…you’re low on Force, but the fight is gonna last a bit longer. Using Noble Sacrifice has a disadvantage, as it adds a stacking debuff, lowering your Force regeneration (you can use a talent to lower the amount of health cut away when you use NS).
Because of that, you wanna use Noble Sacrifice very sparingly, to not have more than one stack of that debuff. HOWEVER, there is “Resplendence“. If you put two points into that, your Healing Trance will have a 100% chance to make the next NS activate without using Force and without spending health. Also, you don’t get the debuff!

Now, if you do need a lot of Force quickly, the “mini rotation” could be: Cast Healing Trance. Hopefully, you get a crit, triggering Resplendence. Use NS. Use a filler (for example, another heal for yoru tank) until NS is off cooldown. Then use it again. Effect: You just used NS twice, regenerating Force, but only got one stack of the debuff.

There’s more…

There are more “mini-rotations” like that. Basically, it pays off to actually spend some time reading the descriptions of those talents, and experimenting with them. Your tank companion is a GREAT way to practice this stuff. You don’t wanna test out new stuff in a flashpoint, with your tank’s life depending on you, but trying out stuff like above on your companion while fighting a quest-boss will cause repair bills only for you if it goes wrong.

Healing will always be depending on your reactions, will be situational, depending on what kind of mob your group fights, whether he applies debuff you can and have to dispel, how much AOE dmg there is etc. However, chaining together spells like that will make you much more efficient, so experiment and challenge yourself to memorize them. Good luck!

Tactic: Defeating Lord Renik (the Sage-way)

 

I know, I know, lots of guides recently, but based on the stats of this blog, a lot of people seem to be searching for this kind of thing, so I will add more occasionally, mixed with other content.
Lord Renik is, IIRC, not part of the class-quest, but a Sith that you need to kill for a quest on Voss. You basically fight your way to his little cave, use a brazier to summon him, and kill him.

Which is really easy, as long as you take care of his two non-elite adds first! The first time, things went a bit belly-up, chaotic, and the damage of the Lord plus the two adds was a bit too much for my poor companion. So take care of them first. As always, if you wanna force-lift one of them, try to pull the Lord and the other add a bit before commanding your companion to attack, as any AOE-attack will get the add out of the force-grip.

So, basically:
Recommended companion: Quyzen (what a surprise, huh?)
What to watch out for: Adds die first. Try to DPS them down while keeping an eye on your companion’s health, to throw a heal if needed. What I did was I put Force Armor on Quyzen, THEN I used the item to summon the boss. Save your big heals and use-effects for when Renik uses Force Crush, as it will apply a DoT AND do a pile of damage when it wears off. You might wanna try to dispel it… I don’t quite remember whether it worked, but even if it doesn’t, this fight is not too hard.
In a nutshell: Kill the two adds asap, then focus on healing Quyzen. Keep the Armor up, and try to keep Qyzen’s health above 80 percent to anticipate damage spikes
Rating: Not that hard, basically tank and spank once the adds are gone

Tactic: Defeating Lord Beldiss (the Sage-way)

Some of the bosses along the way in your questline are much easier than others, and Beldiss is one of them. You might not even really need any tactic or a second attempt, but I wanted to write a few quick notes anyway…

– Recommended companion: Quyzen, possibly your ranged tank
– What to watch out for: If you focus mainly on healing and less on DPSing much, there is nothing much to watch out for, but watch out for him using Electrocution, as he will stun his target and use Maul on it
– Important: Stay away from him, don’t get too close. His Spinning Strikes do quite a lot of AOE damage around him, and since you are wearing light armour, you don’t wanna stand in that, unless you wanna switch between healing Fess and yourself. So keep your distance!