I've seen a number of posts in the New Players forum (and in various class forums) either asking for help or complaining that the game is too hard. If you are finding it very difficult to progress in the PvE content (doing quests and completing your class storyline), this guide should help. I have not seen a really comprehensive guide to PvE basics, so I put one together.
If you're really, REALLY new, you might want to start with this guide: http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?t=612
and the resources linked here: http://www.swtor.com/community/showthread.php?t=2
This guide is not designed to help with PvP (player-versus-player) content. It touches on aspects of small group play (for Heroic missions or Flashpoints of up to 4 players), but does not discuss the more complex 8- and 16-player endgame Operations.
I do not cover things like server and class selection, although if you read this guide you may have a better idea of which classes would suit you. The idea is to help you play the PvE content with any class.
Note that the "Spoiler" tags in this document do not actually contain any spoilers -- the information is all generic. (I try to avoid even saying too much that is class-specific, since I have not played all the classes extensively.) The tags are just used so the guide isn't so long when you open this post.
Simply click those tags to show/hide the sections of the guide you want to read in detail.
How hard should the game be?
Really Obvious Things You May Have Missed
No matter what class you are playing as, you should be able to complete any non-heroic quests at your level by yourself (with your companion). You should also be able to walk around and kill any single pull of normal enemies at your level in a non-heroic zone with a minimal risk of dying. This does not mean everything will be a cakewalk, and mistakes can be deadly -- but if you are constantly dying, something is probably wrong.
A 'normal' pull of enemies usually consists of either:
- 1-4 'normal' and/or 'weak' enemies OR
- 1 'strong' enemy and 0-2 'normal' and/or 'weak' enemies OR
- 1 'elite' enemy and 0-2 'normal' and/or 'weak' enemies
If you are running into groups with multiple elite enemies, or one elite with several strong enemies, you are probably in a heroic area. These areas are designed to be played through in a group, not by yourself. (The game will pop up a notification whenever you walk into one of these areas as a warning.)
If other player-controlled characters are randomly running up and killing you while you do quests, you are probably playing on a PvP (player-versus-player) server. This makes for a much more challenging environment, to say the least. Aside from getting good at PvP combat or always trying to group up, the only 'fix' for this is to start over on a PvE (player-versus-environment) server, where enemy players cannot attack you without your consent.
If you have played other MMOs, you may have blown by all the help prompts and missed some basic, yet important things about SW:TOR that commonly cause issues. Here are some of them:
Useful In-Game Options
- You can (and should!) upgrade your companion's gear as well as your own. To do this, open your character sheet while you have a companion summoned, then click the 'companion' tab at the bottom. You can drag gear to them from your inventory or right-click it while the Companion tab is open to equip it on them.
- When you level up, you need to actually visit a class trainer to learn new abilities (or improved versions of your existing abilities). Class Trainers are present in most large cities and on the Republic/Imperial Fleet.
- At your class trainer, there are two tabs of abilities to train -- one for your class, and one for your Advanced Class / specialization (once you pick one at level 10). Be sure to buy the abilities on both tabs! (Also, if you somehow avoided getting your advanced class at level 10, go do that at the fleet.)
- Be sure to spend the points in your skill tree (after you pick an advanced class at level 10) -- hit 'K' or the tree icon at the top of the screen. This will enhance your abilities, and give you some powerful new ones as well as you advance deeper into the trees.
- 'Orange' (custom/moddable) items can be upgraded with special equipment modification items that increase their power (and level requirement). Some green/blue/purple items also have modification slots. To do this, CTRL+Right-click an item in your inventory (or that you have equipped), then drag new mods into the appropriate sockets on the item. You can remove mods (at a cost) by dragging them back to your inventory to put them in other items or give them to your companions. If you load in new mods without removing the old ones, it doesn't cost anything, but you lose the old mods permanently. This kind of gear is usually MUCH better than normal equipment if you keep it upgraded.
- Your gear can wear down and break over time, especially if you are getting killed repeatedly. Having broken gear makes things much much harder. If there is a yellow or red equipment warning icon displaying on your UI, you need to repair your equipment. You can do this at any vendor; there is a 'repair' option in the lower left corner of their window.
- If you cancelled accepting a quest reward, or your inventory was full, you can still get the reward! There should be a blinking indicator in the upper right corner of the screen that you can click once you have inventory space to accept the reward. You can do this anywhere; you don't have to go back to the quest giver.
- Those 'commendations' you get for doing quests can be turned in for powerful gear! Look for commendation vendors in the marketplace area (or main military base) of the appropriate planet. The exact same gear can also be bought on your fleet, in the side rooms of the market area on the station.
- If you help NPCs during a quest, they may send you mail with money or items later. Check a mailbox if there is a mail indicator at the upper left corner of the screen.
- Most companions have several 'stances' they can be put in if you expand their full ability bar (hit the '+' icon next to the 4 quick abilities). For characters that can tank or heal, one of the stances will be WAY better for tanking/healing and the other will be WAY better for DPS. Be sure to pick the correct one based on what you want to use them for. For DPS-only companions, they may have two stances that enhance different combat abilities. Some people have reported bugs where companions will 'forget' their stance, so if they seem especially useless, check this.
- If you log out while on your starship or in a cantina, you will accumulate 'rested' XP, meaning that after you log back in, you'll earn double XP for a while. This can really help you level up faster, so always try to log out in a rest area. (All cantinas have a fast travel bind point, so be sure to get it when you arrive at a new city or planet.)
- When you are crafting, you can keep materials in your cargo hold ('bank') and your companions will automatically take supplies from there. No need to carry around crafting materials!
There are a lot of in-game options that either have odd default settings, or that people tend to overlook. I suggest taking a look through all the possible options, but here are some that I've seen lots of people ask about
- Controls -> General -> Auto-loot on Right-click / Enable Area Loot: When checked, looting one enemy automatically loots *all* nearby corpses. Combine with 'Auto-loot on Right Click' to loot much, much faster solo.
- Contrlols -> General -> Camera -> Camera Max Distance: controls how far you can zoom out using the mouse wheel. Many people find the default to be too close for comfort, especially when fighting larger bosses/monsters. Make the value larger to be able to zoom out further.
- Controls -> General -> Combat -> Ability Action Queue Window: controls how far in advance you can 'queue' an ability while another ability is active. If you have trouble getting abilities to go off seamlessly after the global cooldown, try raising this.
- Flytext: these are toggles for the 'floating' damage/healing numbers over your character in combat.
- User Interface -> Quickbars: the toggles here turn on extra quickbars with more slots for your abilities. You will probably want some of these once you start leveling up. (You can add keybinds to these using the "Key Binding" tab at the bottom of the Preferences window.)
- User Interface -> Tooltip -> Enable Companion Comparative Tooltips: when checked, when you hover over an item in your inventory and have a companion active, it will show the comparison for both you and your companion in that item slot. (I have NO IDEA why this is not on by default. I suspect this is why some people don't realize they can upgrade their companion's gear.) It's not yet smart enough to know when gear is only usable by one of you.
- Graphics -> General -> Window Mode: if you set this to "Fullscreen (Windowed)", the game doesn't minimize and then hang to reload the UI when you tab away to another window. However, this may reduce performance.
- Social -> General -> Hide Head Slot: hides your character's helmet/headpiece. (If you have 'hood up' Jedi/Sith robes, the hood will be shown when you hide the head piece, since it is technically part of your "chest" armor. Hopefully BW will add an option to toggle this in the future.)
- Social -> General -> Allow Access to Same Class Story Areas: when checked, if you are in a group with a member of the same class, you will be able to enter each other's class quest instances (though only the player that enters first will get credit for completing the quest, and you will need to do it twice for both of you to get credit.)
- Social -> General -> Show Sith Corruption: when checked (on by default), your character will begin to look 'evil' as you acquire Dark Side ranks. If you don't want this, uncheck the box and you'll look normal no matter how many innocent people you slaughter!
- Social -> Legacy -> Legacy Display: once you unlock your Legacy (after completing Chapter 1, usually around level 30), this toggles whether your 'last name' displays when other players look at you in the game.