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PvE Basics Guide: AKA: "Help! Everything is Killing Me! Why is this game so hard???"

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > New Player Help
PvE Basics Guide: AKA: "Help! Everything is Killing Me! Why is this game so hard???"

matthiaskotor's Avatar

01.31.2012 , 01:41 AM | #1
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: and the resources linked here:

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?

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.
Really Obvious Things You May Have Missed

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:
  • 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!

Useful In-Game Options

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.

matthiaskotor's Avatar

01.31.2012 , 01:41 AM | #2
Strategic Problems

By "Strategic" problems, I mean problems stemming from a misunderstanding or lack of knowledge about the game's features and mechanics. Contrast with "Tactical" problems, which is basically not being good at combat. (I discuss those later, in the next post.) If you have never played an MMORPG before, you may have overlooked several important aspects of improving and customizing your character, or may not understand how to progress smoothly. The companion system in SW:TOR is also somewhat unique, and it is important to understand how to use it to its full potential.

If you have played other MMORPGs (especially World of Warcraft), you probably know a lot of this already. But there may be some aspects unique to SW:TOR that you did not pick up on.

  • Fighting enemies and doing quests above your level is supposed to be hard. 'Heroic' missions are designed to be done in groups.
  • 'Elite', 'Champion', and 'Boss' enemies are much tougher than others of the same level. 'Champion' and 'Boss' enemies are not designed to be fought alone.
  • Doing side missions and bonus missions will get you LOTS of extra experience and Commendations.
  • If you can't figure out what to do in a mission, look in the log. Also check if you have a 'mission item' (under a special tab in your inventory) that you have to use.
  • To make things easier, specialize as a tank, DPS, or healer, and pick a companion that complements that role.
  • Keep your gear (and your companion's gear!) up to date. Buy blue and orange gear with Commendations and Credits whenever possible. Don't forget to update the mods in your orange gear!
  • Equip gear with the correct stats for your character and your companion.
  • Make sure your companion is in the right stance for the combat role you want them to fill.
Levels and Experience

Basics of leveling up, and how character, enemy, and mission levels work.

Enemy Types

Basics of enemy difficulty types.


The basics of obtaining and completing missions.


Classes, Advanced Classes, and Roles

The basics of character classes, Advanced Classes, and combat roles (tank/dps/heal).

Skill Trees

How to customize your character further with Skills ('talents'/'spec').


The basics of equipment/gear and how to get and upgrade it. If you're wondering WHICH gear to buy and equip, read the next section.



The character statistics in SWTOR, and how to gear your character and companions for maximum performance.


Basic information about Companions and how to use them.

matthiaskotor's Avatar

01.31.2012 , 01:42 AM | #3
Tactical Problems

If you are fighting enemies in the right level range, purchasing all your abilities, gearing up yourself and your companion, spending your skill points, and using the right companion for your role, things should be a lot easier. If you are still having trouble, or you are breezing through normal enemies and quests but certain fights seem impossible, you may not be fighting intelligently and using your comabt abilities effectively. This information should help.

  • Using hotkeys is much more efficient than trying to click abilities in combat.
  • You can 'queue' an ability by activating it less than 0.5 seconds before the end of an active ability.
  • Abilities get stronger as your stats and weapon improve.
  • You should understand how your class' abilities work, and which ones to use to quickly kill weak/standard enemies.
  • Using a complementary companion (or group composition) will make things much easier. Tank/Healer is normally the easiest solo setup.
  • In combat, the goal should be to get a tank to hold threat while the DPSers focus on one enemy at a time, weakest to strongest.
  • Crowd Control (CC) abilities can make hard pulls much easier, by temporarily disabling the tougher enemies while you kill the weaker ones.
  • Use interrupts and stuns to stop enemies from using powerful special attacks.
  • Kiting and LOS can be useful situationally to group up or separate enemies.

Basics of abilities, ability list

Slots and Hotkeys
Quickslots and hotkeying abilities.

Ability Queuing

The ability queue, ability animations.

The Global Cooldown


Ability Details

This section provides general information about ability usage. For details on a particular class' abilities, try the forum for that class or Advanced Class, or a site like .

Types of Abilities

An overview of the different ability types.

Cooldowns and Resources

Ability cooldowns, class resource models.


The basics of the cover system.

Companion Abilities
Further information about Companion abilities.

Ability Scaling
How abilities improve as your stats and level go up.

Abilities and Enemy Types
How abilities interact with different categories of enemies.

matthiaskotor's Avatar

01.31.2012 , 01:42 AM | #4

Combat Basics
Basics of PvE combat, combat roles, enemy groups/pulls, aggro/threat, crowd control

Solo Combat
Tactics for playing solo (with a companion only).

Group Combat

(COMING SOON!) Tactics and advice for assembling and playing in small groups for Heroic Missions or Flashpoints.

Coming soon: advanced tactics for heroics/Flashpoints like focus fire/kill order, marking mobs, and dealing with special attacks and boss mechanics!

matthiaskotor's Avatar

01.31.2012 , 01:43 AM | #5
Reserved 4

matthiaskotor's Avatar

02.02.2012 , 08:57 PM | #6
Bump for feedback, suggestions, and/or getting put in the sticky guides thread. :-)

More updates coming soon!

maddmen's Avatar

02.02.2012 , 08:59 PM | #7
Not that bad
How we doin?
Same as always.
That bad huh?

It's nothing special, But this one is mine

Jybwee's Avatar

02.02.2012 , 09:56 PM | #8
Didn't read it all but what i did sounded perty good. Only problem i have is the title. Maybe just SWTOR Basics Guide.. or PvE guide... somethin like that. Good stuff tho.

matthiaskotor's Avatar

02.06.2012 , 08:12 PM | #9
Updated with a section on game options, and general cleanup. Also removed unnecessary top-level indentation.

Again, any feedback is appreciated! I'll be trying to update the combat tactics section further when I have some time.

Lheim's Avatar

02.07.2012 , 12:54 AM | #10
Really good, so far. Totally recommending this for the 'resources' thread.
Endgame gear grinds are not the way.