So, you’ve started a character in Star Wars: The Old Republic. You know you have a penalty because you’re not a subscriber. Are there ways around it? In this article, I cover the various activities you can do in order to beat the leveling curve. It may require a bit more grind than Subscribers have to go through, but reading this should help you stay on level and defeating the opposition.
Leveling your first character is the hardest as you are basically starting from nothing. Your alts will gets boost from your hard work and will make leveling future characters easier.
One way to boost your XP is to group up with friends to complete missions. Grouping up with one other player gives you a slight boost to XP and loot drops, as well as social points to accrue. Social points gives you access to certain fun items that you can buy from specific vendors, such as Party Bombs. Note that being in a group will also mean that you can kill mobs faster, making your job easier.
Note that the exception to this is grouping with significantly higher-level players, which actually decreases your XP gain.
Exploration and Lore Objects
The first thing to know is that you do get XP for exploring the map of each planet. Each area you uncover gives you a small amount of XP. In this regard, explorers are rewarded for digging into every uncovered portion of the map. Be aware that some of these sections may throw you into Empire territory, meaning you could be PVP flagged. If that doesn’t bother you, this is a fairly decent way to gain some extra XP. You may want to consider buying ranks Legacy of Exploration, which will increase your XP gain. (Press Y on your keyboard to bring up the Legacy window and choose Character Perks to find it.)
Also, littered across the various planets are Lore objects. Clicking on these will give you a small amount of XP and a codex entry that you can read at your leisure, adding to the game’s story.
Most planets have a number of Datacrons, little cubes of energy, to hunt down. Each Datacron will have a different requirement to find and collect, such as completing a jumping puzzle or buying a certain item to unlock the case it is in. Some even require a group to obtain. Datacrons will not only get you XP, but will give you a small boost in stats. Certain Datacrons contains matrix shards. You can combine the shards at the Jedi Temple in Coruscant (Republic) or in Drommand Koss (Empire) to make special, powerful relics you can wear, which will further boost your stats. Full details can be found in various guides online.
Each one of your companions, save for your ship droid, has a story of their own. In order to further that companions story, you’ll need to increase their affection rating. You can do this through Dialogue trees and with gifts. When your companion has something to say, an icon will appear in their portrait, indicating that they wish to speak to you in private. Head to the nearest cantina or your ship to start the conversation. You’ll be rewarded with XP for doing so. Some companion cutscenes lead to another mission to do something specific for your companion, such as finding certain mobs or NPCs on various planets.
The easiest way to increase companion affection is through gifts. The easiest way to get gifts is through crafting. You may wish to consider devoting one of your craft slots to Diplomacy, Underworld Metals or Treasure Hunting. All of those have missions you can send your companions on to bring back gifts. This is usually a cheaper solution than buying gifts off of the GTN and it gives you the opportunity to run missions for crafting materials to sell on the GTN besides. You may also wish to consider purchasing ranks in Legacy of Altruism and Legacy of Persuasion, both of winch increase your affection gain from gifts and dialogue respectively.
It’s also worth mentioning that maxing out your affection with your companions gives you a +10 bonus to your Presence stat, increasing the effectiveness of your companion’s skills. You can do this once per companion per class. Add to this the +100 bonus for reaching level 50 on a Human character, and each alt that you roll will have an easier time of leveling.
Heroics are missions that take at least two players to complete. You’ll run across them on each planet. A [Heroic 2+] tag means you need at least two players, but can have up to four. [Heroic 4] means you need the maximum amount of players you can have without becoming an operation group. The interesting thing about Heroics is that, unlike other planetary missions, these are repeatable daily. If you’re into grouping, these can be a good way to catch up in levels or even get ahead of the curve slightly.
Once you get your ship, Space Missions will become available to you. These are basically a rail shooter minigame. As a F2P or Preferred player, you’ll be limited to five of these a week. Failing a mission will use up one of your alloted mission slots. You can buy a weekly pass off of the GTN to do more if you wish. This erases the cap on how many missions you can do for seven days. Rewards for doing these are ship equipment, Fleet Commendations to spend on special gear, reputation items (end game space missions only), XP and Credits. This is my least favorite activity, but it may be worth doing for a small XP boost. You may wish to consider buying ranks in Improved Space Mission Experience from the Character Perks window if you enjoy this content.
Flashpoints are special group missions (read: dungeons) that can be done with up to four [Edited to reflect the correct player count. - Bryandt] players. There are flashpoint droids on each planet and at the Fleet, giving you a mission. You can Que for flashpoints in Group Finder, or simply go to the starting terminal if you’ve already formed a full group. Flashpoint experience is rather low and is probably one of the worst ways to gain XP. However, the only limit on flashpoints is how many times a week you can roll on boss loot, which is three. If you enjoy this content, you may wish to consider purchasing ranks in Improved Flashpoint Experience to boost your XP gain.
Player Vs. Player
The first thing you should do, if you want to try this activity, is go to the PVP Missions terminal on the Fleet. There, you will find a daily mission for completing Warzones. There’s also a mission for completing a Warzone for the first time. Warzones are generally meant for players at the level cap (which is 55 at the time of this writing), but the Bolster mechanic will even the playing field a bit. That being said, I wouldn’t recommend trying Warzones until at least level 15 as Bolster doesn’t actually give you more skills. Some characters will find an easier time in PVP than others, but all are viable.
Warzones reward you with XP and credits. You can also earn PVP Commendations to buy level 55 PVP gear. You can only complete five Warzones per week, but you can purchase a weekly pass off of the GTN to erase the cap for seven days. You may wish to consider purchasing ranks in Improved Warzone Experience from the Character Perks window to increase your XP gain. This is the best way to increase XP outside of normal leveling.
I highly recommend that you join a guild. Being in a guild gives you a bonus to both XP gain and Reputation gain. The XP bonus starts at 5% and caps out at 10%, depending on how many people are in the guild. Guilds also lets you meet other people and form groups easier, letting you do more of the above activities.
[Shameless Plug: Incidentally, my guild on the Ebonhawke server, Council of the Hidden Flame, is recruiting! We're a casual guild and our numbers are small, but we're looking to grow!]
Any combination of the above will help you defeat the leveling restrictions. Also note that certain quests, as you level up, will give you XP Boost items. You can also buy XP Boosts off of the GTN. Some Boosts only affect certain activities, while others are a general Boost and affect all activities. Caveat Emptor.
There are also datacubes which can be purchased off of the GTN. Datacubes are a recent addition to the game. Each datacube, once used, directs to you to go Nar Shaada, where you will access a terminal and watch a small cutscene related to the Macrobinoculars quest chain in the Rise of the Hutt Cartel expansion. Each datacube will reward you with a three hour XP Boost item [Boost time corrected. -Bryandt]. Collecting all eight gives you a set of adaptive armor you can wear.
In my next article, I’ll cover ways to make credits in SWTOR. If there’s another topic you’d like me to cover, feel free to message me via Twitter, @Bryandt. Thanks for reading and may the Force be with you.