May 9, 2005 - Never in the short life of Star Wars Galaxies has a publish created so much controversy. The Combat Upgrade. Long awaited, but hotly debated by players, it has completely changed how combat works. Is it good? Is it bad? What exactly has changed for the Star Wars Galaxies player?
The first and most immediately noticeable change is the new full-color icons. The single-color icons have been replaced with detailed color icons representing each action. Some people feel these icons are too "cartoony," but they give a much more accurate representation of what each icon does: Mask scent is a face with green "odor" under it, DNA sample is a DNA strand, Bacta shot is a hypodermic needle, etc. It has become much easier to differentiate between the different icons.
The new icons have also become the new combat queue. Instead of the old queue, where multiple shots were lined up (or spammed) ahead of time, there are indicators on the icons that show the current action, and the upcoming (queued) action. A white outline means the action is currently in effect, while a yellow outline means the action is queued and will take effect when the timers allow. Timers? Yes, each action now has a "cool down" timer. When the chosen action is complete, the icon will dim, and a clockwise timer will sweep across the icon. When it is complete, you may perform that action again. The net effect is that you can select an attack, and then queue up another attack which will take place as soon as the timer allows. Different attacks have different timers, so tactics and timing play a role rather than just spamming a single "best" attack.
Auto-attack has been eliminated as well, but you can now set an action to be your default auto-attack. Simply ctrl+click on the icon that represents your chosen attack, and once you initiate combat, it will continue to auto-attack using that action.
One of the good things to come out of the Combat Upgrade is that you will no longer kill yourself using special attacks. You now have one Health pool; special attacks come out of your Action pool, and healing uses Mind. Health is the only pool that can be targeted, so unhealable mind attacks are no longer an issue. As you use a special attack, it drains your Action as before. If you use all of your action, you can no longer perform special attacks, only the basic attack. The new trick is learning to manage your action pool, but you'll find it regenerates fairly quickly. Using low cost attacks between the higher cost attacks can save your action for when you need it most. You also can't heal the action or mind pool; you can only wait for it to regenerate. As before, certain foods and spices can accelerate regeneration.
One of the more controversial changes is the emphasis on Combat Level. Combat Level, or CL, has always been present in the game, but at an underlying level that most players were unaware of. Mission levels and pet levels were the only obvious signs of it. Now, CL has come to the surface. Every player and every NPC and creature has a Combat Level. The maximum combat level a player can have is level 80. You gain levels by training your character in combat related skills, and a dual elite profession character will have the max of level 80. You also gain additional health as you can combat levels, from 1000 to 3000 points (with some minor variation for species differences).
Along with the change in combat levels is the change in the "con" system. There are several new colors in the system, which goes from gray (very weak), green, blue, white (equal strength), yellow, red and purple (instant death). The amount of experience you get, as well as the damage the creature can do, is based on how that creature cons to you, not what its actual level is. If you hunt things too far below your level, you only get 1xp per kill, if you attempt to hunt things too far above your level, prepare for a trip to the cloning center. Currently, the xp window is fairly narrow, so hunting things more than a few levels below you results in no xp, and more than a few levels higher is quick death. Hopefully, this window will be widened a bit to allow more variety when hunting wild spawns.
Changes to professions have been drastic in some cases, minimal in others. The combat professions have been separated into four different "types": Tanks (TKA, Bounty Hunter and Pikeman), Crowd Control (Pistoleer, Carbineer and Smuggler), Damage Dealers (Rifleman, Swordsman, and Commando) and Healers (Doctor and Combat Medic). Squad Leader, Creature Handler and Fencer fall into "combination" roles. There is a chart on the official site with the information regarding combat roles.
The increased emphasis on combat roles means an increased emphasis on grouping. There are definite benefits to grouping, the most obvious being that you can kill faster than you can solo. There is no more "down side" to being in a group. You get full XP when attacking a target, and you get full mission payout as well. Does this mean soloing is a thing of the past? No. Soloing is still very viable, but it does take longer than group hunting. One of the major worries about the increased emphasis on grouping was that soloing would become impossible, and "LFG" would be the requirement to hunt.
I'm pleased to report that this hasn't happened. What has happened is that the soloer is no longer the all-powerful killing machine that they once were. You will no longer be able to wade into the middle of a lair and area attack the entire spawn. Doing so with creatures your level would mean a quick trip to the cloning center. Tactics are required. Luring one creature away from the lair and killing it while its mates are unaware becomes much more desirable. It does take longer to kill a spawn solo than it does in a group, and it definitely takes longer than it did before the CU.
The counter to this is a decreased reliance on buffs and armor. No longer do you need to wait in buff lines. Doctors still have a buff that adds some padding to your stats, but it is no longer required to go hunt. It also means that you don't need to go searching for that "best" suit of composite armor. No longer will everyone be wearing the exact same suit. Each combat profession can wear a different "type" of armor: Assault armor (Chitin, Composite, Marauder Assault, Kashyykian Hunting armor, Ithorian Sentinel, Mandalorian, Rebel Assault and Shock Trooper), Battle armor (Padded, Marauder Battle, Bone, Kashyyykian Black Mountain, Ithorian Defender, RIS, Rebel Battle and Stormtrooper), or Recon armor (Ubese, Tantel, Marauder Recon, Mabari, Kashyyykian Ceremonial, Ithorian Guardian, Rebel Marine, and Scout Trooper). Each armor type is certified to a specific profession, and armor that you are not certified for cannot be equipped.
Weapons have changed as well. No longer do you become certified for a specific weapon at a specific skill box (except for certain weapons). Each weapon has a level certification, meaning you must be at least that level to equip it. You can also use specials that you are qualified to use on any weapon that you are qualified to use. Different combinations of professions can lead to different results with the weapons. Experiment!
There are still bugs and kinks that need to be worked out, and developers have stated that now the combat upgrade is in place that they will be working on improvements to crafters and entertainers that got left out in the process of the changes. It's been a tough change for everyone, and harder for some professions than others. One of the most encouraging things that I've been hearing from many people is "You know, now that I'm figuring out how everything works, I'm really having fun."
Despite the rocky start, the Combat Upgrade looks like it could be just what Star Wars Galaxies needed. As long as the developers continue to listen to the players, and iron out the kinks that are causing problems, we just may see Galaxies become the game it should have been all along.
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