Unfortunately, the gear progression is a bit more like separating M&Ms, making you wonder why there are more yellows than blues and whether there's really a difference between dark brown and light brown. Not to mention that SWTOR proves once again that MMO designers have no idea how to make a decent helmet. PvP gear also has me wondering what returning players are going to think about having to regrind again so soon after a major change with Update 1.6.
As you level on Makeb or do your daily level 55 hard-mode flashpoints, you will earn Basic Commendations. These Comms can be traded for level 55 artifact-level gear. Of course, these items have a better armor rating, and the mod level is slightly better, too (66). However, if you purchase this gear, you lose your set bonus. For most DPS and Healing classes, it shouldn't be too awful to pull out your Dread Guard or Campaign armoring so that you can regain the set bonus. Tanks, on the other hand, will want to weigh the difference in armor stats. But from what I've seen, the story-mode operations and hard-mode flashpoints can be completed in the level 50 raid gear.
Elite Commendations buy you Black Market gear from the Elite vendor. The vendor also carries the Arkanian armor set, which keeps up the ugly helmet tradition. But these items can only be gained with tokens earned in level 55 story-mode operations. (I'm awaiting confirmation, but as of right now, the Arkanian tokens are not earned in hard-mode level 55 flashpoints.) Arkanian and Black Market gear have the same armor rating and carry a similar armoring piece on respective gear. However, I found that Arkanian gear outweighs Black Market in the other modifications. In fact for the first time ever, Marauders and Sentinels have two sets to choose from. The Challenger's set focuses on the power stat, whereas the Weaponmaster set focuses on crit rating.
The Ultimate Armor vendor follows a similar track as the Elite vendor. However, Elite Commendations buy the Verpine gear, and the tokens buy the best-in-slot Underworld gear. Again, the Marauders and Sentinels have awful helmets but two choices for stat focuses.
When 2.0 goes live, the War Hero and Elite War Hero vendors will have disappeared. In their place will sit the PvP Warzone Gear vendor and the PvP Ranked Gear vendor. The Warzone vendor carries the Partisan gear, and the Ranked vendor carries the Conqueror gear. For the Marauder, each vendor sells a Challenger and Weaponmaster set. To keep everything in line with my last comparison, I have included only the Weaponmaster set in the table below.
|Stat||War Hero||Elite War Hero||Partisan||Conqueror|
As you can see, the stats follow a basic slope upward with the exception of armor, power, and accuracy. Elite War Hero and Partisan are essentially the same armor set only five levels apart. That is why you don't see a change in armor rating. Power has mostly been replaced by Force, which is an understandable change since they are pretty much the same stat. But I don't exactly understand the drop in accuracy. Maybe because of the diminishing returns, a player's accuracy will not be overly affected.
Things start to get tricky when you start comparing the percentage differences between the different set stats.
|Stat||WH to Partisan||%||EWH to Partisan||%||EWH to Conqueror||%||Partisan to Conqueror||%||WH to Conqueror||%|
Hopefully, the bolster mechanic compensates for the stat differences, otherwise BioWare has yet again broken its self-imposed 25% difference between the highest and the lowest gear in PvP. As you can clearly see, Partisan to Conqueror fall within those parameters, but anything less than that and you are going to get smoked.
Before you panic, I would like to point out three very important things. First, it takes only 12,475 Warzone Comms to earn a full set of Partisan gear. If you play daily, it should take less than a week to earn that gear, even if you lose every match. Secondly, BioWare made the Partisan (and Conqueror) gear extremely customizable. Not only are there multiple types of gear, but each vendor also carries individual modification pieces to help you mold the gear to your playstyle. Lastly, expertise now has a hard cap, and it's exactly the same between Partisan and Conqueror gear.
Other than the art direction, I think I can safely say that BioWare has made great strides in both PvE and PvP gear. Take a look at the evidence and let me know what you think in the comments.
The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to firstname.lastname@example.org. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!