Hyperspace Beacon Examing the gear of SWTOR 20
The developers at BioWare turned a corner when they redesigned the commendation system for Star Wars: The Old Republic. Most players seem to welcome the simplicity and practicality of the new system coming with 2.0. Reducing the number of comms players have to track allows players to focus on playing the game and not on managing currency.

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.

Hyperspace Beacon Examing the gear of SWTOR 20
As I mentioned last week, the transitional Black Hole, Campaign, and Dread Guard gear are all available from the Classic Armor vendor. Black Hole and Campaign can be purchased with Classic Comms, and tokens can be traded for Dread Guard gear. As far as the gear is concerned, nothing has changed about these three sets. However, the Campaign armoring pieces will understandably not be available once 2.0 hits live. If you like the stats of Black Hole gear but have not purchased the Campaign armoring pieces yet, then I highly suggest you buy those as soon as possible. They do not increase your armor rating, but you will gain a set bonus with the armoring pieces. These sets can be worn by level 50 and above, and according to reports from the developers, they will still be viable for endgame at level 55.

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.

Hyperspace Beacon Examing the gear of SWTOR 20
As with the PvE gear, art department steered down the wrong route for PvP gear. In fact, it's the exact same gear, just in a different color! Thankfully, the set bonuses are still on the armoring mod, so you can look the way you want as you PvP. But looks aren't the most important part of PvP, right? You want to know the stats. Let's take an in-depth look at the Marauder sets of armor.

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
Armor 3699 3801 3801 3899
Damage 972 1010 1204 1270
Strength 1034 1090 1473 1635
Endurance 1222 1296 1732 1843
Expertise 1370 1396 2018 2018
Critical 442 497 491 516
Surge 318 268 480 512
Power 397 390 162 172
Accuracy 212 269 120 128
Force 1298 1346 1606 1692

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 %
Armor 102 3% 0 0% 98 3% 98 3% 200 5%
Damage 232 24% 194 19% 260 26% 66 5% 298 31%
Strength 439 42% 383 35% 545 50% 162 11% 601 58%
Endurance 510 42% 436 34% 547 42% 111 6% 621 51%
Expertise 648 47% 622 45% 622 45% 0 0% 648 47%
Critical 49 11% -6 -1% 19 4% 25 5% 74 17%
Surge 162 51% 212 79% 244 91% 32 7% 194 61%
Power -235 -59% -228 -58% -218 -56% 10 6% -225 -57%
Accuracy -92 -43% -149 -55% -141 -52% 8 7% -84 -40%
Force 308 24% 260 19% 346 26% 86 5% 394 30%

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 larry@massively.com. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!

This article was originally published on Massively.
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