Hyperspace Beacon: The SWTOR F2P experiment, flashpoints edition

Hyperspace Beacon The SWTOR F2P experiment, flashpoints
I am beginning to wonder whether I just don't like the leveling process in Star Wars: The Old Republic anymore. In Mike B's video The 12 days of Smack Talkin', Darnell called all the extra NPC talking "98 minutes of unnecessary commentary." The story definitely had an impact on me the first time I ran through it, but this was the third time I've run through the Balmorran storyline on the Republic side, and truth be told, I was never a huge fan of it. This time, on my free-to-play character, it was definitely 98 minutes of unnecessary commentary.

Of course, once I started the featured adventure through the tremendous story that was bugtown, I had to find a way around that compositional trainwreck. My character is a Smuggler, not an exterminator. Mind you, I've yet to actually smuggle anything, but that's beside the point! I figured the best way around that insect hole was to level through flashpoints. To my surprise, it actually worked.
Hyperspace Beacon The SWTOR F2P experiment, flashpoints
I was on my way to make some creds on the war-torn planet of Balmorra. My friend from Coruscant, Darmus Pollaran, explained that if I sided with Senator Bevera Dodonna (the less hairy and more female ancestor of General Jan Dodonna), I could stand to make a lot of money. With dollar signs in my eyes, I traveled to the edge of Imperial territory to seek my fortune.

I had barely stepped off my ship when I was accosted by a Republic private requesting that I speak to Commander Madine at once. I said, "You mean, ancestor to Alliance hero and bearded wonder General Crix Madine?" The private replied, "Um, yeah, if you say so. Will you come?" How could I say no to that? However, when I arrived planetside, Madine ordered me to take some Raid spray and exterminate the Colicoid superbugs that were infesting bugtown. To which I replied, "What do you expect when you name the place bugtown? And do I look like the Orkin man? And your great-great-great-great-great grandkid will have a better beard than you. Kark this poodoo. I don't have to listen to a word you say." I left to try my luck out on Cademimu or Taral V.

Hyperspace Beacon The SWTOR F2P experiment, flashpoints
I am a super-bad SWTOR player because I have not run Taral V since the time I played it at PAX oh-so-long-ago. At that time, of course, we had to kill all the things, and I was not looking for the fastest way through the flashpoint. I was looking for mechanics, theme, and overall group gameplay. However, this time, I was looking for the fastest way to get the most XP without damaging my armor. Thankfully, the first group I ran with had this same idea in mind. It never occurred to me the first time I ran through the instance how much trash could actually be skipped completely. I didn't exactly count, but it appeared to me that we attacked only four groups of mobs before we encountered the first boss. That's far less than the counterpart flashpoint on the Imperial side, Boarding Party.

"I could do this all day," I thought. And I did. I did it all day and the next. Of course, as mentioned in the comments last week, I was unable to roll on the final drop after the third instance, but I still received XP and social points each time I ran it. Still, it wasn't all roses.

Hyperspace Beacon The SWTOR F2P experiment, flashpoints
My third flashpoint instance was Cademimu. I had run that multiple times on this character, and of course, I've tanked the hard mode version on my Imperial character. The instance was sweets patogga. Yet I understand that not everyone has had as much experience as I have. We were all noobs once.

When I dropped into the instance, I noticed that I did not log into the beginning; I landed at the taxi platform halfway between the second and third boss. It's always a bad sign when you are in a PUG halfway through an instance. That usually means someone had trouble and a group member left. When a DPS leaves, then its usually a really bad sign because it takes a long time for group finder to pop for a DPS. But I was being optimistic; this would be fine. I had overleveled the instance, and I was very experienced at it.

As I stepped off the taxi to the next platform, the tank started badgering the other DPS, calling him a moron and such. We've all been in PUGs; it's not uncommon for people to speak to others degradingly because of the anonymity of the internet. Unfortunately, this particular barrage was due to his pulling the boss mob before I arrived. Normally, this would have been OK because the trash would have been cleared, and I could have run down to join the fray. However, one of the group members had sliced the taxi terminal, which allowed them to skip a huge chunk of trash. I had to wait at the taxi terminal until the rest of the group or the boss was defeated because I was now in combat and couldn't click on anything. I didn't receive any XP that whole time.

The group did eventually take down the boss, but I gained no XP from it, and of course, I didn't get any loot. And to top it off, the tank left after the boss fight, followed quickly by the other DPS. The healer and I cleared the trash to the last boss, hoping that by the time we reached him, the group finder would find another tank and DPS to help us out. For 20 or so minutes, we waited. It wasn't until we attempted to take on the boss ourselves that the group finder decided to let someone else into our instance. We defeated the boss in one try even though this was the first time our new tank had ever been here. (I attribute it to my awesome coaching, naturally.)

From that point on, I queued only for Taral V.

As a DPS character, I found my queue did not pop very often. In fact, the downtime was so extensive that I probably would have gained XP faster had I stayed on Balmorra, but sometimes it's worth it just to mix things up. And I actually enjoyed the leveling experience a bit more this week, despite the Cademimu debacle.

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.