[caption id="attachment_95" align="aligncenter" width="300" class=" "] "War is coming. Conflict on a scale we've never seen."[/caption]
So BioWare have officially announced some details on the upcoming 3.0, officially confirming its title as "Shadow of Revan". One can also pre-order the entire expansion for $19.99, or £11.99 if like me you happen to be British. This is of course more than the Rise of the Hutt Cartel by $10 or £6, but for what you get I honestly believe that this price differential is worth it.
Oh, please make sure to watch the trailer. Even if you don't 'agree' with one of the scenes - you'll know which when you see it - it is so beautiful and showcases just how brilliant SWTOR's cutscene animations are compared to when the game first came out.
First, the basics.
As many have theorised ever since 3.0 was revealed to be a "Rise-like expansion" - and even just a little bit before then - 3.0 includes a level-cap rise to level 60. As with 2.0, this does indeed mean that we receive more crafting schematics for things like Augments, Medpacs, Stims, et cetera, et cetera. This is a welcome change; our (156) Augments have been sitting stale in our now maximum of (186) gear for long enough, and the crafters will surely welcome this change and "bone-throwing" from BioWare after crafting for decorations seemed more lackluster than the "hype train" had been making it out to be.
As ever with new levels comes new gear. We don't know what they're going to do for the Commendation System, but I for one hope that they did as they had done for 2.0 and not for the Oriconian Gear. If you didn't know, for 2.0 they converted the old commendations - Tionese, Columi and the max Black Hole - to "Classic Commendations", and you could trade in Unassembled Columi/Rakata gear for Classics as well. Basics were only granted as a pack of 5 per character as a "welcome" gift, and then everything else had to be earned. For Oriconian, they simply made them purchasable with Ultimate Commendations and in turn simply downgraded the previous tiers of gear to Elite and Basic Commendations, respectively. I have summarised my views on this in a later bit of the post.
Now for the actual content.
Two planets. Two. Planets.
Rishi and Yavin.
No more having an absolute breeze on one certain area of a planet and then loading straight to the other and having a complete nightmare - I'm looking at you, Cartel Mining Mesa! - as now we have time to outlevel the starting area of the second planet - or moon, as it's Yavin IV - before finishing the first. This also helps the story feel fresh. With 2.0, Makeb had two climactic points in the same damn story across both factions. Either you infiltrated the Storm Carrier or defeated a gigantic Isotope-5 Droid and then you went on to defeat Toborro's Glittering Fury or Szajin's Hutt Battle Machine (that even Karagga wouldn't be seen dead in). Point is, you shouldn't have so many "ending points" in a planet's quest. It makes the first feel entirely redundant as you realise that there's more to the planet even after that! At least with two planets, we should get a good "ending" for each of them.
I wasn't a fan of how Makeb was handled. You could never guess...
We get several new Flashpoints, although "new" depends entirely on what we actually get. We know for sure that we get two new Tactical Flashpoints and - get this! - FOUR Hard Mode Flashpoints. Whilst I would absolutely love for these Hard Modes to be new altogether, I have a feeling that we'll see the entire Forged Alliances Flashpoint Arc in Hard Mode form, and I wouldn't mind that in the least. I've already stated that I absolutely loved Legacy of the Rakata, and to see it in a Hard Mode form would be amazing. I can see Manaan being the most difficult, considering that it is already the most difficult Tactical Flashpoint they've introduced, but I'm sure that each of them will have something spectacular that ramps up the difficulty.
We also get two new Operations. I'm pleased that we get two: if we'd only have gotten one then they'd have to had done a TFB and increase one of the Dread Operations to level 60 or done a "EV/KP at launch" (or "EC NiM/TFB") and keep one half of the gear in one whilst waiting for the other to come out. Neither would have been a really "acceptable" outcome with a level cap in mind: either one of the Dread Operations becomes untouchable or gear becomes harder to procure and you'd get people in (192)s and (204)s running all over Fleet. We'll probably see that anyway, but at least people would be able to get full optimised (204) when 3.0 launches instead of waiting for over a month until the other half is released.
Finally, we turn to - in my opinion - the really interesting stuff. Our 'beloved' Skill Trees have gone through changes and revisions ever since day one. Now, with 3.0, they will be no more. What is replacing them is the "Discipline System" - please note that that is using placeholder artwork and that Powertechs won't suddenly gain access to Lightsabers or Jedi Knight abilities. This seems to work on a Linear function that takes certain high-end passive skills from each of the previous Trees per class and puts them in one of three Tiers; an example is given in the blog post. What's important here is that "hybrids" are essentially dead and level 10 Tanks can actually tank instead of just "being there". I'm really looking forward to seeing what this is like in practice, and I hope that it makes for a fun system to utilise.
Okay, so in pre-ordering what do we get? If we pre-order after November the second, we get a Grand Statue of Revan Decoration and the first expansion - if we didn't already have it - whereas if we pre-order before that date, we get 7 days early access starting on December the second. Yes, 3.0 is now within two months' grasp! Oh, and subscribers also get an XP boost to class missions which is the equivalent of 1200%.
Yes, we Subs get a 1200% Experience Boost to class stories if we pre-order. This is actually effective immediately upon pre-order and ends on the first of December. This means that, essentially, it is possible to level a character using just their class missions alone. Whilst obviously pointless for those of us with all characters already at 55, it provides an excellent window of opportunity for levelling that one alt who you need for "Galactic Mastery" or another carbon-copy to allow for two of your sages, for example, to raid and thus avoiding lockouts for that week using legacy gear.
Oh, and skills are free once you gain a level if you're part of this scheme.
I'm very impressed with BioWare's having done this. It's a fast window for doing such things, but it isn't just saying "Here you go, level 55!" like certain scrolls in WoW apparently do nowadays.
That Grand Statue of Revan looks almost like a cherry on top of an infinitesimally-sized cake.
Opinions on Potential Commendation Systems:
Keeping the Oriconian system and making the "basic" equivalent to the top-tier of raiding gear - presumably "Revanite" - purchasable with Ultimate Commendations, and the lower tiers purchasable with Elites, basics, and so on, will undoubtedly give a lot of players a good head start as soon as they hit 60: many players have their characters maxed at both Elite and Ultimate Commendations. However, I feel this would give everyone too much of a head start, especially if the off-hands of each class are purchasable as they are today: the new Tech/Force Power will give a lot of fresh level 60s an incredible leap that would automatically make Hard Mode 60 content just a little bit easier, especially if they then use Ultimates and Elites to replace any mods and non-set armourings at the same time.
This does seem inverse to a good progression system, especially with the level cap in mind. I know that when 2.4 came out, many players complained about Oriconian gear being purchasable as that had the same effect as listed above: players could just "buy" equivalent gear instead of earning it the correct way, and I foresee these troubles arising again unless the conversion system is re-used whilst also introducing new commendations that would allow players to buy a basic set at level 58 much akin to the [Artifact] Elite gear before having to run the new Hard Mode Flashpoints and Story Mode Operations and then in turn the Hard Mode Operations to gain the really good gear.
Apologies for the rant, but it does hopefully outline potential concerns. Whatever they decide to do, they can make it work. Somehow.
Am I looking forward to Shadow of Revan?
New system of managing one's class, new Operations, Hard Mode Flashpoints, new planets, and just Revan being focused on again after BioWare's poor handling of him in Maelstrom Prison and The Foundry? All together, this just spells the recipe for an awesome expansion and I really cannot wait to see where it takes us.