Over the last month, BioWare has been providing us very kindly with Livestreams of each of the changes. I'd thoroughly suggest watching those to see the animations, but if you wanted a more "hands-on" approach in order to have time to analyse exactly what is happening to your beloved Sentinel, Sniper, or Sage - to name a few - there happens to be a Discipline Calculator on Dulfy's website which you can peruse to your heart's content.
Whilst the rest of this entry will delve into changes coming with Disciplines, I will only be scratching the surface and talking about the new abilities, so if you want to see where exactly the changes fit in as a whole, the Calculator will provide a much more detailed result than I could ever achieve.
The Disciplines, as I've mentioned, are very concise. I do like the linear nature of them, in that now everyone has a "universal" spec and any differentiations can be more spread out. In the current game, you were often limited to following an extremely strict path down your Skill Tree for PvE and PvP. Whilst I do not foresee the strict path dissipating any time soon, at least the Utility Points are more bunched up and involve certain Skills from higher up - even if it was just one step too high - in a certain Tree. For example, all Sages will be able to easily get Egress, whereas now a DPS has to use seven points in the Seer tree, which would ultimately lead to more useful PvE and PvP points being neglected.
Whilst the majority of the Utilities are old-hat, there are certain new passives which each Advanced Class. These definitively new passives are must-haves for a lot of the Specs in either PvP or PvE as they either add survivability or manoeuvrability. For example, on the defensive side, Snipers receive a 6% Damage Reduction in Cover alongside a 30-second Cooldown Reduction on Scrambler Field, and a Jedi Knight's Focused Defense now removes all Cleansable Effects, whilst on the manoeuvrable side, Commandos can fire Bolt Storm/Full Auto, and Successive Treatment whilst moving. Quite how a Male Body Type 1 guy can hold a giant cannon stable whilst firing a heavy stream of bolts accurately at a single target on the move is beyond me...
Each class gets a new ability that replaces a former ability in the rotation, whilst some additionally get a whole new Active ability to supplement the original rotations. For example, Powertechs' Rocket Punch is replaced by Flaming Fist in the new Pyro Discipline, and everyone's favourite move for the Juggernaut - Smash - is replaced by Vengeful Slam in Vengeance. Worth noting, of course, that these abilities are only replacements as long as you are Disciplined thus; if you aren't in the practice of keeping a second hotbar full of abilities for when you Respec, it may be worth replicating your original with the to-be-replaced abilities if you need to switch Disciplines, but this is only if you actually need said ability in other specs.
Only certain Disciplines get completely new Active abilities, the full list of which can be seen below.
- Successive Treatment: Places a periodic Heal on a target which then leaps to the group member with the next-lowest Health - as long as they are within twenty meters - and heals them, before repeating the process twice more. Worth noting that the first target is healed four times, the second thrice, and so on. Combat Medic.
- Vortex Bolt: A single bolt that makes one's next Grav Round activate instantly if it successfully hits the target. Gunnery. Replacement: Bolt Storm for Full Auto.
- Serrated Bolt: Serrated bolts that cause the target to bleed. Assault. Replacement: Mag Bolt for High Impact Bolt.
- No new abilities for Marksmanship. Replacement: Penetrating Rounds for Speed Shots.
- No new abilities for Saboteur.
- No new abilities for Dirty Fighting. Replacement: Dirty Blast for Snipe.
- No new abilities for Defense. Replacement: Warding Strike for Sundering Strike. Warding Strike does not apply the Armour Debuff that Sundering Strike does.
- No new abilities for Vigilance. Replacement: Vigilant Thrust for Force Sweep.
- Focused Burst: Blasts the target with a powerful burst of Force energy; Concentrated Slice: Slices the target with one's blade/
- Wandering Mend: Places a periodic Heal on a target which then leaps to the group member with the next-lowest Health - as long as they are within twenty meters - and heals them, before repeating the process twice more. Worth noting that the first target is healed four times, the second thrice, and so on. Seer.
- Telekinetic Gust: Essentially a more powerful Project - but not a replacement for Project! - that has a longer cooldown, but additionally reduces the activation time of Mind Crush by 0.5 seconds. Telekinetics. Replacement: Telekinetic Burst for Disturbance (currently the replacement tooltip is only on Empire equivalent, but I figured to place it here to highlight that).
- Force Serenity: Redistributes life, in that it heals you for half of the damage that it deals. Balance. Replacement: Vanquish for Mind Crush.
- Kolto Waves: Heals 8 allies as long as they remain in the selected area. Sawbones. Note that this is the only new heal that is not a progressive heal, but more of a channelled Kolto Grenade.
- Blood Boiler. Boils the target's blood, which will cause an explosion when hit next by a poison effect; Shank Shot: Fires a blast at the target's shank, preventing them from moving or even turning for 4 seconds. Scrapper. Replacement: Bludgeon for Blaster Whip.
- No new abilities for Ruffian (re-named Dirty Fighting). Replacement: Point Blank Shot for Back Blast. Point-Blank Shot can be used at any position around the target, so you could face-to-face DPS if you wish.
- Force Melt: Causes melting for 18 seconds. Watchman.
- No new abilities for Combat. Replacement: Clashing Blast for Blade Storm.
- Focused Burst: Blasts the target with a powerful burst of Force energy; Concentrated Slice: Slices the target with one's
blade/blades. Concentration (re-named Focus).
- No new abilities for Kinetic Combat. Replacement: Cascading Debris for Telekinetic Throw.
- No new abilities for Infiltration. Replacement: Psychokinetic Blast for Project.
- Serenity Strike: Redistributes life, in that it heals you for half of the damage that it deals. Serenity (
Awesome Shipre-named Balance). Replacement: Vanquish for Mind Crush.
- No new abilities for Shield Specialist. Replacement: Ion Storm for Pulse Cannon.
- Plasmatize: Drenches the target with Plasma for 30 seconds, and whenever a target affected by it dies, it hops over to the nearest target, refreshes its duration, and sets off again. Plasmatech (re-named Assault). Replacement: Shockstrike for Stockstrike - you could never have guessed!
- Cell Burst: Unleashes High Energy Cell's stored energy into a powerful blast. Tactics. Replacement: Tactical Surge for Ion Pulse.
The last one actually brings up an interesting point. Commandos and Vanguards will now gain stacks of certain charges;
Commandos will now all get Supercharge (10), which builds a stack with every Hammer Shot, Med Shot, Charged Bolts, Grav Round, and Medical Probe. Whilst Combat Medics are no stranger to Supercharge, activating Supercharged Cells now affects all specs in that it will either increase Armor Penetration by 10% (15% in the skill tree), Periodic Damage by 10% (and cause another burn to a target afflicted by Incendiary Missile when hit by the next successful ranged attack), or Healing by 10% (Adv. Med Probe no cooldown and 5 fewer cells). Also of note is the first Raid Buff: Supercharged Celerity, which grants 10% Alacrity to all Ops group members within 40 meters. In the Utilities, Commandos can gain the ability to build ten stacks of Supercharge whilst using Recharge and Reload.
Vanguards will gain stacks of Energy Lodes (4) in Tactics whenever they use either High Impact Bolt. Vanguards can also gain the ability to count stacks when Recharging, but this is tied in to the Tactics Discipline itself rather than an extraneous Utility point.
Yes, that's right: Vanguards and Commandos will now gain Centering. Sentinels, your days are numbered..!
The Disciplines also bring in Raid Utility to each of the classes. There are specific Player Buffs and Boss/PvP Debuffs which can be found all over the Calculator, so for convenience, I'm going to list each buff/debuff and the abilities that grant it. If a shared spec differs across the two advanced classes or a base ability that is not replaced gets a Buff, it has been noted beside affected abilities.
Assailable [take 7% additional Elemental/Internal damage]:
- Blood Boiler
- Incendiary Round; Assault
- Merciless Slash
- Shrap Bomb
Beat Down [take 5% additional Melee damage]:
- Concentrated Slice; Focus
- Overhead Slash
Impaired [Force/Tech damage reduced by 5%]:
- Guardian Slash
- Ion Storm
Marked [take 5% additional Ranged damage]:
- Serrated Bolt
- Vital Shot; All Gunslingers - also now has a base duration of 18 seconds over 15 seconds (Dirty Fighting's Periodic Effects last for a maximum of 24 seconds now)
- Vortex Bolt
Overwhelmed [take 10% additional AoE damage]:
- Force in Balance
- Force Sweep & Focused Burst; Concentration
- Incendiary Grenade
- Pulse Cannon; Plasmatech
- Telekinetic Wave
Subsceptible [take 5% additional Tech damage]:
- Assault Plastique; Tactics
- Blaster Whip; Ruffian
Sundered [20% reduced Armour]:
- Blade Storm & Clashing Blast; Combat
- Grav Round
- Penetrating Rounds
- Saber Throw; Vigilance
- Shadow Strike; Infiltration
- Stockstrike; Tactics
- Sundering Strike; Vigilance & Focus
Unsteady [Melee/Ranged accuracy reduced by 5%]:
- Force Breach; Kinetic Combat
- Force Sweep & Cyclone Slash; Defense
Vulnerable [take 9% additional Force damage]:
- Force Breach; Infiltration
- Mind Crush; Telekinetics
Weaken [Melee/Ranged damage reduced by 5%]:
- Ion Pulse & Explosive Surge; Shield Specialist
- Slow Time
Invigorate [3% additional Healing]:
- Advanced Medical Probe
- Kolto Cloud
Protect [10% additional Armour]:
- Successive Treatment
Resistant [3% additional Elemental/Internal damage reduction]:
- Healing Trance
- Kolto Pack
For PvE, in terms of Tanking and Healing, provided that you have at least two different classes performing these tasks, you will have access to all three debuffs given to enemies and all three healing buffs given to players. DPS is much trickier, though. Notice how only two specs grant Beat Down which is very useful for Melee DPS. As such, if a Sentinel finds himself in a team of a Gunnery Commando, Ruffian Scoundrel, and Sharpshooter Gunslinger, he's not going to get much - if any - benefit from their Raid buffs whilst they would happily be able to supplement each other's Tech, Ranged, and Elemental/Internal damage - the Sentinel might be able to get some benefit from the last one only depending on their own Discipline.
This in itself is going to create some interesting issues. Already there are groups forming based purely around the "best buffs" for easiest Raiding. I've already provided three-quarters of a real-life example, as the only thing missing from the above Ranged/Tech team is a Vanguard Assault (current) DPS. Note that "Beat Down" won't aid either the Scoundrel or the Vanguard as they would gain benefit from "Marked" with their Ranged weapons, despite being in Melee range; BD would only affect Lightsaber wielders.
There are other Raid Buffs beside these, however, which are of a similar nature to Supercharged Celerity. These exist for the Scoundrel and Sage and are a 10% Critical Chance Boost (Stack the Deck; Scoundrel) and a 10% Stat Boost, which also includes Endurance and Presence besides Aim, Cunning, Strength, and Willpower (Force Empowerment; Sages). Each of these has a 5-minute cooldown, and each can be used by every Scoundrel, Sage, or Commando. You don't need to be a Healer to use them. Thus, if a team has a Scoundrel DPS, Commando Healer and Sage Healer, you're well-stacked for all three Buffs.
Personally, I'd say that the combination of all three of these is far and above Bloodthirst; all Bloodthirst does is increase Damage. Combining the Sage and Scoundrel would result, technically, in two Crit Chance augments, as each main stat increases Crit chance slightly, whilst also increasing base Damage dealt. If one has all the Datacrons that correspond to your class or its damage potential, these will be huge.
So, after that incredibly long-winded post, that is Disciplines in all its glory. Personally, whilst I was at first rather apprehensive about the whole affair, I feel rather confident about the direction that BioWare have taken with these, and I cannot wait to use these in practice next week.