Reflecting on Combat Styles

With the announcement of Legacy of the Sith also came the news that when the expansion lands, any character can play any one of the eight advanced classes – now referred to as combat styles – open to their status as a Force or a Tech base class. So a Powertech could become a Vanguard, a Guardian could become an Assassin, or a Gunslinger could become a Commando. Force classes will have an alignment requirement to switch to the other faction’s combat styles, so a Light V Jedi Consular cannot suddenly start zapping people with lightning.

While the combinations are myriad and, in-theory, could be really interesting (Dark Jedi and Imperial Trooper are two very common “I can do this now? Yes!” responses by players), I initially thought that this is something that I likely would not have any interest in using practically. Sure, the included loadouts functionality is much welcome and I can see myself using that for my Gunslinger to switch between Disciplines between fights during raids, but going to the full extent of switching combat styles was not something that appealed to me personally. Maybe I would do it once or twice, depending on the situation at-hand, but not permanently.

As the past two days have gone on, however, I’ve come to realise that there actually could be situations where I could end up switching at least one character’s combat style on a permanent basis. This would pertain to, at most, three characters: my Juggernaut, my Powertech, and my Vanguard.


Powertech / Vanguard

As long-term readers of this blog may recall, I have had a turbulent history with finding my feet with the Trooper advanced classes in the past. I have created and deleted more Vanguards than I knew what to do with over the years since, despite my desire to find something more enjoyable within the Trooper class than any of the Commando options, I just could not crack Vanguards in any meaningful form.

Then 5.0 happened, and the changes to make Vanguard more mobile finally caused me to find some form of footing with the class. While I still find my chosen spec of Plasmatech clunky, I can at least make it work in a semi-enjoyable format, which is more than can be said for its counterpart of Tactics and either of the two Commando DPS specs.

I now find myself asking whether with combat styles the option is there to find a less clunky alternative to playing Vanguard and therefore making Trooper more fun. While I do enjoy Plasmatech a fair amount, it’s easily my least favourite of the four specs I play as the other three just have a much more organic flow. Obviously, there is an immediate answer here – I enjoy Gunslinger, therefore spec my Vanguard as a Gunslinger and my Powertech as a Sniper. Problem solved!

Well, yes, but then that creates a separate problem. While I do enjoy Dirty Fighting and Virulence, I wouldn’t want to have as many as four characters all using the same combat style on a permanent basis. That, to me, would almost entirely defeat the purpose of having alts from a variety perspective. I don’t begrudge people doing it who have fields of alts or who know that they definitively prefer something like Ruffian over any other Tech spec but, since I only have four characters per side I am determined to keep each of my alts per faction with a unique playstyle and, if possible, aesthetic.

Since I still don’t feel that I would be happy playing Commando, this leaves one other option: Operative / Scoundrel. I feel that this option at least has potential, as if I were to spec my Vanguard as Operative and my Powertech as Scoundrel they would still maintain their current weapon aesthetics – albeit now supported by shotguns and knives. However, I feel that these would still work for those classes. The issue I would then face is that my Powertech is physically quite tall and muscly and wears heavy armour – the former would work for something like Scrapper but the latter would not align too well (in-theory) with stealth. I'll cross that bridge when I come to it, should it really bug me more than I anticipate.

With PTS periods going live throughout the summer, this will be one of my main focuses. While I could easily roll an Operative on Live and test them there, I would far rather focus my efforts on the PTS where it doesn’t matter if my efforts are in vain. If I feel I like it, I can always just buy the Tactician’s Set and any necessary Tacticals on Live in preparation for 7.0 (assuming that BW won’t do anything like put a 75 – 79 limiter on all current sets and Tacticals, which I feel would be a very silly thing to do only two years after all these items were first introduced) and not feel that it’s a massive gamble.

Back in the day, when my main Imperial character was an Operative, I did really enjoy Concealment as it was back in the 2.0-era. I just found myself enjoying Sniper more when I started playing that class. Thus, I’m really looking forward to trying it out again somehow. If it doesn’t work? Then, sure, I’ll happily tolerate continuing to play Plasmatech as I do currently. I’m still just really curious to explore this option just to see whether it would work for me.



I focused on my Powertech and Vanguard above because if I were to change one, I would change the other to match. In the case of my Juggernaut, any changes I do to her combat style will not be reflected on her Jedi Knight counterpart.

There’s been a long-running debate in the SWTOR player-base about animations between factions. I’m fairly sure the majority of people reading this will have encountered at least one player in-game saying “Imperial animations are much cooler than Republic ones!” at some point.

I do agree with the general sentiment in that I do prefer the majority of Imperial animations, but not because I think they are objectively “cooler” – I just feel the Imperial classes’ core components make more sense on the whole where applicable. Poison vs. bleeds (for organic targets), Force lightning vs. rocks, arguably fire vs. ion. The main exception to this rule as far as I’m concerned are the core components of the Sith Warrior compared to the Jedi Knight: Warriors bleed their targets while Knights burn theirs.

Bleeds in SWTOR are a bit inconsistent in just how much sense they make. Shooting an organic with a low-power blast that causes internal bleeding, or if the target is wearing some blaster-resistant armour that absorbs the worst of the shots? I can sorta see that working. A bomb that’s designed to explode into fragments and cause both internal and external bleeding? Obviously, that makes sense, if again it’s on an organic target only! Hitting someone with a lightsaber and causing bleeding. What?

Now, yes, I know that we have seen this in the films: in A New Hope, Ponda Baba loses his arm to Kenobi’s blade and there’s blood everywhere. While I’m fairly sure someone somewhere has tried to justify this in-universe, this instance can mainly be boiled down to what TVTropes would refer to as “Early Instalment Weirdness”: lightsabers weren’t properly established by this point, so cauterising the wound likely wasn’t even considered as a concept.

However, by this point, lightsabers have long been established to make searing gashes in their victims, melting metal, singeing fabric, and instantly cauterising any wounds inflicted. Thus, the Knight’s abilities causing burns to their victims instead of bleeds has just always made much more sense to me. Yes, I am aware that a Warrior could simply use a more traditional blade instead, but I am focusing this argument on the setups which I have and will always use when playing this class.

Since my Warrior is light-side, this would mean that she could pick up the Guardian combat style in 7.0. Doing so will almost certainly mean saying farewell to the one-handed Warrior stance, which is a shame, but I do feel that having burns on a lightsaber-wielding Warrior would almost be worth that sacrifice.


While thinking about this new system, part of my mind also turned – as it often does – to how I would have used styles had they been an inherent part of the game at the start, even if only just for class-specific advanced classes. With hindsight, I can say that I would have more than appreciated it, but I am simultaneously pleased that it is only becoming a thing ten years down the line.

I’ve touched on it previously, but there is a running joke among some of my guildies that I am a digital serial killer due to the sheer number of characters I have deleted across the years – as my Vanguard graveyard is testament to.

This is mainly down to one of three main reasons:

  1. I realise that I am just not a fan of Advanced Class A. I try its counterpart, Advanced Class B, and realise that, since it’s not my thing either, it’s best just to stick with the original character until such a time as I can find my footing elsewhere. Character B gets deleted.
  2. I find that I am just not enjoying Advanced Class C. I roll a low-level character who uses Advanced Class D and I find that I’m really enjoying it! I push further and realise that this character is right for me, therefore the original character is no longer of use to me. Character C gets deleted.
  3. I enjoy playing Advanced Class E, and consider it to be a fun spec. On a whim, I have created Advanced Class F and found that, while I still enjoy E, I enjoy F a lot more. Therefore, to some regret, Character E is deemed irrelevant to my long-term goals and deleted.

This is not even including the “I don’t like this character’s aesthetics that much, let’s re-roll to get one who looks better” reason, as that largely stopped being a thing after 2.1 and the launch of the appearance modification station (unless it involved a previously-male character being re-rolled into a female one or vice-versa).

Had combat styles been a thing back at game-launch, none of these scenarios would have occurred. If I wasn’t enjoying an advanced class, I could simply switch the original offending character to their counterpart spec, thus getting an opportunity to experiment with a new set of specs and without needing to re-roll constantly. For example, the Vanguard graveyard wouldn’t have been a thing if I could just constantly cycle between Commando and Vanguard whenever I fancied just to try the class one more time.

However… this would also likely mean that my entire roster of characters would have been so very different. Two of my original Republic characters – Commando Skarkdahn and Scoundrel Lackey (yes, that was his name) – would not necessarily have needed deleting to make room for the characters who eventually replaced them – Vanguard Kiratahn and the Gunslinger now known as Cal Pheiya – simply because… well, they could have become those classes themselves!

It wouldn’t stop there. Colhara, Cynare, Eirahnos, Firuna, Ianiar, Jenn Kimbal, Korrtahn, the current iteration of Phirella, Pippera, Xeksorl, and Ziodus are just some of the characters who wouldn’t have needed creating if the inability to switch advanced class without creating a new character was the only factor in several of their creations.

Pretty much the only characters who I feel would have still been created in some form were those who were created as the same advanced class as their predecessor, just to get a different perspective. Two of my current characters were created specifically in this vein; Miora and Vahn. Vahn is a special case in that she was my first light-side Sith, and my love of this perspective was the reason why my then-lowbie Juggernaut Cynare switched alignment on Tatooine. This in itself is a what-if, since I had rolled Cynare to replace my then-Marauder Ferokii; if I could have re-specced her to Juggernaut, Cynare would lose one reason for his existence. Since Fero was dark side, there is a good chance that I still would have created a new Warrior just to see the light perspective, but who knows when that would have been?

Furthermore, since it was mainly through playing Cal and Pip that I eventually gained such a personal attachment to playing female characters in the first place, how would continuing to play with a male Smuggler and Agent have impacted things? Would I still have eventually developed this courtesy of characters like Miora and Vahn, or would I still have a handful of male characters to this day?

Knowing where things have led, I am very pleased that combat styles weren’t a thing back in the day. As I say, I would have loved them at the time, but looking back and realising just how different things could have been with how my own personal roster of characters has evolved? I honestly wouldn’t choose to sacrifice a single one of them for this system to have been any earlier than 2021.

It’s an interesting thought, but not one that I’m prepared to give more recognition to than necessary.

As I say, though, I am very much looking forward to seeing whether I can get Operative and Scoundrel to work for my Trooper and Hunter, and finally seeing lightsaber-inflicted burns with a Sith Warrior. Should be good fun!

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