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Star Wars: The Old Republic Column: Crew Skills and the Endgame

By Michael Bitton on January 10, 2012

It’s no secret that I’ve been a fan of BioWare’s implementation of crafting in Star Wars: The Old Republic for some time now. Crew Skills and the item modification system allow for some fun possibilities in mixing and matching, as well as creating and customizing gear. Well, up to a point.

Spending time reverse engineering basic quality recipes for their higher quality versions takes considerable time and credits, but the end result is often fairly rewarding. This makes for a compelling system, but there are some flaws, and these flaws become more noticeable as you approach, and eventually reach, level cap. As I progressed through the game, I spent significant time on my Artifice Crew Skill, learning recipes for blue and purple versions of various hilts, shields, enhancements, and crystals. I also noticed as I played that many of these higher quality items were readily available from commendation vendors or even as quest rewards, which bugged me a bit. If that weren't enough, most of the really neat stuff you can create using the game’s various Crew Skills, such as reusable medpacks, speeders, grenades, relics, are all bind-on-pickup. Sure, they’re still useful to you – but a lot of this stuff is what makes a particular craft unique, and it’s disappointing to find out you can’t actually sell most of it to anyone. Of course, in the case of reusable medpacks, that’s probably not such a bad thing (no return customers).

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The latter example is certainly disappointing, but something I suppose I can ultimately live with. Having craftable items for sale from vendors is also disappointing, but was something I could deal with as I leveled. I mean, after all, a level 30 purple recipe is generally going to be obsolete by the time you reach level cap. However, once you do get to cap and gain access to Ilum, this issue really comes to the forefront. While leveling, you might find that you can create Might Hilt 20 as an Artificer and groan as you notice that the same hilt is available (in blue quality, no less) on a Commendations vendor. But it’s something else entirely when at 400 Artifice you can craft Might Hilt 22 – and then acquire Might Hilt 23 simply by doing Ilum content at level 50. Is it possible to learn Hilt 23 in some other way? Maybe. But there’s no reason someone who has never spent a minute crafting throughout the whole game should have easy access to a hilt of higher quality than you are able to even craft without doing much more than some daily or weekly quests. Well, not if you want to cultivate a thriving crafting community.

I realize that doing a number of high level PvE activities, such as Operations and Flashpoints, may drop schematics that in all likelihood are better than what you’d be able to learn just by capping out your Crew Skill, but the disparity in effort is what bugs me here. While leveling, you have the choice of spending some (easily accessible) Commendations on a comparable item or modification, using your own Crew Skill, or purchasing these items from crafters on the market. At level cap, you may be forced to do specific content and roll against others just for the chance to potentially create items that are better or equal to things you can acquire by doing repeatable content or quests. It doesn’t seem altogether fair to crafters. ADd to tIn fact, it almost seems pointless to bother with any crafting skills that don’t serve a purely selfish purpose at the moment. Yes, I’m looking at you, Biochem.

There are some other issues with Crew Skills at endgame as well, at least if you care about PvP. Outside of Biochem, Crew Skills have very little purpose as far as PvP goes. PvP gear with Expertise on it is highly sought after by dedicated PvPers, and crafters are completely (for the moment) excluded from this market. If PvE activities such as Operations and Flashpoints can grant access to special schematics and required crafting materials, why can’t PvP do the same thing? I’d love to see special schematics drop from the various PvP bags or be outright purchasable from the vendors using appropriate commendations. Specifically, I’d like to see crafters able to create item modifications with Expertise on them. Like the high-end PvE stuff, these schematics could require resources only accessible via PvP activities (especially contested nodes out in the game world) and could even be gated by Valor rank for both the crafter and the person looking to equip them.

Players looking to keep their customizable PvE gear have some recourse via modifications acquired via Operations, but PvPers really don’t have that option. Sure, in the mid 30’s you can rip out Expertise mods from PvP weapons, but once you get into the high-end purple quality items the Expertise stat appears to be either baked into the item or part of its locked Armoring/Hilt/Barrel slot. On top of that, both PvE and PvP item sets have set bonuses, which may still put them ahead of fully customized gear, even in the case of PvE.

Update 1.1  doesn’t address any of these issues, but I am hoping that BioWare looks toward tackling Crew Skills in a big way as we push forward over the coming months. The system and design are sound, fun, and accessible, but these skills need to be elevated in purpose for both the PvE and PvP crowds at endgame.

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