Leveling to 50 and getting geared up is very easy in SWTOR, at least when compared to a few other mainstream MMORPGs out there. If you're new to this kind of game things might seem a bit overwhelming at first, but don't fret: if a noob like me can do it, anyone can. Keep in mind that this is all my very own personal opinion based on my experiences, I'm sure there are people who will think differently on many points here.
First, a few tips for lvling (in no particular order):
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1) When you finish a mission, if the reward choices are between an item or a planet commendation, pick the commendation. It's worth it 90% of the time.
2) Do every solo mission you can find. When you get a heroic mission see if anyone wants to party up for it (in guild and general chat), but if you get no replies move on, gear-wise they are not that important. When you get "bonus" missions on a planet, do them. This way you'll have a good enough lvl to handle everything on your own on any planet.
3) Do the Flashpoints for your level. Flashpoints are an invaluable source of gear, experience (if you do the flashpoint dailies) and pve awareness that will serve you well when you reach 50.
4) Don't be shy, go in parties with people that aren't from the guild if nobody is available. The more people you know, the easier you'll get in groups and do things.
5) Get modifiable (orange) gear as soon as possible, you'll have them easily by doing Flashpoints. A full set (chest, helmet, gloves, legs, boots and weapons at least - belt and bracers are very rare) of modifiable gear is way easier to keep upgraded than blues or greens as you lvl, and it will pay off when you get to 50 (more on this later). You can keep the same set from lvl 20 up to 50 as long as you change its mods, so you won't look like a christmas tree.
6) Do your daily space missions. They're pretty much free XP.
7) When you can, show your companions some love by upgrading their gear. Your character has priority, but do not neglect your main companion too much because you'll need him/her for your solo lvling. Equip them in any way you can, with loot that drop from mobs while lvling, from Flashpoints, etc.
8) Do NOT buy gear from vendors or from the Galactic Trade Network unless you're already around lvl 40, and even then only do it if you absolutely must. If you do you'll be throwing your money away because the item you buy today will be obsolete tomorrow, and suddenly you find yourself crying in the corner without money to buy your speeder.
9) Go easy on lvling your crew skills. If it's a crafting and a gathering skill try to lvl them together, but if it's a skill that requires sending companions on missions, watch out for your money - it'll go away fast. When you reach 50 money is easy, you can always wait until then.
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About number "5", why is modifiable gear better? Suppose you're doing a Flashpoint, and it drops a chest piece that has the same stats as yours do, but its stats are an upgrade to, say, your head piece. You get the item that dropped, remove its mods and apply them to your head piece. Beautiful, isn't it? Also, do you know what is the cheapest thing you can buy with daily commendations at lvl 50? Epic mods, that are good enough to get you raiding, or at least doing every Hard Mode Flashpoint out there. Do you know what you get from doing the Daily Heroic lvl 50 Missions? More epic mods. An orange set fully modded with epic mods beats the shit out of any blue or lvl 49 epic piece you can make or get.
When you finish your class storyline and get to lvl 50 with your character you'll likely wonder "what do I do now?" Well, you have basically two options: do endgame (lvl 50) content, or make an alt. You'll probably end up doing both.
Endgame PVE content revolves around getting better and better gear so that you can continue progressing through it. If you got yourself a set of modifiable gear your life will be easier in getting geared up for the big boys' (and girls) stuff. Here are a few hints for getting geared up, in no particular order:
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1) Do the Ilum and Belsavis and space dailies. They're great for the mods and gear (which you get by trading in daily commendations) and the money (you make around 150,000 credits). Not finding a group isn't an excuse for not doing the daily solo missions, and for the daily heroic missions you can usually find people to party up with (remember, don't be shy to party up with anyone willing to do the same stuff you need).
2) Depending on how fast you want to get geared up, you can start looking up epic mods in the Galactic Trade Network. The best will usually be mods that people got from the daily quests but have no more use for them. These usually sell for 20-30k each - you make around 150k a day doing the dailies so it's no big deal.
3) Ask in Guild chat for people who can make you some neat epic implants and maybe some gear for your companions (you still need them to do your dailies solo), we have some apt crafters around.
4) Do the Flashpoints on Hard Mode for the Tionese tokens and pieces and the Columi piece after you defeat the last boss (refer to Araxis' post on knowing what drops where). Some groups can be picky about gear and exclude you saying you're not geared enough for Hard Modes - don't let it upset you, continue trying and doing your dailies to get better gear. I've done Hard Mode Flashpoints with groups that I didn't believe were geared enough at first, and had the pleasant surprise of having an easier time with them than with people with way better gear.
5) When you're fully epic geared either with Tionese or a modifiable set filled with epic mods, you should be ready for your first Operation (raiding). You don't have to be FULLY epic, having a blue or green here or there is passable, especially for relics. Refer to Varoth's post on how the boss fights work and get ready for any groups that might be forming up for the raids.
6) Talk to people who are from your class and spec about stuff. Don't be shy about asking people about their opinions, rotations, gear, spec, etc.
7) If any of this starts to feel more like a job than a game, take a break. Alts are great for that. Remember that this is a GAME and you're here to have FUN. There's no need to rush things, take your time and enjoy the ride at whatever pace you feel comfortable with.
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That's all I can think of for now. I don't know much about PVP, I have very little interest in that area (so far). Just remember that PVP gear isn't best suited for PVE stuff.
Thanks for the post, Lan! Personally, I am very much new to MMOs and am levelling up quite slowly (mostly due to the fact that I don't have all that much time to commit to playing that game). One of the aspects I personally have a tough time around is grouping with people that I don't know. For someone who doesn't really do this sort of thing, it is a bit intimidating. However on the few occasions I have grouped with others, it's been a pretty good experience and really did help plow through things. It's an area I know I personally need to work on, and I think any new member may have trouble with. However it really is something that can be helpful in the long run.
It did take me a little bit, but I also clued into the orange gear and how that all works out. As a general question, since you can switch your mods around, is it more a matter of finding gear for looks? Yes, I hate my current body armour (damn purple thing)
So long as I switch mods, it shouldn't matter as much, correct?
It did take me a little bit, but I also clued into the orange gear and how that all works out. As a general question, since you can switch your mods around, is it more a matter of finding gear for looks? Yes, I hate my current body armour (damn purple thing) So long as I switch mods, it shouldn't matter as much, correct?
That's correct Halc. What I did while leveling was find a set of gear that I liked (this yellow armor that looks very mandalorian, its pieces drop in Boarding Party) and then just kept replacing its mods with upgrades that I got either from loot from other Flashpoints or from mods that I bought trading in planet commendations. I used that same armor from lvl 33 to 50 (but you start getting orange gear as soon as lvl 10) and only changed when the first epic stuff started to come. The same is true for weapons, a lot of people will look for a lightsaber or blaster that they like, for example, and stick with it, just changing its mods. Some lightsabers not only look different but also sound different. =)
For grouping up with people I usually just paid attention to General Chat and jumped on anyone that sent a "LFG" for Heroics there, unless I was deep into a quest that I couldn't readily pause.