Level Sync in SWTOR was introduced towards the end of 2015 with multiple knock-on effects across the galaxy. XP could be gained for doing any missions anywhere and rewards were scaled accordingly. I did my “blessing and a curse” post in January 2016, well over 3 years ago. But over the last year of playing Star Wars: The Old Republic I have been considering its impact on my gaming and I believe a time for change has come. While I highly doubt the system is under review by Bioware, I’d like to offer an opinion piece anyway. In this post I’ll examine some of the weaknesses of the system and aim to propose changes leading to what I’m calling SWTOR Level Sync 2.0.
This post is purposefully long and detailed, so if you want to skip to a particular section, tap the link below.
- Decoding Level Sync
- Comparison Data
- Flaws in the Current System”
- Other Downsides
- Level Sync 2.0
To seek to get even a cursory understanding of Level Sync as it is right now I needed data. So I sent three of my characters across most (though not all) planets up to Rishi. I purposefully chose three different classes, although I haven’t added a ranged DPS in yet.
- Jedi Shadow (Tank)
- Sith Sorcerer (Healer)
- Sith Warrior (DPS)
I used each planet to see which stats were being synchronised and which were not.
For the full data tap the button below. But before you do, you should be aware of these few things:
- Jedi Stats are affected by: Force Valor, Force Might, Lucky Shots and Fortification class buffs.
- Sith Stats are affected by: Unnatural Might, Coordination, Hunter’s Boon and Mark of Power class buffs.
- All three characters have augments on their gear, but this should not, in theory, be unaffected by Level Sync.
- The Jedi Shadow and Sith Sorcerer have completed all content up to (and including) Jedi Under Siege.
- The Sith Warrior has completed content only up to, but not including, Ziost.
- Jedi Shadow:
- Critical Chance % was unaltered until Nar Shaddaa. Thereafter up to Belsavis it is reduced by 1-2%. Voss sees a “negative reduction” – i.e. Critical Rating was buffed, by 3%. But then Corellia it was reduced by 7% again.
- Damage Reduction: As content got harder, or at least of a higher level, damage reduction rating was decreased more.
- Key Tank Stats Unaffected: Level Sync had no effect on: Shield Chance %, Shield Absorption % or Defence Chance %.
- DPS Sith Warrior:
- Critical Chance %: was left untouched until Balmorra. From there until Belsavis it was buffed, but nothing massively noticeable. On Belsavis it was 39.46% vs my L70 baseline of 39.05%. On Voss this was buffed to over 40%. But then on Corellia it was debuffed to about 38% again.
- Critical Multiplier: Unchanged.
- Alacrity: Unchanged
- Sith Sorcerer Healer:
- Damage Reduction: By Rishi, Damage Reduction had been debuffed by 23%. This accounts for why I find playing this class very ‘squishy’ despite being able to heal myself.
- Critical Chance %: this fluctuates throughout the data with a range of: 43.59%-44.82%. Critical Multiplier is unchanged at 73%.
- Armour Rating: Of all three classes, Armour Rating affected the Sorc Healer the most. By Rishi it was reduced by 38%. This is against 35% for my DPS Sith Warrior and 36% for my Shadow Tank.
I decided to dig into this more than I had originally planned. I’ve not let me inner data-geek out for a number of years! So let’s see how Level Sync scales those stats that are synchronised.
Mastery is the ‘base’ statistic that generally improves how your character performs in combat.
Power directly effects the damage and healing that can be done by a character. DPS Warrior and Sorc Healer charts are fairly similar. However my Shadow Tank’s chart is very different. Again, power has been scaled gently through the base planets, but then sharply up-turns for Voss and Corellia. After that it flatlines. I’m unsure if this is because I don’t have enough power for it to scale, or whether there’s a tacit assumption that tanks need their maximum power from, say, Ilum onwards.
I have not included my Shadow Tank here as Critical Chance is not a stat that concerns Tank classes very much. At least in my opinion. However, these graphs are strange! Sometimes Critical Chance is debuffeed and sometimes it is buffed. What I find really odd is that for Level 48 (Voss), the chance % is increased very slightly only be be decreased again at Corellia. Is Voss somehow harder than Corellia? Apart from the Republic Heroics I can’t think how that’s the case!
There’s not much to say here as all three graphs are of identical patterns. The Sorc Healer one looks different simply because she has marginally exceeded 4000 maximum damage. However what is clear is that from Level 62 content, for all classes, damage increases sharply. This backs up my earlier point about increased challenge. After all, you don’t need a proportionally greater increase in damage unless the foes you are fighting have also become harder to defeat.
From a slightly different angle I wanted to look at how much defences are decreased with each class. While each of these charts follows a similar pattern, it seems that the Sorcerer Healer is hardest hit, as a proportion of their statistics. This should also be true of its mirror class the Jedi Sage Healer.
When it comes to armour rating reduction, the Sorc Healer always has an extra 1-2% reduction across all levels, when compared to the other classes.
Damage reduction is your defences against different types of damage. The way I see this, it relates to Damage-over-Time (DoT) effects: internal bleeds, poisons and elemental damage.
Please note this is an opinion piece, but I will back up my views with data as we work through this.
Not every stat is synchronised, leading to an imbalance in performance data.
- Critical Chance, for all intents and purposes isn’t synced.
- Critical Magnitude is definitely not synchronised. My Sorcerer Healer had a critical magnitude of 73% on all planets. This means even on Dromund Kaas, I have a 31.82% chance of massively damaging a foe. That’s almost one in every 3 damaging skills used.
- On the Tank side of things, Defence Chance, Shield Chance and Shield Absorption are not affected by Level Sync. To be honest on low level planets, enemies practically kill themselves on your Lightsaber without you needing to do anything!
Although companion stats seem to be reduced by Level Sync, the Presence statistic is not.
Usually in games, SWTOR included, you gain greater rewards for successfully completing harder content. I’m happy with this. I do not mind forgoing gear, credits, CXP etc by not taking part in Operations and PvP. If you do those things then you should reap those rewards.
But with trash value and credit rewards from missions scaling to your level, you can effectively earn well with little effort. Why do I think this? It’s because the stats above are not synchronised that you are still over-powered despite the Level Sync system being in play.
All this leads to a system where you get the rewards of levelling without the challenge of levelling. Some may like that – easy credits! But usually MMOs (and in fact, life offline too) function on a basis of work-for-reward. But with how the system currently works you could have a workable set of Blue-Grade 220 gear before you even leave Corellia. Even earlier if you feel like repeating content on early planets. And that could be even higher if you have access to Galactic Command!
Okay, the section above was purposefully technical. I want to look at a couple of non-stat reasons why I think Level Sync needs tweaking – at least for some players.
I had to remind myself that this was an intended outcome of the Level Sync System. But that doesn’t mean everybody wants, or needs, to level quickly. Levelling for me is a by-product of playing the game, not the aim of playing the game.
However on my SWTOR Free-to-Play account, where I have no Guild or Rested XP bonuses, this quick levelling is clear. Here my Jedi Shadow is L25, half way to my level cap (50 on this account) part way through Republic Taris. And I’ve only been doing the class story and planetary quests, not any “exploration missions”.
Before Level Sync, once you reached or exceeded the planetary quest level, defeating foes and completing quests granted no XP. (Or about 6XP, so pretty much zero). The added bonus of this was that loot was also within that level range. While getting loot appropriate to your level is great for gearing yourself, levelling too fast means not picking up extra items that could be used to make outfits. One example is this chestpiece skin I once picked up from loot on Hoth.
Gathering the parts to construct your own HK Unit is challenging enough! Unlike, say, the Tatooine GSI Missions and on other planets however, the scanner you get to find the HK Parts has a tiny scan radius. Thankfully, I completed mine before Level Sync. But to find the parts you have to be very methodical and comb a large area very carefully. Under Level Sync, however, your attention is taken by respawning mobs. They turn you around, making you forget your place.
While making content more challenging really works against me due to my chronic pain, either you create challenge or you eliminate it. What we have currently is a half-way house.
If risks/challenges and rewards should be linked then other stats also should be scaled down, especially
- Critical Chance and Magnitude
- Defence Chance
- Shield Chance and Absorption
Why Damage Reduction and Armour ratings are reduced by a greater percentage than Tank/DPS I don’t know. As Power is scaled down (and therefore healing potential) this should be counterbalanced by a less dramatic reduction in defences.
Before you all scream at me, let me explain what I mean by this.
- When Switched On: the proposal above on scaling down all stats is in play. Credit Rewards are scaled up to your level as they currently are. XP Continues to be granted as it is now. Loot and its value are scaled up to your level.
- When Switched Off: You can be over-levelled and wander a planet freely. This means you can collect crafting materials, or simply enjoy the views uninterrupted. Credit rewards are set to your level, or the maximum level threshold, whichever is lower. Quests and mobs grant less and less XP the closer to the threshold of the content. Loot (and its trash value) is appropriate to the level range of the content, not the player’s level.
These options still reward players better for playing with sync on, than those who turn it off. But if players just want to wander the planets, pick up crafting materials or even search for the HK-51 parts then that can be done in peace too. While quests could be completed, they would be done so for their story, with rewards being relatively low.
As this question came up in my Twitter thread on the issue I will give an idea on how to handle World Bosses under Level Sync 2.0.
How would you account for turning off level sync when considering world bosses or partying with others who don't?
— Jamie 'Six' Easton (@Arirthos) May 29, 2019
The simplest solution is to simply make them Level 70 Operations Bosses. Or Level 75 once Onslaught is launched. Reaching the Level Cap with solo content is really easy. Keeping World Bosses at level cap, would mean the operations group would need to also be at level cap – effectively Level Sync “off”. LOTRO has these kind of World Bosses (called Roving Threats) roaming various regions. They have a very narrow aggro range so if you’re too low a level you would have to try to aggro them.
Under Level Sync 2.0, say the giant droid on Coruscant (image c/o Dulfy) would ignore any player with level sync on, even though you can (and in some cases, have to) walk very close to it.
As trash value scales with your level, there is no reason why the gear drop skins cannot be within the planetary level range. We could keep the credit value when selling to a vendor, while being able to pick up different-looking gear for the purpose of outfit creation.
TL;DR – It’s Time to Revisit SWTOR Level Sync
Level Sync is a necessarily complicated system. Any time class changes are made, Level Sync also has to be adjusted. The poor Bioware Devs have to compare performance of 16 base classes, each with three trait trees!
However, it is imbalanced when it comes to risks and rewards. Having it in play disadvatages players who want to wander and enjoy a planet, relax and pick up crafting materials. I believe this proposal for SWTOR Level Sync 2.0 benefits players who want to level and earn rewards quickly, while giving an opportunity to improve accessibility for others who do not.
Whether this post changes anything in SWTOR I don’t know. But hopefully it gives some ideas to players and to the team at Bioware as to how Level Sync could be improved.