SWTOR Step-by-Step Beginners Guide to Leveling Up and Preparing for EndGame

Covering all aspects of the Process from lvl 1 to lvl 70 and BEYOND!

 

In this step-by step guide I will share my suggestions and advises on how to best get your character to lvl cap and gear them up. This article is not a strict “You must Follow Me” order due to the high level of RNG involved in SWTOR’s gearing process, but you should use it as a frame to build on and move forward.

Let’s begin!


CHARACTER CREATION


As any self-respecting MMORPG, Star Wars The Old Republic also offers extensive modifications and customizations to your own character.

Based on your account status, you will have different number of character slots per server available. When you begin the character creation, the first thing you will see are the following options:

  • Start a NEW Character – begins your adventure from the very beginning of the game, at level 1 with all stories unlocked (F2P limitations still apply!) and available for you to explore.
  • Start with a lvl 60 Character from Knights of the Fallen Empire – creates for you a new character that has all the stories prior to this expansion locked with default choices made and you can only play content from KOTFE and newer.
  • Start with a lvl 65 Character from Knights of the Eternal Throne – creates for you a new character that has all the stories prior to this expansion locked with default choices made and you can only play content from KOTET and newer.

The next step is the actual character creation. The first decision here is whether you want to play for the Sith Empire or The Republic. Each faction offers 8 unique classes with 3 disciplines each. Some classes have only 1 role (DPS), while others can be DPS and Heals or DPS and Tanks. What you choose, depends heavily on your preferred style of play most of all. The classes and roles on both sides are identical in terms of performance, but have different class stories, missions, animations, gear and so on. Now we arrive at the best part – customizing your appearance and choosing a name for your Star Wars Hero-To-Be.

SWTOR Character Creation Options

There are several buttons at the top of that screen – clicking them will tell you more background information about the class that you have chosen. Before we start with the leveling methods, I invite you to take a look at my SWTOR Beginner Guide to all Classes and Disciplines. It is an article aimed at the very new to SWTOR and MMO players and will help you better understand the setting of the game, what Disciplines are in general, which style is best for you.


LEVELING UP


There are a number of ways for you to level up your character. It is easiest and quickest during a special XP-Boost Event, such as 2XP Event or the Double Rewards Events. To learn when these might be available, check the Events Monthly Schedule. For regular gameplay activities outside of these events, here are the 3 most popular and productive ways to enjoy the game and level up your character from 1 to level cap.

Leveling Strategies

Today leveling in SWTOR is incredibly easy and fast. If you don’t think so, you probably started your adventure recently and don’t remember “the struggles” players had to endure, such as Sprint at lvl 14, Speeder at lvl 25, No XP Stims, No Legacy Perks, No free Gear, No Level Sync and more and more. There are a few fast enough ways for you to progress through the levels. I’ll describe below some of them and tell you which are suggested or not and also why.

Subscriber vs Non-Subscriber while Leveling

If you consider yourself a very casual player and don’t care how long it will take you to get to level cap, by all means play the game in its Free to Play (F2P) mode or purchase something small to get your status upgraded to Preferred. F2P has a ton of limitations in the leveling part as well as the EndGame aspect of SWTOR. However, while leveling the restrictions aren’t that severe. If you wish to keep playing past level 50, though, you will need to Subscribe for 1 month. This will grant you access to all the story content from lvl 51 to the current latest patch.

Here are a few links with more useful information:

Leveling via Class Story Missions

Is the best way to go for. It’s not the fastest, but will show you amazing stories told through your own eyes and decisions with tons of cinematic cutscenes. The Character Story is mostly a solo experience. The game allows you to group up, but for the most part it’s about you doing your missions and your buddy doing theirs. The locations are often different and all mobs you face are easy to take down, bringing a 2nd player doesn’t really speed things up. The stories are also meant to be experienced solo. Watch all those long cinematics, enjoy your interaction with the rest of the world around and develop your own adventure the way you want it to be (with the obvious choice limitations… this is an MMO after all :P)

(By Class Story Missions I focus here on a Subscriber player going only after the personal and unique to their class “purple” missions. For non-subscribers planetary story arks would be a must too, because the players don’t receive extra XP boosts and perks)

Here is an infographic with all Story Progression and events in their appropriate order from the start of the game.

Leveling through Heroics

Is probably the best and most boring way to progress towards level cap. If you have a group of friends, it sure is effective and quick, but may seriously impact the entertainment value of the game. Using the Heroics Terminal on the Fleet will speed up the farming process immensely.

Heroics are 2 or 4 man group quests, but most of them can be soloed. These missions can be picked up on the various planets they occur or via the Activities Window. Based on what level your character is, different missions will be visible in both the Group and Solo Tabs.

Leveling through Flashpoints and/or Warzones

Is very entertaining and interesting, especially if you have a group. It’s fast enough, though slower than farming Heroics. For this method to work nicely, though, you would need up to 3 friends with suitable classes to be able to jump from Flashpoint to the next one. For Warzones the balance of the group is less important, because the teams are 8v8 or 4v4 and never perfectly balanced anyway, so lacking a tank or a healer is far less important there compared to a Flashpoint. During the PvP matches each player will be bolstered, so no need to think about what gear you have. My personal recommendation is to NOT jump into Warzones as soon as they become available. At the very early levels in the lowest bracket, players are lacking abilities. I don’t mean that this important skill or that fantastic passive is missing, no. I mean literally lacking abilities to use. Playing 10-15 minutes in PvP with only 2-3 buttons is very dull. Well, yes, it’s true that you will be stuck with the same abilities in PvE as well, but in PvP the lack of abilities is much more noticeable, especially if you have PvP experience from another game before SWTOR.

Some of the Flashpoints have solo mode. These are the Flashpoints directly related to the story of the game. You can run them with just your companion.

Flashpoints can be soloed or completed with up to 4 players or less + companions. They are available on the Fleet from various NPCs as well as on each planet they are related to. Warzones are 8v8 or 4v4 Team PvP instanced events. The easiest way to get to a Flashpoint or Warzone is via the Activities Window.

Leveling with Mixed Activities

By far the best and quickest way to level up. If you have a group, run Flashpoints, if you are playing solo, go for the Story Missioins, if you have a buddy or two, join for a few Warzones. The best productivity and results here is achieved by completing all of your Daily Quests (found on the Fleet) for PvP and Flashpoints and if you still have time left to play the same day, go for your personal story.

Gear for Leveling

Crafting and Augmenting

SWTOR Orange Gear ShellsDon’t ever bother crafting gear while leveling or augmenting any of your armor pieces. It’s expensive for a new player and absolutely pointless. Every 4 or 8 levels stop by the Fleet Mods Vendors and update the mods in your Shells. That’s right. Get orange empty shells for all of your armor slots (preferably Legacy Bound) and only change the mods from time to time. The stats you are aiming for (only while leveling!) are Crit, Power and Mastery. Don’t bother with Accuracy and never ever go the Endurance way.

In fact, you will usually be far above the quest’s or planet’s original level, which means Level Sync will be applied to you. If this happens, you don’t need to even change mods in your armor and weapons. Learn more about Level Sync and how it works from my Guide on How Level Sync Works video. In the 2nd half of this guide you can learn more about Augmenting your Gear for EndGame

Character Stats and their meaning

There are a lot of different stats your character can improve upon. I believe it is wrong to focus on all of them early on. It is important to learn the base ones first and how they affect your character’s performance.

  • SWTOR Character Stats TabMastery: Mastery is an attribute that increases the aptitude in combat and was introduced with Knights of the Fallen Empire. All former primary attributes, Aim, Cunning, Strength, and Willpower, are now Mastery.
  • Power: The Power attribute increases the strength of all your attacks whether they be force attacks, non-force attacks, or even Melee Attacks. It is a powerful stat but does not appear often.
  • Crit: Increases your likelihood to get critical hits with every type of ability.
  • Accuracy: Higher Accuracy Rating increases your chance to hit with attacks. Once you reach the hit cap, accuracy starts reducing enemy armor or resistance.
  • Alacrity: Alacrity rating is a haste effect. It reduces the length of channeled abilities and reduces the cooldowns of abilities that have activation times longer than 1.5 seconds. It does not affect abilities that utilize the default 1.5 second Global Cool-Down, such as instant abilities.
  • Armor: Armor Rating (AR) or Armor is a character statistic that reduces Energy Damage and Kinetic Damage from a damage attack that hits a target. This should not be confused with the armor Rating value assigned to an individual item. The Armor Rating is determined by adding up the Armor values, not the Rating value, from all the equipped items on the character.
  • Absorbtion: Increases the strength of your shield, allowing it to absorb more damage.
  • Defense Rating: Increases the strength of your shield, allowing it to absorb more damage.
  • Shield: Increases the chance for your shield to become active during an attack.

For even more tips and ideas on how to effectively level up and prepare for level cap, check my How to level up in SWTOR 5.0 Knights of the Eternal Throne guide. In it you will learn why I do not recommend new players to use the lvl 60 and 65 Tokens as well as other useful tips and suggestions.

Companions

During the original class storylines, a few characters will be able to come aboard and travel with you through the Galaxy. Each of these Companions will have their own individual storylines that you can choose to explore through conversations. As you explore their background you’ll learn more about where they came from, meet their own friends and family, and even battle together against their own personal enemies. There are also a few special Companions to unlock through various Missions and rewards InGame.

They will be featured in the Companions Tab and you will be able to level up the influence you have on them (a special stat).

Upgrading and Outfitting Companions

After you gather your Companions and begin adventuring around the galaxy, you might find that some Companions could use a new look or need new equipment to match their unique personality and style. While they are effective and capable fighters in battle no matter the gear, there are a variety of options to change everything from armor and weapons to their physical appearance.

Many Companions will give you the option of choosing their armor and weapons, assuming they have the required skills to do so. To change their equipment, open of the Character Sheet in-game can click on the companion tab. You can then drag and drop any equipment from your inventory into the appropriate equipment slot.

Companion Vendors are scattered throughout the galaxy and will have tokens that will change the physical appearance of certain Companions. These changes could be different paint jobs for droids or even changing the race and hairstyle of humanoid Companions.

You can upgrade your companion’s skills and performance by giving them gifts or sending them on crew skill missions. Gifts can be obtained as random loot, mission rewards or purchased from a special vendor on the Fleet – in the Galactic Trade Market section.

Below is a list of what your companions would LOVE and FAVORITE to have as a gift from you.

SWTOR KOTFE Companions Gift Charts

Original source for this chart can be found here.

Best Choice of a Companion FOR YOU

My personal recommendations are to use a Healing companion if you play a DPS character and DPS companion if you play as a Healer or Tank. There is no gearing up companions any more (a note for the returning veterans :P). They all level up together with you. It may help speed your gameplay if you opt the disable your companion’s CC channel ability (it’s always the last one in their bar).

Remember, this said here, just like everything on the whole page, is a suggestion. If you prefer to have a DPS companion to your DPS character, that’s perfectly fine. For good or evil the leveling process is so easy, that almost anything and everything is fine.

Crew Skills and Crafting Professions

Until you get a small army of alts on your side or good friends to provide you with resources, you can forget about being even remotely close to self sufficient in Crafting and Crew Skills Management. With that said, there are a couple of ways for you to make a good profit from picking the right Crew Skill for the right leveling and EndGame priority.

Below you will find all of the Crew Skills ordered by type and with a brief lore-friendly description, taken directly from the SWTOR Wiki:

Gathering Skills Overview
  • Archaeology.png Archaeology – the ability to seek out imbued items like Lightsaber crystals and ancient artifacts and is best combined with Artifice or Synthweaving.
  • Bioanalysis.png Bioanalysis – the practice of collecting genetic material from creatures and plants and is best combined with Biochem.
  • Scavenging.png Scavenging – the art of recovering useful materials and parts from old or damaged technology, and the items get from Scavenging are very useful for Armormech , Cybertech and Armstech.
  • Slicing.png Slicing – a skill in accessing secured computer systems and lockboxes to acquire valuable data and rare schematics. And is by far the best money making skill and can be used with Cybertech.
Crafting Skills Overview
  • Armortech.png Armormech – the ability to work with hard metals and electronic shielding to construct all types of personal armor
  • Rifles.png Armstech – the skill of constructing blasters, blaster rifles and upgrades
  • Artifice.png Artifice – the delicate work of constructing Jedi and Sith artifacts
  • Biochem.png Biochem – the engineering of performance-enhancing chemical serums and biological implants
  • Cybertech.png Cybertech – the technical expertise to construct gadgets and components for Droids and high-tech armors
  • Synthweaving.png Synthweaving – the art of creating lighter outfits and armors that are imbued with Force qualities
Mission Skills Overview
  • Diplomacy.png Diplomacy – the art of conducting and managing negotiations
  • Research.png Investigation – the skill of examining evidence and following clues to discover valuable secrets
  • Treasurehunting.png Treasure Hunting – the ability to track down and recover valuable items by investigating a series of clues
  • Underworldtrading.png Underworld Trading – expertise in the trading of illegal goods and services
The Best Crew Skills

My personal favorite combination is the Biochem + Bioanalysis + Diplomacy. This combo will grant you decent amount of Stims, Adrenals and even Implants (not that crafting gear is useful these days, but still…).

Another possible approach is to pick up 3 gathering skills. If you want to prepare for the future with crafting materials, go for Bioanalysis, Archeology and Scavenging. I only recommend this if you choose to level via Main Class Story Missoins. Doing Flashpoints and/or PvP exclusively will isolate you from the planets, where these resources can be found.

Reverse-Engineering

Reverse-Engineering (or RE) serves 2 purposes:

  • To learn a higher tier of a schematic – learning the higher tier schematic for an item is not 10% guaranteed. It depends on the influence of your companion, that is tasked with the job.
  • To get materials you need for something else – Some times you will craft more items than you need to use, other times you might need to craft specific items that you want to RE in order to get a special crafting material that cannot be found anywhere else in the game.

In the top right corner of your Inventory there is a little icon/button that looks like a dismantled lightsaber hilt. Clicking it with the left mouse button will highlight all items in your inventory that can be RE’d. Right clicking on an item will start the RE process, indicated with a short channel. When you are done, a number of basic crafting materials will be placed in your inventory. If the item you want to RE can yield a better schematic, it will be written in the pop-up description window. If the item can be researched, it may yield a higher tier of the schematic (better item of the same type, with higher stats). If not, you will still get the crafting materials, but nothing else.


GEARING UP AND ENDGAME


Congratulations, my friend! You are done with all the low level content and are “ready to take your first steps into a larger world”. The EndGame is just around the corner. First, there are a few things you have to consider in terms of final preparations.

Preparations

It is important to note that this beginners friendly guide leaves a lot of details untold and unexplained. If I attempt to throw all of the available information at once, you will likely feel completely lost. With that said, several times in the following paragraphs I will be referring to my SWTOR EndGame Gearing GUIDE for PvE and PvP, which will come in handy once you run a few level cap Flashpoints and Operations to get yourself familiar with how things happen.

Subscriber vs Non-Subscriber in EndGame

On this topic I will be very short and exact. If you want to play the EndGame, you need to be a Subscriber. There is just no way around it. Most of the content is blocked for Preferred and F2P players and the parts that aren’t completely locked, are very severely limited.

And if you have more time to spend and are interested in some of the key differences between the modes, check out this long and detailed video:

Get Legacy Bound Shells

First, make sure you are using a Legacy Bound “orange” gear shells where you would put all of your mods and augments. If you don’t like the look of whatever Legacy Set is available to you at the moment, you can always correct your appearance with the use of SWTOR’s Appearance Designer Tool. Even if you only have one character, using Legacy Bound Set is a preparation for the future. Sooner or later you will have an alt. It may not be the same class or mirror class (Empire to Republic), it would still be better than any quest gear you have obtained so far.

Legacy Gear is usually found on the Reputation Vendors on various planets and in all Daily Areas (Iokath, Section X, Oricon etc). There are several vendors on the Fleet as well that will sell Legacy Bound Empty Orange Shells for cheap.

Augmenting your Gear

Augmenting your gear at level cap will grant you the best possible profit at the lowest cost. Augments are also divided by tiers and levels, that is why I suggested you to keep away from augmenting your gear before reaching level cap.

The eternal questions “What Augments I need?” and “Which Augments are best for my class?” cannot be answered with a constant. There are far too many variables included, most important of which is your current gear and stats balance. I have a ton of Class Guides with ideal stats for each tier of gear. You can use these guidelines to prepare yourself for the EndGame. While striving to reach the recommended values, consider crafting or purchasing more augments of each type. This will allow you to switch them around after you acquire a new piece of gear after your raid or Galactic Command crate opening. For example, if your stats are balanced and you acquire a new accuracy-heavy earpiece that will throw your Accuracy stat above 110%, swap out 1-2 Accuracy Augments with Crit/Alacrity ones and balance out your stats again to be as close as the suggested idea values according to your class and role.

Obtaining EndGame Gear

This is the longest and by far the most fun part for any EndGame raider. How to start? Simple! I mean it’s not simple to learn where, what, how, I mean that you should start simple. Don’t jump right into the deep waters.

Before we dive into gearing details, here’s a short list of the 4 main tiers of current lvl cap gear that contain set bonuses and that you will be ultimately going for:

  • Tier 1: Item Rating 230
  • Tier 2: Item Rating 236
  • Tier 3: Item Rating 242
  • Tier 4: Item Rating 248

For more details on which tiers are available where and how to obtain them, refer back to my SWTOR EndGame Gearing GUIDE for PvE and PvP

Let’s take a look at the possible ways for you to gear up:

Gearing from PvE

If you have chosen the leveling method involving Flashpoints, you have done some or all of them already in their story mode (Bioware calls it Veteran Mode now). This will allow you to have a smoother and easier transition to Hard Mode (Master Mode after 5.0). Unless you have previous experience with SWTOR or at least another MMO, I suggest you start with the easier content first – Veteran Mode Flashpoints and Story Mode Uprisings as well as Story Mode Operations.

  • Dailies Heroics, Uprisings, Flashpoints – This is actually valid for both PvP and PvE. Running Warzones, Heroics, Flashpoints and Uprisings doesn’t guarantee you gear loot and upgrades directly. You will be doing these for Galactic Ranks. What Galactic Command is, you can learn from my Galactic Command Overview | SWTOR 5.0 Guide. If you go through the content in its higher difficulty modes, you will earn more Command Rank points, but higher difficulty often equals to higher challenge and requires more player experience and better gear.
    I have quite a few guides on Daily Areas, Uprisings and Flashpoints.
  • Operations – By far the best method for gearing up. Operations have fixed loot and are still pretty easy in Story Mode. The only real challenge could be if you play as a tank, because someone would have to explain to you the basic boss mechanics before each encounter. However, this wont take long and in most cases you will be able to pick things up on the move (Have I said mechanics in SM are easy and simple? Too many times already? Ok, this will be the last!), even without someone advising you. And, let’s not forget, I have video and written guides and gameplay videos on all bosses from all operations in all difficulty levels. In fact, take a look at the full SWTOR Operation Loot Table. For maximum effect, be sure to always have the Weekly Quest for the Operation you are about to run (pick it up on the Fleet) and try to look for groups to do the daily operation on the Group Finder for an extra reward. However, make a note that the Group Finder for Operations is mostly empty and nobody queues there on their own. Teams are usually formed via General (or private) chats on the Fleets and once all slots are filled, the whole group enters together.
    Check out my list of all SWTOR Operatioions ordered by Difficulty.

SWTOR Activities Window Group Tab

Gearing from PvP

If you decide to only participate in Warzones and Arenas, that’s perfectly fine. Remind yourself to visit the PvP Quest Terminal on the Fleet and pick up the Daily and Weekly quests every time they reset (weekly quests reset on Tuesday). Players participating in Warzones receive a bolster. This is a buff to balance (but not absolutely equally) geared players and newcomers. Check out the 3rd page of my SWTOR EndGame Gearing GUIDE for PvE and PvP for more information on what is available, where and why.

swtor patch 5.1 galactic command gearing changes for pvp warzones

Gearing Priority

I’ve said in  the beginning already that for the most part it’s hard or impossible to predict which gear piece you will obtain next. That is only 100% valid for PvE. For PvP, you can purchase whatever you want, provided you have all the required resources and currencies. Having them, though, is a long and tedious grind and for that reason I don’t advice you to consider this a secure method for gearing. If you prefer to play PvP only, you will have to heavily rely on the Galactic Command XP and loot crates after each rank.

The most important items for a DPS and Healing roles are always the main hand and off-hand. If you can, do your best to obtain them first. They are also usually the most expensive. The rest on both left and right side provide equal stats improvement… except the Wrists and Belt. They have 1 mod slot less, which means they provide less total number of stats. So, that would make them last in the priority list. However, specifically for PvP, they are always the cheapest. The tanks’ best gear slot is a bit more contested, but I would go for a Relic first, because they can be a life-saver. Tanks don’t care about dishing out more DPS and any of the regular items on their bodies will provide equally important upgrades.

There’s one more thing to consider and I’ve mentioned it before, but will do so again – balancing your stats while gearing up is very important. If you draw your plans for gearing and follow them strictly item by item, you will notice severe lack of important stats during the process. It’s best to have several extra Augments sitting in your inventory, ready to swap in and out at any given time.

Currencies
Command Tokens

This currency comes from Command Crates. Each Crate will drop Command Tokens based on the Tier of the Crate (Tier 1 – 5 tokens, Tier 2 – 8 tokens, Tier 3 – 12 tokens). These tokens are a Legacy-wide currency.

Unassembled Components

This currency is a reward for playing Warzones and Galactic Starfighter and can be used to purchase Unassembled Gear Pieces.

Unassembled Gear Piece

These drop from Operation bosses or are purchased with Unassembled Components and can be turned in along with Command Tokens for specific pieces of gear. The last boss of each Operation has a 100% chance to drop Unassembled Gear Pieces (2 pieces for 8-man, 4 pieces for 16-man). Each other boss in an Operation has an increasing chance to drop them (the second boss having a higher chance than the first boss, and so on).


Vendors

These vendors are present on both the Republic and Empire Fleets.

Unassembled Component Vendor

On this vendor you can turn in Unassembled Components to purchase a specific Unassembled Gear Piece. You can only purchase Tier 1 Unassembled Pieces in this way. However, you can turn in Tier 1 pieces along with Unassembled Components to upgrade them to Tier 2 and 3 respectively.

Unassembled Gear Piece Vendor 

With this vendor you can turn in one Unassembled Gear Piece for a specific slot (ex: Unassembled Helm Tier 1) along with Command Tokens for that respective piece of gear.


ADDITIONAL INFO


Here are a few additional sources you may want to take a look at for more information related to your leveling and gearing in Star Wars The Old Republic:

The best way to stay in touch with my latest updates, guides, tutorials and news posts is to Subscribe to my YouTube channel and Weekly Newsletter.

So… how about we end it with a JOKE?

  • How long will it take me to get a lvl 1 character to 70 and fully gear it up?
  •  Probably not as long as it took Vulkk to write this guide…

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