These days I don’t see the point of the traditional leveling guide. In the days of Vanilla WoW, there was a definite need for a “most efficient pathway” to 60 that outlined what zones to skip, when to turn in different quests, and even where to grind, but modern MMORPGs like SWTOR are riddled with more breadcrumbs than the park next to a senior center. No longer must you magically realize that the only zone in your level range is halfway across the world (I’m looking at you Desolace) but instead there are at least 3 NPCs pointing you in the correct direction at all times. It’s like waiting in line for Star Tours at Disneyland, there’s a lot of pretty stuff to distract you but only one way to go.
Therefore I’ve decided to write a new kind of leveling guide. Rather than concern myself with mundane details like ideal rotations at level 10 (use your abilities, then continue to use them) or whether or not to skip this or that heroic quest, I’m going to focus on the psychological side of rehashing content. What you can do to maximize your enjoyment while leveling yet another character. As an extended feature, this will eventually talk about more specifics relating to various planets, but for now I’m going to set forth my primary tenets, the rules hewn into stone that guide every one of my alts.
1) Set short term goals. Always have a goal that you can achieve in anywhere from 2-5 hours of playtime. If you keep watching the mountain that is level cap on the horizon, it’ll never seem like you’re making progress and eventually you’ll lose interest, but if you focus on making it over that hill right in front of you, success will be your bread and butter. Short term goals shouldn’t just be arbitrary numbers though, give them some weight. Purchase awesome items that are just out of your reach and strive to equip them. Look up the level at which your next major ability is introduced and fixate on it. The promise of Storm (The tanking Vanguard’s talented closer and MOST AWESOME ABILITY EVER) at level 30 got me through the doldrums of Nar Shaddaa on my Vanguard. If you’re struggling to dredge up the desire to slowly run around Coruscant at level 12, just remind yourself how close Sprint is. Once you get closer to level cap, the sheer momentum will carry you through, but until then never look beyond what you can achieve in 1-3 play sessions.
2) Pick a theme song. Before you tell me to go back to Goldshire with the rest of the RPers, take a moment and think back on your experience leveling your main. Are there any songs that spring to mind? Songs that, bookended by those Taylor Swift songs you totally downloaded by accident (trust me!), happened to synch up with amazing moments in your leveling? My Vanguard will forever blast “2 Minutes to Midnight” by Iron Maiden as she charges around the battlefield. If you don’t already have a song in mind, try and pick one. Use this as your focus as you level, playing it during particularly difficult quests. Connect it in your mind with the essence of the character and then bring it out when you find yourself falling asleep while killing Colicoids on Balmorra.
3) Spice up your leveling. It’s easy to get lost in the pursuit of maximum xp/hr and end up seeing your alt as nothing more than another chore in a game already loaded with them. Many leveling guides tell you to skip heroic quests and flashpoints in favor of the more efficient questing, but I say try and do everything you can to change things up, especially if you’re leveling as a tank or healer. The lack of a LFG tool might make it a little harder to form groups up, but never doubt the power of planetary general chat to form up similarly leveled groups. Having a chance to flex your muscles in new and exciting ways can go a long way to reminding you why you’re actually playing the character you are in addition to giving you important experience in transitioning towards a more formal role at 50.
4) Do your daily space missions! Space missions give a hilarious amount of XP throughout the leveling process, especially the first time you do them. After that, you can pump out around 15-20k experience for around 30 minutes of work, which is a decent rate without progressing through any questlines. I find they’re best done in the few minutes you find yourself with right before leaving to do something else or when your significant other takes an extended bathroom break during the movie you’re watching.
4) Shoot for 4-5 levels above the content. If you’re doing bonus quests, heroics, flashpoints, and daily space missions this should be no problem, as SWTOR can be very kind with the amount of experience it tosses at you. For example, doing all the above things has placed my Vanguard at 46 coming out of Act 2 and starting Belsavis, which is about 4 levels ahead of where she should be. Being hilariously overleveled has two major advantages. First, the content becomes more about tearing through it with reckless abandon than actually struggling, and this can go a long way, especially with DPS classes, towards making the whole experience more enjoyable. Chain pulling Elite mobs while blasting Daft Punk is an entirely different experience than barely surviving while juggling a single Strong between you and your ranged DPS companion. Second, this gives you the ability to skip content where necessary. We all have that one planet we just detest, that we’d say we’re from if Darth Vader ever picked us up. For me it’s Voss. As much as I would love to roll a sweet Voss Jedi Sage, I can’t stand the questlines on that planet, so I chose to simply skip over it on my Jedi Sentinel. Being about 4 levels above the curve (48 when I landed on the planet) allowed me to rush through and complete only my class quest before heading to Corellia.
Whether it’s your first or fifth rodeo, these five tips can help you maintain your sanity while leveling an alt of whichever class your raid happens to need because that one guy was late that one time because of some birthday party for his 1 year old daughter. Pft, not like she’ll even remember it. Jerk.