Plugging Through the Grind: Sniper at 30

December 27, 2011 - 11:59 pm 1 Comment

As we sit through yet another long six-hour maintenance window (this really makes a person miss the 10-30 minute downtimes RIFT sees), I finally have no more excuses to push back this post. It’s time to review the first 30 levels of playing the Imperial Agent: Sniper.

In general, the Sniper plays as typically as the scouts, rangers, hunters, and marksmen you might be used to from other games. It is, in fact, very similar to the Hunter from World of Warcraft – whether this is good or bad is up to you to decide. In the simplest terms, the Sniper blows stuff up while his companion, Kaliyo, keeps the enemies targeted on her. A Sniper that specializes in Marksmanship, the focus at this site, delivers that damage from around the 30 meter mark. But there’s a lot more to it then standing up and blasting indiscriminately, so read through the cut for the details.

The First Ten (1-10)

Like any game worth its salt, the first ten levels run much like a tutorial. The first four levels take all of 15 minutes. Depending on how many extra quests you do, you can clear your first planet, Hutta, inside of two to four hours. Kaliyo will join you around level six or seven. If you are just starting out on your first character, take your time. Hutta is not a pretty place, but it’s a great training ground to master your early skills, some of which will become staples in your regular rotation.

  • CoverThis is the class defining mechanic. All Agents use cover but it is vital to the Sniper as nearly every high-damage attacks cannot even be used outside of cover. Cover also provides some protection from ranged attackers but don’t count on it to save your hide.
  • SnipeYour standard energy dump, Snipe can only be used from cover and has a short, 1.5-second cast time. Through the course of a fight, Snipe will be your go-to attack, dealing the most damage of any of your attacks to this point.
  • Explosive ProbeThis probe sticks to an enemy and explodes when the target takes damage, dealing significant damage. It has a 30-second long cooldown, essentially rendering it a once-per-fight attack against normal enemies.

Aside from these attacks, you can use Overload Shot for quick bursts of damage outside of cover, Flash Bang to stun enemies for a short time, and Fragmentation Grenades for a small amount of area damage. Shiv is useful if the enemy gets close. Of course, use your regular Rifle Shot when energy is low.

During these first 10 levels, master your basic skills. Get into cover quickly, open combat with a pre-loaded Snipe, drop an Explosive Probe and start laying down the Snipes until your energy runs out. If you get knocked out of cover, get in again as soon as possible. If you’ve got to kite an enemy, you’ve really only got Overload and Rifle Shots to rely on – Debilitate is great to get some distance but with a 45-second cooldown you’ve really only got one chance to take the enemy down.

Cruise-control Through the Teens (11-20)

Where the first ten flash by in an instant, the next ten levels bring an easy ride.

After leaving Hutta, you briefly visit the military hub of the Empire, Vaiken Spacedock, also known as the Imperial Fleet. Over the next 40 levels, this space station will be the hub for all Flashpoint activity. Flashpoints are the small group “dungeons” of SWTOR. Every 3-5 levels a new Flashpoint becomes available. That said, the first thing you will do at the Imperial Fleet is choose your advanced class (AC) and train your crew skills. Here at The Blaster, we do it from range, so we’ll assume you are focusing on the Sniper Marksman AC.

Over the next 10 levels, your Sniper skills will develop fairly quickly and you’ll ease into the rotation you’ll be using all the way through 50. You’ll gain several new abilities, nearly all of which require you to be in Cover.

  • AmbushYour new bread and butter. Ambush deals massive damage but engages a relatively long 2.5-second cast time, along with a 15-second cooldown. Given the longer induction time, it’s best to start combat with this ability.
  • TakedownThink of this as a “finisher” attack. Once your enemy drops below 30% health, you start firing this off every 12 seconds. As an added bonus, this ability can be fired from outside of cover, which you might find often happening as you kite enemies after Kaliyo eats the dirt.
  • DistractionThis ability doesn’t really come into its own until the mid- to late-20s, but it’s worth mentioning now; Distraction is a combined “silence plus interrupt.” It will stop an enemy’s current cast and stop them from using it for four seconds. This becomes more important than you know when your opponents start healing themselves.

Some additional abilities that come in handy you gain in the teens are Escape, Adrenaline Probe, Slice Droid, and, of course, Sprint. Escape allows you to break free from enemy stuns and snares once every two minutes. Adrenaline Probe gives you an extra burst of energy regen, especially handy against elites. Slice Droid is crowd control, allowing you to stun a droid for 60 seconds. Finally Sprint is like your first mount – you’ll move 35% faster when out of combat.

From levels 10 to 20 you will head off to Drommand Kaas, the seat of the Empire, and Balmorra, a planet ravaged by an illegal war between the Republic and Empire. Both planets feature very easy, linear storyline progression and quests that require very little effort to complete. Towards the end of Balmorra, when you venture into the bonus quest line, the difficulty begins to ramp up slightly, mostly due to the quantity of enemies you have to cut through (it’s like Starship Troopers up in this place). Enjoy it because the next planets are no cake walk.

The Middle Ages (21-30)

At this point, you should be well versed in your abilities and limitations. Keeping Kaliyo between you and your enemy, using your limited crowd control capabilities, and managing the fight are the keys to playing a Sniper well. Put Kaliyo on the strong enemies, pick off the weak ones first, and then burn your cooldowns to drop the rest. You’ll get a few extra abilities to work with also.

  • Suppressive FireFinally an area damage attack worth a damn. Suppressive Fire hits three targets for a fairly significant amount of damage. Given that most packs of enemies at this point are groups of 3, often with one strong, Suppressive Fire can cut down the weak enemies thus saving your high damage shots for the strong enemy.

The difficulty of side quests in the late 20s begins to really ramp up, especially on Alderaan. Thankfully, you’ve got Nar Shaddaa and Tatooine to wean you into it. The levels really start to slow down from here on out as well. Be sure you pick up every side-quest you can find to keep a decent pace. Up til this point, doing Heroics and Flashpoints have just been cheddar – at this point it’s worth grabbing a group to do them for the extra experience.

At level 25 you gain access to your first mount. It costs 40,000 credits for the Speeder Piloting training and 8,000 credits for a speeder. Set the cash aside early because traveling around Tatooine and Alderaan will be a pain without it.

Welcome to the New Imperial Intelligence

Without spoiling it, early into your 30s your class quest line will take you on quite the adventure. It will take everything you’ve learned over the last 30-plus levels to accomplish the quest line alone. It’ll be much more entertaining if you bring a friend along. After your adventure, the outlook on the Empire is much different and you begin to take a much more active role in the war. So enjoy the simple life of a Cipher Agent while you can – the Republic won’t let it last for long!

What’s Next?

For the next server downtime I’m gonna drum up a little more opinion. There’s a lot to be said about the game and BioWare. Many of my friends ask if the game is worth the unusually high buy-in cost. They want to know if it appears BioWare knows what they are doing, considering they have been focused on console crossovers and story telling for so long. My next post will address these things and the rest of the strengths and weaknesses that SWTOR currently experiences. Check back again soon and don’t forget to subscribe to Twitter and Facebook for updates!

One Response to “Plugging Through the Grind: Sniper at 30”

  1. Muthy Says:

    great read thanks for writing it!.

    [Reply]

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