Ever since the class was first announced I've wanted to play a Smuggler as my main character. The idea of playing the charming scoundrel in a story-based game appealed, as did the new cover mechanic that was described. Plus I think Han Solo is still the best character in the entire movie series.
During my time in beta I deliberately played two classes far removed from the Smuggler, both on the Sith Empire faction; the Sith Warrior and the Bounty Hunter. That way when the game launched I would come to the Smuggler class completely fresh, both in terms of mechanics and story.
So, how have I found it? Have I regretted my decision or been happy with my choice? Is the Smuggler a charming scoundrel with a heart of gold, or a scruffy-looking nerf herder destined to end up encased in carbonite? Read on to find out...
I have to admit, for the first 30 minutes of playing Merec, my new Smuggler character, I began to wonder if I had made the wrong choice. There were a few reasons for this.
First of all, the class played completely differently to both the Sith Warrior and the Bounty Hunter I had played in beta, and I wasn't sure if I liked it. This was mainly down to the cover mechanic, which I'll discuss in more detail below. Initially I found this mechanic to be a little clunky and strange; I've never played anything quite like it in an MMO before, and I found the character lacked the mobility of the Sith Warrior or Bounty Hunter in combat. Additionally, the very first quest I was given was a basic go-kill type quest (though it turned out this was just an excuse to get me out of the ships hanger to allow for what would come later) in an urban environment that lacked the natural beauty of Hutta and Korriban which I had enjoyed when playing in beta. Finally, my character did not look "cool" in the way my BH or SW had.
An hour later and all those doubts disappeared.
The story began to kick in and was really great fun. I mean absolutely brilliant. Funny, exciting and completely Star Wars-esque. I won't discuss it here, check the spoiler-filled section below for that. The environment changed once I got out of the very initial starting area (after about 30 minutes) into a realistic and stark portrayal of a planet at war. Broken war machines littered the landscape, fighters roared and sped overhead, and refugees made camps trying to escape the bloodshed, whilst I ran around forging ties with the local underworld and trying to make cash in any way I could.
My character began to pick up some great looking equipment, and I was soon running round looking for all the world like a member of a Han Solo cosplay convention.
More importantly, after those initial sticky first 30 minutes struggling with the cover mechanic, I was rolling into cover like a pro, popping up to unleash a charged shot or lob a grenade at a group of separatist soldiers before running in (whilst continuing to blast away) to crack one of them around the head with the butt of my blaster before using Possibly-The-Best-MMO-Ability-Ever™ on the remaining fighter (more on that later).
The Smuggler might not be as immediate as the two classes I played in beta, especially for someone used to traditional MMO mechanics, but it quickly makes up for that. I absolutely love playing my Smuggler. It is, quite simply, so much fun.
I'm going to discuss spoilers here for the very early part of the Smuggler's story and some of the story of Ord Mantell, the planet on which the class begins its adventures. Therefore you'll need to click the button below if you want to find out my thoughts.
|Overlooking the separatists base on Ord Mantell.|
So, as I said, I initially had issues with the cover system, but found they were short lived. As natural cover gives more defensive bonuses than just crouching I actually began to approach fights in a way that would maximise the cover I could use, rather than just charging in. For example, sometimes I would sneak round to the side of a group of enemies in order to make use of some rocks or crates, rather than making a frontal assault.
After an hour or so of fighting it became second nature and I was rolling into cover, running round whilst blasting, then rolling into more cover in a kind of mobile-but-strategic manner. It's a lot of fun.
The Smuggler's initial abilities are a little lack luster, but after a few levels I had garnered several damage abilities (most of which could only be used from cover), ranged AoE attacks through the use of grenades, a DOT (damage-over-time) and a couple of CC (crowd control) abilities, one single target, the other AoE. I had also received Possibly-The-Best-MMO-Ability-Ever™.
|Dirty Kick: Does what it says on the tin.|
Dirty Kick does exactly what it says on the tin. I know I'm supposed to be playing a ranged class, but I just can't help running up to a mob and using Dirty Kick on them sometimes. Kicking an enemy in the nuts just never gets old! It also has some strategic uses.
There was something great about the way the combat flowed, and I found myself reacting to the action rather than running through a rotation every time. For example, I was fighting a group of separatists, crouched behind a rock as cover. I killed two of the three, then suddenly the remaining separatist shot a grappling hook at me and pulled back on it's tether, yanking me out of cover, through the air over the rocks and right into melee range!
My enemy's bravado did not last long. One quick kick to the happy sacks and he was bent double, gripping his crotch and yowling in pain, giving me time to clock him over the head with the butt of my blaster, roll back into cover, and lob a grenade in his direction. I was laughing like a loon as this played out; just so much fun.
After a slightly vanilla look to begin with I had soon managed to gather some better gear, and the archetypal appearance of a Han Solo type figure started to take shape.
So, I am now approaching the end of my time on Ord Mantell, about to board The Esseles and travel to the Republic Fleet on Carrick Station. That will bring some interesting choices I have to make that will define my character going forwards. I will need to pick my Advanced Class and pick my Crew Skills (crafting skills).
There are two choices for Advanced Class, Gunslinger or Scoundrel. Gunslingers are a pure dps class, and their skill trees allow them to specialise in either cover-based attacks (Sharpshooter skill tree) or explosives and tech (Saboteur skill tree). Scoundrels can either be healers (by specialising in the Sawbones skill tree) or stealthy, melee-focused dps (if they specialise in the Scrapper tree).
I think I am probably going to choose Gunslinger. We have plenty of healers in our guild as it is, and I plan to make a pure healing Jedi Consular alt at some point anyway. The ranged dps style of the Gunslinger, coupled with the ability to dual wield blasters is appealing. The fact that SWTOR has the companion characters system means I will be able to use my companions to tank or heal as I see fit, allowing me to solo well as a dps class. I also think that a pure dps Smuggler may do better in PvP than a healing-focused one, due to the medium armour and lack of mobility that the cover system brings.
I'm still not sure what Crew Skills to pick. DarthHater has an interesting article up about picking the right Crew Skills, so I may be guided by that. My current choice is between Armormech, Armstech and Cybertech, but I probably won't make a final decision until I am forced to. Whatever I pick I'll be writing up my thoughts here in the future.
|Merec on his way to make more credits.|
So, there we go. One of the strongest feelings I had from my time with The Old Republic in beta was just how much fun I found it to play. Playing the Smuggler class has only intensified that feeling of fun, and I can't wait to see what scrapes Merec gets into next. Whatever happens I'll make sure I shoot first, get the girl and make as many credits as I can!