So today I'd like to introduce you to my new (for the moment) main character in Star Wars: The Old Republic. And to borrow a phrase from a favorite vlogger of mine, we shall simply call him the "BAMF of the Day." I'll leave it up to you to decipher what exactly that means. ;)
Much of this post today is going to be comparing him to my decrepit Smuggler and why Mr. BAMF has turned out to be pretty much everything I had once hoped she would be. There will be minor storyline spoilers for both the Smuggler and the Bounty Hunter in this post, so if you don't want to be spoiled at all, you may want to skip it. I will make sure and not mention any significant plot points though, so if you don't mind some little tidbits, I won't be giving away anything huge. So let's break it down point by point and see why Mr. BAMF comes out on top.
Since it is SW:TOR's biggest selling point, let's start off with the storyline comparison between the Smuggler and the Bounty Hunter. Both stories start off ok, with both classes doing the kind of things you would expect them to be doing. The Smuggler is out for "fortune and glory," and the Hunter is hunting things. The difference here was in the presentation. The Smuggler episodes in Chapter 1 felt like nothing but one "fetch quest" after another. The background was largely unimportant, or not emphasized enough to hide the "fetch" nature of what you were doing. It just felt unsatisfying. In comparison, the episodes of the Hunter's Chapter 1 felt more involved. As you tracked your prey across each planet, you felt one step closer to your goal each time. In the end it's all relative to your perspective, but I just thought the narrative was much better presented for the Bounty Hunter.
Once Chapter 2 begins though, it is simply no contest at all. The Smuggler story takes a detour into contrived stupidity where the Bounty Hunter story continues in a logical direction. To summarize as spoiler-less as possible, basically someone tries to kill the Smuggler (shocking, right?) and when you find out that someone works for the Sith Empire, you immediately cast your lot with the Republic and sign up as a "privateer." Huh? Just like that you give up the free roaming lifestyle and commit to the Republic? I'm sorry. Maybe this made sense to some of you, but I found it just a pathetically contrived way to explain why a neutral type of character would work for only one faction. I have no interest in being a Republic lackey, and seeing my character "roll over" so easily really took the wind out of my sails.
The Bounty Hunter on the other hand, his story continues to make sense in Chapter 2. You continue doing the kind of things a Hunter would be doing, and there is no contrived attempt to explain why you are working exclusively for the Empire. The implication is simply that as a Bounty Hunter you are affiliated with the Mandalorians and they are Sith allies. End of story. No further attempts at explanation needed. And the story involves some of the unexpected pitfalls that come with the level of notoriety your character is attaining. All in all, it is just way more satisfying than the Smuggler and makes more sense to me. And since story is what drives this game, this makes a huge difference in my enjoyment of a character.
I'll preface my remarks in this section with the disclaimer that yes I understand my Smuggler is healing spec'd. I know she isn't going to do as much damage as my fully damage spec'd Bounty Hunter. But I knew that from Day 1 when I rolled her. This was not something I discovered over time. Almost from the very beginning I felt that my Smuggler was not performing as well as I would like. Yes her damage output was lower, but I expected that the healing and survivability that I would have would make up for this. The problem is that this advantage never materialized. Call me a bad player if you must, but I don't think I am. I have been playing this style of game for a long time. My damage was poor as expected, but my healing never made up for it. My companions fold like tissue paper if I don't focus healing on them constantly. And if I do that and do no damage to the mobs, it takes my companions forever to kill things on their own. Yes they can do it, but the time involved is absurd.
Mr. BAMF on the other hand, shreds mobs like nothing. Taking on two or three Strong mobs is hardly an issue, and he doesn't even blink an eye at Elites thanks to his damage output and healing companion. I'll cover the companion issue a bit more in depth in a minute. But suffice to say it works so much better for me to do the damage while my companion tries to keep me alive. The opposite scenario on my Smuggler ends up with me utterly frustrated and my companion (usually) dead. Mr. BAMF is just a walking one man arsenal. He has solid AoE abilities, great single-target damage, and even some melee tricks for when mobs close the distance. He is the classic ranged fighter as opposed to the confused melee/ranged hybrid that my Smuggler tries to be. Her healing abilities make you want to stay at range, but being a Scoundrel, much of her best damage dealing must be done at melee range. It just doesn't work... at least not for me. Mr. BAMF is just an organic Terminator.
Ok I touched on this above, but I wanted to devote an entire "section" to this because it really did play a huge role in my change from the Smuggler to Bounty Hunter. Let me introduce you to the "Greatest Starting Companion in the Entire Frakkin' Game." (tm)
This here is little miss Mako. She is without any doubt the best of the starting companions. I've played six of the eight classes through their starting planets (all but Trooper and Sith Inquisitor) and the Bounty Hunter gets the absolute cream of the crop in companions with Mako. Why? Simple. She's a healer. I think she's the only starting companion that is. I can't tell you how much of a huge difference this has made. Is NPC healing going to be great? No, but it doesn't have to be. You have consumables. You have cooldowns. And you are logical enough to use them. All the companion has to do is give you that edge to stay alive, and Mako does that fabulously. I've picked up two other companions since and I've never used them in combat once. They are just crafting bots. Mako and I are joined at the hip... at least until I get to Hoth and acquire Blizz. At that point, she may have to "retire" to the ship for a while so I can amuse myself with a rocket launcher armed Jawa. ;)
Which brings me to the other reason the Bounty Hunter companions are superior... again, story. Mako is interesting. I care about her background. I want to know more about her. My other two companions are somewhat less interesting, but I will enjoy digging through their backgrounds once I am done with Mako's story. My Smuggler? Her "crew" is like a carnival of idiots. I could care less about any of them. None of them have anything interesting to say or contribute. I do not feel compelled to get them to talk about their past, or to explore issues they bring up. They are entirely uninteresting to me and contribute nothing to my story or gameplay experience. You have Corso "wanna-be Scotty" Riggs. Whoever wrote this guy was an idiot. Then you have the obligatory Wookiee, who is nothing but a Chewbacca cliche. And Risha... who could be interesting but the way she was introduced as a full companion was so underwhelming I just didn't care. Once again, Mr. BAMF wins hands down.
The Little Things
Those are the major things that drove my change to the Bounty Hunter, but there are some other small details that added up too. I find space battles more entertaining as an Imperial. As Republic, assaulting Imperial destroyers is way too easy. The turrets are all in nice little lines for you to strafe. As an Imperial, assaulting Republic destroyers is actually a bit interesting. The damn things are so oddly shaped and the turrets are in little clusters all over the ship. Knocking a ton of them out at once is difficult due to the space between them. A very minor detail in the broader scheme of things, but even little things add up.
Another minor detail is that I find it easier to be either light or dark side as an Imperial. You can justify a lot of light side decisions as an Imperial by considering yourself principled, or simply looking out for the greater good of the Empire, while dark side decisions can be interpreted as conveying the brutality that the Sith are known for. I found it much harder to justify dark side decisions as a Republic player. Yes every government does things that are shady, the Republic included, but many dark side choices aren't just "shady." I really struggled to find context for many of them. I know some of you are laughing right now "lol rp, just take the convo that gives the points you want." Many people play that way, and that is your right, and I don't begrudge that. But for me, I am trying to adhere to a concept as I play my characters. For various reasons, I just find that easier to do as an Imperial.
So will I ever return to the Republic? Oh definitely at some point. I was actually starting to enjoy my Jedi Counselor a bit. Shadow tanking is odd, but rewarding. And maybe even some day I'll pick the Smuggler back up again. But for today, it's back to the hunt for me. Glory to the Empire!