Nov 22, 2011

Posted by in The Smuggler's Blues | 4 Comments

The Smuggler’s Blues: Sneak Preview, 5 Credits Only

Introduction

“Kid, I’ve flown from one side of this galaxy to the other, and I’ve seen a lot of strange stuff, but I’ve never seen *anything* to make me believe that there’s one all-powerful Force controlling everything. ‘Cause no mystical energy field controls *my* destiny.” –Han Solo, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been fortunate enough to get some hands-on time playing the Smuggler class in The Old Republic beta test, and I wanted to share some of my experiences with other readers. First, I’m going to try and keep this relatively spoiler-free as far as story and quests go – I’ll cover some general impressions, but I also don’t want to give away unexpected plot hooks.

And here, the Smuggler, in her natural habitat.

Now that being said, I think the Smuggler leveling experience does a fantastic job – and, in fact, having played a few classes I’d argue potentially the best – at really capturing that original Star Wars feel to it. If you’re a fan of the movies, you’ll immediately recognize some iconic Han scenes as you play your Smuggler. I think the first one appears around your third quest or so – there I was, just getting the feel of my new Smuggler character and beginning the quests and then bam! There’s my Smuggler, acting in a way that was almost clip for clip from the original Star Wars: A New Hope movie.

Now for me, I loved it – after all, my decision to play a Smuggler was so I could channel a Han-type Scoundrel, and so I really enjoyed the nostalgia from being not only able to recognize certain iconic movie moments, but to actually experience my character acting them out.

In a more general sense, movie scenes aside – the Smuggler is more of a traditional rogue character than the other classes. You’ll find that you’re a lot less survivable than your Republic compatriots, having to rely on medium armor and the frequent use of cover to survive the chaos of Ord Mantell, rather than being able to go toe-to-toe with the adversaries the way Troopers do. That said, if you don’t mind doing a bit of bobbing and weaving, duck-and-cover style gameplay, the Smuggler is incredibly fun with a dynamic combat play style as well as a very engaging story.

Character

“Look, Your Worshipfulness, let’s get one thing straight. I take orders from just one person: me.” –Han Solo, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

Your Smuggler begins the adventure as a fairly cliché brigand, though you can shift this somewhat as you play depending on the dialogue choices you select. In general though, I found the dialogue choices to be roughly broken down as “Honest/Heroic”, “Dangerous/Greedy/Sarcastic”, and “Flirtatious/Funny”. These vary depending on who you are interacting with, of course, but there always seemed to be a straight man answer, a somewhat opportunistic or insolent answer, and then depending on your character’s gender and the quest-giver, either a flirty response or some sort of witty or humorous one.

Lando isn't the only scoundrel who can rock a cape.

This allows you to play your character in a number of different ways – everything from the classic Han-type of good guy with a bit of sarcasm or humor, to a true upstanding and law-abiding citizen, to a “what’s in it for me” mercenary, to a thug or bully. Personally speaking, I thought they did a pretty good job of capturing a number of rogue/thief archetypes in the dialogue choices. In fact, there are very few times where I found myself wanting to select a response other than one of the three broad categories for each quest dialogue.

My only complaint here was that sometimes, what your character actually says is quite a bit different from what the dialogue choices might indicate – though I remember running into that in Mass Effect 2 as well. There also weren’t as many light side/dark side options as I remember from other classes in the starting zones, but these increase once you leave Ord Mantell.

Story

“Never tell me the odds!”  — Han Solo, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

To begin the story, you find yourself stranded on Ord Mantell, forced to get involved in a civil war you may or may not be interested in due to circumstances. You’ll meet the first two pivotal characters to your own player immediately, as soon as you begin the quest dialogues. Love them or hate them, get used to these two!  You’ll see them again as you progress.

The story itself is extremely engaging, and makes perfect sense within the context. Unlike a Trooper, a Smuggler may not be motivated by good old fashioned duty to the Republic or the need to follow orders from a commanding officer. Coming up with a justification for why someone that smuggles goods for a living is going to stick around this planet for a while was definitely a challenge, and I think BioWare did a good job in their story and explanation here.

This particular part of my story didn't end so well.

I also found that the story invested you, as a player, from the very first couple quests. I went from logging in expecting to think about leveling and getting companions to really feeling engaged by the story and wanting to advance the story – if for no other reason than wanting to give someone that desperately deserves it a very special Dirty Kick for when I finally do find him.

Abilities

“Uh, everything’s under control. Situation normal. We had a slight weapons malfunction, but uh… everything’s perfectly all right now. We’re fine. We’re all fine here now, thank you. How are you?” –Han Solo, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
The smuggler starts out at level 1 with the following abilities:

  • Take Cover/Crouch (cover mechanic, see combat section for more information)
  • Flurry of Bolts (Ranged single target damage attack)
  • Charged Burst (1.5 second cast time, high damage single target attack)
  • Sabotage Charge (An explosive you attach and then detonate with a second attack.  High damage burst, single target)
  • Recuperate (out of combat self heal, allowing the smuggler to rapidly regain health and energy)
  • Lucky Shots (5% critical buff to the smuggler and all allies)

If I can't see him, he can't see me!

After the initial level 1 abilities, the smuggler gains roughly one new ability per level in the starting zone, as follows:

  • Level 2: Blaster Whip (a close range melee attack, single target damage)
  • Level 3: Thermal Grenade (a ranged AoE damage attack, targeting up 5 enemies within an 8 meter distance)
  • Level 4: Dirty Kick (a close range melee stun that never gets old)
  • Level 5: Vital Shot (ranged bleed, or damage over time (DoT) attack)
  • Level 6: Flash Grenade (An AoE stun, affecting up to 5 enemies within an 8 meter distance)
  • Level 8: Quick Shot (short range direct damage attack, can fire with both blasters if dual wielding)
  • Level 9: Escape (removes all movement-impairing effects from the scoundrel)

Explosions! Mayhem! And enough smarminess to fill your light freighter.

Itemization

“Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.” — Han Solo, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

The Smuggler uses the iconic blaster as the weapon of choice, able to either single-wield or dual-wield them as they progress. Armor-wise, the smuggler favors light and medium armor, in particular capitalizing on the use of Cunning and Endurance in the lower levels of the game. Look for medium armor, blasters, and stims that contain bonuses to cunning. On Ord Mantell, these are called Basic Skill Stims – you’ll see them appear a fair bit as a quest reward.

As you level, you’ll look for other stats as well – but at this point in the game, gear is generally itemized for primary stats only. Aim is better than nothing as a stat, but not as beneficial for the Smuggler class as cunning.

Combat

“Well somebody has to save our skins. Into the garbage chute, flyboy.” — Princess Leia, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

The iconic combat ability for Smugglers is cover – it’s a core mechanic of the class, and one you’ll need to become very proficient in early on. While you can use a few of your abilities outside of cover (namely Flurry of Bolts and Thermal Grenade), the vast majority of your skills require that you be in cover. In practice, there are two ways to find cover – the better option is to look for the green crouching figure as you approach combat and target a hostile non-player character, and take cover there. This allows you to gain defensive bonuses and reduce incoming damage.

Failing that, or in places where you’re in open terrain without good cover options, you can crouch in place and gain the cover effect that way – it doesn’t reduce incoming damage at lower levels, but it will allow you to use all of your abilities.

No good cover nearby? No problem!

The Smuggler is a ranged damage per second (DPS) class, meaning they like to stay at range from enemies and fire their blasters from a nice, safe distance. Your starting max range is about 30 meters, though you do have some closer-range abilities for when you’re in melee, as well. The smuggler offers a good combination early on of Area of Effect (AoE) damage, stuns, self-healing, and straight up damage-dealing. That, combined with the cover mechanic, creates a very dynamic and interesting class to play, full of movement and speed as you engage foes.

Companion:

“You like me because I’m a scoundrel. There aren’t enough scoundrels in your life.” — Han Solo, Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back

Most classes receive their companion at some point during their starting planet experience. The smuggler is one of the luckier classes, able to get their companion at level 6-7 (depending on if you focus primarily on the story quests or work your way through side quests and story quests). Once you earn your companion, life on the road becomes a lot easier.

The companion is specifically designed to augment your class weaknesses, which in the smuggler’s case is survivability at low levels. In the case of the smuggler, your right hand man is none other than Corso Riggs, a bounty hunter/trooper-styled character who likes to wax poetic about guns and and stand in the way of incoming the blaster fire for you so you can do what Smugglers do best – shoot and hide.

Corso can be a bit of a stick-in-the-mud in terms of his responses to dialogue choices. He’s an old-fashioned gentleman, so he prefers that you’re polite to strangers and especially respectful of the ladies – even when they don’t exactly deserve respect (like, for instance, when they’re trying to kill you).  Fortunately, affection’s fairly easy to gain with him.

Corso, let's go to another party. This place is dead anyways.

The other thing I noticed is that playing a female Smuggler, he didn’t exactly take a shine to it when I’d flirt with the other NPCs. But hey, I’m a Smuggler! It’s in my nature. Other than that, he likes weapons, a LOT; in fact, if he was a little more self-interested and less gentlemanly, he’d remind me a lot of Jayne Cobb from Firefly.  He’s especially fond of Torchy (Corso names all his weapons), but really any type of weapon gift gets affection gains with Mr. Riggs.

Initially, I wasn’t very impressed with Corso – as a Smuggler, I wanted someone with a bit more panache and witty repartée, but the more I played, the more he grew on me. In fact, by the time you start really getting to know Corso, beginning on Coruscant, he’s actually a fairly interesting character – and much more complex than I gave him credit for. So in the end, he’s not an iconic Wookiee or drop-dead gorgeous partner-in-crime, but he’s good in combat and there’s definitely more to him than meets the eye.

Summary:

“You’re all clear, kid, now let’s blow this thing and go home!” — Han Solo, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

According to the official website, a Smuggler is, “An adventurous spirit who’s not afraid to break a few rules can make a handsome profit hauling cargo to these hotspots, but it requires fast reflexes, fast wits and a fast draw with a blaster.” The class truly fits that description to a T- the gameplay is fast and exciting, with a lot of somersaults and dodging, the dialogue choices are very sharp and well written, and the story is incredibly engaging from the very first few minutes of questing.

If you have a bit of recklessness in your spirit, or just chafe a little bit against the Republic’s form of organization and control and prefer a life of daring on the wild frontier, or if you find yourself gravitating towards the Han Solos and Malcolm Reynolds of the world, then you’ll really enjoy playing a Smuggler. Even if you don’t, it’s still worth playing through at least once – you may find yourself surprised by how much fun life with a good blaster at your side really is!

  1. Nice write up! I only got to spend a very small amount of time with the Smuggler during the 11-11-11 test. But even at levels 1-3, I already felt like the class is going to be fun to play. The cover dynamic works really well, I just hope it balances nicely in PvP.

    The dialogue wheel can send up some weird responses compared to what is written. I think part of the reasoning behind this choice is so that you as a player can still have a reaction to what the character is saying. If your smuggler says something really cool, but you’ve already read it, the smile on your face won’t be as big as when you aren’t quite expecting it.

    Of course the opposite is true as well. While playing a nice guy Trooper, I once threatened to kill someone, pretty nastily too! The guy was a scum bag, though, so it wasn’t really jarring, just not what I was expecting. It gave my character some emotion that I really connected with once he had said it.

  2. You know what I don’t get? I don’t get that reviewers relate to these great male characters and then show around their female character running around in the game. I guess a Han Solo quote since there is a no known Hollywood popular icon of a female smuggler? Other than that great article.

    • The author is female. The character she created is female. Unfortunately, the prime example of the character archetype in the genre is male. Can’t really blame her for playing what she wanted (for the record, that’s my smuggler pictured – the in-game screenshot tool is finicky).

      Probably be somewhat ineffectual if she kept relating to a lesser-known character from the expanded universe whom Professor Walsh knew intimately and the rest of us hadn’t heard of. And I don’t think those quotes lose their meaning when applied to either gender – it’s quite easy to apply them wholly to either side.

  3. Mike Honcho says:

    Nice article. Swingers quote FTW

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