Class Preview: The Trooper

Anyone could be forgiven for placing the Republic Trooper last on the list of SWTOR’s must-play classes  Troopers are, of course, good and resourceful soldiers, but who wants to be a Republic red shirt, with none of the Jedi or Sith light-shows and Force-driven physicality, none of Agent imperiousness,  and none of the Smuggler’s wit?

Well, I do, though I didn’t realize it at first. SWTOR is about story, and the Trooper’s conflicts revolve around following orders  and the good of the Republic and, not least of all, his or her own conscience. Those three variables seldom line up tidily, which makes for a surprisingly complex Trooper experience. And, not to mention, the Trooper wields the biggest guns, the heaviest armor, and… did we mention an ionizing radiation flamethrower?

The Story So Far

As if the Republic doesn’t have its hands full with the Empire, Ord Mantell is in revolt. The Republic Trooper, a new replacement for the Republic’s storied Havoc Squad, is sent in to quell rebel forces, and in the process reveals an insidious plot that runs far deeper than a simple Mantellian struggle for independence.

Combat

The Republic Trooper combines excellent armor with decent damage dealing, buffs, and even some healing past level 10.

Trooper Vanguard Defining Points:

  • Wears Heavy Armor and wields best available defensive tech
  • Specializes in short-range maneuvers
  • Close-in defensive specialist – a “walking fortress”

Trooper Commando Defining Points:

  • Wears Heavy Armor and wields best available ranged weaponry
  • Specializes in assault cannons, specialized blaster munitions, and advanced medical probes
  • Hard-hitting ranged damage dealer

Prior to specialization at level 10, The Trooper gains several buff abilities in the first 10 levels:

Fortification – Increases solo or party endurance.

Plasma Cell – Only one “cell” abilities can be active at a time, this one offers a slight chance to do a decent amount of extra elemental damage every few seconds.

With the exception of the basic attack, Hammer Shot, and Tenacity (a longer cooldown ability that clears all negative effects), most of the Trooper’s attacks are enabled by a resource unsurprisingly called Ammo. Like a Jedi’s Focus, Ammo can be recharged either by resting or with the Recharge Cells ability.

Sticky Grenade - A great way to lead off any tough fight, Sticky Grenade puts weaker enemies into a state of panic for a few seconds before doing AoE damage with knockback.

Explosive Round and its big brother upgrade, Mortar Volley, rain explosive rounds onto a group enemies, a little like a grenade launcher.  These deals considerable damage at a considerable Ammo cost, but better yet, it knocks down all but the toughest enemies.

High Impact Bolt – A great follow-up to the above two abilties, High Impact Bolt is a heavy damage attack that can only be used against enemies that have been knocked down or are suffering from a Damage Over Time (DoT) attack.

Pulse Cannon – Possibly my favorite ability, at least visually speaking, Pulse Cannon works like a flamethrower of ionizing radition, dealing respectable elemental damage over a short distance.

Full Auto – A decent ability to swap in place of the Hammer Shot attack every few keypresses, Full Auto does about double the damage of basic attack with a slightly longer cooldown.

Stockstrike – Troopers engage most of their enemies at a distance, but some enemies charge to melee range. Stockstrike is effective against hard-charging enemies, dealing moderate damage to enemies at short range.

I also explored several Commando abilities before I hit my NDA limit:

Charged Bolts – A specialized attack with the massive Trooper-only Assault Cannon, this is the heavy duty variant of Full Auto.

Medical Probe – Summons a fun little hovering probe that heals you or a groupmate for a large amount of hitpoints.

Companions

It makes sense that a Republic Trooper’s first companion would be a subordinate in the military command structure, and Sergeant Aric Jorgan is a casualty of the collapsing Republic in more ways than one.  Hard-bitten and small of stature but scrappy and loyal, Aric is a rare product of the Republic military – both capable and incorruptible. The Republic Trooper is assigned his or her first companion – no out-of-the-way questing is required.

Aric Jorgan’s Abilities

Burst – Jorgan’s basic attack hits for respectable damage.

Quickshot – Another ranged attack which hits for slightly more than Burst, with a longer cooldown.

Sniper  Mode – Increases the damage of the companions non-instant (“activation time”) weapon abilities and decreases the activation time of Aimed Blast. On the downside, Sniper Mode disables the use of AoE attacks for the companion.

Thermal Bomb – A medium range AoE attack that deals damage to three close-packed opponents .

Impressions:

I doubt that Star Wars: The Old Republic offers a more straightforward class than the Republic Trooper, at least over the first ten or so levels.  You knock enemies over with explosions and the you blast them till you run out of Ammo, then you blast them with basic attacks, occasionally using a stim or medpak to get through a tough fight.

I never had to change tactics to, say, deal with humanoid opponents as opposed to droids, or react to a boss enemy’s tells. Unlike my experience with the Jedi Knight, I didn’t particularly enjoy acrobatically cutting my way through groups of enemies – as the Trooper I’d skirt around enemies whenever possible. I didn’t care as much about maximizing experience gains as much as I cared about getting to the next fascinating story twist.

Pre-level 9, the excitement of the game as a Trooper was mostly of the button mashing, dice rolling nature, but things become more interesting with the addition of my companion. Aric deals (and soaks up) a surprising amount of damage, and provides some interesting dialogue options.  Though I’ve mostly managed to stay on Aric’s good side, I could tell how our relationship could become icy at any number of junctures.

The weird thing is that I’m talking about an AI companion in terms of a “relationship”, and I actively chose dialogue options that I felt would gain his respect. Aric is a third party to every interaction, and occasionally I had to lose companion influence to gain light side points. But, unlike light side and dark side points, I couldn’t tell whether my decision would impact my companion until after I’d made my choice.

In addition to his own basic equipment (chest, leggings, and boots), Aric can be equipped with belts, gloves, and other castoff accessories from the Trooper.  I thought this would quickly become a chore and possibly cut into my credit flow (and it still might as the game grows in complexity), but along with copious opportunities to upgrade or degrade my companion influence, inventory management made Aric feel a little more like a real player.

The Republic Trooper was, in short, a pleasant surprise. Rather than presenting a garden variety grunt slogging along in the wake of someone else’s orders, BioWare has woven an interesting narrative confronting some of the gut-twisting emotional conflicts that real life soldiers face. On occasion, and without spoiling any surprises, dialogue options required a fair amount of intelligence and adaptability in the field. As icing on the cake, the addition of Aric Jorgan provided resonance for even fairly mundane dialogue choices, and it’s clear that the BioWare trademark of meaningful in-game relationships is well represented in what is (undeservedly) SWTOR’s least popular class.

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