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What's Your (Advanced) Class?

Michael Bitton Posted:
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In recent weeks we’ve discussed a number of classes in Star Wars: The Old Republic. More specifically, we’ve taken a look at both the Jedi and the Smuggler classes. But players’ class choices don’t end there in Star Wars: The Old Republic, as each class eventually branches off into one of two possible Advanced Classes.

Last week’s Friday Update gave us additional insight on the Advanced Class system as part of a write-up by SW:TOR’s Principal Lead Systems Designer Georg Zoeller. Georg uses the article to shed some light on the mechanics involved with Advanced Classes and to address community concerns and questions regarding the system.

Georg starts things off by explaining why Bioware chose to do Advanced Classes to begin with, “As you know, a core feature of Star Wars: The Old Republic is that we are shipping the game with eight classes – each with an epic story, full voiceover, quests and cinematics. This creates a very unique game experience for each of them, something never done in an MMO before.

Furthermore, we wanted to ensure that we had the flexibility to support several play-styles within each of these eight classes. So we built Advanced Classes into the game from the ground up to provide us with the ability to create and support different gameplay and roles inside each class. “

Fair enough. In most games, you might have seen these Advanced Classes be their own distinct full classes, but taking into consideration the aforementioned epic storyline, full voiceover, quests, and cinematics, it would appear that going with the Advanced Classes system allows Bioware to do what they sought out to do without leaving certain playstyles out in the wind.

In designing the game’s Advanced Classes, Bioware made sure to address some of the more popular traditional MMO playstyles, such as the highly sought after (and often elusive!) healer, while also adding some of their own spice to the mix by creating variants on these archetypes. For example, a “Vanguard” Trooper can tank, even though he is a ranged class, rather atypical for most traditional MMOs. Of course, the Trooper isn’t the only tank option on the Republic side, as the more traditional melee tank can be found in the Jedi Knight’s Guardian Advanced Class.

Choosing an Advanced Class is a permanent choice, and provides players with access to two skill sets unique to their Advanced Class. However, a third skill set that is shared between both Advanced Classes is also available. I often like to think of this setup as being similar to Age of Conan in a way. While a Ranger starts out as a Ranger in Conan, the classes are split across several archetypes which share a number of base abilities and even a common talent tree.

Georg selected the Smuggler class in order to illustrate how the system works. Players who choose the Smuggler start out simply as a Smuggler and can then branch off to either the Scoundrel or the Gunslinger. Each Advanced Class then has access to two unique skill-sets. The Scoundrel can go down the Scrapper or Sawbones paths. The latter path is a reference to the slang term used for surgeons during the American Civil War who performed amputations quite frequently.

The Scrapper has access to the powerful Scatter Gun which inspires thoughts of the Scout’s Force-a-Nature weapon in Valve’s Team Fortress 2 given its knockback capabilities, a variety of dirty melee moves, and a Stealth Field Generator, which is self-explanatory.

The Sawbones path, as one would imagine, is the Smuggler’s healing/support skill-set. We’ve known for some time that the Smuggler would be able to heal, but I wasn’t sure whether or not it would get a tree entirely dedicated to support/healing abilities. Unfortunately, we don’t learn too much about this tree other than the fact it will give players access to the Emergency Medpack. I don’t really know how I feel about Smuggler’s serving in any sort of healing role. It’s a bit of a jump to go from Han Solo stuffing Luke into a Taun-Taun to keep him warm in Empire Strikes Back to saying he could be some sort of medic type. Maybe I’m missing something, but I’m still left wondering what exactly their inspiration for this one was.

The Gunslinger Advanced Class focuses on blaster-oriented abilities and appears to be capable at dealing high damage in both single target and AOE configurations. To that end, the Gunslinger can head down the Sharpshooter or Dirty Fighting paths.

The Sharpshooter features a variety of self and team buffs and a focus on cover-based abilities, while a Dirty Fighting spec’d Gunslinger gains access to Shrapnel Bombs which bolster his AOE capabilities, and can take advantage of status-effects such as “Shot In The Back” that gives him the upper-hand over opponents looking for a straight fight.

Of the two, the Gunslinger side of the Smuggler sounds a great deal more interesting and a bit more in line with what I expect when thinking of a Smuggler. I have to admit I’m a bit torn between both Gunslinger paths though. Hopefully pursuing a hybrid path is a viable option in Star Wars: The Old Republic. And yes, I realize that Georg mentioned that players could go the “Stealth Healer” route by spending points in the Scrapper and Sawbones paths. Whether or not this ends up being viable in the game is obviously unknown at this time. For example, World of Warcraft focuses (or will focus) fairly strongly on specialization (even though you can spend points across three trees), so while most games provide options in the form of talent trees, going hybrid isn’t always the best route in high level play.

The third and final skill set of the Smuggler is called “Luck” and this set is shared between both Advanced Classes. “Luck” focuses on improving the Smuggler’s base class abilities. Examples given include increased energy regeneration while in Cover and the ability to land “Very Critical Hits” when using Dirty Kick. The latter example has me imagining “Very Critical Hit!” fly text over some guy’s head in PvP after being hit with a Dirty Kick, and this alone may be enough for me to want to take it!

Players’ Advanced Class selection determines more than what skill-sets they can access. It also determines their look and equipment options, including “special Lightsaber types, heavy weapons, gadgets and armor.” This isn’t news to most gamers following SW:TOR, but it’s one part of the game I found particularly disappointing. I admit this is more related to the Force user classes than anything else. I see no reason why a Knight should be disallowed from using a double-bladed lightsaber or a Consular from dual-wielding lightsabers. Bioware also seems to be following Valve’s Team Fortress 2 “silhouette design”, whereby other players can be identified easily through the silhouette of their characters (yes, I realize the TF2 hat craze kind of warps that a bit now), and that’s a bit unfortunate, but that’s just the “I love my individuality!” in me creeping out. I realize this won’t apply to most of you reading this.

Obviously, we don’t know as much about the other Advanced Classes as we do of the Smuggler’s now, but I’m sure many of you have something picked out anyways, so I must ask: What Advanced Class will you be playing?

Barring any disappointing any revelations, I’m interested in the Sniper for the Imperial Agent, because, well, I like to shoot things from afar! The stabby-stabby-stab of the Operative is also appealing, though. In fact, I leaned towards it quite a bit during my E3 demo of the game earlier this year, so much so that Daniel Erickson walked over to me and commented on this fact. He seemed like a pretty big fan of it himself. There is something satisfying about running around stabbing things in the face, which is what I had to do as I didn’t have access to stealth yet, and I wasn’t going to let that hold me back from getting my stab on.

Share your thoughts on your favorite Advanced Class (so far!) in the comments below!


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB