Hyperspace Beacon: Man in the mirror

On Friday, our friends on the BioWare community team gave us a second progression video for the Bounty Hunter in Star Wars: The Old Republic. As with anything on the internet, the video wasn't above scrutiny and complaint by followers. The complaints ranged from "we already have a Bounty Hunter progression video" to "why don't we have a Jedi Consular video yet?" But that doesn't hit on the real issue: There were no fiery explosions for the Bounty Hunter to walk away from in slow motion! He just can't be cool unless he turns his back on the destruction like he just doesn't frelling care.

Despite the lack of carnage in the class progression video, we did glean insight into many of the class powers, some of which mirror its Republic counterpart: the Trooper. I know for marketing reasons and to keep from confusing the potential player, it's not a good idea to use the word "mirror" when describing The Old Republic classes. But it's hard to deny that the Imperial Bounty Hunter and the Republic Trooper are very much mirrored insofar as combat roles and abilities. After the break, I will explain to you what I see that is the same and what is different between the two classes. Then, in the end, I will let you decide whether the classes are truly mirrored or not.

Before I talk about the mirroring in two opposing classes, I want to point out one thing between the two existing class videos. Stephen Reid spoke in a forum post to address the different looks for the Bounty Hunter: "Regarding Bounty Hunter armor choices: this video doesn't show you every set in the game. There are many, many looks to be had. Let's not forget, as The Empire Strikes Back showed, there are many different looks to Bounty Hunters in the Star Wars universe." I absolutely agree with this statement 100%. We have seen many, many looks for the Bounty Hunter. However, I took the above screenshots from the two separate progression videos. Why did BioWare use the exact same Powertech armor for both top-tiered Bounty Hunters?

A friend of mine suggested that maybe the team is just running out of things to show us. I don't know about that, but perhaps since the game's story is shrouded in secrecy, if too much more is shown, it will give too much away. If I had known that (spoiler) the Collectors were Protheans or that (spoiler!) you were Revan, then it may have ruined part of the fun of the story. I will give BioWare the benefit of the doubt here. Maybe I'm just a fanboy, but that won't prevent me from confronting the possible class mirroring.

I don't think mirroring classes is necessarily a bad thing. I don't play BioWare games purely for gameplay mechanics. If we were talking about Team Fortress 2 by Valve, and if the Spy and the Scout had the same abilities, I may be a little upset because that game revolves purely around gaming mechanics. Maybe that's why I wasn't interested in Monday Night Combat by Uber Entertainment -- because it appeared to be the exact same game as Team Fortress 2 as far as mechanics were concerned. However, I love Mass Effect and Mass Effect 2, and I look forward to Mass Effect 3, even though the mechanics of the three games are relatively similar. I would not be upset at all if the Soldier class in all three of those games was exactly the same because the gameplay stretches beyond the mechanics. Likewise, I would not mind if the Bounty Hunter and the Trooper were the same class with different labels because my interest in the class extends beyond the mechanics.

There are definitely many ways the Bounty Hunter and Trooper are mirrored, even though they are marketed as different classes. As far as general class roles, they are definitely mirrored. When the advanced classes were originally announced for these two classes, Troopers and Bounty Hunters alike could be a ranged tank or DPS in a group. We suspected they would be mirrored for balance reasons, but it wasn't until BioWare announced that healing would be added to the Bounty Hunter that we knew there was a mirror here (since healing was added to the Trooper class as well). Now, both classes could DPS, tank, or heal. Both classes have one advanced class that specializes in DPS or healing and one that concentrates on tanking -- mirrored, right?

How far does this mirroring go? It's hard to tell. My personal experience with each class hasn't extended beyond 15 to 20 minutes at PAX Prime last year. Then last Friday, many of the Bounty Hunter abilities were revealed. Up to that point, the only comparison we had involved the abilities list on the advanced class page on the official website. That page revealed only two abilities that were remotely close: the Kolto Bomb from the Combat Medic tree (Commando Trooper) and Kolto Shield from the Bodyguard tree (Mercenary Bounty Hunter).

The most obvious mirrored ability shown in the video was this defensive shield that has not officially been given a name for the Bounty Hunter Powertech (the Trooper Vanguard's ability is called the Static Shield). We also see a mirrored ability in crowd control: a carbonite blast. In the Bounty Hunter video, we saw a jet stream out of the character's wrists, and in the Trooper progression video, the carbonite blast was from a grenade. Both of these abilities rooted the opponent so that the player could focus attacks on other NPCs. The last obvious mirror was in the vibroblade melee attacks. The Trooper calls it "Gut," and it's not named for the Bounty Hunter. Both abilities are at close range (about four meters) and consist of the player drawing a vibroblade (a Bounty Hunter from his wrist and the Trooper from his belt) then stabbing the opponent.

With all the similarities in the classes, I would like to speak to one of the differences I observed from watching the videos of gameplay. The Trooper and Bounty Hunter appear to have different methods of of execution, or at the very least, different reasons for performing the same action. The Bounty Hunter has abilities like the zipline to pull his enemies closer to him, and the Trooper has abilities like the grenade that blasts his enemies backward. I am guessing that the majority of Bounty Hunter abilities revolve around close-range AoEs, while Troopers utilize cone AoEs and single-target shots. The Bounty Hunter wants to pull enemies close; the Trooper wants distance between himself and his enemies. Is this enough to consider classes not mirrored?

The animations are obviously different, and the story is beyond different. Even if the mechanics were exactly the same, I would not have an issue with that. It certainly makes class balancing easier. What do you think? Do you want to see mirrored classes on opposing factions? Are they different enough to make you want to play them both, or do you rely on story to differentiate the classes (like I do)? Let me know in the comments below!

The Hyperspace Beacon by Larry Everett is your weekly guide to the vast galaxy of Star Wars: The Old Republic, currently in production by BioWare. If you have comments or suggestions for the column, send a transmission to larry@massively.com. Now strap yourself in, kid -- we gotta make the jump to hyperspace!
This article was originally published on Massively.