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Star Wars: The Old Republic: Eight hours with the Bounty Hunter

The difference becomes most noticeable in the side quests. Soon after leaving Braden and Mako with a quest to hunt down our first bounty, we pick one up from a woman in distress asking us to stop her husband from kidnapping her son. In most MMOs, the mission would end with us finding the father, fighting him, and returning with the boy. But after tracking the father to the local space port, we find out from the husband that the boy is force sensitive and that his wife wants to ship him off to a Sith academy.

In classic KotOR style, you're presented with the option to turn a blind eye by letting the father escape with his son to shield him from Sith. We decided to do what was right and tore the brat away from his loving father, dooming him to Sith boot camp on Korriban. Just remember kid, "Peace is a lie, there is only passion."

Above: Bounty hunter combat is all about heat management. The Vent Heat ability will be your best friend

When it comes to combat with the bounty hunter, it's all about heat management. You use blasters, stun enemies with an electro dart, or burn them down with a flamethrower. You can even use your jetpack to fire rockets down at your enemies from above, or your combat suit to deliver powerful punches in close quarters, but all these abilities generate heat. If your armor gets too hot, you'll need to wait for it to cool down before you can use some of your more powerful abilities. Your armor cools down slowly during combat, but you also have an instant ability called Vent Heat, which gives you a fresh burst of coolness to power another round of ability blasts.

When fighting with enemies that are at your level, managing your heat isn't much of an issue as you can usually take out a group of two or three hostiles without overheating. But during longer battles with tougher enemies, you'll need to make sure to keep using Vent Heat every time the ability cools down so that you can keep stunning unfriendlies while maximizing damage.

Above: Fa'athra the Hutt and Nem'ro the Hutt are locked in a gang war over control of Hutta. A lot of your side quests put you in the middle of this conflict

As for the environments, they look great. Complete with its own cantina and monster pit, Nem'ro's palace looks fitting for a gang lord. Low level thugs from Nem'ro and rival Hutt Fa'athra battle for control over the streets. Head past the space port into Hutta's marshy wilderness and you'll find a mix of Fa'athra's guns for hire and aggressive wildlife.

The areas are on Hutta packed pretty densely. You're never more than a stone's throw away from a key area for a quest or a group of aggressives to fight with. The layout of the land feels good for the most part, with just the right amount of mob grinding mixed in with quest rewards, new skills, and loot. Pathways to and from major areas felt like they were packed a little too tightly with groups of enemies at times, making it a bit of a chore to get to our destination. However, there are fast travel options.

Once you've unlocked a pair of taxi ports, you can travel between those two nodes by taking a speeder bike. It's certainly faster than walking, but it is also kind of painful to see a speeder bike skimming so slowly as it put-puts to your destination. You can also instantly teleport back to a safe zone by calling in a shuttle to pick you up. It's sort of like the TOR equivalent of a World of Warcraft hearthstone.

We don't want to spoil all the plot points that occur as you build up a name for yourself as an up and coming bounty hunter worth sponsoring for the Great Hunt. But since this is just a slice of The Old Republic's PvE offerings, someone very close to you will die, you'll get your first companion to join your party, and you will be offered a quest that involves rancors. After stepping over slime bags and slaves and killing our way to the top, we finally coerce Nem'ro the Hutt to sponsor our entry in the Great Hunt as a level 9 bounty hunter.

You can also expect to be offered a choice to further specialize our bounty hunter's role at later levels. The powertech and mercenary specializations are the only two we know about so far. The powertech specialization sounds more defense oriented, with descriptions of it touting advanced shield systems and armor sets. The mercenary specialization, on the other hand, allows you to dual wield blasters, which pretty much settles the matter for us. Continuing to play as a bounty hunter who will never dual wield pistols sounds pretty challenging, if not impossible.

Apr 28, 2011