Since the release of the HK-51 companion, both republic and empire fleets have been proliferated with players sporting theirs as they shop the trade network, await queue timers, or simply hang-out socializing in the general chat; but the real question many without are still asking;
'Is HK really worth the effort?'
The short and simple answer, yes.
Though there are definitely some pieces to the puzzle that if/when unaddressed can potential muddy this reaction, most players agree the HK-51 is probably the best companion offered of all those currently available in Star Wars The Old Republic. Hopefully any that stumble upon this article when seeking to determine if the HK-51 is truly worthy of the efforts involved to acquire him, will not only find some tips regarding the acquisition quest, but more importantly the pieces of the puzzle that reinforce this shared reaction.
1. The quest to acquire HK-51
While different styles of gamers within SWTOR may disagree when it comes to the quest involved, any that have truly put their HK-51 to the test upon completion, tend to agree that regardless of the quest involved the reward is well worth the endeavor.
As most already know the quest opens from the 'Section X' portion of Belsavis, introduced along with the release of this companion. To get to this zone players must either be a subscribed account, or purchase the 'Section X' unlock from either the cartel coin money-market in the game, or purchase the unlock from another player that has purchased but not used it (post the 2 hour timer on all cartel coin purchases while the item is bound to the buyer).
The quest is not at all difficult to find or acquire, the first astromech droid visible when entering Section X grants the introduction to this quest-line. The initial part of the quest involves surveying a wreckage, a glimpse at the legions of HK droids housed within it, and ultimately leads to the player seeking out first the schematics from an abandoned starship, and then seeking the components from various locations such as the capitol planet of each faction, as well as a story/normal mode flashpoint along with a hard mode flashpoint. When pieces are unearthed on any of the worlds from which they are acquired, anyone seeking the part can share in the find so long as they click the unearthed component before it disappears, otherwise their search is renewed as it will spawn in randomly different locations within the vicinity. The only major thing to be aware of when acquiring your HK parts is to not right click them from the inventory unless on the character that is fulfilling the quest. The initial found 'part' is bound to the players' legacy/account but once right clicked the inventory item will disappear as the quest populates the claimed piece.
The tool the quest provides for help in finding the parts can be shared amongst each of the player's characters via the in-game email, or as some have found can also be purchased from a particular vendor from each faction if/when lost somehow. However if the player has not yet attempted playing a character of the opposite faction up to or past their capitol planet, Coruscant for the Republic and Dromund Kaas for the Empire, they will need to prior to acquiring the component needed from each. While it is definitely possible to achieve the acquisition while on a character new to either world, it is much easier if/when they have surpassed it due to potential aggro from aggressive NPC locals.
While some may complain the quest is too long or even too easy, overall it is agreed that it is well worth the effort and even fairly entertaining. Though the quest lists as a two-man heroic, recommended for two or more players, most that have some measure of high level PVE equipment will agree that until the final portion of the quest it can be run alone. Some have even completed the final part alone as well.
There have been some reported bugs involving the quest, some that may even require a help ticket with the in-game support to overcome, most of the mechanics developed by the programmers provide means around the common ones that have been encountered.
Overall for the quest side of HK-51, it scores a 3/5 stars; it was fun, but could have been longer being it is considered an 'end-game' element and provides such an exemplary companion to the players' account. As the next sections of this review hope to reveal, while the quest may not score that high, the prize offered definitely does.
2. The HK-51 companion for the level 50 character
Once HK-51 has been acquired at the end of the quest, there is a brief cinematic where he introduces himself. Fans of the KOTOR series are immediately gratified when hearing not only the original HK-47 voice, but his use of the classic 'meatbag' derogative when speaking of other life-forms. Future conversations, as affection is gained with this companion, continue to not only entertain but definitely inspire maximizing these points through companion gifts to see more of them.
HK-51 should come fully equipped with mod-able droid armoring and accessories specified for level 50 but carrying modifications that spec' at level 51. There has been a common bug for the warrior type classes of either faction sometimes coming without any equipment already on their droid. The developer's have still been unable to fully resolve this issue, but to address it; all that complete the quest receive with their HK droid, a legacy-bound box of HK equipment. While it may not be the 'best' band-aid to this situation, it definitely helps.
If you claim the equipment (right click from inventory) it will then provide the gear HK-51 should have come with, if you do not claim the equipment; you can reserve it in the legacy-bound box for emailing to any alternate characters that you may acquire HK-51 on and possibly encounter this issue.
While most players by level 50 have become accustomed to a particular companion, many find themselves adjusting their original play-style to accommodate using HK, especially after seeing him in action. Not only does he continue to spout one-liner statements that are often times hilarious to the moment, but this companion seems to have a better AI than most. While like other companions the player can take control of the actions played by their HK-51, he is probably the only companion that this control's need is a rarity on. While other companions seem to only focus on the same target as the player most times, HK seems ready and beyond able of taking care of himself moving to targets not seeing focus by the player or sometimes just the 'better' target based off your opening assault.
Many a healer companion has been subjected to crew skilling for their master, as the HK-51 takes their place in the lead, and the players invest in med-packs to heal themselves instead. Granted there is better equipment you can upgrade this companion with, but even with the equipment received off the assembly-line he maintains extreme combat values and even has a self heal ability for those hairline survival moments.
As a witness to the retired healer companion, it is fairly easy to score 4/5 stars for the HK-51 when coupled with a level 50 character.
3. HK-51 companion for characters under 50
Once a level 50 character of either faction has completed the entire quest and unlocked the HK-51 companion for themselves, alternate characters on the same account/server can then purchase the companion from within their legacy under 'character perks' for the price of 1 million credits with an option to use cartel coins. While this cost may seem terribly high for any up and coming characters, most level 50 players have already found that the daily quests offered to keep them entertained with the game after maximizing their leveling can make 1 million credits seem much more feasible to acquire than most would think.
With the trade network filled with auctions of the cartel market items, many players may find themselves asking if this 1 million credit purchase is really worth the effort. Again those that have endeavored as much will likely agree, it very much is.
On a character going from level 16-30s, this companion when properly geared will literally walk the player through their quests. More than once this companion when abandoned in what appeared to be a losing fight, has managed to make a victory of that fight even when on his own. For the level s 30-50 he still definitely holds his own, and may even accomplish the same feat from time to time, but ultimately the lower the level character HK is companioning, the greater the odds of his individual success.
Once you claim the HK-51 from within the legacy 'character perks', he will initially inform any pre-50 characters that he is not operating at full potential. When looking at him from the character sheet and by chance removing any of his equipment, it becomes explicitly obvious as to why. All his gear will have a level 50 requirement. Meaning if you remove his gear, unless or until you are level 50 you will not be able to re-equip it. This also means that even though it may be equipped, all of the modifications offered by this gear will have no effect until reaching level 50. So unless cybertech was one of the crew skills picked up and developed, it wouldn't be a bad idea to have more than the 1 million credits on-hand when purchasing this companion, so that equivalent gear to the character's current level can be purchased and utilized to maximize HK-51's performance. While he is still moderately decent when not taking this measure, he is truly victorious once addressed.
Overall when scored in this fashion the HK-51 comes out with a shining 5/5 stars. Not only can this companion virtually walk a player through the lower levels of the game, as the next section will go over the PVP experience he has to offer the reinforcement of this score is explicit.
4. HK-51 and PVP
The final section of this review goes over HK-51's performance in PVP, and while most PVP players would agree a NPC companion is no match for a real person by your side, of all the companions HK-51 is definitely the best when compared with the others currently available.
Many PVP players may share a skepticism when reading the above, but first-hand experience is the point of reference for this review, hence did it take so long to get this published following the droid's release.
When put to the test, for review purposes, HK-51 screamed past the competition in this criteria. While other companions may flee alongside you, HK-51 has no differentiation of player versus NPC and will fight to the last even with his master attempting to rob him of the opportunity!
More than once PVP battles were encountered in the various worlds ventured while using HK-51 from a lower than level 50 character. While escape may have seemed the only option in what started as a losing battle, at least twice out of four instances of this taking place, HK-51 was driven more to take out the mark than to continue functioning alongside his master. Of these four times flight seemed the only option, twice HK-51 pulled the fat out of the fire; chasing down the player that engaged combat to insure their demise successfully on his own while his master had thought the battle already lost. Spitting a statement along the lines of 'Sorry but you were marked by the master...'
Two out of four situations is a fifty percent chance of victory, even in what would appear to have been a loss. Of all the other companions this same means was attempted from, never once did the companion further pursue combat when told to flee, and more importantly none of them had a victory obtained on their own while their master fled. HK-51 exhibited two victories, where the other companions had none.
PVP once level 50 becomes a whole different ball of wax, and the points for comparison were somewhat harder to obtain due to as much. Level 50 PVP for most SWTOR players is pretty much exclusive to warzones where your companion cannot join you. On the few occasions when questing from 'Section X' dailies, this was attempted either the opposing party had an HK-51 of their own to balance such scales, or managed to flee successfully. None the less, the fact that HK-51 holds greater reverence for annihilating the master's mark, than following him in flight from a fight, speaks leaps and bounds above the companions he has to compete against currently.
In direct PVP instances, the judgment can become easily argued regarding the gear between the players and possibly even class played, still like the examples above exhibit; HK's desire to fulfill his combat directives not only outshines that of the other companions, it even has the means to put his master to shame. Overall resulting in a 5/5 for his PVP scoring.
Averaging each of the scores above yields the overall score HK-51 received from this review 4.25/5 stars (to be exact). Any taking the time to put him to the test, will likely find it as entertaining and rewarding as this player has and continues to. While there are still some bugs and nuances that sometimes can make for a measure of frustration when acquiring or even after acquiring this companion, the overall end-result he has to offer definitely insures the worth of as much once observed first hand.