As excellent as this is, it does set up an interesting conundrum. Many Subscribers will, as a result of this, have not one but two HK Droids in their Companion rosters. The question remains; which is better?
There's only one way to find out!
As we don't yet know whether HK-55 will be receiving changes either to his personality or ability set - I highly doubt he will change all too severely, though - this is entirely based off what his current in-game self is like since this is what everyone who can start the Fallen Empire story can get to know at the moment.
HK-51 had a full conversation story-sequence as all Companions before Fallen Empire had, whilst none of the new Fallen Empire Companions - or even any of the Alliance brigade - have any additional story to them once they have joined your crew, which is a shame because getting their whole perspective on our previous adventures once explained in-depth would actually have been quite interesting. That's beside the point, however. Because no Companion stories of this nature can be experienced once Fallen Empire is started, HK-51 only narrowly takes the first point due to the fact that it is still a possible interaction for those who own him prior to starting the new story.
This is not even considering the long quest you have to do to unlock him in the first place, but as you only unlock him at the very end and never speak to him at an earlier point this is not really a "fair point" to make, especially as this may make the prospect of owning HK-55 all the more enticing for a lot of people who don't already own HK-51.
While traversing the galaxy, many Companions would make comments on the various places you were visiting, and in spite of being a later addition to the game, HK-51 had a full "opinion voice box" which offered commentary on the vast majority of planets. To my knowledge, none of the new Fallen Empire Companions are liable to doing this, which again would have been very interesting (learning what Zakuulites such as Senya and Koth think of the wider galaxy when they visit other planets just sounds so enticing), meaning that HK-51 takes this point as well. I do so hope that I've missed something with regards to the silence of the new Companions, however...
It isn't just general goings-on which HK-51 comments on; taking him into the False Emperor Flashpoint results in him commenting derogatively towards HK-47 followed by a swift rebuke. This is the only occasion in the entire game when a Companion has their own thing to say in a Flashpoint, although it is strange that he doesn't receive a similar scene in The Foundry given that HK-47 had also long been destroyed aboard Malgus's space station when HK-51 could first be uncovered in the first place. This is just a specific little scene but it's a nice touch. No point given against HK-55 considering that not even the original class companions get this bonus!
When turning to your Companion for idle conversation, HK-51 disappointingly only says one thing for each faction when he has no conversation to offer up:
- Statement: I have no information for you, master. Shall we continue liquidating the undesirables? (Empire)
- Statement: There is nothing to discuss at the present time, master. We should resume deleting troublemakers. (Republic)
How boring. By contrast, HK-55 says many more things:
- Yes. I see you, too.
- Do not fear.
- Did you say something, master?
- What's new? On second thought, I retract my inquiry.
- Assurance: Your protection is my top priority, master.
- Observation: Boredom can overcome any meatbag at any time.
- Rebuff: My personality matrix was not programmed for "chatting".
- Anecdote: This reminds me of another time you stopped to talk to me.
If you rarely "talk" with your Companions outside of combat then this has no bearing. If you do like to hear their thoughts every once in a while, HK-55 offers the more entertaining, snarky, and above all varied responses so based on this alone HK-55 wins. Additionally, HK-55 gets the "HK-47 Seal of Approval" for using the term "Meatbag", a term which the HK-50 and HK-51 series had rejected altogether in favour of the term "Organic". Unacceptable.
As for what they spout during combat, both droids do have some excellent one-liners. However, unlike the majority of old Companions, HK-51 has not had any new lines recorded to indicate that he is now healing, which is fair when you consider that he was never supposed to be a healer. Spouting any of the following lines when healing has the hilarious side-effect of making it seem as if he wants to kill you for forcing him to sit back and not engage the enemy directly himself:
- I kill to serve.
- Next target, please.
- Body count rising.
- Reloading... ready!
- Eat hot efficiency!
- Your threat is hereby terminated.
- Best shot grouping yet.
- Barrage protocol activated.
- Running only delays the inevitable.
- The Maker marked you. Nothing personal.
- You're already dead. Just lie down.
Then there's HK-55. As a bodyguard-cum-effective-killer, HK-55 is one of the only few Companions who could feasibly be an "all-rounder" to be either a Tank, DPS, or Healer. As with the majority of other Companions, he will occasionally use a "Healing phrase" when in another role, but given that he is programmed as much for protection as he is for destruction this does make a bit more sense than it does on others, and it's also fairly easy to imagine him using one such phrase sarcastically do a recently-deceased corpse:
- I exist to serve.
- Stamina increased.
- You are much improved.
- No one harms my master!
- Protection services online!
- Hostile eliminated.
- Leave the meatbag alone!
- Plus one to kill counter.
- Report: Dead.
- Die horribly!
- Target has achieved deadness.
It is interesting to compare the almost-professionalism of HK-51 with HK-55's pure enthusiasm for fighting alongside his master. Both droids do offer entertaining quotes, but more of HK-55's lines (5) do seem to have a funny edge to them compared to those of HK-51 (4). Based on this alone, HK-55 takes this point.
Appearance-wise, HK-51 has eight different customisations, three of which were tied exclusively to mission rewards during the Forged Alliance quests with two of these being faction-specific; I presume they can still be acquired to this day by eligible characters. HK-55, on other other hand, is similar to the other Fallen Empire-exclusive Companions in that they have no customisations. We do know that his look is being updated in 4.1 so there is a good chance that his "current" form will be made available as a customisation as one of those monthly "HK-55-inspired" Subscriber Rewards later next year for those who dislike his new look. This is purely assumption on my part, however, and even then 1 customisation pales in comparison to 8, so HK-51 takes the point by default.
For character, therefore, both droids have a lot going for them. Whilst you'll hear more from HK-51 when touring the galaxy, the snarky HK-55 is definitely the more enthusiastic about his job and generally the more amiable to be around.
Character is only one aspect of Companions which must be considered; the combat roles must also be scrutinised.
HK-51 is one of two Companions to have unique abilities when compared to other Companions, although, unlike Treek, his Healing abilities are nearly-exactly identical to a standard Companion's. We don't yet know whether HK-55 will be any different compared to the "standard" set-up, but considering that the other Subscriber-exclusive Companion, Nico Okarr, is another of those "carbon-copy Companions", it is logical to assume that HK will be as well when we retrieve him.
This really is a no-brainer.
HK-51 was never meant to be a Tank, and his abilities in this role highlight this no end. His abilities are limited to attacks with taunts built-in, a leap, an accuracy debuff, and a self-heal which is only usable in combat once. He has no abilities which grant damage absorption or reduction, and he also lacks a grapple.
HK-55, on the other hand, has the full kit and caboodle you'd now expect a Companion Tank to come with. Without even trying, he wins by default because of just how squishy HK-51 is in comparison.
HK-51 used to be the definitive "best" Ranged DPS Companion. He came with a Threat Drop, an Accuracy Debuff, used no AoE attacks whatsoever, and above all, he had an Execute ability. On top of this, he also had his Assassinate, which could one-shot anything from Weak to Strong, but this could never be used in-combat so only ever saw real use as an opener against a pack of mobs.
With 4.0's changes to Companions, not only has HK lost his Assassinate and had some of his more useful abilities moved to other roles, but he has found himself up against some serious competition. With the exception of Treek, every Companion has borrowed his Execute. Moreover, HK and Treek are the only Companions to not gain a DoT which also acts as an Armour Debuff. He still has no AoE attack and his Terminate is the most powerful channelled attack, but he has undoubtedly seen a serious challenge to his title of "best Ranged DPS Companion".
Unlike the Tank and Healer roles where you can easily see the difference in-combat, the DPS role is arguably the most flexible in terms of which Companions are better, depending on how quick the fight is, what it specifically involves, and even which class the player is using. Someone who doesn't have an Armour Debuff might want to consider using a "standard" Companion, whilst someone who does have an Armour Debuff can more easily rationalise using HK-51 on the longer individual fights.
Because I was genuinely very interested in seeing the exact differences between HK and a "standard" DPS Companion, I decided to test this out on the Target Dummy aboard a friend's ship, first seeing how long it took the chosen Companions to kill a 1,000,000 HP Dummy with the special Armour Debuff and then again without. Obviously, this test isn't exactly fair because the Armour-Debuff also comes with an increase in damage from all sources which inflate the results more than the actual debuff itself. As such, it won't factor into my decision for which is "superior" in any real significance but is something which I thought people might find interesting regardless because I'm weird like that.
For this test, I compared an Influence Level 50 HK to an Influence Level 50 Pierce, who is currently the only standard Blaster/Sniper Rifle-compatible Companion I have at this Rank. Both were using HK-51's Scoped Assassinator to even the playing-field.
First, the results from the Dummy with the Armour-Debuff applied:
- HK-51: 4,032.26 at 4:08.
- Pierce: 4,310.34 at 3:52.
Second, the results without the Armour-Debuff applied:
- HK-51: 3,610.11 at 4:37.
- Pierce: 3,937.01 at 4:14.
Even though the Armour Debuff itself can't be seen to have made that much of a difference given that in both results the two are still roughly the same distance apart, one thing which does become clear is that the "standard" Companions, and thus HK-55, are seemingly better than HK-51 in a long endurance fight by themselves. This is admittedly a scenario most Companions shouldn't ever find themselves in, of course, but maybe worth considering for Tank and especially Healer players.
In spite of this, both options should be equally viable for the majority of situations. Although the standard Companion's long-cooldown AoE is not powerful enough to consider taking them along just because they can more easily mow down mobs, it is worth noting that HK-51 of course has no AoE despite his owning some incredibly powerful single-target attacks. Stealth-classes should still consider HK-51 because of this if they rely on stunning certain enemies before pulling trash.
At the end of the day, either "type" of DPS Companion can, and will, aid in destroying enemies with much ferocity, and that's all that matters. Because of the flexibility of situations that DPS Companions could potentially be employed under, this has to be rendered as a tie, as HK-51 could suit some situations far better than HK-55 and the standard companions, and vice versa.
On the surface, HK-51 seems to be the standard Healer. His Kolto Drip was originally bugged to not cleanse and his healing was far lower than other Companions, but both of these issues have been fixed.
However, there is one small anomaly which still persists and is in all likelihood a bug. His Kolto Drip lasts 8.5 seconds longer than a standard Companion's, including an additional tick, with each individual tick healing for exactly the same amount as those from another Companion of equal Influence rank. In spite of this, it even has the same cooldown length of 11.2 seconds, meaning that in a group-healing scenario he can place it on one person before the first person receives the final tick from it. For a solo player it does mean that he essentially has two heals which have no cooldown and thus a guaranteed uptime. It is somewhat ironic that the Assassin Droid designed specifically for killing has the most 'convenient' healing cooldowns of all Companions...
Of course, should this be fixed, HK-51 will be no different from HK-55 or any other standard Companion healer. This does mean that you can happily use another in his stead without any issues whatsoever. As with the DPS role, therefore, this is essentially a tie since factoring in an ability which is an all likelihood bugged makes for an unfair advantage especially as it could be fixed in 4.0.3 this next week.
For those of you keeping tally, the final score, including ties, looks like this:
- HK-51: 5
- HK-55: 5
HK-51 is undoubtedly much more of an "established" Companion than HK-55 and, in fairness, any of the Fallen Empire Companions. Most of the points that HK-51 has taken are, in general, due to the fact that the new Companions just lack so much more in comparison to those that came before including himself. They don't offer commentary except for when they're in-combat or talked at, you can't customise them to your heart's content (which is more of a story limitation than anything), and there's just nothing interesting for them to do once they're acquired. This last point can be said even of other class companions once recruited by another, although one can at least give them new outfits so that's something.
HK-55, however, does have the more viable Tank role and his personality is undeniably much more amenable compared to that of his counterpart. He expresses emotions such as joy and frustration - just listen to his "Anecdote" response! - much more openly than the staunch HK-51, who only seems to get frustrated when his target list does not meet a certain quota. He may not have everything going for him which HK-51 does, but he certainly knows how to make his mark as a character.
Whether or not HK-55 will "solve" any of the problems which he himself is subject to when he returns remains to be seen. Personally, I highly doubt that they'll make Kristoffer Tabori record a second string of quips to be heard while traversing the galaxy, and HK-55 receiving any number of favours such as customisations will result in complaints about other Fallen Empire Companions' not receiving them as well, so there is a good chance we will be stuck in the same situation as we are now, just with a second HK Unit to add to our overall roster of possible Companions.
I have to say that I prefer HK-55 of the two, simply on the grounds of his personality being more akin to that of HK-47 and his Tank abilities being more viable than those of HK-51. I am very much looking forward to making mincemeat across the galaxy with him by my side as I had originally planned to happen before 4.0 launched.