More Starfinder previews, take a look at how the Soldier fights. Spoiler: it’s a lot of different ways.
Following in the wake of the Envoy, the Operative, and the Mystic, we’ve got a look at the Soldier. This is the most combat-oriented class in the game–capable of blasting enemies with powerful, magitek rifles or charging in with laser axes and mono-edged wrist blades or whatever, the Soldier is the class to pick when you want to wear heavy armor and use weapons, jetpacks, and more to rain destruction down upon your foes.
Seriously, the Soldier has a lot of work to get done. It’s the most “martial” of the seven core classes, with most of its strengths lying in proficiencies and abilities that play up those proficiencies. And of course, it’s got that good BAB progression, so you’ll be hitting hard and hitting often. If you want to strap on some powered armor, this is clearly the way to go. But! It sounds like the Soldier will have more than just fancy tools, she’ll have fancy talents to draw upon as well. Thanks to a rather broad swath of fighting styles, you’ll be able to customize your soldier to suit your concept. Which seems to be what Paizo had in mind designing this class:
Conflict is an inevitable result of life. On every world that harbors complex living organisms, creatures battle one another for dominance, resources, territory, or ideals. Whether you’ve taken up arms to protect others, win glory, exact revenge, or simply earn a living, you are the perfect embodiment of this truth. You’re an expert at combat of all types but tend to prefer heavy armor and weapons—the bigger, the better. You may be a career soldier, a fresh mercenary recruit, or a lone wolf who rejects authority, but whether rushing in for hand-to-hand combat or firing tactical barrages, you’re a consummate warrior, never hesitating to put yourself in the line of fire to protect your friends.
Soldiers are masters of weapons and armor of all types, with a good base attack bonus progression (and good Fortitude and Will save progressions); proficiency in light armor, heavy armor, and grenades; and proficiency (and eventually specialization) in basic and advanced melee weapons, small arms, longarms, heavy weapons, and sniper weapons. Since small arms and many basic melee weapons gain only half the damage boost from specialization that longarms and heavy weapons do, soldiers often prefer to use the bulkier weapon options to maximize the damage they deal. Since specializing in heavy weapons first requires you to be proficient with heavy weapons, which in turn requires proficiency with longarms, it’s a much more significant investment for any other class to do the same.
See what I mean about hitting hard? No class will be able to maximize the output from their weapons quite as efficiently as the Soldier. Particle cannons, missile launchers, whatever your flavor of heavy weapons are, the Soldier can get the most out of them. But the Soldier is all about figuring out what your fighting style is and going after that as much as possible. As we talked about, there’s a broad swath of fighting styles for your Soldier to customize her kit with, alongside the cornucopia of combat feats that every Fighter ever has had since the dawn of time. Well. Since the dawn of 3.x. If you want to fight, gotta load up on those feats.
Since the soldier class’s focus is clearly on combat, there’s much more to her offensive and defensive abilities than just base attack bonuses, proficiencies, and specializations. Every soldier begins play with a fighting style, which grants special combat options tied to a specific approach to combat as the soldier gains levels. There are 7 fighting styles to choose from—arcane assailant, armor storm, blitz, bombard, guard, hit-and-run, and sharpshoot. A soldier also picks up some of a second fighting style beginning at 9th level. In addition to fighting styles, a soldier gains gear boosts that enhance the soldier’s effectiveness with specific equipment (such as anchoring arcana, armored advantage, laser accuracy, and plasma immolation) at 3rd level and every 4 levels thereafter, and a bonus combat feat at 2nd level and every 2 levels thereafter.
So, just going off of the names of the specializations I’m going to say: Gish, Heavy Armor/Tank, Up close Melee Charger, Heavy Weapon Shooter, Protecting your friends Tank, Quick Melee Skirmisher, and not stealthy Sniper. Although Soldiers will have access to a few class skills–but if you’ve ever played a Fighter you basically know the drill. You get all the proficiencies and feats and none of the skills. That holds true here as well–Soldiers are the worst at skills (that we’ve seen so far) with only 8 class skills and 4 skill points per level. Fortunately it sounds like the right kind of gear can make up for some of this deficiency, since things like Jump Jets and Jetpacks are some easy armor upgrades, and you’ll be part Fighter part Ironman, so your armor/gear will be an extension of your character.
The feats are all very familiar. We know there’ll be weapon specialization and that your Soldier’s going to have access to it firstest with the mostest, and that you’ll be able to pick up Versatile Specialization which spreads the love to any weapon you’re proficient with. Gear is important to the Soldier–cannot stress that enough. Even the fighting styles seem designed to complement your panoply:
Since fighting styles are going to be an important part of any soldier’s design, here’s a look at the 5th-level ability from the arcane assailant fighting style.
Secret of the Magi (SU)
When you imbue a weapon with the rune of the eldritch knight, in addition to its normal benefits, the rune grants the weapon one of the following weapon fusions of your choice: ethereal, flaming, frost, merciful, or shock. The weapon can’t gain a fusion it already has, and this bonus fusion doesn’t count toward the maximum total level of fusions the weapon can have at once. The bonus fusion ends when the weapon ceases to be imbued with the rune of the eldritch knight. For more information on fusions, see page 191.
I have to say this is pretty cool though. Even the most martial of classes is still capable of drawing on magic–which I think is necessary. If the Soldier is going to be a fun class to play, they’ve got to do more than just attack and then attack harder–and these abilities seem like a great way to add a little bit of flexibility to the class. Maybe you hit harder, or add a cool effect to your attacks. I want to see what the Guard or the Bombard is capable of.
So there you have it. The Soldier–a combat-centric class that can cover all your bases. Paizo has said they’re going to take a break from Class Previews for a little while, but will be back soon with more mechanics and eventually we’ll get a peek at the Technomancer, the Mechanic, and the Solarion.
In the meantime, armor up!