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Star Wars: The Old Republic's (SWTOR) is in full swing, and for many of you, that means a chance to hop into BioWare's sprawling massively multiplayer masterpiece alongside fellow defenders of freedom and chokers of Imperial subordinates. However, for the ambivalent World of Warcraft (WoW) hero, taking the leap into a galaxy far, far away can be a daunting task.





The decision of which advanced class to play can be as difficult as finding a Wookiee in a wig shop, but don't freak out. These advanced classes, unlocked at level 10, are what define your mere Bounty Hunter as a flame-wielding torch of Republic misery or a sensitive tech-lover hellbent on healing. We've put together some brief descriptions of each advanced class' functionality in comparison to WoW starting with the stalwart Republic. Note that this guide doesn't chart effectiveness but rather provides a general overview of how similar playstyle mechanics feel between both games.



Just like a certain whiny Tatooine farmboy learned, the choice ultimately resides entirely within your power – but at least you won't have to endure through an unnecessarily long emo-stare into the sunset to realize that.



Jedi Knight





Continuing his unmatched reign as winner of the “most likely to strike a heroic pose on a movie poster” award, the Jedi Knight offers a no-frills approach to the art of bashing things silly with oversized glowsticks. Using a Focus resource system akin to the Rogue's combo points, the Knight's playstyle centers around a Wampa-sized pile of in-your-face melee combat aided by brief dips into the Force.



Guardian

Protection and Arms Warriors, meet your destiny. Specializing as a Guardian – specifically, the Defense talent tree – means “willingly stepping into harm's way” is your idea of a relaxing hobby. You'll access abilities closely mirroring the classic tanking repertoire of Charge, Taunt, and Sunder Armor along with a few surprises sprinkled in – Force Exhaustion, for example, deals damage over time while progressively slowing down a foe to a crawl. A sizable chunk of defensive cooldowns makes the Guardian well-equipped to thumb his nose at whatever hurtles his way.



Want more damage? Pour your talent points into the Vigilance tree. Much like Arms, your one-handed attacks get souped up at the expense of protection, although your retention of heavy armor still offers considerable fortitude. Dig the Burning Blade and Plasma Brand talents which augments some of your attacks with additional burning damage.



Sentinel

The Sentinel considers the notion of restraint so 20 parsecs ago. Wearing medium armor and dual-wielding two lightsabers, this specialization boils down its role into cutting down the poor fool at the end of your blades as fast as possible. Fury Warriors will fawn over the Sentinel's multiple methods of dispensing flurries of acrobatic melee attacks with stacking bonuses to armor penetration and critical strike. Journey up the Combat tree for loads of helpful boosts to your output, culminating with the almighty Blade Rush – a devastating triple-strike combo. Alternatively, the Watchman tree offers a similar focus to damage-over-time (DoT) bonuses as the Guardian's Vigilance tree.



Jedi Consular





Slightly more cerebral than his flailing counterpart, the Jedi Consular knows the intricacies of balance and self-mastery – and how to chuck a floating rock into someone's face really well. Both the Sage and Shadow specializations primarily rely on a Force pool (similar to mana) for their abilities, but that's where the similarities end.



Sage

Sure, the Sage sounds like something embossed on a pompous librarian's business card. Picking this specialization, however, sits you squarely in the domain of the ranged spellcaster. Heading up the Telekinetics tree offers equal effectiveness to a Fire Mage with powerful, long-casting or channeled nuking abilities laden with enough flashy effects to send even the most hardy Industrial Light & Magic engineer aflutter. Don't renege your potent crowd-control (CC) skills along the way; Force Lift and Force Stun works wonders for culling challenging dungeons and group quests.



Nabbing the Balance tree's talents transforms the Sage into an efficient healer, mixing single-target and group health restoration duties with colorful damage absorption bubbles not unlike the Discipline Priest's Power Word: Shield. Check out the nifty Rescue: it yanks an ally to safety while simultaneously lowering his or her threat – if that doesn't help hammer home the MMO golden rule of “don't stand in fire,” then little else will.



Shadow

Playing a Shadow is sort of like participating in a political debate: If cornered, muttering a mysterious one-liner and disappearing in a surge of energy is your best bet. As the name implies, the Shadow keeps to the...well, shadows, pimping out with a double-bladed saber staff and employing stealth for advantageous mobility. Assassination Rogues should be nodding in recognition at the Infiltration tree's emphasis on stealth, positional attacks, and massive burst damage helped along by Shadow Strike, your bread-and-butter backstab.



Those seeking a fresh perspective on tanking should give the Kinetic Combat tree a whirl. Its emphasis on mitigation and dodge imitates the Blood Death Knight's playstyle – an observation especially prevalent with Force Pull, an ability exactly like Death Grip. And if anything, you'll be the proud user of a tree that sounds like a Nickelodeon educational game show.



Smuggler





If you're wondering why that rocky outcropping is continually lamenting about its stolen ship, chances are you've stumbled upon a Smuggler hard at work. He brings the pew-pew from afar by using Rogue-like Energy and taking cover behind objects (or just crouching down), thus lowering damage received and enabling access to long-range shots.



Gunslinger

You're in for a special kind of warm, fuzzy feeling when delivering a friendly “hey, there” via the red-hot muzzles of a pair of blaster pistols. Like the Marksmanship Hunter, the Gunslinger specialization mixes quick, instant shots with inductive abilities thematically similar to Aimed Shot. Plunking points into the Sharpshooter tree hulks up your shots with faster cast times and more demolishing critical strikes.



For appeasement of your inner Demoman, set your sights on the Saboteur tree. DoTs and grenade buffs galore beckon your points like an unencrypted credit safe; Incendiary Grenade, for instance, immolates enemies with a napalm AoE thrown from cover's comfy confines – just the ticket for Explosive Shot-happy Survival Hunters. Maniacal cackle optional.



Scoundrel

Although the Smuggler's trustworthy mainstay is the almighty pistol, he nevertheless won't balk about shortening the gap for a more personalized tussle. Specializing as a Scoundrel (figuratively, of course) will have you strapping on a stealth belt for surprising enemies with the gentle love tap of a sucker punch right in the gut. The Scrapper tree advertises a risky yet rewarding style of play: sneak in, ravage an unfortunate soul with Back Blast, then dance the melee tango with careful management of costly short-range strikes. The Feral Druid's absolutism on nailing that initial burst damage out of stealth is as crucial a requirement for the Scoundrel's cocksure grin to see the light of another day.



Of course, the Scoundrel takes every advantage he gets, and that typically includes fixing up his fellow buddies with healing medpacs boosted by the Sawbones tree. Its periodic healing ability improvements echo the Druid's Restoration tree, even rubbing shoulders against Wild Growth with the AoE Kolto Cloud.



Trooper





Heavy armor, heavy guns, and empty skulls – that's the Trooper's mantra. (Maybe not the last part.) Helping him reinforce that tenet is an arsenal worthy of a first-person shooter protagonist's jealousy: cannons, grenades, arc projectors, and several other remorseless pieces of metal. The payoff is a combination of durability and a withering amount of firepower.



The Trooper uses a bar filled with 12 steadily refilling Energy Cells that are spent on attacks and abilities. If you exhaust your entire bar, you'll have to wait a moment while “reloading” more Energy Cells before carrying on.



Commando

Remember that climactic scene from Terminator 2 in which Arnie turns a parking lot into Swiss cheese with a minigun? Yeah, that's the Commando. Consider the Gunnery tree as the end result of a Warlock getting his hands on a mammoth laser cannon. Using a single, pivotal debuff to work with – Grav Round – Commandos increasingly crush their target's armor before saying “hasta la vista” with a mega-shot coup de grace.



Taking the Combat Medic tree offers quick, single-target heals with a chance to increase efficiency, a niche similarly filled in WOW by the Holy Paladin. If multiple allies need healing in a pinch, toss a Kolto Bomb their way – yes, that means bombs filled with healing gases. Don't ask me how that works.



Vanguard

For the Vanguard specialization, getting shot and bludgeoned is just good business. The abuse he takes just means less pressure on their allies. Coupled with the natural movement advantage of being at range, the Vanguard's playstyle offers an interesting approach to the typically melee dominated task of keeping the enemy's attention squarely on themselves.



The Protection Paladin closely resembles the Vanguard's absorption-oriented Shield Specialist tree that holds the line with AoE threat generation abilities similar to Consecrate and Avenger's Shield. Your mitigation stems from superpowered shields shrugging off damage while your pour on the punishment through grenades and sheets of laser fire.



Spending points in the Tactics tree turns the Vanguard into a zippy front-line combatant capable of armor-penetrating strikes and DoT effects, an ability arsenal Retribution Paladins know well. Lastly, the Vanguard's heavy armor gives groups a second wind via a backup tank in case things go awry.



Check back tomorrow as we turn to the dark side with part 2 of this guide focusing on the Empire's specializations. As always, if you have thoughts or experiences to share, leave 'em in the comments.
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Well, that crept up on us. You may have noticed that it’s Christmas. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the PC Gamer team are about to abandon their desks for a week to enjoy the company of their friends, family and the Steam sale.



We haven’t abandoned the site; over the next couple of days we’ve asked left Roger the Christmas Robot in charge of the CMS. He’ll be posting the Game of the Year awards, our grand 2012 preview, and some interviews and opinion pieces.



We’ll also be playing all of our favourite games online, so don’t be a stranger. Come and find us. You’ll see us in the TOR guilds, on Battlefield 3, and in our Steam community.



From everyone at PC Gamer, have a very merry Christmas, and a happy 2012. We’ll see you online.
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Even though Lego Lord of the Rings has been announced, we reckon they’re fast running out of franchises to render in acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. Lego James Bond is the one we always mention when we see the Traveller’s Tales guys, but so far we’ve had no luck convincing them that squashing a plastic version of Sean Bean with a giant satellite array would be a very good thing.



Flickr user Catsy has completely inspired us to believe that a Lego version of Half-Life would be the way for Lego to go. As Kotaku reported, he/she has created a Lego version of Gordon Freeman using stock Lego bits and bobs, equipped with a customised Overwatch Standard Issue Pulse Rifle made from a Lego tommy gun.



As Catsy notes, Freeman needs a little more smoothing and painting. But between his/her and Orrange Stahl’s attempts at Lego Half-Life, we think there’s more than enough to convince the Danish toy giants to create Lego versions of Freeman, Alyx Vance, The G-Man et al. Who knows, maybe they could even make a game of it.
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Realistic military sim ARMA 2 has been updated to version 1.60 by developers Bohemia. The patch covers Operation Arrowhead, the British Armed Forces and Private Military Contractors DLC, the original Arma 2 and Arma 2: Free. Among the whopping 158 changes are a new anti-aliasing mode, new scripting commands, smoother multiplayer, netcode fixes and improved AI. More important fixes include, “AI no longer considering a car horn as a threat,” and “Dead body temperature was not saved.”



The Bohemians have also created a Christmas message for all their fans, which is so incredibly festive we’re about to explode in a shower of tinsel and fake snow.



Changelog highlights after the break.





New features: FXAA Anti-Aliasing mode, user-definable memory allocators, new scripting commands, new commandline options

Multiplayer is much smoother, no more warping, includes number of fixes, optimizations and improvements

Netcode, VON and dedicated server fixes plus configuration additions in place

Singleplayer received visual states smoothing and prediction (notable e.g. on distant units)

AI is improved, especially (but not only) in combat, AI has received numerous bug fixes

Aircraft & Helicopters simulation received slight improvements

ARMA 2, ARMA 2: OA, ARMA 2: EW campaigns and stand-alone missions received special treatment to get rid of most from really annoying bugs

official expansions & product combinations unified in way to allow easier operation of all distributions (separated installs/Steam/Desura) for build-in expansions manager

Documentation to accompany these changes is available on our community wiki BIKI: http://community.bistudio.com/ and our BIForum http://forums.bistudio.com/

ARMA 2: BAF and ARMA 2: PMC got their share of fixes too



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PC game download service Direct2Drive is becoming part of Gamefly, the US video game rental service. According to Direct2Drive’s site, they’re aiming to make the process as smooth as possible, but we’re a little concerned about what will happen to gamer’s precious Direct2Drive collections.



Worryingly, it seems that certain titles are available on Direct2Drive that aren’t available GameFly. Anno 2070, for instance, is available on Direct2Drive, but it’s not on Gamefly. Compounding this is the fact that Gamefly won’t be hosting Prima Guides, too.



Direct2Drive is advising customers to download their favourite purchases from Direct2Drive, as well as non-game files such as those precious Prima Guides. The Direct2Drive site advises that “Some older titles may not be available immediately after the transition, and will be added later.”



It’s not all bad - for US residents, at least. Gamefly subscribers have unlimited access to a host of games, including World of Goo, Prince of Persia, Penumbra and, er, Freddi Fish: The Case of the Haunted Schoolhouse. These titles are available for no extra charge, but it’s unclear if the rental service will ever be available in the UK. “At this time, GameFly's by-mail rental service for console and handheld titles is only available in the U.S.,” says Direct2Drive’s FAQ.



The transition from Direct2Drive to Gamefly begins in January. We can’t help but wonder if the inevitable bumps are going to throw at least two Direct2Drive users in Steam’s direction.
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Nothing says large-scale futuristic warfare quite like footage of slowly rotating men. It looks like we'll have to wait until the new year to see any videos of Planetside 2 in-action, but the latest faction vignette gives us an idea of how the three factions differ. You can choose to play as the sturdy, well drilled Terran Republic, the slick, high-tech Vanu or the desperate, under-resourced New Conglomerate. The Vanu's love of purple alien weaponry put them ahead in my book. Which is your favourite?
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EVE Online hit quite the patch of turbulence over the past year, but CCP's finally attempting to put things back on track. Better still, the recent "Crucible" expansion was just the tip of the space iceberg. In order to further EVE's newfound back-to-the-basics approach, senior producer Arnar "CCP Zulu" Gylfason is giving the deck over to Jon "CCP Unifex" Lander - formerly head of CCP's Carbon tech team. Speaking on EVE's official website, Lander outlined what's next for the MMO that's inspired equal amounts of long-form love poetry and spittle-soaked hate ranting.







"The task ahead of us in 2012 is not to be taken lightly," he wrote. "We are changing EVE’s internal project structure to bring it in line with a product that has nearly 200 people working on it and making sure that everyone is concentrating on delivering a game which has real value for our players. As well as changing the project organization, we will also be spending time on improving our internal tools, pipelines and processes to improve our efficiency and effectiveness for the future."



"Finally, we will be concentrating on those features we already have in the game after 8 years of development. Yes, we will be iterating (it‘s not a dirty word) on those features which need some polish, balance, fixes and general love. The releases throughout 2012 will be an extension of the type of release we had with Crucible with the addition of a theme to help us scope and tie the work into a really compelling and coherent package. The first theme is going to be War and everyone is getting very excited about it."



War! What is it good for? Spaceships, apparently. Good to know.
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We like Star Wars: The Old Republic so much that we put a (very big) number on it, but it definitely has a few kinks that need ironing out. Foremost, certain servers are more crowded than movie theaters on Episode One's opening day, but their occupants are as disappointed as, well, Star Wars fans on Episode One's opening day. Server queues abound, and - unfortunately - BioWare says they're not going away any time soon. If patience isn't your strong suit, however, the RPG behemoth suggests starting anew on a different server. Sadly, character transfers aren't an option - at least, for the time being.







"Character transfer is a common request for these servers," the developer wrote on its official forums. "The ability to transfer your characters is being worked on, but there is no ETA on when it will be available."



In the meantime, BioWare plans to "gradually" up population caps, but don't expect anything drastic. After all, that'd be like attempting to put out a fire with more fire. But hey, it could be worse. Unless you're bound and determined to power level so quickly that you become a Death Star, TOR's all about the story. Playing a Jedi? Jump over to a less populated server and try a Sith. It's hardly the end of the world.





PC Gamer


Christmas is canceled: there will be no podcast this week as we're busy decking the halls of our magazine to get the latest issue to Santa's printers in time. Daniel Erickson, Lead Writer for Star Wars: the Old Republic, swung by the office to cheer us on and chat about TOR on its launch day. We chat about his favorite light and dark side moments, which classes are just plain evil, and why faction changes just don't make sense in the Star Wars universe.



We hope you'll have a fantastic holiday season full of wonder-frags and epic loots. Look for podcast #300 in the new year. It'll be the cat's meow.





PC Gamer Interview with Daniel Erickson
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The latest Batman game is an awe-inspiring vision of an entire city turned into a prison. It’s every bit as neck-snappingly brutal as its predecessor, but this time Batman’s got an entire city at his disposal. Plus, you can climb on ceilings as Catwoman which really enfreshens the action. Steam’s knocked 50 per cent off the game, as well as the skins pack, in their current sale, but it’s only on for the next couple of hours. Quick! Like a bat!
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