A WoW player's guide to The Old Republic, page 2

Space?  I didn't sign up for this!
Heading out to the black

Everyone knows that the original Star Wars trilogy wouldn't have been nearly as exciting without the series' iconic space battles, and BioWare didn't neglect it in The Old Republic, either. Near the end of each class' second planet storyline, everyone gets a shiny spaceship in which to travel the galaxy and engage in dogfights with reckless abandon.

Your spaceship, once you've acquired it, will be your primary method of travel. It can take you from planet to planet at faster-than-light speeds for a small credit cost (for fuel). That's right -- even Sith have to chip in for gas. But interplanetary travel is but a small part of what your ship can do. It's important to note that your ship does count as a rest area for the sake of rested experience and companion conversations, and you can use your ship's cargo hold to stow anything you'd rather not carry around.

You can't paint it hot pink and chartreuse... not yet, anyway.But best of all, you can use your ship to blow up other ships. That's right, your faction's fleet is cognizant of your spacefaring skills and will send you missions that will allow you to pew-pew to your heart's content. The controls for space battles are simple: Your mouse controls your ship's movement and the aim of your guns. Space bar does a barrel roll. Left-clicking fires your standard blasters, while holding down the right mouse button will allow you to "paint" up to four targets at which missiles will be fired when the mouse button is released. Remember, however, that you only have a limited number of missiles for each mission, so it's often a good idea to use them only when needed. The objectives of each space mission vary, so be sure to keep an eye on your current mission.

Successfully completing space missions will grant XP as well as currency that can be used to purchase further upgrades for your ship. Upgrading your ship works much in the same way as upgrading your own gear does. Simply press C to open your character panel, choose the Ship tab at the bottom of the window, and right-click or drag-and-drop gear and enjoy watching your simple transport vessel become a juggernaut of destruction.

But wait, why are we doing these space missions again? Well, mostly because flying around in space while blowing things into kingdom come is awesome. The missions don't have any effect on the story, they don't provide any end-game-level gear (that I'm aware of), and there's really nothing to do except upgrade your ship. So mostly, it's a fun time-killer to earn a bit of experience when you're tired of the daily grind. But hey, lasers and explosions! What more do you want?

He's a hunter and a pet.  Our minds are blown.Your closest companions

If you were a Hunter back in the early days of WoW, you remember the complicated dance of finding a new pet, teaching it abilities, raising its affection, and so forth. If you liked that, you're going to definitely enjoy managing your companions in Star Wars: The Old Republic, since you get all of the management fun without having to find food for something that eats only raw fish.

You'll get your first companion by the time you leave the starter planet, and you'll snag at least one more companion when you get your ship. Further companions are unlocked steadily as you move through the story, with five total story companions that usually cover all of the game's basic archetypes (ranged DPS, ranged tank, melee DPS, melee tank, and healer). Much like pets, companions can be ordered to attack specific targets, commanded to use specific abilities, dismissed, resummoned, resurrected, and so forth. They've also got a small gauge representing their affection toward you... but that's where the similarities with WoW end.

In SWTOR, your companions won't like you more or less based on whether or not you feed them; they'll like you more or less based on what you do. Each individual companion has certain things he or she likes or dislikes. The first Sith Warrior companion, for instance, appreciates sarcasm, self-aggrandizing behavior, and benevolence. Your first companion as a Trooper likes civic duty, a businesslike demeanor, and confidence. As you make choices through the game with your companion, his or her affection will rise or fall -- and as it raises high enough, you can unlock new quests specific to that companion.

Your companions are also your responsibility in terms of equipment. A companion who joins you at level 10 will be wearing level 10 gear, and if you try to tote her out several dozen levels later, she won't keep up. Each companion has a primary stat, just like player classes do, and certain quests will reward you with gear specific to a given companion. Companions can also equip normal player gear, with the sole exception of relics.

Much like Warlock pets in WoW, companions automatically gain new abilities as they level up, usually including one or two different stances and a number of other abilities. By clicking on the small plus sign next to the companion bar, you can expand the bar to show all of that companion's abilities and toggle auto-use of abilities via right-click. A small green dot shows up for abilities that will be automatically used; abilities that are off have a black space.

The last but in some ways most useful distinction between companions and pets is that companions can help handle an overloaded inventory. Right-clicking on your companion's portrait provides you with the option to send him or her away to sell trash items, yanking all the vendor trash from your inventory and returning a minute later with a handful of credits. It's service with a smile.

But he's a nice guy when you get to know him.Rising to the light, falling to the dark

In WoW, you don't have choices in your quests. You can torture someone for information and then be hailed as a champion of the Light in another quest. There's no slowly accumulating taint or purity upon your soul. Not so in SWTOR; here, you do get choices, and they matter. If you choose torture, extra money, and murdering unarmed opponents on a regular basis, you're going to wind up different than someone who follows the straight and narrow.

In more mechanical terms, you have a meter to track your progress between the universe-appropriate Light Side and Dark Side. By default, choices that earn you points toward one side or the other have an icon displayed in the center of the conversation wheel. In general terms, Light Side actions are ones that care for the community and speak of selflessness, especially dedication to individual freedom and children. Dark Side actions, meanwhile, are all about self-interest, lying, and taking the most expedient path even at the cost of others.

They're not quite as clean as "good" and "bad." Most Dark Side actions tend to be fairly reprehensible, but they also usually involve money, and sometimes they help ensure stability in the long run. Light Side actions are altruistic, but they run into the traditional problem in which you are expected to forgive an enemy even when said enemy will just try to kill you again in a few seconds. Life is a bit harder on you at times if you're consistently Light Side, but no one ever said that life was fair.

Related to this mechanic is the Social Point system. This system ties very heavily into BioWare's emphasis on the importance of story. While adventuring with a party, you will eventually find yourself involved in a group conversation. Group conversations work exactly like normal ones, except that after each member of the group has chosen a response, a die roll determines who gets to speak. If you win the roll, you're granted two social points per conversation participant. If you don't, you're granted one social point per participant. Social points contribute to your Social Level. A high Social Level will allow you to buy unique and fun social items from special vendors throughout the galaxy.

Troopers have a lot of ways to shoot people, apparently. Classes

Perhaps you're thinking that you know all of this already. Perhaps you do know all of it already and just want to get a class as close to your favorite WoW class as possible. But even that is more deceptive than it might appear at first glance, so we've prepared an in-depth analysis of all the classes in WoW and their SWTOR equivalents (or as close as they come).

Death Knight: If you liked tanking as a Death Knight -- either in the every-tree-tank days of Wrath or the Blood-only days of Cataclysm -- you'll enjoy tanking as an Assassin or Shadow. It's all there, from the spreading debuffs to the self-heals to the emphasis on avoidance over straight soak. You've even got the high resistance to attacks that really tear up other tanks. Meanwhile, if you preferred the DPS side of things, you're going to have a bit more adaptation to do. Carnage-specced Marauders and Combat-specced Sentinels carry some of the flavor of the Unholy procs, while Lethality-specced Operatives and Dirty Fighting-specced Scoundrels carry some of the spreading debuffs and melee damage, but it's still not quite the same.

Druids: Druids have it rough in SWTOR due to the fact that shapeshifting into animals isn't part of the core Star Wars canon. However, there are parallels for each Druid spec that should allow you to recreate the feel of your favorite crit-chicken, healy-tree, kitty, or bear. Boomkins should look into a Telekinetic-specced Jedi Sage or a Lightning-specced Sith Sorcerer, which combine Force-based long-range attacks with a healthy smattering of heals and protective spells. For our arboreal friends the Restoration Druids, the best parallel is the Sawbones Scoundrel or the Medic Operative, which utilize a healing style based around energy-conservation and heal-over-time abilities. Kitties and bears are a bit tougher to draw a parallel between, but the most likely candidates are Deception Sith Assassins or Infiltration Jedi Shadows for the cats and Immortal Sith Juggernauts or Defense Jedi Guardians for our ursine pals.

Hunter: The thing about Hunters is that they've always been strongly defined by their pets, and companions fill that niche for every class. There's really no equivalent to a Beasmastery tree to be found. Playing a damage-specced Mercenary or Commando is certainly an option, but your best bet will likely be a Sniper or Gunslinger to capture that feeling of ranged destruction.

Mage: You're probably tempted to head down the DPS tree for Sage or Sorceror, but be advised that when you do so you're not really playing a mage; you're playing a Balance Druid without a feather coat. Mechanically, you get closer with a Pyrotech Mercenary or an Assault Specialist Commando, which most closely resemble Fire-specced Mages but serve as a decent substitute for other Mage specs in a pinch. Gunnery Commandos and Arsenal Mercenaries are also good choices to recreate some of the feel, and you'll get heals for each spec besides.

Paladin: You might think that the Jedi Knight is basically a Paladin by another name, but you'd be wrong. Granted, Sentinels going down the Watchman tree (or Marauders going down the Annihilation tree) are similar to Retribution in broad strokes, but even then it's a loose comparison at best. If you're used to being a Holy Paladin, the closest thing you'll find is a healing Operative or Scoundrel, and a tank-specced Trooper or Powertech is the closest thing to Protection... but even then, these are fairly broad comparisons.

Maybe I could strap another pair of lightsabers to my knees...Priests: Holy Priests and Discipline Priests get a two-in-one deal in SWTOR with a Seer-specced Jedi Sage or a Corruption-specced Sith Sorcerer. Both classes focus on healing in a style very reminscent of both Holy and Discipline Priests, utilizing direct heals and damage-preventing shields to keep their allies hale and hearty. Shadow Priests, however, are a bit more difficult to pin to a SWTOR class. The closest match is likely a Lethality Imperial Sniper or a Dirty Fighting Gunslinger, which focus on ranged DoTs and nukes, though they lack the healing and mana replenishment options of a true Shadow Priest. If you prefer a class with healing options, you may want to look into a Madness-specced Sith Sorcerer or a Balance-specced Jedi Sage, which will provide you with a great array of heals, nukes, DoTs, and even a bit of passive mana and health restoration.

Rogues: Ah, Rogues: Azeroth's sneaky, backstabbing fiends and bane of squishies everywhere. If you're a Rogue player making the jump over to The Old Republic, you've got some good options available to you. Assassination Rogues will probably want to look into a Lethality-specced Imperial Operative or a Dirty-Fighting-specced Scoundrel. Both of these classes focus on stealth, close-range attacks such as backstabs, and a helping of poison-like DoTs, plus some heals as an added bonus. Meanwhile, Subtlety Rogues have an even wider variety of choices, such as a Deception-specced Sith Assassin or an Infiltration-specced Jedi Shadow. These classes focus, as you may have guessed, on the art of subterfuge and stealth in order to get close to their unsuspecting enemies before plunging a double-bladed saber through them. Alternatively, Concealment Operatives or Scrapper Scoundrels are also viable alternatives. These classes also focus on stealth but belong to the Smuggler class, which grants them some ranged attacks as well as some heals. Unfortunately for combat Rogues, there's no direct parallel in SWTOR, but if you want a pair of sabers and lightning-fast attacks, a Combat Jedi Sentinel or Carnage Sith Marauder will fit the bill.

Shaman: The Shaman is a class that's always sported three very unique and different trees, so it's understandable that no one class is quite going to mirror the progression of a Shaman. Playing a Commando or Mercenary specced for healing is going to be fairly familiar for Restoration Shaman players, since you have several similar abilities, including an Earth Shield workalike. (You also shoot people to heal them, which is several kinds of fun.) Enhancement Shamans will probably want to play a Balance-specced Shadow or Madness-specced Assassin, which captures some fo the same flavor of the melee/spellcasting hybrid. Elemental Shamans, meanwhile, will want to go DPS Consular or Sorceror for flavor, but Engineering Snipers and Saboteur Gunslingers are probably the closest mechanical maps.

Warlocks: Warlocks are another one of those classes for which it's tricky to draw parallels to SWTOR, due to the fact that one of the defining features of the class is the use of a demon pet. But there are still points of comparison. Affliction Warlocks, for example, tend to focus on stacking DoTs on an enemy until they spontaneously explode into giblets. Lethality Imperial Snipers and Dirty Fighting Gunslingers both fit this bill, with a great deal of long-range DoTs with which to antagonize their foes. Destruction Warlocks, on the other hand, will almost certainly want to have a look at Lightning-specced Sith Sorcerers or Telekinetic-specced Jedi Sages, whose big nukes will make them feel right at home. Warlocks of either spec should also consider taking a look at Pyrotech-specced Mercenaries or Assault Specialist Commandos, who use explosives, fire, and DoTs to bring death to the battlefield. Unfortunately, however, there is quite literally no parallel available for Demonology Warlocks because, as mentioned above, every class gets companions and there is no talent tree which focuses on enhancing said companions' abilities.

Warriors: Whether you're the type of Warrior who likes to provide protection for his friends or to dish out pain for his enemies, SWTOR has you covered. Fury Warriors will find a home in the Sith Marauder and the Jedi Sentinel, which focus on dealing damage with a pair of one-handed lightsabers no matter the spec. Arms Warriors who are at home with a single blade and lots of punishing attacks will want to take a look at a Vengeance Sith Juggernaut or a Vigilance Jedi Guardian. And of course, our favorite meatshields, Protection Warriors, will feel right at home in the boots of a Combat Immortal Sith Juggernaut or a Defense Jedi Guardian, who use a single saber and a shield generator to keep enemy enmity focused on them rather than their compatriots.

Star Wars: The Old Republic is here, and the Force is with Massively! We prepared a Hutt-sized feast of class introductions, gameplay guides, lore roundups, and hands-on previews to help you navigate the launch period and beyond. And don't forget our weekly SWTOR column, the Hyperspace Beacon!