Until I played Diablo II, the X-Wing and TIE Fighter and X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter games were probably the ones that I had spent the most time playing in my life. I loved those games. In elementary school I had even joined a squadron, a sort of guild organized via bulletin boards, if anyone remembers those. I loved those games. I don’t know how many joysticks I broke playing them.
When Star Wars: The Old Republic came out, I was pumped for a lot of reasons. It’s a Star Wars Bioware game. A good track record. I loved Star Wars Galaxies, but Knights of the Old Republic was a little more up my alley since I love games with a good story. I was excited that each class had its own storyline meaning there would be a lot of content.
SWTOR was announced to contain spaceship combat. The most optimistic of us hoped that this mode would basically be the return of these old flight simulators. I wasn’t holding my breath and it turned out to be a shooter on rails a la Starfox. I like so much about the game that it didn’t bother me that it didn’t have a whole other game added to it but some people were really upset.
Now, SWTOR is releasing the Galactic Starfighter expansion with additional revised space combat. Early access to subscribers opened yesterday and it’s pretty interesting.
It still doesn’t scratch the same itch at XvT but it is fun.
What it is still missing is proper missions. They chose to make the mode PvP only. One thing I loved about those old games were the fact that you always had a different mission whether it was to protect a certain ship until it could get away or destroy enemy attackers or space station. There was always something to do. In Galactic Starfighter, it’s always PvP and the mission is always to control 3 locations. When your team controls a location, you start earning points. First team to 1,000 points wins. There are different maps but the same mission.
I would like to see PvE missions added and some more variety, but the system is really sound. My favorite bit in TIE Fighter was that the Emperor’s hand would show up to give you side missions and you could be inducted into his secret order. I guess this is a spoiler 20 years later, but *SPOILER ALERT*. During one mission, you are approached by the hand that things may not be right and during the next mission the Imperial fleet turns on you. It was a great bit of storytelling within a game that could easily have just been “blow up the Rebel ships”.
The controls came out really well. When I heard about this, I wasn’t sure how they were going to implement proper flight controls with a mouse and keyboard. I wasn’t going to buy a joystick anymore. Back in the day you could play with a mouse but it was ridiculous. You could drag down to pitch up but to continually pitch up you had to drag down, pick up your mouse and do it again. It ended up with me breaking at least one mouse.
In thinking about how it could be done, I came up with something very similar to what ended up being the case. In GS, keeping your cursor in the middle of the screen keeps you flying straight. If you move your cursor out from the center you pitch and yaw accordingly. Throttle is controlled by W and S or up and down and you can roll with A and D or left and right. After spending a few minutes with it, it works really well. When you die, you just come back in a new ship so it makes for a really quick and fun game. Every time you come back you can choose a new type of ship fighter, bomber or gunship.
I haven’t gotten to play a lot of it but the customization options are pretty interesting. You can earn two additional currencies which you can use to purchase ship upgrades. You can also choose crew members for your ship. These allow you different weapons and ship abilities activated with 1, 2, 3, and 4.
I’m not sure I’m going to get super into the mode but it’s a great addition.