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SWTOR: Galactic Starfighter.. It’s no TIE Fighter, but it may just be Rogue Squadron

There’s something about Star Wars.  When I was a kid, I loved everything about it, I mean let’s face it, it’s got Space Samurai Wizards with laser swords. But despite all of that, what truly got me hooked to Star Wars when I was a kid was the Death Star battle in Episode IV. Flying X-Wings and TIE Fighters in epic dogfights in space is probably one of the coolest things that I could think of back then, and despite the fact that it’s been 20 years, I still can’t think of anything that would be much cooler than that.

So it might be no surprise that my perhaps my favourite game of all time would be the LucasArts classic: TIE Fighter. I mean sure, it’s been ranked as #1 Greatest Games of all time by PC Gamer back in 1997. IGN ranked it #3 in its List of Top PC Games of All Time, and Computer Gaming World inducted it into its Hall of Fame.

But no, this article isn’t about TIE Fighter and how much I love that game. This article is about the newest expansion in Star Wars: The Old Republic, entitled Galactic Starfighter. The Old Republic did what most people wanted out of Star Wars: it put together a game where you got to be the Space Samurai with a Laser Sword. If you wanted to, instead, you could also be the snarky smuggler or evil Sith Lord. The Old Republic did many amazing things to capture the imagination of Star Wars fans. What they failed to deliver, at least initially, was the experience of being the best starpilot in the galaxy. That omission has since been corrected with Galactic Starfighter.

Starfighters In Flight

I was one of the people who decided that waiting for Starfighter wasn’t acceptable, and downloaded the Public Test Server, to make sure  got myself into the fight as early as humanly possible, and I have to say, my first impressions of the game was one of disappointment. I went in hoping for a recreation of the epic multiplayer space dogfights I remembered from X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter. Galactic Starfighter is not a continuation of the X-Wing and TIE Fighter series. If you loved those games, and were hoping for Starfighter to fulfill the gaping hole in your heart as a replacement for XvT and XWA? You’re going to be disappointed. But keep an open mind.

 

Because more than anything SWTOR: Galactic Starfighter is fun, the controls are a bit difficult to master at first, and it can be frustrating when you get picked off by an enemy who you never see. I finished my first few battles with 0 kills, and a lot of deaths. But this version of PVP isn’t what you are used to from your bog standard MMO. This is Galactic Starfighter, and SWTOR has changed the game. Once you start getting the hang of the game, and it’s controls, you begin to find yourself completely drawn into the battles in space, just like you were when watching Star Wars for the first time.

 

The only modes I got to experience in Galactic Starfighter was an iteration of the standard capture the flag concept that most PVPers will be familiar with. For those who aren’t, you control waypoints, in the case of Starfighter these are stations or asteroids. You and your squadron patrol the area around control points, and defend it from enemy incursions. Oh, and the stations themselves sometimes get big ass guns to help you out.  You find yourself getting really into it, forming up with a wingman and trying to assault an enemy base. Sometimes you are sitting there defending a point, and you watch an enemy formation come in with guns blazing at you, and you know that you’re toast. So you pull out all the stops, all your speed boosts and everything, and duck in behind a giant stone pillar or asteroid to hide from the enemy, and get ready to ambush them, all the while screaming for backup from your squad.

 

Don't Shoot me Bro!Oh, and just like you’d expect, there is something almost unexplainably awesome about being chased by an enemy fighter, who you just can’t shake from your six, so you dodge through a canyon or a crag, just trying to survive, pulling off a crazy tight maneuver and sneaking through a space you probably shouldn’t have been able to sneak through, only to look at your enemy indicator to see that your pursuer didn’t make it. You live to fight another day, and he’s a burning pile of scrapped metal. There’s something close to perfection in that feeling.

 

The level of customizability in the expansion is awesome as well. If you play the rest of the MMO, and level up characters, you can add your companions to your crew to grant you various bonuses to your ship’s fighters. You can buy new weapons, and new secondary weapons to do different things. You can choose from three types of ships, all of which have varying roles and capabilities, giving you the chance to affect the battle in different ways; and if you’re a fan of Star Wars, you’re going to recognize the designs of the fighters as being something similar to the super ancient ancestors of X-Wings, TIE Fighters, those yellow Naboo fighters from that Episode that we don’t like to admit existed except for one awesome lightsaber duel.

 

As much as the team from BioWare got right in the execution of SWTOR: Galactic Starfighter, they’re still a few kinks to work out. Most notably, the interface of what is essentially flight sim using the keyboard and mouse as your inputs makes the games controls a bit less intuitive as it could be. I found myself having to learn to adjust my mouse movements, and making use of the DPI Switch on my mouse more than I ever have outside of a FPS.  Sometimes it felt a little bit twitchy, and hard to maneuver in the dog fights.  In all honesty, I realized that in order to play Galactic Starfighter in the way they have designed the game, it would be impossible to implement a joystick model of control input. But what I am pretty sure about, and have absolutely no solid information on, is that configuring a gamepad would actually make for a great experience, much akin to the experience you may have had playing Rogue Squadron on the consoles, back in the day.

Fighters of the Empire

One thing to note, however, is due to the Free to Play design of Star Wars: The Old Republic, there are varying release dates for this content:

  • If you are currently a subscriber to SWTOR, the content will be available on December 3rd, 2013
  • If you are a preferred customer (ie: you were once a subscriber, or have bought Cartel Coins) you can access the content on January 14th, 2014
  • If you are a completely Free to Play customer, you won’t have access to Starfighter until February 4th, 2014.

Ultimately, I have mostly praises to sing for Galactic Starfighter, which rolls out to SWTOR Subscribers on December 3rd. When it comes down to it, Starfighter isn’t TIE Fighter, and it never will be. But if you can accept that, what you will find is a Star Wars experience that is extremely enjoyable, and you can experience some epic space battles.

For me? I’m not waiting. I’m resubscribed just for this game, and I’m going to be tearing the skies apart with my fighter as soon as possible. But I’m also willing to admit that on the scale of Enthusiast to Star Wars Nerd? I’m the Emperor.

**Note: Star Wars: The Old Republic is currently offering a double experience weekend, from November 28th to December 1st, where you earn double XP for everything, just to get people primed up and ready to go for December 3rd’s Launch

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  • http://www.rigden.ca/ Paul Rigden

    It’s possible that the people over at darthhater.com actually can use the force. Just found this article from back in 2011 talking about how you can use an old xbox gamepad with the old style rails space game…

    http://www.darthhater.com/articles/swtor-news/19814-using-your-xbox-gamepad-for-space-combat

    Will be trying that out on Tuesday!

  • dailypvp1

    domination is NOT a capture the flag iteration. There is absolutely nothing in common between these two aside from “capture” objective.

  • TwistedSithter

    Okay, I’m totally sick of people being blinded by their unconditional love of Star Wars. The game mechanics aren’t intuitive? Meaning actually playing and controlling the game isn’t easy or fun to start with? THAT’s the most important part of a game, but noooo, because it’s Star Wars people will bite the bullet and ‘Force’ themselves to like it (get it. It’s a ‘Force’d pun). I love Star Wars too but just because it has the name shouldn’t forgive it of its sins.

  • jSAUCE!

    What’s with the hate? having ‘capturing stuff’ in common means that the two game modes are essentially similar. So there’s that. And so what if star wars makes people like the game more, the lore and looks and feel of the game are still part the game. Stop hating cause that’s the way to the darkside