For subscribers to the massively multiplayer online game Star Wars: The Old Republic, Bioware opened the hangar doors on it's newest expansion to the game. Galactic Starfighter, where Republic and Imperial forces vie for air and space superiority in 12 v 12 player versus player (PVP) combat. Currently ONLY subscribers may access the space battles, preferred status members can join the fun on January 14th, and free to play accounts can suit up on February 4th.
Your Ship Awaits
Players can initially man one of three styles of combat ships:
Strike Fighters - The nitty-gritty workhorse of your fleet. This ship is best used when needing to dogfight, or make use of its powerful missile payload.
Gunships - Long range powerhouse. Gunships have a powerful ability to snipe targets at an incredible range with devastating results.
Scouts - Fast, fast, and fast. These are your go-to for quick capture of objectives as well as making great use of it's ability to close gaps against gunships, and sorties on an enemy's defense turrets.
All three ships have a wide variety of customization options, from what type of blaster cannons you use down to the color of the vapor trail you leave behind. Many of these upgrades use an in-game currency called requisition points, which you earn by playing matches. Other unlocks use the game's Cartel Market, which turns real money into "Cartel Coins" for purchasing digital items, including new ship models as well as paint schemes for your fighters and varying color options. Purchasing the Cartel Market upgrades is thankfully not mandatory, but it does provide Bioware a means to make money off of what amounts to a free expansion.
First, a reality check. If you're expecting a flight sim like the old X-Wing or TIE Fighter games from the 90s you're going to be disappointed. Although there are nods to those games in that you can determine where the majority of your power can be directed (shields, weapons, or engines), the similarities tend to end there. In spirit it feels more like the Rogue Squadron franchise from the late 90s. The arcade aspects of the Rogue Squadron series have been used to good effect in how these matches play out. The only current game type "Domination" consists of three capture points in which your squadron must attempt to capture to gain points. Once a team reaches 1000 points the game is over. Getting to that goal is easier said than done, and takes a great deal of teamwork to keep a base secure. The three ship types seem to balance out for the most part, Strike Fighters seem to be the early favorites, but all three have their uses. Over time I expect to see a great deal of diversity once people get comfortable with frankly overwhelming amount of modification options available for each ship. The only downside is the inability to add joystick functionality, however Bioware's reasoning for this as sound, as no one wants to feel like they need a peripheral to even the odds.
If you've read the older posts of this blog, you may know what a fan of The Old Republic I've become. This new expansion is exactly what I had hoped it would be. This is truly a huge step in the right direction for Bioware and SWTOR. My imagination goes wild with where they could take this game next, nothing seems off limits now. Pazaak? Sabacc? Speeder racing? Holo Chess? Yes please!