Game Review - 'Star Wars: The Old Republic - Galactic Starfighter'
There have always been a few key features that have made up the true Star Wars experience. Jedi, obviously. Dashing rogues with deeply buried hearts of pure gold, perhaps. Some of the most overtly 'villainous' villains you are ever likely to find in any medium, also. And, of course, the epic space battles
Anyone who has ever spent any time with Bioware's MMORPG, Star Wars: The Old Republic, will already know that the game has those first few pretty well covered. Even discounting the sheer number of players living out their own personal 'Luke Skywalker' fantasies, the universe of SW:TOR is practically swarming with Jedi of all sorts - both the noble and the heroic, and those who have fallen to the Dark Side. For dashing rogues - well, there's an entire class story devoted to letting the player become Han Solo. And, not only are there plenty of examples of the fantastically over the top villains that the Star Wars franchise is known for on hand - but, the game also give you plenty of opportunities to become one yourself.
But, in the area of 'epic space battles', SW:TOR has always fallen woefully short. The single-player, on-rails, shooter that was included with the game's launch was never really what players wanted. Sure, it has always looked like Star Wars (or, least, the CGI-fest that is the prequel trilogy), but the experience of actually playing these levels has always been disappointing. Long-running rumors of a 'Super Secret Space Project' being worked on by Bioware gave some hope - though, as time passed, more and more players became convinced that they would never actually amount to anything. It turns out, though, that there actually was something to the rumored 'SSSP', in the form of Galactic Starfighter - a new content add-on offering 12 versus 12 PvP battles in the depths of space. And, the best part is that it's being added to the game for free.
Subscribers were given early access to this new content on December 3rd (preferred status players will be able to start playing in mid-January, while free players will gain access in early February). While I cancelled my subscription, and dropped down to preferred status, a year ago, I am willing to admit that I was interested enough in this particular content to be willing to part with a bit of money to have an early look. So, for the next month or so, I am once again subscribing to SW:TOR, just so I can spend time trying out Galactic Starfighter - and, so far, I quite like what I have seen.
Ships in Galactic Starfighter are divided into three broad categories. Scouts are light and fast, and can be equipped with a broader range of tactical advantages - the sheer speed that a scout if capable of allows them to leave everyone else far behind.. Strike fighters are, obviously, the front-line of any squadron, focusing on shields, firepower and maneuverability - they are the best able to perform in a pure dog-fight. Finally, gunships are slower and less agile, but are capable of dishing out some impressive long-range damage - they are basically snipers, or heavy artillery, picking off enemies from a distance.
I have not been able to try out the gunships myself, yet - since they are still currently restricted to only those players who were subscribed to the game in early November. But, as someone who has often been caught by surprise by their long-range attacks over the past few days, I am already fully aware of how devastating they can be in the hands of a skilled player. Regarding the strike fighters and the scouts, though - the upgrade options available to each means that they will handle noticeably differently from each other.
The maps themselves provide plenty of opportunity for suitably cinematic space battles. Each comes with an entertaining mixture of wide-open areas to fight, and narrow areas to weave through. Honestly, it was all a bit overwhelming, at first (at least, it was for me - as someone who doesn't have much experience with this sort of game). In my first attempt, I managed to crash twice and get completely lost once - and, I contributed almost enough to the actual match. Sure, I've crashed in matches since then, too - but, at least then, I had the excuse of being chased. That first time, it was just because I had no idea what I was actually doing. Thankfully, though, it turns out that there is a short tutorial level included to help you get used to the new game-play. Unfortunately, it is also very easy to miss - which I did, until after I'd embarrassed myself in a couple of matches. It seemed like a very steep learning curve, at first - but, in the end (and, with the help of the tutorial), it all fell into place quickly. And, soon enough, I was right back to my comfortably 'average' level of performance.
The only real problem, so far, is that there really isn't all that much to this new content - at least, not yet. At the moment, there are only two maps, and one game-mode, for players to enjoy. Both share the same 'domination' objective, which sees each team trying to capture and hold the three objectives - generating points from each that is successfully held, until one team eventually wins. On a similar note, it is also a little disappointing that we currently only have a single game-mode to share between the two maps. 'Domination' is entertaining, and it does require a decent amount of strategy and team-work. But, there are already so many players who clearly just want to dog-fight that it feels like a bit of a missed opportunity that Bioware didn't toss in a straightforward 'death-match' mode, as well. Though, I'm sure that will come later.
Galactic Starfighter is an entertaining addition to the game - but, it is one that is also still clearly unfinished. What we have with this first update is the groundwork of what will eventually grow into a whole new aspect of SW:TOR. And, from what I've seen, it seems to have a lot of promise. But, it's not there yet. For that reason, I'm not even going to try to assign any sort of final score to what has been added so far. I'll simply say that I've enjoyed what I've played, and that I am looking forward to seeing how it develops in the future.
© 2013 Dallas Matier
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