When I think back throughout my long history of Star Wars gaming, no experience was more amazing than the first time I sat down and played X-Wing. This game was followed up by TIE Fighter, a game which I played even more than X-Wing, and to a lesser extent I also enjoyed X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter. Then there was X-Wing: Alliance, but the less said about that game the better. The point is, ever since TIE Fighter, I’ve been waiting for another Star Wars flight sim game to come along and blow me away. The inclusion of space combat is always the number one thing on my wishlist every time a new Star Wars video game is announced. So I was obviously excited when space missions were announced for The Old Republic. It was the number one thing I wanted to try out and eventually I got into the beta and was able to try my hand at space combat. And now that the NDA is down, I can finally share my experience with the rest of you.
I knew going into this that I wasn’t getting the free-flying X-Wing-style space combat that I really wanted. No, those hopes were quickly dashed by the words, “rail shooter.” For those unaware, rail shooters are those where your ship follows a predetermined path (as if it was riding on a set of rails) and you really only have control over targeting and firing your weapons. Despite my disappointment, I have been so starved for Star Wars based space combat that I didn’t really care.
When you first get your spaceship, there are three missions available to you. These three missions are fairly easy to complete and and are intended as training and introduction to the whole space mission mechanic. However, they are so easy that I found them to be somewhat boring, particularly the escort mission. Eventually, you do unlock missions with a higher difficulty and things do improve from there. The ability to upgrade your ship is also a welcome addition and really helps complete those higher level missions. And as a rule I enjoy whenever MMOs add “twitchy” elements to their gameplay.
The environments look really beautiful as well. Even if you play with your graphics on the lowest settings, it’s really something to see. And buzzing along the surface of an Imperial cruiser blasting away at its shield generators and turbolaser turrets is pretty damned awesome. Completing space missions give very nice experience awards and can be a really good way to level up.
Sadly, this enjoyment can quickly turn to tedium. Thanks to the rail shooter style of gameplay, every time you play the space mission it’s exactly the same as the last. The replay value of these missions is essentially zero. Still, they do offer a nice diversion from questing and another for people to level their characters up. And as long as you play each mission only once, you’ll never notice the repetitiveness. So, no, I didn’t really get what I wanted out of the space combat in SWTOR, but it at least gives me some way to pass the time while I wait for Lucasarts to release X-Wing 2.