With the amount of information recently datamined out of Star Wars: The Old Republic’s files for the upcoming ‘Super Secret Space Project’ it seemed like an actual announcement had to be imminent. Yesterday, BioWare officially unveiled “Galactic Starfighter”, the second digital expansion to Star Wars: The Old Republic. Surprise!
Actually, there were some surprises here for anyone not following the leaks. Chief among them was the announcement that this digital expansion would be “free-to-play”. Unlike Rise of the Hutt Cartel before it, no purchase is required for Galactic Starfighter. There is sort of a catch, of course. Subscribers will receive the expansion ‘early’ on December 3, 2013, while Preferred players gain access on January 14, 2014, and finally, F2P players can jump in on February 4, 2014. This is certainly an interesting way of doing things. This approach definitely ups the value of subscribing to Star Wars: The Old Republic while also giving non-subscribers a pretty reasonable timeframe before they can get their hands on the new toys. If you’ve bought the game in the past or dropped a meager $5 on SWTOR any time since it re-launched as F2P last year, you get the whole thing for free in January. Not a bad deal at all.
I recently put together a list of things I thought BioWare should do to make sure they get the most out of this project. IfI compare my list against what we now know, I can’t help but be somewhat disappointed. This is probably my own fault more than anything, as I so wanted to delude myself into hoping that BioWare would pull out a massively ambitious boxed space expansion along the lines of Star Wars Galaxies’ Jump to Lightspeed.
Instead, what we’re getting is a digital expansion focused entirely on space PvP combat. It’s not quite Jump to Lightspeed, but I’ll take it. The SSSP turned out to be far more narrow in scope than I’d have liked to see, but it doesn’t mean what we are getting is necessarily bad. So far, the leaks associated with this project have turned out to be accurate, and if the customization options and progression systems I’ve read about come to fruition then there could be some real meat to the overall experience.
No, it’s not a broad space game, but if you can get past the disappointment of the project not resembling JTL (likely easy for anyone who never played it!) and find yourself excited at the notion of jumping into 12v12 dogfights, then BioWare may actually have something awesome in store for you here. I know I’m excited to jump in and shoot it up in space, but I can’t help being disappointed the project wasn’t much broader in scope due to my past experiences and hopes for something more.
If this is going to remain a purely PvP focused feature, there is one thing I would definitely like to see BioWare do with this system going forward, and that is combined arms warzones. Imagine for a moment a Battle of Endor-style warzone where Imperial and Republic players fight it out planetside with one side tasked with taking down a shield generator in order for allies in space to be able to actually inflict damage on some massive capital ship or space station.
In another example, you could take the Hoth evacuation from Empire Strikes Back and have one side’s pilots try to take out NPC ships launched from the planet below before they jump to hyperspace while the other side attempts to defend them. On the ground, players trying to protect their ships would be tasked with defending an ion cannon that periodically fires into space and temporarily disables NPC frigates or capital ships also firing at the evacuation ships in order to make the escort job easier for the allied pilots above. As you can see, it’s easy to pull a ton of interesting opportunities from the films alone and beyond that the possibilities are endless. Keep in mind, I’m not talking about having ground combat players running around while space players are buzzing around overhead in the same area, but essentially dual-warzones that leverage both experiences together in interesting ways.
Oh, and I’m still holding out hope for that cockpit view.
What’s your take on Galactic Starfighter? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB