While Galactic Starfighter isn’t the Jump to Lightspeed sort of expansion I was hoping for, BioWare’s announcement earlier this year got me excited nonetheless. The official videos definitely piqued my interest, despite the somewhat narrow focus of the project on PvP battlegrounds. It just looked really well done and most importantly of all: fun. So when BioWare recently put Galactic Starfighter up on the game’s test server, I had to patch up and take a peek for myself.
From a high level, Galactic Starfighter closely resembles games like World of Warplanes or War Thunder. You have access to a hangar of ships that you can customize both visually and functionally, you choose your loadout, and you queue up for matches. The game controls similarly, too. In fact, if you’ve played either of the aforementioned games, you should feel right at home with Galactic Starfighter.
The off-rails free flight of Galactic Starfighter is obviously its most significant feature. I’ve long been a detractor of the silly Star Fox space component SWTOR launched with and I was thrilled to finally have the freedom to, you know, actually fly around. At the same time, the Warplanes/War Thunder style controls aren’t exactly my strong suit. I’m terrible at those games, but I feel like I was able to settle in a bit after playing Starfighter for some time.
Two maps are currently available: Kuat Mesas and Lost Shipyards. Both featured the “Domination” game type, which is your standard capture point game mode. Fly to a point, clear out turrets and players, and capture. I enjoyed Kuat Mesas in particular due to all the geography that can be used to evade and sneak up on enemies. Dogfighting while weaving through the map of Kuat Mesas is a real thrill. I almost feel like atmospheric based maps would be a much better focus for BioWare as opposed to pure open space.
I love the active systems management, too. The best pilots will properly manage their ship systems for any given situation. Giving chase or trying to get away quickly? Shift reactor energy to your boosters. Getting slammed hard? Shift to shields. Trying to secure that kill? Dump energy into your blasters. Additionally, companions offer active abilities on cooldown that can be used at crucial moments to repair hull or charge shields, perform evasive maneuvers, and more. Galactic Starfighter requires both nimble fingers and a tactical mind.
Even though Galactic Starfighter focuses squarely on battleground based PvP, that isn’t to say there isn’t a solid deal of depth on offer. With multiple ship roles (scout, strike fighter, gunship, and later, bomber) to utilize, putting together a balanced team of ships is crucial to winning a match. For example, rolling in with six gunships probably won’t work out very well.
You’ll also want to select your loadout carefully. Everything from your guns to your sensors will have multiple options to unlock and load in and each component also comes with its own discrete talent tree. If that weren’t enough, companions also play a vital role in your ship loadout. Each companion has different passive bonuses to offer and one companion can also be selected to provide an active ability in addition to its passive bonus. Theorycrafting of optimal team compositions and loadouts is likely to be one of the more compelling aspects of Galactic Starfighter.
All of these goodies are unlocked via Requisition points, of which there are two types. This is where things get a little controversial. Unlocking and upgrading ship components is done with Ship Requisition (earned specific to the ship being played). This stuff is awarded at a pretty healthy rate compared to the cost of components, but it’s Fleet Requisition, the currency used to unlock ships themselves that feels a bit stingy. I received less than 100 Fleet Requisition per match and ship costs were in the thousands. I don’t know if this was changed since I last played, but at this rate, it would seem like it would take you quite a while just to unlock a single ship.
The controversial bit is the fact that Cartel Coins can be used to convert Ship Requisition to Fleet Requisition, potentially giving players who are willing to spend an upper hand in unlocking ships much faster. I’m not sure how I feel about this just yet, but it’s something important to note.
Galactic Starfighter may not be everyone’s cup of tea, especially if you’re not into PvP, but if you are, you should definitely check it out when it launches in February next year. Of course, if you’re a subscriber or Preferred status player, you can hop in as early as December 3rd or January 14th, respectively.
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