As part of our wrap-up of the Immersion Days event in San Francisco we were treated to a presentation of Star Wars: The Old Republic’s space combat and starships. Once players finish out the Imperial capital of Dromund Kaas (or the Republic capital of Coruscant) they’ll have access to their very own starship.
For the purposes of our presentation, Daniel Erickson and crew demoed the Bounty Hunter’s D5-Mantis, though he also touched briefly on the Imperial Agent’s X-70B Phantom. The D5-Mantis is a cramped ship with a vertical design, clearly inspired by Boba Fett’s Slave I. Players can access their ships via instanced hangars in any spaceport, with a hangar set up for each class.
Like the Slave I, the Mantis’ interior appeared fairly tight, and frankly a bit smaller than I expected. The ship's entrance room featured an energy cage similar to the one you find Atton Rand in during the early bits of Knights of the Old Republic II, and yes, you will be able to store prisoners in it. The entrance room also contained the Crew Skills work bench, and one could also find an unlucky soul encased in a carbonite slab mounted on the wall. Further into the ship’s main level was the crew quarters, which, naturally, contained a number of bunks, presumably for your companions. Continuing past the crew quarters was a fairly large engine room, easily one of the more magnificent areas of the ship.
As we mentioned earlier, the Mantis is vertically designed, and so you’ll find a stairway leading up to the second floor in the entrance room. The second floor was home to the ships command center, which houses a holocommunicator used to contact key characters important to your story, some sort of quest-computer, and a galaxy map that bore a strong resemblance to the one used in BioWare’s singleplayer RPG, Mass Effect. The Mantis also comes with a captain’s quarters, where you’ll likely be doing all of your companion romancing. Since companions are located in fixed locations throughout the ship, BioWare initially ran into an issue with the romance scenes taking place in the captain’s quarters as one of the Bounty Hunter’s companions was located in a position making him look like a voyeur as he could be clearly seen looking into the room during the romance cutscenes. Whoops!
In addition to allowing you to travel from planet to planet, the galaxy map also allows you to hop into space battles, and Daniel Erickson was eager to show one off to us. After fiddling with the map a bit more, Daniel launched into a space battle where BioWare’s Cory Butler took us through an intense battle, weaving through asteroids and dodging out of enemy fire. If you haven’t been following the game much up to this point, Star Wars: The Old Republic’s space combat functions similarly to games like StarFox. Controls are simple, the ship is controlled with the mouse and can be moved around the screen, there is one button for firing lasers, another for missiles, and finally a button for doing a roll maneuver. While the game is “on rails” like StarFox, there are actual forks in the missions where you can opt to take different paths. For example, the mission presented us with the opportunity to take on a bonus objective by flying towards a capital ship and taking our turrets. If you’re not feeling so ballsy, you can simply go the other way and avoid the capital ship entirely. At this point, Cory’s ship was on fire due to all the damage he’d taken (something your characters and companion characters will comment on) but he put on his best “Challenge Accepted” face and dove head first into the capital ship, making a valiant attempt to take out the ships turrets. Unfortunately, he didn’t really have much luck and blew up in flames, thus ending our demo.
At this point we broke into a Q&A. I’ve gone ahead and broken down some of the highlights below:
- Space combat does award experience and credits, they want you to play it whenever you want and not feel like you’re wasting time doing it. Space combat is completely optional.
- At launch space combat will be singleplayer only. They are looking to expand the feature further post-launch, and they are very open as to where it goes from here based on player feedback after the game goes live. They’d love to do “free fly” stuff, multiplayer, etc, but again, this all depends on feedback.
- Mods as it stands right now are purely functional, such as weapons, shields, etc. Cosmetic modifications to the ship (such as hanging a painting up on your wall) are supported in the game tech, but are not currently available.
- Traveling around the galaxy costs credits, and the cost is based on your distance from your desired destination. Class quests that take place in a different location will allow you to fly back for free. BioWare doesn’t want players getting trapped anywhere trying to complete their story content.
- You can board your friends’ ships and travel with them. However, your ship will still travel with you so you won’t be stranded if your friend logs out on a planet you’ve just traveled to with him.