With just a couple of days before Early Access, I imagine that most of you reading this have either tried space combat for yourself or have seen it in the many videos available online. But just in case, today we’ll be taking a look at space, and more specifically, space combat in Star Wars: The Old Republic.
Before you can start doing barrel rolls, you’ll have to acquire your ship, and this doesn’t occur until around level 16 or 17 or so. Depending on your class, you’ll receive your ship in a variety of different ways, but all classes will receive their ship at the same point, coinciding with the completion of their capital world story content (Coruscant or Dromund Kaas). Ships in SW:TOR serve as your home base; your Ebon Hawk, basically. You can interact with companions on your ship, manage your bank (cargo hold), initiate important story cutscenes, and of course, do space combat.
Once you acquire and get acclimated with your ship, you can begin taking space combat missions from a terminal just behind your Captain’s Chair. Your first interaction with this terminal will feature full voiced over dialogue similar to any of the game’s other quests, and this dialogue basically sets up why you’d be flying in space combat missions in the first place, but once you’ve cleared this part you’ll be treated to standard MMO-style quest text boxes when acquiring future missions.
There is a quest progression to space combat content and each mission is full of explosive action and dramatic setpieces similar to the scenes found in the films. Many, if not all of the missions are repeatable, though there may be a cooldown involved in repeating some particular quests. Space combat is a fairly viable way of accruing experience and credits as well. I managed to almost gain a full level just going through the first round of missions available to me. You won’t be instantly able to complete all the missions once you receive your ship, however. Later missions are tuned in such a way that you’ll want your ship to be upgraded a certain amount, and each tier of upgrades is gated by player level requirements.
Speaking of upgrades, you can upgrade your ship, but only statistically. Like your own character, your ship has its own character sheet complete with a robust number of slots that can be fitted with upgrades. These upgrades can range anywhere from increased missile packages to EMP emitters. Your ship will always look the same (inside and out) however, so if you’re expecting some sort of visual progression, you’ll be disappointed here. Upgrades can be purchased from appropriate vendors using credits, though some of the more powerful upgrades require Fleet Commendations, essentially tokens earned via the completion of space combat quests. In addition to upgrades for your ship, you can also earn special titles and spend Fleet Commendations on a fully modifiable pilot suit.
Space combat itself is a fairly simple affair. If you’ve played games like StarFox, or more recently, the family-friendly MMO Star Wars: Clone Wars Adventures, you’ll be right at home. Basically, the experience is on rails (though there are supposedly forked areas of the missions where you can choose to go down different paths). Movement is controlled via mouse and keyboard, though movement is basically limited to side to side as well as up and down the screen. Combat is as simple as clicking your mouse and pressing space to do a barrel roll in order to avoid enemy fire. Left clicking fires your lasers, while right clicking fires your missiles. There is a four slot hotbar available as well, and this space is reserved for using certain upgrades you can acquire for your ship later in the game, such as the ability to divert power away from your lasers to shields, or vice-versa.
All things considered, space combat is a fun, but shallow experience. It basically amounts to nothing more than a minigame, and for a Star Wars game, this is a bit of a disappointment. There isn’t a whole lot ‘MMO’ about what BioWare has done with space combat; it’s limited to singleplayer, and doesn’t really tie into the rest of the game beyond a few trinkets and titles. A fun distraction, but this writer certainly hopes BioWare will do more with the feature post-launch. The possibilities are as limitless as space itself.