Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Your Fifteenth Assignment: The Wild Blue Yonder

We got incoming, Agent!  Three Republic cruisers just entered the system.  The battle for Makem Te has just begun.  Lock and load.  Fly safe and shoot straight!

Suit up and strap in!  Today ... we go into space.

That's right, kids!  Here's my brutally honest review of space combat in the Old Republic.  For one, if you ever played Star Wars Galaxies and loved the Jump to Lightspeed expansion, stop now.  TOR space combat isn't like that at all.  AT ALL.  You can't fly anywhere.  You can't be a fighter ace.  You can't be a Y-Wing bomber pilot.  So take those expectations and toss them out of the airlock.  You will be sorely disappointed.  And as your disappointment manifests in whiny guildchat, I will laugh vociferously at you as I barrel-roll through the expanding debris cloud of a Republic starfighter.

The comparisons between Starfox and TOR's space combat are pretty spot on.  It is an on-rails shooter that flies you through a predetermined course.  On this course, there are objectives to complete.  If you do not complete the objectives before you finish the course, you fail the mission.  There are also bonus objectives, usually involving the destruction or turrets or fighters.  It sounds boring.  It sounds monotonous.  It couldn't be further from that if it tried.

Space combat is a blast.  Total blast.  I spent the better part of the weekend flying my ships (both Republic ships; Thunderclap for the Trooper and Guardian for the Consular) through about 50 combat sorties.  From what I can tell, there are about 15 different space missions (more could unlock later); each faction has their own missions, although plenty do overlap.  You can gain quests to do these combat missions aboard your own ship; these quests give it out pretty respectable xp rewards as well as commendations that are used to buy high level upgrades for your ship.  The first two tiers of starship upgrades are bought through credits (right now, at least) and they can really improve your performance.  They can be found at Starship Sales and Service vendors located in space stations as well as on planets.  The first full set will run you about 15,000 credits (~ 1200 credits per piece).  The second set will run you about 30,000 credits (~3500 credits per piece).  Ship upgrades can be right-clicked and automatically put on your ship, which is viewable on your ship tab (on the character screen).

To fly, you need both a spacebar and a mouse.  Spacebars are for barrel rolls.  Mouse is to move.  Left button fires your lasers.  Right button fires your missiles.  And that's it.  Simplicity is the key here; by making it no-muss no-fuss, Bioware ensures that maximum fun ensues.  And oh is it fun ...

I'll be honest - it's not going to appeal to everyone.  You have to approach the space combat as a mini-game.  It is not there for advancement; it is not like PvP.  It is very simply just an addition to waste time.  Sure you can get xp by doing it, but the rewards aren't as good as quests.  The xp comes it at about 1/3 the rate of questing and you get no credits for actually completing the missions.  But, if you wanted to upgrade your ship and waste an hour or so before raid time, the ship combat is the place to be.  It's Starfox in Star Wars.  'Cept no Froggy this time.

Let's get this out of the way: the space combat portions are gorgeous.  By using an on-rails approach, they basically can make sure that each section of the mission looks its absolute best because the player never really has control on where his ship goes.  The combat feels heroic as you twist and turn through the enormous space battles.  Lasers are responsive and missiles explode with a satisfying boom.  You can run into things as well, so make sure you are paying attention when flying around; running into an object takes away all your shields does considerable damage to your hull as well.  Even in space combat, there is story.  Each mission has a backstory and an objective; escort the freighter, shoot down the Imperial spy ship, assault the space station.  For the most part, the objectives are fun.  Some are annoying, some feel cheap, but you'll find that in any on-rails shooter.

In all honesty, space combat is a completely optional experience that you don't have to take part in if you don't want to.  You won't be missing anything important ('cept a couple of titles).  When you play it, you'll either have fun or you won't.  For me, space combat is a total blast and an excellent way to waste an hour before a raid.

Cut to the left, I'll take the leader!  Fly safe, shoot straight.  FOR THE GLORY OF THE IMPERIAL SPACE CORPS!

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