Time to fight!

Well, it’s official. And yes, I admit I had a geekasm when they announced that Star Wars: The Old Republic would include space combat. Yes, I even went ‘squee’. Can you blame me? Most of my fondest memories are of X-Wing, TIE Fighter, X-Wing vs TIE Fighter and X-Wing Alliance. What can I say? I am not a pilot in real life. With only one eye that works right, I will never be a pilot in real life – certainly not a very safe one anyway. So I do simulations – that way, if I crash the ship, plane, tank, whatever, all I have to do is reset the game or reload the level. But I do love flying. And there is something about flying in space, even simulated, that draws one in, and holds one. I still play Battlefront II, mainly for the space combat aspect.

We don’t know a lot yet about what space combat will involve. What we DO know is that it will involve ‘hotspots’. Will these be instances? We don’t know. It is touted as an ‘alternative gameplay experience’. Does this mean it won’t be a mandatory part of the game, for those people who seem strange to me who don’t like flying games? We don’t know. There is a lot we don’t know yet.

Many people seem to be holding out for a free flight simulator like X-Wing Alliance was. I admit, I am one of them, but I am not holding my breath. The problems in the Jump to Lightspeed expansion for Star Wars Galaxies shows just how bad twitch based flying can be in an MMO. There were parts of it that were quite enjoyable, mixed in with mindless grind, mindless grind, mindless grind, mission and then back to grind, grind, grind. I always enjoyed tweaking my birds for maximum efficiency, speed, firepower, you name it. And I enjoyed making life miserable for Imperial dogs. But free flight is a big enterprise. How many items were there to program in Star Wars Galaxies: Jump to Lightspeed? Hundreds if not thousands or more. Ships, asteroids, space debris, planets, stations, nebulae… you name it, it was there somewhere.

An alternative is the gamestyle of games such as Rebel Assault, or like the gun turrets in Knights of the Old Republic.  This is a game or mini-game where you have no control over the movement of your ship, you just blast everything in sight as quickly as you can. Some people call these games rail flight simulators for a good reason- your movement is set, you can go around and around, but nowhere else. If you shoot fast enough, straight enough and pick the right targets, you will survive and progress to the next level. If not, there is always that handy ‘reload save’ feature.

Most games that have come out since the dawn of video games have been one or the other of these. Some of them have been a mix. In Space Invaders, Galaga, Centipede and the like, you could move a bit, but not much. You were on rails, but you had the ability to move your ship or whatever in a limited area. Then there were games like Defender and Asteroids where you had free control to move your ship anywhere on the screen. But those were rarer from what I recall, admittedly, I only played some of those games. I was mainly a Galaga fan. And I still am. I loved getting three ships in a line to blast the enemy three times as fast.

So… What will we see in the Old Republic? We don’t know yet. It may be a free flight simulator like X-Wing Alliance, but what are the odds? Those are incredibly hard to pull off well. Most of the space simulators that are made never make it past a week on the on the store shelves and wind up in the bargain bin in two weeks, and then the trash can in three. Will it be something like Star Wars: Empire at War, where you control each ship from afar? Will it be something like Lego Star Wars where you had a tighter view, but a top down one designed for console players? Or will it be something like Rebel Assault, where you could shoot up things to your heart’s content, but never deviate from your flight path? I personally hated that kind of game play. I like to have control of what my in-game thing is doing, whether it is a tank, a plane or a spacecraft. The top down games always seemed… off in some way to me, if that makes any sense. The far view in Empire at War was fun, but again limited in what you could order your vessels to do. There was simply too much other stuff going on to have a lot of controls for things like say, fighters.

Bioware and Lucasarts will likely give us more information fairly soon, especially since after the announcement at Comic Con, many of us needed to change our pants and wash our faces to get the froth off. But no, we are not fanatics. Just dedicated. We do know that there will be space battles, we know that there will be larger vessels than the player ships. We are told that we have to ‘blast our way through asteroid fields, enemy fighters, frigates, destroyers, and a variety of other obstacles that will evoke memories of some of the great Star Wars™ space battles.’ (quote from Sean Dalhberg) What does this mean? We don’t know. But knowing Bioware, they are unlikely to market Space Invaders: Star Wars style.

For myself, my dream is another flight simulator like X-Wing Alliance, but harder. I want to fly around, get on an enemy’s tail and stay there while he maneuvers frantically. I want him to sweat while I pump enough laser fire into his hull to make him a pretty cloud of scattered atoms. But then, I am not a nice person when I fly. Good thing I only do it in games. I quote a famous man: ‘A fighter pilot finds the enemy and shoots him down, everything else is rubbish’ -Manfred Von Richthofen (AKA the Red Baron)

And yes, I have to say it again. SQUEE! As soon as that issue of PC Gamer comes out, I am on it like a X-Wing on a TIE.

Over to you, what kind of space flight would you want to see? Free flight like X-Wing Alliance or SWG JTL, rail flight like Rebel Assault, top down like Lego Star Wars, far view like Star Wars: Empire at War, or something in between?

Photo courtesy of Retro Gamer.


  1. Commenting via my android os phone and at a bar so mind the typos. I can only imagine a full experoence from bioware. I’m thinkin xvt or star trek online style. Tought call but either way it makes me horny.

  2. Those typos were far worse than I recalled putting in.