I’ve been able to spend some time with Galactic Starfighter, the newest expansion to Star Wars: The Old Republic, which just launched for everyone on February 4th. The expansion had been available for subscribers and preferred players prior to now, but as of the 4th anyone that’s actively playing SWTOR can get their hands on it.
The expansion adds Player vs. Player space combat into the mix, doling out three different ship classes to choose from, with a fourth class due to be launched this month. There are two maps available to choose from for PvP combat, which might sound a bit light content-wise, but these are pretty big playgrounds with a lot of varied environments and unique structures to dogfight through.
You’re able to access Galactic Starfighter’s content at any point through a tab accessible on your standard UI, regardless of what you’re doing or where you are in-game. This works in an identical fashion to standard PvP, putting you in a queue for a match and allowing you to do whatever you please while waiting for a group to join. Even prior to the full launch I had no issues with matchmaking and jumping into games quickly, so you won’t have to wait long to get a fight going.
Before queuing up for a match, you’ll be able to review your current group of accessible ships, outfight your fighters in new equipment or upgrades, and switch out crew members or perform cosmetic changes. Currency comes in the form of Ship Requisition and Fleet Requisition, typically won by finishing matches or completing the Daily and Weekly PvP missions accessible via PvP terminals. Ship Requisition is used to purchase parts and upgrades, with a whole host of options to choose from for each fighter. Fleet Requisition is a bit harder to obtain in decent quantities, but allows you to purchase new fighters to build up your own personal shipyard. You can also convert requisition from Ship to Fleet or vice versa, but the price of doing so can be a bit steep.
Your standard set of companions earned by playing through the story content are used here as shipmates and co-pilots. They can fill various roles on your ship, and bring different passive and active abilities to the fray. There are also a handful of new companions used strictly for Galactic Starfighter, also purchased using earned requisition. You’ll be able to swap out characters for various roles whenever you want in-between matches, and you’ll certainly want to toy around with different builds to see what works best for your personal play style.
The customization options are the thing that really surprised me here. I was expecting some fun, arcade-style flight combat, but Bioware and company also packed in a lot of stuff when it comes to making each of your fighters feel unique. Each part you unlock has a series of upgrades to obtain, so there’s a constant carrot on a stick that keeps you coming back for more. And while requisition gains can feel a bit slow, you’ll earn enough after a few rounds to drop points into something you want.
The actual combat side of Galactic Starfighter is a lot of fun too, even if it falls a bit short of classic Star Wars fighters like X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter. The two maps provided are really big, easily accommodating the 12 vs. 12 player matches. The primary mode available for both maps consists of capturing and containing three points, which isn’t necessarily a unique multiplayer mode but can be pretty challenging in a space combat setting. You’re able to move your ship around freely, with a series of key presses primarily mapped to the standard WASD format for controlling speed and movement. You also have access to a limited, recharging boost function, and can divert power between weapons, shields and engines depending on the situation.
There’s also four abilities mapped to numbers 1 through 4 on the keyboard. These abilities range from 180-degree maneuvers to break missile locks, to temporary shield enhancements, to debuffs on your current target’s evasion. You’ll have access to both lasers and lock-on missiles, with varying degrees of range and effectiveness based on the customization mentioned earlier.
It can take a bit of time and effort to feel fluent with all the options on the table, depending on your familiarity with aerial combat games. This is definitely stripped down to be a bit more accessible, but talented players can still really shine. I had a heck of a time getting started, and rarely managed to score a single kill in the first few battles I played. Over time I found myself getting accustomed to finding and pinpointing appropriate targets, working with teammates, and slowly but surely I found my footing with Galactic Starfighter. I’m a far cry from what I’d label as good, but I could certainly see marked improvements the more I played.
If you’ve strayed away from Star Wars: The Old Republic over the past year or so, Galactic Starfighter offers up a lot of good reasons to come back. Even if you have little interest in engaging in standard PvP, or grinding out story related missions, there’s enough content packed into Galactic Starfighter to keep you coming back for more. I’m really interested in seeing how Bioware will continue to build off of this foundation, and I’m certainly looking forward to playing more.