Digital Tabletop: Old Republic Space Combat On the Rails

Since I want to get a good in-depth look at Star Wars The Old Republic before I actually render my final verdict and write up a review, I’ve decided to do up a few slices here and there this week as well, the actual release is this week, and expand upon some of the things I both like and dislike about the Bioware developed MMO. I’m going to take us into space today.

The game starts off, if you’re playing a Smuggler, with you landing on Ord Mantell in your ship, sneaking in through enemy lines to land, or rather slide, into position on the landing pad. You’ve brought a bunch of weapons to use against the enemy forces there, but while you’re trying to clear things up so you can take off again, one of the men who greeted you makes off with your ship. It really becomes your mission to hunt the man, Skavak, down and get your ship back.

After squaring things away on Ord Mantell, you hitch a ride to Coruscant, where he’s apparently gone, and resume trying to track the nerf-herder down. So between 15 and 18 levels later, you finally get your ship back and are free to take her up into space and get into trouble on other planets. This is roughly the same level for all the classes from what I’ve seen, and each class gets a different ship, excepting the Jedi and Sith classes who share a ship type for each side. These are all roughly the same size but with vastly different layouts built for very different purposes. Me, I’m partial to my freighter, but what good Smuggler isn’t in love with their ship?

Bear in mind, what I’m talking about here is on the Republic end of things. I haven’t gotten my Sith up high enough to tool around in their ship yet. You’re given a few missions that you can repeat for rewards and a significant amount of experience a few times a day. There’s an escort mission where you have to shoot down interceptor craft as a reinforced shuttle makes its way through an ongoing battle between Sith and Republic forces from one ship to another. The second you have to fly through another battle as giant ice chunks rain down on a planet trying to hunt down the Sith X-70B Phantom, the Imperial Agent’s starship. The last you’re part of an assault team on a Sith controlled space station where you have to hit key targets to cripple the battle readiness of the station. All of these are done on rails, and you have a time limit to get them done or you fail.

There’s lots of opportunity for bonus experience, as taking out the smaller Sith Interceptors and turrets on the Sith Capital Ships rewards with individual experience as well as overall bonus experience when you take out so many of these ships. I really like the amount of experience you get for doing these as after 6 runs, 2 of each, I’d gone up a full level. I’d also earned a ship upgrade (you get an upgrade for doing your first space combat mission, so hold off on buying anything for your ship until then) and sent my companions off on crafting quests while I was goofing off blasting Imps out of my sky.

You have a choice of missiles, which don’t replenish during space combat and are limited but pack a punch, and a turret blaster which you can continually fire as fast as you can click you button. Aiming is done with the mouse and you can barrel roll or do small maneuvers using the regular movement keys to avoid obstacles that are in your path, like blaster bolts, cargo containers, other ships, or ice chunks. You fly on a pre-determined path just like a rail shooter, so in a few of the missions timing really is key to completing, especially on the star base siege as you may only have one good pass to take out what you need to. Upgrades to your ship in the early levels include more shots, increased armor and shielding that can regenerate, and an expanded missile capacity. All of these can help make the space missions even easier, but more importantly, I have a blast playing through these. You really feel like you’re taking part in a battle as the capital ships make maneuvers as you pass through, throwing barrages at each other you have to dodge. It’s an exciting mini-game within Star Wars The Old Republic and really serves to break up ground combat.

If you’re expecting space combat to be something like Star Wars Battlefront‘s combat, you’ll be disappointed as you don’t have that kind of freedom, but what they do have is a lot of fun to screw around with if you’re just looking to kill a few minutes waiting for your group or guild to run something. I would have liked having the option to jump in my ship and fly around with a bunch of people on the same map, but as it is right now, this part of it is only single player. This is an MMO we’re talking about and that might change with an update or expansion later. I’ll take what we’ve got now though as I really enjoy it. Now if I could only figure out a faster way to get from a ground area to my ship I’d be set.

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