So the new Star Wars the Old Republic expansion is making its way into the world slowly. By that I mean the extremely gradual release schedule depending on whether you are a subscriber, preferred or free to play. The release schedule is broken up by about a month between each tier meaning that the subscribers will get to play for two whole months before the free to play people. I’ll get into that and its consequences in a bit but first I wanted to give my first reactions to the new PvP expansion:
“WHAT THE HELL IS THAT? HOW DO I GET THERE? WHAT AM I SHOOTING AT? WHAT DO I DO?! WHY CAN’T I SHOOT MORE? THERE’S A LIMIT ON SHOOTING?! WHY AM I DEAD AGAIN? HOW DO I SHOOT THEM BEFORE THEY KILL ME?! OH GOD! HOW DO I DO THIS? WHAT DO THESE POWERS DO?! WHAT THE HELL AM I DOING?!!?!?!?!?!?!??!!”
That’s about how it went for the first hour or so. I eventually did start to grasp some of the mechanics a bit more, things like what the buttons did, how to tell how much boost and weapon power you have left, how to attack and fly. But really, the tutorial doesn’t give you a lot of guidance beyond how to get in to the “hanger” (the UI for Galactic Starfighter) and how to customize a ship in there. Beyond that as far as I could tell it is all trial and error. You will die. A lot.
I eventually realized that getting into to dog fights that require constant circling, strafing, and flips was not my strong suit and I often found myself dead before I could do anything and then spend another two minutes flying back from the spawn point to just die again. I tried out the Gunship (as opposed to the quick skirmisher Scout ships or the middle of the road Strike Fighters) and found the long range “sniping” ability was much more likable to my un-twitchy play style. I would plant myself hiding out on an asteroid at a distance and then fire off my rail cannon at the enemy, only moving when my location had been potentially compromised or I ran out of targets. Once I switched to the gunship, the game became a lot more fun. I racked up kills, did massive damage, and didn’t have to deal with the constantly spasming of being waist deep in the havoc of the battlefield.
This early on the game is fairly fun because most haven’t begun to unlock the full potential of the upgrades and abilities their ships can use. But that’s what has me worried about the staged release. While I get that it is important to reward the subscribers, this is creating a fairly clear hierarchy of who has access to what upgrades. When the preferred players, and even more so the F2Pers get access to the content, a subscriber playing fairly regularly will have vastly more powerful ships than those just walking in, and it is already a slaughterfest due to the experience gap, but now increased due to the equipment gap as well. New players are likely going to face a grueling slog fest of deaths to get enough points to buy the upgrades to give them even footing.
Hopefully that will be offset by the fact that Galactic Starfighter doesn’t feel like PvP. At least not like a battleground. There’s never a clear feeling that you are up against other players beyond their names hanging in space like forgotten nametags tossed aside at the end of seasonal employment. The three dimensional arena, and fixed objective based goal areas makes it seem like you are less likely to run into that situation that you’ll have the entire enemy team descend upon you and gank you. Not that it doesn’t HAPPEN. It just doesn’t feel like it. Namely because the whole thing is just utter chaos and movement. There’s no seeing the entire enemy team descending upon you from a single point like you can in a battleground/warzone. It’s more “fun”. Yes, you die a lot. But the deaths have very little consequence beyond the long flight between the spawn point and the majority of the battlefield with limited boost time and the sometimes long-feeling respawn timer.
Overall my first reaction was mixed. If you can find some kind of tutorial or run down of how each ship plays and study what each ability does before you enter the match (looking at the mouseover tooltip mid battle is near impossible). Play around with the different ships and find one that plays the way you like. There’s apparently a 4th ship style – the Bomber – coming in February when the F2P people get access, so that should add some shake up to things. But yea, you might like it. Just be ready for a steep mostly unguided learning curve when you hop in.