Star Wars: The Old Republic — GameFront Impressions (Part 2)
I was cautiously optimistic about TOR’s ship-based combat, and I rushed out to try it as soon as I had my own ship. Though not as nuanced or as complicated as the main gameplay, space combat provided a very satisfying diversion.
First and foremost, it looks great. It’s been a while (in my memory, anyway) since anyone has rendered space battles using modern graphics technology, and the results, even if they are quite stylized, are visually impressive.
It’s too bad you’re not allowed to go anywhere you want, but the on-rails mission structure still provided excitement. I particularly liked the slightly rubbery ship controls, which kept the whole thing from slipping into a simple exercise in point and click, redolent of Rebel Assault. As my character and my ship become more powerful, I’ll be interested to see how the challenge ramps up.
I groaned when I heard TOR’s space combat would be a rail-shooter. Your starship follows a pre-determined path, and the extent of your control over movement lies in your ability to fly around the screen, dodging enemy fire, ships, and asteroids. Overall, I was pleasantly surprised with the experience, which was no doubt aided by the fact that everything is visually impressive — the massive asteroid fields, the planets in the background, ally and enemy command ships firing laser batteries…
Controls are simple. Your mouse — or keyboard — guides your ship around the screen. Left click your mouse to fire lasers; right click to launch missiles. The space combat missions are varied both in their objectives and environments, although the enemies I’ve encountered in the five missions I’ve played thus far have all been near-identical. I can imagine space combat getting repetitive down the line, as you can — and are encouraged to — redo these missions every day for to earn some solid XP for only a couple minutes of your time.
I would love space combat if I had the freedom to fly wherever I wanted, and wonder why Bioware didn’t opt for a more freeform system. I can’t imagine it being an issue of cost or development time, and can only speculate that it’s an issue of accessibility to new players — flying off the rails would increase space combat’s difficulty.