Having had hands on time with the Galactic Starfighter expansion for a decent amount of time, both in closed beta and now post launch, I have given a lot of thought to what it does well and where it falls a little flat.
With the release of it, we finally have the long teased “Super Secret Space Project” that has been talked about for well over a year. This project was initially teased after there was significant blowback from the initial space game portion of SWTOR. The space PVE game was called “a placeholder” many times. The SSSP was supposed to be, like many other teased pieces of content, the solution to all our woes. Every public appearance and Q&A had questions from players about it and as with almost all BioWare responses, they attempted to be coy. No information was given about it that was anything close to “solid”, and the expectations of players began to grow.
When the SSSP was announced as Galactic Starfighter, there was a lot of confusion. Was it only PVP? Was it really free? The answer to both questions was yes. Initial excitement began to grow and new expectations began to form. Wasn’t this supposed to be the “replacement” for the current state of the completely ignored PVE space game? The portion of the game that has seen only 1 update since the game launch? Apparently not. So would GS have any PVE element to it? Again, apparently not. Designers confirmed that there would be no PVE portion of Galactic Starfighter, it was and continues to be designed as only a PVP experience. Labeled as a “Digital Expansion”, more questions started to arise about things such as new story content, level cap increases and other things that are traditionally included in MMO expansions. None of these things would be coming with Galactic Starfighter. So what were we really getting?
Closed Beta And Launch
With the testing I did in the closed beta I was impressed with the complexity of the system but not in how shallow the content really is. We were told with the announcements there would be multiple game modes and multiple maps but all we saw in beta and all that was released at launch is one game mode and two maps. There is no story or trailer connecting this expansion with the previous or even any NPC conversations that explain why we must all now go fight. The launch of this seems to just have plopped a new game system in that is a mile wide and an inch deep. Sure, there are many ships with different roles, different components to choose from and upgrade and many choices to make with crew passive and active abilities, but in the end, you are playing 3 point domination over and over and over. New crew members you obtain have no real backstory aside from a paragraph in the hangar UI. It all just feels very rushed, incomplete and shallow.
Quality Over Quantity
This is something I never would have thought. This release has been one of the least buggy of any major release BioWare has put out. Are there issues? Sure. They aren’t very widespread compared to previous releases. I get the sense that this was playtested like crazy, both internally and with the closed beta, and that testing made it a very clean launch. It helps that the release is fairly basic without a lot of bells and whistles, but sometimes even those releases have been buggy in the past.
Fun Is The Ultimate Metric
I have to give it to the team that worked on this, as they put in a new game system that is fun and engaging. I haven’t heard many complaints about it at all. The learning curve is a little rough and not many people know about the tutorial level, but otherwise folks playing it seem to really enjoy it. That is a pretty big thing for BioWare. With the continued issues in ground PVP and bugs that still exist in other areas of the game, having the overall positive buzz about this is a great thing for the game. The Cartel Market pieces don’t feel overpriced like some of the other items and don’t feel overly used to help pay for this expansion. I think this is a great first step for a new game system with a lot of potential.
With all of this being said – where do we go from here? We know in February we will be seeing a new level and role neutral flashpoint that takes place on Kuat (where the 2 existing GS maps take place) and that the bomber role will be introduced along with a good amount of new ships. No word on any new game types or maps or any other story tying this all together, which I think is a fairly big mistake. There has been datamined information about a daily area on Kuat that ties in to not only the overall game story but to your new crew members as well. I really think that they can build on the success of the new system, but they need to do it in a balanced amount. Adding more ships to a 2 map rotation won’t do much to encourage replayability. Bombers will be fun for players for a while, but without new game types and new maps, players will eventually get bored and walk away. The biggest question I have is how the existing space PVE game will evolve. We were told by BioWare that it will be expanded upon in some form, but we haven’t seen any indication that that is going to happen.
What are your thoughts on Galactic Starfighter so far? What questions do you have about the future? Leave a comment here or send me a tweet @Asros!