Galactic Starfighter is the second expansion of The Old Republic and like the two versions before it significantly changes the game. Whereas the first extension marked the significant shift of the game towards ‘free play’, this progression introduces starship flight and space combat as the central game play mode. In the previous two incarnations of the game starship flight has been limited to fairly basic mini game sections. Given how central to the whole Star Wars concept it has been a bit of a bone of contention amongst fans that this is the first time that real flight exploration and combat game play has been introduced, but better late than never. In Galactic Starfighter the player’s main mode is being buckled into the cockpit of a Strike Fighter, exploring the vast expanses of the galaxy and running down Sith fighters.
The game is set in two main areas, around the planet Kuat Mesas and the Lost Shipyards, which have very different landscapes and challenges. Kuat Mesas is characterised by its asteroid fields and floating space debris, and the Lost Shipyards by numerous abandoned battleships to explore and take refuge in at moments when you need a break from the frantic combat sessions.
The controls are a bit complicated, a necessity for any flight combat game with a degree of realism, and can take some time to master. Once you get to grips with them though you will appreciate the added enjoyment that such realism brings to the gameplay. You will have to accept the frustration of what might be a rather fast and abrupt end to your first attempts to engage with the enemy though.
Although the Strike Fighter is the default option and the most popular, having the best balance of offense and defence qualities, there are a number of different kinds of crafts to choose from and acquire as the game progresses. Each has quite specific controls and qualities which adds depth to the game and means that you can freshen it up and keep it interesting for longer.
All-in-all the game wins on its flight gameplay with the space combat both looking and feeling very good. The multi-player mode looks set to retain a loyal following for years to come. The one weakness to Galactic Starfighter is its lack of any real story narrative to provide an emotional hook to the action unfolding.