SWTOR Galactic Starfighter expansion preview
A preview of the upcoming Galactic Starfighter expansion for SWTOR. This is just a brief overview of the key concepts and features behind Galactic Starfighter. You can find more more info on ships, components, and companions in the links below. There is also a Talent Calculator that I will be rolling out tomorrow.
What is Galactic Starfighter?
Galactic Starfighter is an upcoming free expansion for SWTOR which features up to 24 players (12v12) space PvP using four types of spaceships you can upgrade and modify. It bears very little relation to rest of the game (called “ground game” from now on) and anyone of any level can participate.
Think of this as a separate mingame within SWTOR that has its own progression completely independent from rest of the game. You do earn credits and XP for the ground game while playing Galactic Starfighter and it can offer an alternative method to level your ground game characters.
Matches are typically Empire vs Republic but if there aren’t enough players on the other faction you can have Empire vs Empire or Republic vs Republic matches as well. Both group queue (up to a team of 4) and solo queue are supported. Players cannot queue up if they are in an operation group.
Galactic Starfighter will be in 3rd person mode only, there is no cockpit or first person view. There is also currently no joystick/gamepad support although developers have said that is something they like to support in the future once they have ensured that keyboard/mouse controls are as good as they can get. There is also a distinct lack of various camera modes but there is a button you can press that allow you to pin your camera on your ship and rotate it freely to see everything around you.
Galactic Starfighter is really a two part game. Part of it is theorycrafting and part of it is straight up pewpewing. Before you can head into a match, you will need to decide what ships you want to take with you (up to 5 different ships can be taken to a match) and what loadout each ship will have. The loadout is incredibly complex as each ship will typically 10 different components, each with 4-5 different options. In addition, each option will have a small talent tree where you can further upgraded it.
For a quick example, lets take a look at F-T6 Rycer, one of the seven ships accessible during beta. You can change the type of laser cannon, missile, engine, shield, reactor, thruster, capacitor, and magazine it carries. Under laser cannon, you have the options of Quad Laser Cannon, Ion Cannon, Rapid-fire Laser Cannon, and Heavy Laser Cannon. Each of the laser cannons have unique characteristics that is best suited for a given situation (i.e. Ion Cannon is really good at taking out enemy shields, very effective against ships with huge shields but very little hull health). You need to go through this thought process for all of the components and decide on the best component loadout for your playstyle and the type of opponents you will face. The topic of ship component loadout is massive and I have wrote up a huge guide on it you can read about here.
Companions also play a role in Galactic Starfighter but they are less active than in the ground game. You have 5 slots on the ship that you can fill with 4 companions (one companion will fill 2 slots). They will provide you with 8 different passive bonuses and one active ability you can use in combat with a cooldown. While the companions here cannot fight for you, selecting the right companion with the right active and passives will make a huge difference in your space combat performance. Here is a simple scenario to illustrate this. Imagine you just won a huge firefight with a heavily damaged hull and you are running low on missiles. Another enemy ship appears on the radars and beams straight for you for an easy kill. If you picked the companion that has an active that repairs your hull damage, you can repair your hull damage before the enemy get in range. Now if you also have a passive that increase your missile carrying capacity, you may just have enough missiles to obliterate the enemy ship and live on till the next firefight.
Another layer of complexity is in what ships you take to a match. Since there are 7 ships in total in the beta and you can queue up to 5 different ships into a match, there is also a bit of choice here. If you get killed during the match, you can pick any of the 5 ships you have queued to respawn. Certain ships with a specific loadout are better than others against a specific opponent. Say there is an enemy player on a gunship (sniper type of ship) that is totally destroying your current ship. You can respawn in a fast moving scout with rocket pods that is excellent for taking out a largely stationary gunship.
There will be three class of ships in the early access: Scouts, Strike Fighters, and Gunships. There were two variants of each class except for gunships, making it 5 different ships per faction. Bombers will be coming in Feb and not included as part of Dec early access.
There isn’t a rock, paper, scissors theme to these ships. No ship is going to beat the other straight out. Certain loadouts on certain ships will have a slightly easier time then others versus a particular enemy ship’s loadout but skill and upgrades play a huge role to decide who actually wins the firefight.
Scouts are fast agile ships with low hull health. It doesn’t take a lot of hits to kill them but they can outrun missiles and get to objectives before anyone else. The default scout that players can pick is also light armed and does not come with lock on missiles on the default loadout. Instead, it comes with rocket pods that must be manually aimed, which is harder to aim against a fast moving ship. The second scout that players can unlock is armed to the teeth but still squishy due to scout’s low hull health. It also sacrifices some of the speed.
Strike Fighters are the bread and butters of Galactic Starfighter PvP. They are designed to excel in dogfighting with heavy armament and stronger hull. The first variant that everyone has access to by default carries two different blasters that you can swap back and forth in combat for different situations. The second variant that players can unlock carries two different missiles and is more suited for those who prefer aiming lock on missiles than dogfighting with blasters.
Gunships are the snipers in FPS games. They can use long range railguns that require a few seconds of charging up for maximum damage. If you have a steady hand, good aim and love to kill enemy players in 2-3 hits while they are busy dogfighting then Gunships are made for you. Gunships are not as mobile and they are rooted in place while using their railguns. This makes them extremely vulnerable to fast moving scouts that can close the gap quickly and unleash a flurry of blasters fire and rockets that are designed for stationary or slow moving targets.
Bombers is a class of ship introduced late into the beta that caused a lot of balance issues. The two variants of bombers also play quite differently, one acting as a drone carrier while the other acting as a minelayer. The drones and mines are AI controlled so there is no skill factored in when they shoot blasters and missiles at other ships. Mines also do AoE damage so it is not uncommon to see a well placed mine take out 3 enemy ships at once. Bombers also play a huge support role since the drone carrier is the only ship in the game so far that can repair hulls and replenish ammos. A good bomber can also turn the tide of the match as they can deploy beacons that serve as respawn points. If a beacon is dropped near by an objective and not killed, the enemy team can keep respawning nearby and capture it via brute force.
Progression & Pay to Win?
Progression in Galactic Starfighter is character based and not shared across servers or within your legacy. At end of each match, you will earn Ship Requisition and Fleet Requisition. Ship Requisition is specific to the ship you just played in that match while Fleet Requisition is shared across all ships that your character own. Fleet Requisition is earned at a much slower rate than Ship Requisition (the amount of Fleet Requisition you acquire in each match is about 5% of the Ship Requisition) but you can convert Ship Requisition to Fleet Requisition with cartel coins. The rate in beta was 1 CC for every 25 Fleet Requisition converted but this is not final and may change before release.
Ship Requisition is used to purchase new components or upgrade existing components specific to that ship. This is another decision you have to make as you can either keep upgrading existing components to make them better or use that requisition to purchase components that are more suited for your playstyle (i.e. If you find the rocket pods on the starter scout hard to use, you can save up your requisition to unlock the thermite torpedoes which are lock on missiles while those who are comfortable with rocket pods can use that requisition to make it more powerful instead). New components costs anywhere from 3000 to 5000 Ship Requisition to unlock while the upgrades can range from 1500 Ship Requisition in Tier 1 to 20,000 Ship Requisition in the final tier.
Fleet requisition is used to unlock new ships or companions. Companions costs 1500 Fleet Requisition to unlock while ships can cost anywhere from 2500 to 5000 Fleet Requisition to unlock. Unused Fleet Requisition can be used to supplement Ship Requisition purchases in 1 :1 ratio. This is something you have to becareful as you can accidently spend Fleet Requisition if you don’t watch out for the warning boxes.
A typical match in beta rewarded anywhere from 500 to slightly over 1000 Ship Requisition for a match (this varies depending on how many medals you have earned and if you won/lost). In contrast, you earn only 25-50 Fleet Requisition in the same match. There is a single daily you can pick up that reward you with 750 Ship Requisition to all ships while the weekly grant you 2500 Ship Requisition to all ships but only 250 Fleet Requisition. A match can last as long as 14 minutes but might be shorter if your team or the other team completely dominates. This slow pace means that it can take days to unlock a new ship with Fleet Requisition. Players may opt to speed it up via cartel coins, which can be considered pay to win by some.
To make it fair for everyone, there is also a cap to requisition gain to be added either at the daily or the weekly level so those who have more free time do not get ahead and dominate.
There were two maps shown in the beta: Lost Shipyards and Kuat Mesas. Both supported domination type of gameplay which is basically a 3 point capture map. Lost Shipyards is an asteroid belt type of map that is basically a wide open space with lots of asteroids. There wasn’t a lot of objects to block your line of sight and made for some excellent sniping on the gunship. One of the objectives is located inside a shielded area (see pic on the right) and provided a small space for tight-turning dogfights.
Kuat Mesas is a map located above the bright atmospheres of Makeb. It does have a bit of open space but the middle capture point is inside a mining drill structure surrounded by rock walls. This provided an opportunity for skilled pilots to shine as you can use the mining drill structure to LOS your opponents and if they are not careful they can crash into structures and self-destruct.
Each of the objectives on both maps are defended by 3 automatic turrets. You need to clear the 3 turrets and any enemy players nearby before trying to capture the objective. These turrets do hurt, especially if you are on a scout. The side that can reach an objective first and capture it do have a slight advantage as they can use the turrets against enemy ships. This makes scouts an essential composition of any team.
Range is a huge factor in the gameplay. All of the weapons have a maximum range they function in. Blasters are usually around 4000 to 6000m while missiles can vary from 5000m for Cluster Missiles to 10,000m for Proton Torpedoes. Railguns have the longest range and function at a max range of 15,000m. All enemy targets are marked with a range indicator so you always know how far they are from you and there is no guessing involved.
Power Module Swapping
One of the things you will need to master to be successful is power module swapping. There are three power pools on each ship: blasters, shields, and engines. Each pool is finite and can get used up quickly. If you use something like Quad Laser Cannons for example, you can deplete your blaster pool very quickly with a few shots. Using the afterburner (boost), which give you 320% speed boost, you will deplete your engine pool quickly as well unless you are on a scout. Finally, incoming enemy fire will deplete your shield pool.
By swapping to the blaster (F1), shield (F2), and engine (F3) power modules, you can slow down the depletion of these pools. In addition, if you are using the blaster module, you will also hit harder with your blasters. What this means is that you will need to constantly swap modules to suit a given situation. If you are trying to get somewhere quickly, press F3 and turn on the engine module so you can travel further with the afterburner. If you are trying to kill someone with your blasters then press F1 so you can shoot more bolts and hit harder. If you are under heavy enemy fire then press F2 so you sheilds regen quicker to protect your hull.
Shields vs Hull
Speaking of shields and hull, there is also a layer of complexity here. When you are under enemy fire, you will likely absorb the damage with your shields, which keeps your hull safe (unless they have shield piercing weapons). Once your shields are depleted, your hull with take damage next and when your hull is gone your ship is destroyed. Some ships have more hull HP while others have more shields. Some hulls also offer damage resistance, which can be bypassed if you get hit with an armor piercing weapon.
Two terms you need to watch out for are Shield Bleedthrough and Shield Piercing. Shield Bleedthrough is a characteristic on some massive shields. 50% Shield Bleedthrough means 50% of the damage you absorb with your shield will be passed on to your hull. This means that you can die even with a mostly a full shield if your hull is already low. Shield Piercing is a similar term but used mostly to describe weapons. Weapons like Proton Torpedoes like 100% shield piercing and armor piercing so they will completely ignore your shield and deal damage directly to your hull, also bypassing any damage resistance. This makes Proton Torpedoes one of the deadliest missiles ingame as they can kill most ships with just 2 hits.
Some weapons are also specialized for shield or hull damage. Ion cannon/missiles/railguns will deal massive damage to shields but very little damage to hull while weapons like Thermite Torpedoes deals a lot more damage to hulls.
Evading Lock on Missiles
Evading lock on missiles is also a huge gameplay component as a lot of the ships will have lock on missile that deals quite a lot of damage. Lock on missiles come in a variety of shapes and some of them can be quite hard to use. You need to keep the enemy ship inside a circle for a few seconds to maintain the missile lock on so you can fire the missile. Missiles that deals a lot of damage tend to have the longest lock on time and the smallest circle.
Players can break missile lock ons by speeding out of range or get out of line of sight. Certain ships also have special maneuvers such as Barrel Roll, Snap Turn, Power Dive, and Koiogran Turn specifically designed to evade lock on missiles. When you get locked on by an enemy missile, you will hear a warning sound and your companions will also warn you. In addition, there is also a warning indicator that will flash in your HUD. Skilled pilots will quickly tab through enemy targets to determine their range and either use the afterburner boost to speed out of range or use one of the special maneuvers to evade the lock on.
Turning and Dogfighting
Turning is important in dogfighting as you will need to “face” your target to attack them. When attacked, enemy players will usually try to move off your screen. Some will fly circles around you so you can’t aim or get a lock on them. When this happens, I usually hold down my S key and press W or S key at the same time. This will give me the sharpest turn so I can keep up with my target. Sometimes your opponent might be flying the same ship as you and use the same move. This can get both players locked into an infinite loop that only ends when one players get bored or a third party joins in and kills one of the players.
Scouts tend to have the sharpest turns but ships such as Gunships have rotational thrusters with a short cooldown that they can use to automatically turn to their target.
Cosmetics and the Cartel Market
The cosmetic options we have seen in the beta isn’t fully fleshed out but players can purchase pre-designed paint jobs and different colored blasters bolts and engine aftertrail. Some of the prices we seen were 90-240CC for a paint job and 240 CC for a different colored blaster fire. There weren’t any option to put in emblems.
It appears that there will be ship skins to purchase as there are some ship models inside the game files that are labeled as premium ships with cartel market indicators. The Cartel Market also have a Galactic Starfighter section that isn’t quite visible yet.
If you look through the achievement list in beta, you can find a ton of references to other ships that are not seen yet in beta. There are about 20 or so ships on the list per faction so the 7 we have seen so far is only a small faction of it. Some of them might be cartel market skins while others might be available in a later date.
There is a also a 5th class of ships called Infiltrators. This is referenced in the achievement menu and in certain abilities. These ships will have a stealth ability that can be removed by some scouts. It is unlikely that we will see this 5th class before the Dec 3 early access date as only the three classes mentioned above are confirmed to be in early access by those who went to the Cantina Tour last night.