Wow! Haven't posted anything since last year! Two reasons for this 1. Laziness due to gorging out on Holiday food and enjoying presents and family. 2. Have sort of been burnt out on the MMO scene and thus have not logged on much to any of them, SWTOR included. However, when December 3rd did come around, you can bet I hopped on to jump in the cockpit of my starfighter and blast my way into some dogfights. In the following you will read my initial thoughts and opinions on this new, long-awaited expansion to a game whose franchise demands this very type of gameplay. I mean, what's Star Wars without epic space battles in tiny snub fighters where you are ACTUALLY in control-no rails thank you very much-of where your ship goes and what it does.

First, let's tackle the Hangar Menu you access when you're just logged in to your character. I find it very straight forward, simple, and easy to navigate. On the bottom there's a menu bar that allows you to select the type of ship you want to jump into battle with-the three being the Old Republic versions of the wonderful classic ship types: the Strike Fighter (your typical X-wing that has a good balance of firepower and speed), the Scout (your typical A-wing that sacrifices some firepower for maneuverability and speed), and the Gunship (close to the typical small Corellian Corvette that stays at a distance and packs a big punch). These offer a good set of options to try to see which best suits your style of gameplay. I tried all three, loving the Strike Fighter, liking the Scout a little less, and having NO IDEA whatsoever how to handle or play the Gunship-guess I need to look up on Dulfy.net at their guide. Overall, it might not seem like a whole lot of options, but I found breaking it down to the simple, classic ship types allows for easy pickup and jump in to those 12v12 PvP battles.

At the top of the menu are tabs allowing you to select what you can choose and purchase between ship type, the components (armaments, mods, etc.), cosmetics (paint jobs, etc.), crew (I'll expound on that in a moment), and finally when you're ready to go, the launch tab that queues you for battle. The ship tab brings up the various ships available to select and purchase-with fleet requisition you acquire through actually flying battles-while showing in the middle window the look of the ship and its description and stats in the left window. Like I said, very straight forward and simple. The components tab allows you to select what type of weapons and other modules you want to equip. Again, you have default equipment to start and then you can purchase upgrades using ship requisition points that you also gain through actually flying battles-and like in warzones with commendations, the better you do in space battles, the more ship and fleet requisition you earn. The cosmetics tab is purely for the look of your ship. As of the last time I played, there aren't a whole lot of different paint jobs yet (and some you actually have to pay cartel coins for-which I think even for subscribers is pretty ridiculous, but thus is the way EA set up their cash shop), but in this tab you can select from the different options to make your ship, the engine trail and even weapons various color configurations, though if you change your engine trail color to something unorthodox you would be more easily singled out. Now, the crew tab. This is my favorite because no other fighter type game I've played ever allowed more than one other crew member, say a gunner, and none of them had specific bonuses that added to the skills and abilities your fighter had initially. With the expansion itself, there are four brand new specific space companions that act as default crew, four total for four slots: tactical, engineering (yeah, now it feels a little like Star Trek, doesn't it?), offensive and defensive, and your co-pilot which is one of the companions already occupying one of the slots who adds an extra unique ability on top of the others. Plus, you have your own companions, as many as you have unlocked, in your arsenal, each companion having unique, specific passive and active bonuses for you to choose and customize to your liking and playstyle-just messing around with different configurations and setups to try to find the most effective arsenal for each ship was fun in itself from one battle to the next. Also, you can unlock your other faction's companions through gaining fleet requisition, though pretty hefty at 1500 per companion (at least you don't have to buy them though, right?!?). An extra added feature, one that's very endearing to me as the kid who couldn't get enough of Chewie barking what seemed gibberish in Han's ear, or 3PO annoyingly, in his prissy voice "informing" Solo of the odds of successfully navigating an asteroid field, each companion, old and new, have recorded new voice overs to add their own comments of "side-seat flying" while you're dashing past enemy fighters, jinking and sliding between asteroids and the small crevices of installations where there are turrets you gotta blow up. It's just something very promising and reassuring that Bioware wants this to be as much of a genuine Star Wars experience as it can be, and I can totally appreciate that.

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Now, to the actual gameplay. Now while I can't say I'm anywhere near the vet status Luke Skywalker was even when he hopped in an X-wing for the first time at Yavin, I feel I have spent enough time in the cockpit to give a trusted opinion of how it actually plays. The HUD is, like the Hangar menu, simple and straight forward. There is a mini-map of the arena at the top right, and next to it a small scoreboard menu with time remaining, three circles titled A, B, and C representing each objective with 0-3 dots surrounding them representing how many defensive turrets remain on each along with having two colors: green representing your team controlling it and red the other, and two lines, one green and one red with numbers to the side representing the score. Of course in the center is the giant targeting circle with curved arcs on the left and right-the orange on the left being your weapon power tool and the purple on the right being the engine power tool with a small blue arc on the right showing your ship's current throttle speed, the smaller circle inside the larger is where you usually want an enemy ship to be in to lock on and fire a missile, the size varying based on the power of the missile. The bottom left has the Ship Health and Power conversions in a small window where the model of your ship is surrounded by two colored circles, the outward yellow being shields and inner green being hull with a window on the right with three bars displaying your power conversions: orange-blaster, blue-shield, purple engine where hotkeys can toggle between which you want to raise higher than the others. Lastly, above that window show any debuffs enemy ships have put on you, just like they show above your character bar in ground gameplay. In the bottom middle is your ability bar numbered 1-6 where numbers 1-4 are actually mapped to their respective numbers on the keyboard and 5-6 are mapped to the left and right mouse buttons, those two being your main and alt firing triggers, the other four being your companions' active abilities. Finally, on the bottom right is your targeting window, showing the player name at the top, shield health on the left, hull health on the right, range and ship type at the bottom, and buffs above and debuffs below the window.

Now that I've bored you with the specifics of the HUD, let's actually get to the gameplay. While not a complete flight sim-*sighing while missing the days of SWG JTL

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-having close to full freedom of control and movement from throttle to maneuverability along with the ability to toggle the camera to free-look to controlling your power conversions and special abilities (though those are limited to 4) is quite refreshing from the single-player on-rails point and shoot arcade that should stay with Starfox and has no business in any Star Wars game. But even this simplified version of free-flight combat is downright fun and even though right now you can only fight in two battle zones, I've been in both The Lost Shipyards and Kuat Mesas, and they've provided a fun challenge, one being totally in space and the other in a planet's atmosphere reminiscent of some missions in a Rogue Squadron game.

And though right now it's only PvP-NOT my bag-the game has seemed a lot more balanced where you can jump in fresh and not get totally owned, though since I haven't played a while it might be different, with hardcore players probably geared up to the teeth with upgrades of all kinds.

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Overall, though I'm not one to give scores or anything like that, I'm very pleased with Galactic Starfighter, it being a good, straight forward free-flight, more arcade style than sim space shooter. And I'm sure, that more will be added in the likes of maps, ships (a Bomber class being confirmed to launch in February when the full release to all players comes), and many other nice little Doo-dads and Thing-a-Ma-Bobbies! <—-Like my technical terms there? Well, you should! Till next time...watch it, ya might have one on your tail!

You don't want to be this guy.