Hello all! Last week, we looked at a battle between good and evil set to the best soundtrack ever.
This week, I revisited a classic space combat game that was finally re-released a few months ago.
Star Wars: TIE Fighter came out way back in 1994 for PC (R.
I.P. LucasArts), and it was a revolution in space combat games. People like to say games like Elite and Wing Commander was more important overall, and maybe they're right.
But TIE Fighter, to me, represented the pinnacle of space combat games. This was literally as good as they could possibly get back in the day. Hell, it's still much better than some similar games that come out today, and it's 20 years old.
Polygons! Dozens of them!
Tie Fighter switched things up from its predecessor, X-Wing, by casting you as, of course, a TIE Fighter pilot for the Galactic Empire. In case you somehow don't know: the Empire is the bad guys. Like, they're the really, really bad guys. I think when you destroy a planet, you've solidified your position as Big Bad Guys. Anyway, it's a welcome change of scenery, as every Star Wars game casts you as invariably Good Guys.
Here, though, in TIE Fighter, while you played as what we know to be the enemy, the Empire was portrayed as the good side, trying to maintain law and order during a rebellion. Right off the bat, the game was made interesting by showing you the other side, from their point of view.
The gameplay, though, is the main attraction here. Being a space combat sim (seriously, why did they stop making these?), you're in the cockpit of your ship of choice, blasting the evil Rebels into space dust. The key point here was immersion. If you've been reading these articles regularly, you probably know I love me some immersion. Your cockpit dominates your view more than anything, as you can see in the screenshots; your view is split by the TIE window design.
I feel like this shot is from the 1998 version?
It's more than that, though. There's your radar screen, shield indicator, engine and laser power meters-which all have to be managed. You didn't just fly and shoot; you had to manage your craft's power and shielding. Lasers running low? You'll have to sacrifice some engine or shield power to recharge them, which means you'll go slower or end up unshielded. Conversely, you'll have to keep your shields powered (if you even have them) because a clean shot to your hull can mean death, or at least cripple your ship, destroying your radar screen.
All this is happening in the vastness of space, so you have six degrees of freedom, and the roar of your engines is deafening and unrelenting. See, when you're playing TIE Fighter, you're in your starfighter fighting off seemingly endless waves of enemies. It's still immersive to this day. It helps that a joystick is required.
Also, you'll end up focused on nothing except the game, because TIE Fighter is hard. Much harder than I remember from when I was a kid. This is due to a lot of things, but it comes down to the fragility of TIE Fighters (they're basically made of tinfoil) and the utter lack of checkpoints, which we as gamers have come to lean on and expect a bit, I think. Hit by a torpedo? Start the mission over. Accidentally crash into a piece of debris? Start over again. So you'll likely try to not mess up, and that leads to near-total immersion in the game.
Also, sometimes you talk to happy campers like this barrel of sunshine.
I'm really impressed with my replay of TIE Fighter. It holds up remarkably well, and it's still better than it's later sequels. The multiplayer-focused X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter and the more story-oriented X-Wing Alliance are great too, but they're really just extensions of what TIE Fighter did years before. It makes me wonder why we don't see more space combat games these days. I mean, we have Elite: Dangerous now, but it's not really the same as the white-knuckle combat TIE Fighter brought to the table. Get it on GOG, it's 10 bucks and worth every penny. Just dust off the old flight stick first.
Thanks for reading! Leave comments, suggest future Game of the Week articles, and hey, if you know any space combat games like this, let me know :)
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Next week-We return to the Castlevania franchise with this "futuristic" take on the series.