Star Wars Galaxies: Jump to Lightspeed
Having A Star Wars MMOG without the ability to engage in space combat was always going to feel as half-finished as the Death Star from Return Of The Jedi. How can you totally immerse yourself in George Lucas's universe when you're living in the Cantina and just looking at the stars?
Well, this autumn, Jump To Lightspeed is set to become the first official expansion for Star Wars Galaxies, featuring real-time online space combat in more than 15 ships for a minimum of 80 players. Excited yet? You should be, because we've just had the world's first play - and we've only just come back down to Earth...
Boys And Girls
As well as giving you the opportunity to collect and fly any number of ships such as the X-Wing, Y-Wing, TIE Fighter and your starter vessel, the Z-95 Headhunter, Jump To Lightspeed introduces two more yet-to-be-revealed playable species and four new professions - Rebel pilot, Imperial pilot, privateer and shipwright.
Pilots are basically flying soldiers of the dark or light side of the Force, whereas shipwrights are specialist traders who'll be able to fit any craft with 15 high-tech upgrades. Privateers meanwhile, are probably the most interesting new addition, and are basically an extension of the smuggler, but with the ability to transport hidden illegal contraband between planets, avoiding Imperial crackdowns. NPCs and different factions. In the ten zones available, we've actually included additional wild space' zones that are just for privateers to go and explore and do their stuff," says associate producer Julio Torres.
Every profession in Star Wars Galaxies is set to benefit from the expansion pack and each will be able to access the various ships, but some roles will expand and become more involving.
For example, a droid engineer is set to become much more important now that your robotic companions can join you in your ships for faster repairs, and more powerful weapons and shields -just like Luke and R2-D2. Musicians and dancers will also get a kick out of being able to travel the galaxy in Cantinas built inside the bigger craft, like intergalactic cruise ship entertainers.
To start our exclusive play, Torres hands over the joystick controls and launches me straight into one of the zones above Naboo piloting a YT-1300 multi-transport ship, better known to the world as the Millennium Falcon. If you're familiar with any of Lawrence Holland's X-Wing games, you immediately feel comfortable playing JTL and I soon begin weaving in and out of enemy craft, bagging my first kill - a new Hutt fighter.
You or your group of up to 20 fighters can shoot down Al-controlled ships for experience points and loot, such as engine parts for upgrades, explains Torres as I fly. However, you can't 'kill' player ships in space. We thought it wouldn't be much fun if you spent ages getting an X-Wing then immediately lost it in battle. If you take damage and get too beaten up, you have to return to a planet's surface to make repairs. If your character is killed on the ground, you have to clone to the nearest facility as before; but when you're reborn, you regain your ships, without all the bonus stuff you may have bought or collected."
The scanner at the bottom of the screen is only a basic 2D work-inprogress affair, so I find that targeting ships on-screen by pressing a joystick button and using the HUD's blue arrows to indicate an enemy's position is much more effective. I polish off several more Hutt fighters and a squadron of TIE fighters, and they disappear in an explosion of colour and collectible debris. I then take my Rebel pilot character for a tour of the Falcon, wandering merrily through the cargo bay, corridors and gun turrets, which you'll be able to man, while a fellow player (preferably a Wookiee) takes the controls of the ship.
I finish off my play of Jump To Lightspeed with a test drive of the X-Wing, complete with opening and closing wings, and four blasters with custom firing modes. Immediately, the ship feels lighter and more manoeuvrable, although the game still doesn't feel as fast as other Star Wars space combat titles.
Yes, we're working on the speed of the game at the moment, admits Torres. "The trick isn't necessarily making it faster, it's giving the perception that it's faster. For example, we've developed this space dust, so when you move, it has an effect on you and the area around you to give you a feeling of great speed.
Torres promises that as well as dogfighting above planets, there'll also be nebulae and sprawling asteroid fields to negotiate and hide in - especially useful if you're being chased by a Star Destroyer. You'll also be able to hyperspace in the game by visiting a terminal in a space station and choosing a location. If you have a quality ship, you can hyperspace just like in the movies, with the effect of stars streaming past you, for instantaneous travel, Torres grins excitedly. It's very cool.
Jump To Lightspeed will without doubt become a must-have expansion pack for Star Wars Galaxies addicts. With the sublime graphics, new professions and races, over 100 engaging missions and a great fleet of ships for incredibly exciting real-time space battles, Jump To Lightspeed is reaching for the stars and getting there in style.
Download Star Wars Galaxies: Jump to Lightspeed
- PC compatible
- Operating systems: Windows 10/Windows 8/Windows 7/2000/Vista/WinXP
Here Is a perfect example of why Star Wars Galaxies has failed to become the best MMO ever made. Jump To Lightspeed is the expansion that we were supposedly all waiting for, finally adding the much-missed space combat element to a Star Wars universe that has so far been surprisingly lacking in thrills.
Anyway, having opted to train up with the Rebel faction and worked my way up to piloting a Y-Wing above the skies of Tatooine, I found myself being invited to team up with a fellow pilot. Except he was following the Imperial route and flying a TIE Fighter. Undeterred, we grouped together and headed off to find some easy kills. And so there we were, Imperial and Rebel pilot flying side by side, blowing up wandering pirates, Rebel transports and Imperial patrols together with nary a care in the world. Not exactly true to the source material.
But that's been the problem with SWG since day one. On paper the idea of a massively multiplayer RPG set in the world of Han Solo, Boba Fett, Darth Vader, X-Wings and Jedi would be the best thing ever. Unfortunately the game has never lived up to this promise - it's been a flawed experiment from the get-go.
As a generic sci-fi MMOG, there's nothing wrong with it. But because it's tied to a franchise that just about everyone in the world (by my last count) is intimately familiar with - and one that's already been exhaustively archived by a legion of fans - the smallest error stands out like a Wookiee in a cantina. And when the game mechanics force it to make compromises that simply don't fit with the source material (such as my experience above), it just looks hopelessly flawed.
Jump To Lightspeed was supposed to go some way towards rectifying this problem (rumour has even suggested it's Sony's last chance to get the game right before LucasArts steps in and takes it away for major rebuilding), and while there's an undeniable thrill the first time a TIE Fighter screams past your cockpit making all the right noises, it soon becomes apparent that it's little more than the ground game all over again but with a twitch game mechanic bolted onto the front.
Where It Counts
Annoyingly this isn't actually that bad a thing. Structurally it's sound, and it ties into the existing ground game perfectly well, introducing four new career paths, adding two new species and providing an effort-to-reward ratio that's actually a little higher than you get on the ground. But it ISN'T Star Wars and therein lies the problem.
It certainly does its best to maintain the illusion. Being able to wander around inside ships (like the Millennium Falcon variant - the YT-1300), man turrets, customise ships, utilise droids and so on all try hard to convince us that this is the Star Wars we know and love. But it all feels incredibly forced (no pun intended). Bottom line is that Jump To Lightspeed is not an essential addition to SWG, and by no means repairs the many faults of the existing game. But it's certainly not a bad expansion if you're already committed to the world and are looking for a little more variety. What it isn't is X-wing vs. TIE Fighter Online. More's the pity.