For Galactic Starfighter, Bioware has gone to great lengths to stress that players will have access to new starfighters and that they will have the ability to move freely in new space zones. However, this content is strictly 12 vs 12 pvp and in my opinion, raises questions about the definition of an 'expansion'.
While Galactic Starfighter is a step in a much wanted direction, it would seem that many basic features that players want are still missing. The expansion willnot allow grouped players to crew a single, larger ship; guild capital ships will be absent; and existing PVE content will not be developed to cater to the new space flight system.
An important element that Bioware has been proud to show off in the past is their ability to draw players into storylines and quests through expert storytelling and full voiced experiences. Sadly, it would also seem that players will not experience new storylines created for the new space content. This will surely be missed by players.
Space has always been an important part of the Star Wars franchise and while epic space battles are often associated with the franchise, it's often the quieter moments that fans are most fond of: the Millenium Falcon limping its way to Cloud City, Chewbacca playing Dejarik with C3PO, or the Rebel Fleet drifting through Deep Space while it's heroes conspire to attack the Empire.
In essence, players truly want to experience the epic and dramatic space battles that are hinted at while being allowed the quieter and unpredictable moments given in other space related games including the much loved expansion to Star Wars Galaxies, Jump to Lightspeed.
Jump to Lightspeed was developed in partnership with the same team behind X-Wing, X-Wing vs Tie-Fighter and X-Wing Alliance. Players undertook a number of missions and as they progressed, had a wide range of new iconic ships available to them.
It was an expansion that enabled players to move freely in space, allowing exploration, the ability to fly from one destination to the next, or to socialise on-board remote space stations or on multi-player ships. It was an expansion that, over time, allowed players to fly on the surface of planets, take on capital ships or experience pvp combat.
Oddly, the most memorable moments in Jump to Lightspeed did not come from space battles, but rather the tense moments on-board multiplayer ships. When your ship became damaged, systems would begin to shutdown with access panels inside jetting out fire and sparks. Whilst the pilot and co-pilot would be hard at work trying to evade their enemies, gunners would shoot at pursuing ships and other crew members would hurry around the ship repairing damaged systems. It was an iconic experience.
Should the ship manage to evade its enemies, the pilot would attempt to find a quiet, remote spot to hide the ship while, as a team, the crew worked to repair what they could. The hidden locations would often reflect areas of space similar to where The Millenium Falcon hid in The Empire Strikes Back: an asteroid field, a nebula, floating space junk or an abandoned space station.
It was a very exciting experience as at any moment, the ship could be discovered and in terms of gameplay, there was an element of danger and unpredictability. Even if the crew managed to fix what they could, many elements of the ship could only be repaired by landing on a planet, which in itself led to further adventure. Slowly limping your way to the nearest planet mainly involved finding a safe, yet long route and after landing, new dangers and adventure awaited the crew on the surface of the planet below.
In conclusion, Jump to Lightspeed was a proper, fully fleshed-out space adventure that could be classed as an expansion.
Galactic Starfighter is in some ways: it offers grand, epic space battles that Jump to Lightspeed players could only have dreamed of, yet Bioware could have kept everyone happy by making space much larger and more unpredictable.
This would have ultimately led to repetitive content for players that remained adventurous, iconic and exciting.
I hope that in the coming months, we will have additional space based expansions that will look to address these concerns.
Until then, players with a subscription can dabble in 12 vs 12 pvp space battles on December 3rd 2013, with Free to Play users being entitled to the expansion in February 4th 2014.