Star Wars has a long and rich game legacy. Long before SWTOR was a gleam in a developer's eye, many other games came before with varying degrees of success. In the mid 1990s, LucasArts released a number of popular space combat sims. The most highly regarded of these was Tie Fighter, and many gamers consider this game one of the best space combat sims of all time. Swtorhub.com takes a fond look back at Tie Fighter.
Released in 1994, Tie Fighter was the sequel to X-Wing and followed the events of that previous game and its expansions. Unlike the other games in the series, the player finally got to play on the coolest side - the Empire! The player starts as a lowly Tie Fighter pilot and attempts to rise in rank by playing through seven tours of duty and perhaps even join the Emperor's inner circle.
The gameplay of Tie Fighter follows the mold of X-Wing. The player can play in different campaigns, each of which is comprised of several missions. Players also have access to combat mission simulations, a film room where they can pore over recorded missions, brush up their skills in basic tutorials, and go over the specs of the various ships found in the game.
While the gameplay of Tie Fighter follows in the footsteps of X-Wing, it is more complex and nuanced. The game is comprised of space combat missions set in the Star Wars universe, but now those missions are much more varied in nature and secondary and bonus objectives are now included. The missions themselves are more intricate by design. One of my favorite missions was when I was dropped off by my capital ship, which then preceded to hyperspace out. I was left to fend for myself without the ability to call for reinforcements (another new feature of Tie Fighter) until my capital ship came back. The tension of not having any backup really made that mission memorable. To help keep track of the current situation, imperial pilots can access their message log during the mission. Even the mission briefing gets a facelift. Once the basic goals of the mission are outlined, the player can ask questions of the officer giving the briefing. In addition, the player can also be visited by another person who will go over the bonus and secondary objectives, which will help increase the player's standing with the Emperor.
The basic gameplay of Tie Fighter is still the same of X-Wing, which is glorious space combat in the Star Wars universe. The nature of space combat is old-fashioned dogfighting and the player will have to exercise keen control over their energy management. How fast you recharge your cannons or your shields (if you have any) versus power to your engine will make the difference between life and death. The game can be unforgiving, but that makes your eventual success all that much sweeter. I cannot emphasize enough how good the open space combat is in this game. It's been almost 20 years since Tie Fighter was released and there are few newer space combat sims that even come close to the dogfighting fun and energy of this game. My one quibble is that there are so many actions you can do, that there is scarcely a key on your keyboard that isn't used for some purpose.
One aspect of Tie Fighter that sets it apart from X-Wing is the sense of advancement. In X-Wing, you flew different fighters based upon the mission. In Tie Fighter, you have to work your way up the food chain to be able to fly better fighters. You start off with the lowly Tie Fighter, which is fast but has no shields. Run into something or get a few hits and your fighter explodes into so much cosmic debris. There was a real sense of achievement when you finally got to fly the Tie Interceptor or Tie Advanced (glorious shields!).
The graphics of Tie Fighter are more polished that those of X-Wing. While newer players may find the graphics dated, I think they hold up rather well. The music is well done with full doses of the various Star Wars themes. Overall, the game does a good job of making you feel that you're playing in the Star Wars universe and should bring a nostalgic tear to us old-timers who remember a time when Star Wars wasn't exclusively about jedi.
Personally, I think that Tie Fighter was the best space combat sim released by LucasArts. When it was released, I lost so much time to that damn game that I'm surprised I didn't lose the job I had at the time or flunked out of college. Many was the time where I told myself I would do just one more mission and then I would notice that the sun had come up. Curse my Star Wars mania and the joy of playing for the Empire! The gameplay of Tie Fighter is so addictive and fun that it's a shame to think that in the almost 20 years since the game came out, few games have matched it. More modern games might be more flashier with cooler graphics and better sound, but they lack the simple joy of this older game. Strip away all the chrome and flash, the heart of any good game is the gameplay. So what are you waiting for? Sign up today for Imperial service and if you're lucky, you might become one of the Empire's finest.