A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away....
At the Battle of Yavin
Rebel terrorists, aided by
spies and traitors within the
Empire, struck a cowardly
blow at the new symbol of
Imperial power...The Death Star!
Darth Vader brought swift justice
to the Rebels by destroying their
main base on Hoth. The pitiful
remnants the Alliance have
now scattered to the Outer Rim.
In the days ahead, the Emperor
will call upon the Imperial Navy
to eradicate the last vestiges
of rebellion and restore peace
and order to the galaxy!
TIE fighter is the second space combat simulation by Lucasarts. In it you take on the role of an Imperial fighter pilot, fighting the Rebel terrorists and treacherous Imperials, to restore peace, order and the will of the Emperor to the Galaxy. You fly seven different Imperial fighters against nearly one hundred other craft in more than one hundred missions, not including twenty eight training missions and six maze simulations. Along the way you pick up medallions and medals and advance through the ranks of the Imperial Navy and The Secret Order of the Emperor. The missions are hard but addictive, if you like combat flight simulators, you will love this game.
In 1993 the gaming world was taken by storm; X-Wing, a space combat simulation that placed you in the cockpit of a Rebel Star-fighter was released. It featured never-before-seen effects and a game play that was unmatched, even the most stalwart Star Wars-Hater had to give it some credit. However, X-Wing was not flawless, the graphics were pixelated (think 320 X 210) and the game was near impossible to beat (ok, given some games today, maybe not exactly a flaw…), it needed a sequel. In the back of every box released was a slip of paper with a tantalising advertisement. “Coming soon… Star Wars: TIE Fighter.”
TIE fighter was released in 1994, it ran in the same style as X-Wing, the controls were the same and the basic goals were the same, i.e. destroy enemy (now Rebel) ships and protect your own. But the game play had been improved tenfold. Now the graphics were better, the AI was better, the missions were vastly improved and the whole feel of the game was so incredible, that it was almost impossible to put down. It became a classic.
The following year an add-on disk was released, “TIE Fighter: Defender of the Empire,” this added two new ships to the game and expanded the plot beyond the end of the original. It offered gamers the chance for further promotion and more game play. The two games were combined into a collectors CD in 1996.
In 1997 the game X-Wing Vs TIE Fighter was released, it followed the same legacy of the two previous games, but in the format of a multiplayer game. Finally you could take your piloting skills and use them against your friends over the internet. This game played more like an add on to TIE Fighter and X-Wing than a game in it’s own right. It did, however, have far improved graphics.
In 1998 X-Wing Collector’s Series was released, it included both X-Wing and TIE Fighter, plus, a demo version of X-Wing vs TIE Fighter. TIE Fighter had been given a makeover, it’s graphics had been improved, and, at a distance at least, was almost indistinguishable from the films. It also had its joystick control system improved, although it doesn’t run in Windows XP unless you remove the emulate Joystick function using a separate program.
Following the release of X-Wing: Alliance, Lucasarts has not ruled out the possibility of a sequel to TIE fighter. If there is, it may include having a crack at defeating the Rebel Alliance finally at the second Death Star, or it might include missions that take place after the final movie. Only time will tell.
When you boot up the game the traditional “Along time ago in a galaxy far far away…” appears on the screen, followed by the scrolling text introducing the game. (Quoted at the beginning of this wu). You are then treated to an animated short film of a truly indoctrinating speech given by the Emperor about how he’s going to win this war, because “his capable forces, lead by Darth Vader are striking back at the Rebel Insurgents.” This is followed by another animation showing the glorious Imperial Fleet, commanded by Vice Admiral Thrawn completely destroying a small Rebel Stronghold. Although the animation itself is shoddy, the art is impressive and it serves as a very good introduction to the game.
Upon entering the game you are presented with a large desk with an Imperial Officer sat behind it. “Enter your name pilot!” He seems pissed off, and who can blame him, whilst you’re off blowing up X-Wings, he’s stuck behind a desk watching as all the other officers swan past him to do their fancy jobs involving helping the cause. A nice little feature is that if you try to enter (moving your mouse over the door), without entering a name, instead of the doors opening, the two storm troopers next to it snap their rifles up and point them at you whilst shouting, “YOU MUST REGISTER.” So you enter your name and proceed into the Concourse.
From the basic layout, the Concourse is situated on an Imperial space station, this functions as the main menu for the game. It is a large structure, shaped to look roughly like a sphere, with gantries crossing it and troops milling around looking Imperial. There are several doors situated around the walls, when you move a mouse over them, they open and text appears at the bottom of the screen, telling you which of the seven different rooms lies beyond. The seven rooms are:
(top left to bottom right)
For reasons I have yet to discover there is also a mysterious door to the very top right of the screen. However, I have yet to find a way to open it. If you happen to know what it is please /msg me
In the background you can hear the various bleeps and clicks that keep the space station running, in addition to the constant whir of some kind of powerful machinery, possibly keeping the gravity online, or powering the space station’s systems. It is all very atmospheric.
The Data Pad
If you press escape at any point in the Concourse you are presented with a data-pad which shows your pilot’s name, rank (anything from Cadet to General, depending on your progress), various display options, and all of your statistics; such as your score, how many kills you have, your accuracy with different varieties of weapons, and how far in the game you’ve progressed. In addition to this you can see your training patches, your training medallions and your combat medals. Mysteriously, there is also an arm next to the data-pad and when you move the mouse over it, the black sleeve is rolled back. This, it turns out, is for displaying your Secret Order Tattoos, which you gain later. First you must progress to basic training.
There are three basic types of mission, “Training Maze” “Historical Combat” and “Tour of duty”
The training maze is how you learn to pilot Imperial craft. Upon clicking on the door you see a short transition cut-scene of a flight simulator opening. These transitions can be turned off if you get bored of them. They do, however, only last around three seconds.
Once in the simulator you can select which of the seven craft you wish to fly, and what level you wish to start at. To start you click on a large red button and you see goggles brought down over your head. Presumably this is a virtual reality environment, since the Imperial Navy does not want to kill it’s pilots before they even see combat. This is also useful since it gives you a second or two to move your hand from the mouse to the joystick and get comfortable.
The object in training is to teach you to fly, and so you are presented with a series of targets to shoot at, and a series of tunnels to fly through. Each object you shoot adds two seconds to your time limit, which is the amount of time you have to complete a level of the maze. As you progress through the levels, the targets get larger and more obstructing, forcing you to shoot them as you fly past. It is a very good way to learn the basic controls of each ship, and the cockpit layouts et cetera.
When you complete five levels you are presented with a training patch, a small picture of the ship on your data-pad, proving that you are now qualified to fly that craft.
These missions again take place in a simulator. (In the cut-scene it looks slightly different from the Training Maze one). They are named “Historical Combat,” but in fact are mostly contrived missions designed to test your skill and hone your combat skills. In some of them you are talked through everything, including basic keyboard controls and dog fighting tactics.
In my opinion the first mission in this section is in fact the hardest in the game. To complete it fully you are pitted against twelve squadrons of star-fighters and must destroy them all. At one point this means that in your lowly unshielded TIE fighter, you are flying against twelve heavily armed and shielded X-Wing fighters. Luckily, to get the medallion, you only actually need to destroy eight stationary and non-threatening containers.
When you complete the Historical combat missions you are presented with medallions engraved with the craft you flew. They progress from bronze through silver to gold and can be viewed in the data pad.
Tour Of Duty
The Flight Deck
Now that you have completed the training missions, you may progress to “real combat.” First you select your tour from another officer behind a desk, (this one doesn’t speak, and looks less pissed off), and move up through another door to the flight deck. Here you can see: A large map, an Imperial officer (who bears a striking resemblance to Peter Cushing) and a mysterious shadowy figure.
If you click on the map, you are given an illustrated briefing about the mission ahead. You are told exactly what forces are expected to be thrown against you, and basically what your aims are going to be. You are also told what craft you are to be flying.
If you click in the officer, you can ask him three questions, “what are the objectives of this mission?” “what craft will I be flying?” and “what opposition will I face?” The officer answers these in a stiff English accent, telling you in more detail, what the objectives are, and filling you in on the reasons for these, which advance the storyline, what ship you will be flying and your armament, and what ships the enemy is likely to be throwing at you. Sometimes information is omitted, so that later in the mission new “sudden changes” are broadcast to you over the radio, either that or you may hear one of your fellow pilots exclaim, “Blast! No-one mentioned a minefield!”
N.B. these are the same format as historical combat missions
When you enter a mission you are shown a very short cut-scene of your craft being launched from an Imperial Star Destroyer, sometimes this is followed by your craft entering hyperspace. All of this gets you in the mood for the mission.
When you fly the mission you are placed on the inside of an Imperial craft. The cockpit art is impressively detailed, it tells you everything you need to know about the condition of your ship. This is useful since a large portion of the mission is optimising your ship’s performance. Each ship’s cockpit is arranged differently, but they each have the same basic features, heads up display, targeting computer, hull/shield strength indicator, situational awareness monitors et cetera.
To complete a mission you must complete certain mission goals, sometimes these are very easy, such as “inspect all cargo carrying vessels” which simply means flying your craft within ten meters of some freighters. But there might be other goals such as “Shuttle Omicron must have survived until all other goals are completed,” this means that you must destroy any craft attacking the shuttle before they destroy it, which given Imperial Shuttles are amongst the easiest ships to destroy, is very challenging.
One of the excellent points of the game is the attention to detail, you can calibrate your shield, weapon and tractor-beam (if you have one)‘s power, adding more power to the lasers in an intense dogfight, or shunting it all into the shields as you fly on a suicide run against a rebel cruiser or diverting it all into the engines to give you that burst of speed needed to catch that X-Wing before it jumps to hyperspace. The cockpit art itself is not fixed, if you get shot in certain areas it can become broken, it is only then that you realise how much you rely on such things as the radar, or shield indicators.
You get one ship at a time, this means that if you are blown up in a mission, you have to start it again. Sometimes when you are blown up you are rescued by Imperial personnel, in this case you are shown a short cut-scene of your medical treatment, and then returned directly to the game. Sometimes however, you are captured by the Rebels and taken to a secluded prison planet, this, or failing to eject and therefore dying (where you watch a rather chilling cut-scene of your own funeral in which your coffin is vaporised), results in you having to restore your pilot to your last save. You can opt to automatically save after each mission, or do it manually, or not at all. If you don’t save, you will lose your entire game if you are captured or killed.
Yet another neat feature is the ability to command your wingmen. This is sometimes invaluable, for instance, shift+C will order wingmen to attack the nearest craft attacking you, which, when you are trying to set up a complex bombing run, is very useful. Unfortunately your wingmen are not the best pilots in the navy, and will occasionally do something stupid, in one mission a wingman of mine managed to blow up Emperor Palpatine’s shuttle, losing the entire war a little early. If you really get into trouble, there is always the option of calling in reinforcements, although this carries a points penalty, it is sometimes necessary to strengthen the Imperial forces in an area.
The graphics in the missions are fairly impressive on the most recent version, and combined with the impressive sound effects and even more impressive -musical score, creates an atmosphere comparable to the movies.
For very battle (around six missions) you complete, you get a different medal, and a cut-scene that shows the progression of the storyline. Sometimes the cut-scenes are battles that took place without you, or sometimes they are discussions being held by your superiors. For instance, one cut-scene shows Thrawn’s promotion to Grand Admiral.
The Secret Order of the Emperor
The shadowy figure on the flight deck, mentioned earlier, is in fact a secret envoy of the Emperor, he communicates to you the Emperor’s wishes, these are secondary goals within a mission, and can rely strongly on top secret intelligence that treacherous Imperials do not want you to find out about. He dresses like a dark mason, and speaks with a deep, American accent, the effect is very secretive and shadowy.
It often seems apparent that the Secret Order representative knows more than your flight officer, and sometimes in missions, the secondary goals will mean putting primary goals in jeopardy. Completing them requires extreme skill sometimes, but there are rewards. When you complete a significant amount of secondary goals, you are initiated into the secret order. This means a short cut-scene is shown in which a tattoo is branded onto your arm by the dark side of the force. The Ranks of the Secret Order appear to be:
There are seven types of playable craft in TIE fighter, each is designed for certain mission profiles, and each performs slightly differently. They are:
- TIE Fighter: Apparently the standard fighter of the Imperial Navy. Really this is little more than a seat strapped to an engine with lasers. Very dangerous to fly, but never the less quite manoeuvrable. This is the least common ship for you to fly.
- TIE Intercepter: Faster and more manoeuvrable than the TIE Fighter, the interceptor is a higher performance version of the original death trap.
- TIE Bomber: The only TIE that can take a significant pounding without blowing up. Heavily armed with missiles, this TIE is less manoeuvrable, but is usually protected by other TIEs.
- TIE Advanced: This TIE has a hyper drive and a shield system, a huge payload, and sometimes even a tractor beam. It is superior to any Rebel craft. Slow acceleration though.
- TIE Defender: Now you’re getting silly. Mega-fast suped-up TIE Fighter of death. There was very little need for this starfighter to be developed, except it looked cool and was superior to the TIE Advanced. Just one of these craft can take out an entire squadron of rebel star fighters. This is the only TIE with an Ion Cannon.
- Assault Gun-boat: Ageing pre-TIE Advanced craft that looks similar to an Imperial Shuttle. It sports an Ion Cannon, and an impressive payload of warheads. It also possesses a shield-system and hyper drive but is quite inefficient.
- Assault Missile-Boat: The only ship in the galaxy better than the TIE defender. This ship is hyper-manoeuvrable, carries only one weapon, but a capability of carrying up to eighty warheads. If you consider that the Gun-Boat, can only carry up to sixteen, this is very impressive. It can carry literally enough warheads to take down a star destroyer, and is only barely a star fighter.
This game has been heralded as one of the best games of the nineties, this is a position it richly deserves. The missions are challenging, but not quite frustrating, the graphics are impressive and the whole gaming environment is impressively atmospheric. The game offers variety and realistic (in the Star Wars universe, which sports some unusual laws of physics) space combat that even non-Star Wars fans agree is hard to beat.
By today's standards the graphics are rather ropey and the story line is predictable. The game makers seemed to think people would have a problem fighting the rebels all the time, and so introduced elements which meant that you end up fighting treacherous Imperial Forces. The development of not one, but two super-powerful fighters seems contrived, and the fact that you only fly the classic TIE fighter in nine missions in the entire game is disappointing. The ending was not as dramatic as I would have liked, certainly not up to the standards of X-Wing in that respect.
Over all, if you liked X-Wing, you’ll love this game. If you like Star Wars, you’ll love this game. If you like combat flight simulators, you’ll love this game. If you have ever owned a joystick, odds are you will love this game.