Classic Game Club #26: TIE Fighter!

Few movies, or games, have so captured the imagination of certain people* as Star Wars. Through 3 films, and countless games, there has been a consistent magic in the series. One of my earliest memories of beating a game came from, over the course of weeks, going to a friends house and working our way through Super Return of the Jedi. Years later, when my family finally upgraded the Apple ][e to a proper PC (this was about 1999 or so), one of the first things I bought was a Microsoft Sidewinder Precision Pro joystick and a handful of flight games. Among my haul, paid for with a summers worth of lawnmowing money, was X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter Balance of Power.

Now, obviously, TIE Fighter is not the same game as XvT, but is is often heralded as one of the greatest narrative based space combat games ever made.

I intend to put that to the test.

How will this game compare to the glorious memories of taking out a Star Destroyer with a B-wing, of dogfighting TIE Fighters in an asteroid field with the nimble yet weak A-wing, of having to emergency dump all stored power to shields while diverting all power to the engines to make a quick escape from death? TIE Fighter is not just competing against its reputation, it is competing against sepia toned memories of a game that probably never was what I recall. It is competing against the memory I have of taking the game disk and putting it in my car stereo, skipping the 33 minutes of static that was track 1, and listening to the awesome John Williams score as I drove around**.

In fact the music is one of the most interesting things to me here, as it was so critical to nailing the feel of the game to me. Yet XvT just used a CD soundtrack, which many purists decry. I never got that, but then again I missed the original games. So let me see the MIDI music in action, what is it about this supposed dynamic soundtrack that was lost with the CD versions? How can it possibly compare to the high fidelity recordings of actual instruments that followed me around town?

So let us take off, and enjoy the adventure together. Let us seek out those rebels who do not acknowledge the greatness of the game empire, and see if their cause is a worthy one. The Emperor has declared this task for us, now let us go fulfill it.

Available from GOG. I will be using the 1995 CD version, not the 1998 version. The reason being I want to see the dynamic music in action. However please feel free to use either version you wish. I may, depending on how good the music player is, switch to the 1998 version myself eventually.

*Yes, I mean me, but admit it is probably you too
**I actually still have the music from the disk burned to my hard drive. Sometimes you just need to listen to the Imperial March.

Imperial Star Dest Nostalgia entering area at 0 km

I completed this game and the expansion using a mouse. I was so proud of it. :O

I wonder about that. When I picked Wing Commander III earlier I tried using a joypad to play, but it was untenable. Eventually I switched to mouse there as well. So I wonder how the 1995 version of TIE will handle it as well. I know the 1998 version, using the XvT engine, would do the joystick just fine, in fact about a year ago I got my XvT disks working and tried with my Logitech controller, and it worked great.

I hope the 1995 version works as well, but with older PC games it can be a bit of a crapshoot.

Perfect. I was tempted to pick this, too, but took the gamble that someone else would. I bought both X-Wing and TIE games when GOG released them and dipped my toe in X-Wing for a little bit. But I think the stuff I really remember fondly was in TIE Fighter. Let’s get Imperial!

Serve the emperor above all others!!!

I love this game, love it. Currently stuck in campaign 7, tried finishing it like 10 times, and even with the strategy guide I had no luck, so I’m kinda mad at it right now, but I still love it.

Hmm, I need to figure out if it is possible to remap controls on the joypad. Works fine, but there isn’t any throttle or energy controls linked.

Darn old computer games making me read the manual!

So I got some time in the game. It does not appear the 1994 edition allows remapping the controls, but they’re alright. Unfortunately using a gamepad versus a traditional joystick means I do have some complications in that the game is designed to use one hand on the joystick the other on the keyboard. To do things like adjust power levels or change targets I have to remove my hand from the joystick, or the firing button. With some practice it becomes tolerable, but it would certainly bear monitoring for harder levels.

I started off by running the training for the base TIE fighter. The obstacle course gets quite challenging! I was able to beat all the way to level 9, though some were close calls. I didn’t fail, just was ready to get to the real game.

First actual mission was very easy. Just fly by and scan some ships. It would be pretty hard to fail this one, and it would be nearly as hard not to meet the secondary goals. But it was a nice quick into mission that got my feet wet.

Obviously this game hails from a different era. The control list spans 6 pages in the manual. That’s huge compared to today. Most of them aren’t even needed for normal play, at least not early on. Despite the daunting control list, really it is possible to complete missions without most of them. The controls also feel fairly good in flight. Nice and responsive, and handles well with the controller. Much better than my last attempt with Wing Commander. The flight engine feels good, and looks decent as well. While I’m not far, I can say with confidence that it is hitting the right notes to start.

Dude, if you mean to keep playing this, get like a $20-30 cheap joystick, as it only uses two axes anyway. It’s really the way it’s meant to be played.

Dude, if you can afford it, get a cheap $20-$30 stick, as it’s really the way this game is meant to be played.

Oh I’m sure, but it’s more a matter of space and time. If only my old Sidewinder was still around, I loved that stick.

Funny you should say that, I’ve recently sprung for three Microsoft Sidewinder Force Feedback 2 sticks after trying one for the first time earlier this year. Best stick I’ve ever used. Anyway, I was thinking of something along these lines:

Which probably works great with TIE Fighter and takes up little space.

That is the joystick I bought for Elite: Dangerous and I ended up being really happy with it. The small lever in the front on the base may not be perfect for the throttle control, but I thought it worked just fine for Elite.

Hmm, do you think it would work with TIE Fighter? I never tried any of the Star Wars flight games ever so may talk myself into buying/trying this if the joystick could work with it. The size of the base is fairly big, though, I think. You may want to check the dimensions first :).

It does not work with throttle controls. Throttle and roll are used by hitting button 2 and moving the stick.

[ - 1/3 Throttle (quickest turning speed)
Backspace - Full Throttle
Enter - Match Target’s Speed

Learn It. Live It. Love It.

Enter to match speeds was a revelation in TIE Fighter. Pretty sure you can’t do it in X-Wing. Kinda felt like cheating at first, but for good reason it became a standard control in every flight shooter since.

Why’d you get 3? Just to have spares in case to last in case it’s not as easy to find later?

How does it work with Elite?

I’d love to participate in this selection, but I’m committed to my playthrough of the Fallout series right now.

Well, I fell so in love with the first one that I felt I really needed a spare, since they don’t make them anymore and quantities are limited. THEN I found an inexpensive second run model (with red buttons and a red light) for really cheap since it didn’t have a power cord (but hey, I had two! ;), so yeah, now I use the red one (which is fucking MINT) and have the other two in boxes. These things are built like tanks, but I won’t delude myself in thinking they’ll last forever.

It works fabulously, I just did some road tripping and combat today if you wanna look:

I use it with a Saitek X-52 throttle and CH Pro Pedals, and it’s faaaaaabulous.

I was wrong, it’s campaign nine, mission three I’ve been stuck on. Just tried it again, even using the strategy guide’s recommendations of using ions to disable all the transports and bombers so the gunboats can handle 'em, but eventually I get overwhelmed by enemy TDs and TAs, and once again got destroyed before the mission finished. It’s freaking infuriating, as I think that was attempt eleven or twelve.


Now you’re depressing me that I need more equipment. I hoped you’d say it’s fantastic and all I’d ever need! So is that the perfect Elite setup? Tell me what I should get and I will finally invest time in a game that I know I’ll love.