The following are seven basic tips for aspiring First Strike starfighter pilots, based on what I've learned myself playing the mod. While flying in FS is very similar to flying in most other FPS games, you should at least skim this article before getting your feet wet in maps which may call upon you to pilot a starfighters.
Keep looking over your shoulderEdit
Picture this: Battle of Taloraan has finished loading, and you find yourself in the middle of a round that appears to have lots of action going on. You get in your shiny, battle-eager TIE Fighter, fire her up, and eagerly head off at full speed for that fleet battle raging in the centre of the map. Your starfighter’s icon stalks across the expanse of the minimap, the battle closes in… and without warning, you’re blasted to molten space debris by an X-Wing that effortlessly sneaked up on you from behind.
Fly a starfighter in First Strike as you would walk down a dark and scary alley at nighttime: Keep ‘looking over your shoulder’ by checking your rear-facing external view (default key ‘F11’), and don’t fly straight and level for long. Fighters flying in a straight line are very easy to get behind and kill. Even when you believe yourself to be far from the action, you should do some dodging and weaving to make it harder for ambushers to sneak up on you and line you up in their sights.
In addition, it is very easy to get caught up in pursuit or an attack run and forget that you can become a victim even while striking. I’ve been shot down while torpedoing an enemy cruiser or lining up an enemy fighter for a kill more times than I like to try to count. While it's nearly impossible to look over your shoulder and attack at the same time, try to make an effort to do so if you feel you get the chance, or, alternatively, check your six just before you start your attack run.
Do not hover over unmanned warshipsEdit
One important rule of gun ownership is to treat every weapon you carry as though it were loaded. A similar rule applies to starfighter pilots in First Strike: Treat any and all enemy freighters and warships as though they were manned. It’s tempting to just hover near an enemy unmanned capital ship and pelt it with your lasers, but the second that unmanned ship, or one close to it, becomes manned and the newly arrived player discovers there are fighters hanging completely still only a few metres off his ship’s guns, you’re all dead. So unless you’re in a blind zone where the ship’s guns can’t hit you, you generally should not hover near enemy ships.
Oh, and while I'm on it, enemy starfighters, too, are attracted to fighters hanging still like carnivorous insects to a nerf cadaver, especially if you're in the blind zone of a manned ship and she's calling for support, which she is nearly a hundred percent sure to do. So if you're going to bring your fighter to hover, either for repairs and rearming at a friendly freighter, or to damage an enemy ship, always be extremely cautious and keep your eyes peeled for enemies.
Turning fights do not produce killsEdit
A classic beginner’s mistake in First Strike is to find yourself in a turning fight. Turning fights are when you and an enemy starfighter chase each others by pitching your fighters in the same direction, making both fighters fly in loops. This almost never leads to kills and makes you a relatively easy target for enemy fighters outside the loop.
Even in situations where you pilot an agile craft against a sluggish craft, the risk of collision is significant enough to not make the turning fight worth it. If you find yourself in a turning fight, end it immediately. Break off and try to get the enemy in front of you.
Exercise self-discipline – hold your fireEdit
Another typical beginner’s mistake is to open fire on a target before you have a good shot. This will very likely not result in hits or significant damage, and laser bolts are a dead giveaway that alerts the target to your presence, allowing him to take evasive action. If you’re engaging a starfighter, approach it, get behind it, and line it up in your sight so that your shots can’t miss. Then open fire. Against an unsuspecting target, a salvo of deadly accurate laser bolts from behind will often destroy it before the pilot can even react.
This is not to say there are no situations where opening fire inaccurately is a good idea. For example, firing on a fighter may make it break off from its target, sparing its intended victim some damage. Or you could have a target already in a combat situation that you wouldn’t be able to get behind anyway due to its evasive action. In such a case, firing some shots that may or may not hit is better than not firing at all.
Avoid head-to-head attacksEdit
Head-to-head attacks are a good way of getting yourself killed. Not only because you’re dead in the enemy’s sight, making for a high chance of getting destroyed by laser fire, but also because it’s very difficult in First Strike to judge distance. A very common cause of death in head-to-head encounters are collisions resulting from the two fighters misjudging the distance between each others’ craft. With these two dangers in mind, pilots should generally avoid head-to-head attacks.
It should be noted, however, that there is one significant exception to this rule: the B-Wing bomber. This heavy craft is armed with laser and ion cannons, which can be fired in tandem for devastating effect if you hit Change Weapons (default ‘F’ key) and hold both primary and secondary fire. Going head-to-head while pelting the target will very often result in a kill, and even if it causes a collision, the B-Wing is the only fighter that can actually survive full-speed, head-on collisions with other fighters. As a matter of fact, since the sluggish bantha of a craft is pretty much unable to get behind anything faster than the Death Star in a fair dogfight, head-to-head kills are just about the only way it actually gets to effectively kill other fighters.
Reduce collision riskEdit
There’s no ground to run your fighter into in space, but nevetheless, collisions are as frequent there as on ground maps. Expect to run your fighter into capital ships, freighter, other starfighters pretty frequently, especially when you’re new to the mod. Following a few rules reduces the risk of collision, however:
- Stay out of other fighters’ flight paths. This is a very good way to avoid crashes, as starfighters in First Strike are very fast and as such close distances very quickly. Watch out for starfighters coming your way, and in particular, shun head-to-head attacks with hostiles like the plague.
- Keep your eyes open while ganging up on a target. If you see an enemy fighter under attack by a friendly, leave it be. If you both set off after the same fighter, there’s a very high chance you’ll run each others down. The same goes with bigger targets such as freighters – while you have to gang up on them to take them down, be very careful to keep an eye on your wingmen.
- Maintain an overview: Get a general overview of where the big ships are, and try to maintain that overview. There will always be moments where you take evasive action only to run headlong into a Nebulon B, but when you know it’s there, and roughly where you are in relation to her, the chances are greatly reduced.
Remember that collisions will happen, just like team-killing. Keep your head cool and don’t use the punish function after every single incident. Especially important to notice is the bug that causes capital ship and freighter captains to be punished for team-kills when you fly into them. Always forgive when you run into a friendly ship - punishing others for your own recklessness is not cool.
Remember the Shift, F and X keysEdit
Last of all, many fighters have speed boosters (default key 'Shift'), as well as special abilities (Countermeasures key, default 'X') and weapons (Change Weapons key, default 'F'). Learn what each fighter can do, and put their abilities to good use!
To round off with one last little hint, every space map has certain objectives to accomplish. These are explained in the maps' articles here on the Wiki, and in the map loading screens. Do your servermates a big favor and get to know - and share- the objectives!