We’ve done some pretty exciting things this year. We’ve chatted to AI speakers in our living room, tried some extremely risqué virtual reality, and even took a spin in a self-driving car without getting ourselves killed. But none of that compares to being a pilot in a Star Wars drone dogfight.
Propel’s new Star Wars Battle Quads, to give them their full name, are every single Star Wars fan’s dream. Hell, you don’t even have to like Star Wars to appreciate them. Five minutes whizzing around the air and shooting at a rival drone is all it’ll take to make you fall in love.
Want to see what it’s like shooting down Rebel scum? Read on…
What’s in the box?
The experience begins with the luxury, all-black embossed box. The second you take off the lid, you’re treated to a show of lights and original Star Wars music.
It’s really quite incredible, and wouldn’t look out of place in a Star Wars museum. We’d be lying if we said we didn’t get goosebumps.
The drones themselves are a thing of beauty too, made of flexible polypropylene, designed to withstand the inevitable impacts of aerial combat. Delicate, they ain’t.
They’re also hand painted, so each one is a unique snowflake of collectible beauty. It would almost be a shame to fly them, you’ll think, but trust us – that feeling won’t stay with you for long.
At the time of writing, three drones will be available at the early December launch – the T-65 X-Wing Starfighter, the 74-Z Speeder Bike, and Darth Vader’s pimped out TIE Advanced X1 Fighter.
A fourth drone, the Millennium Falcon will fly in 2017, and will have a significantly different internal control system to the three drones launching in December.
Attention to detail, there is
The drone controllers themselves have built-in speakers which blast out authentic sound effects and music (all of which can be turned off, if you prefer).
They’ve also got tiny built-in miniature screwdrivers in the shape of lightsabers, which can be slotted out to adjust the throttle controls – a lovely little touch, if you ask us.
Fly like an eagle
The drones have similar flight characteristics to each other, so it’s just a case of choosing your favourite model, or picking an allegiance.
You won’t have an advantage by having the ‘best’ ship in the fleet, which makes for a nice level playing field. This isn’t Mario Kart, and it’s certainly not like dusting crops.
What’s it like to fly, though? In short – it’s wizard, Ani!
The controls are responsive, and the drones are super zippy. If you’re new to flying, Propel has made the learning curve really simple. Multiple speed settings, from a sedate training mode to a super-fast 35mph in 3 seconds, the Battle Quads will work for pretty much anyone.
Fight or flight
Awesome Star Wars theme aside, the Battle Quads also stand out from their peers thanks to their ability to fight multiple other drones.
Dogfighting comes in the shape of a three-strikes-and-out match. If your drone gets hit by your opponent’s IR beam (laser upgrades are planned for 2017), your controller vibrates, and you lose a life. Lose all three, and your quad will slowly spiral to the ground, ready for a rematch.
We battled an X-Wing against Darth Vader’s TIE X1 Fighter, and then against a Speeder Bike (complete with a miniature mounted biker scout), and we had an absolute blast.
Trying to keep focused on not crashing while trying to get the drop on your opponent is intense, but extremely fun, and it’s a challenge that feels like it’ll never get old.
The few times we lost our nerve and crashed never took us out of the action for long either. The drone tended to land right-way up, ready for a quick take off, and the flexible body materials absorbed all of the knocks without damaging propellors or motors.
Even if the odd propellor gets knocked off here and there, it’s just a case of picking it up, and popping it back in. Spares are included in the box too, should your cat run off with them.
Each drone comes with two batteries, and you can order more if you like too. One battery provides around eight minutes of flight time – plenty for a skirmish in the park.
You can recreate epic space battles in the same park with a group of up to 12 combatants too, though we’d be wary of pigeons.
Initial Verdict: Absolutely Awesome
Just another bit of expensive licensed movie tat, then? Well, you’re half right. These toys aren’t cheap, coming in at £230 each, but they’re definitely 100% not tat.
They’re beautifully crafted models worthy of any collector’s shelf, and the fact that they’re incredible drones capable of fighting one another with frikkin’ laser beams, is just icing on an already delicious cake, making that price tag seem rather reasonable, if you ask us.
Out in early December (we’ll update this feature once they hit shelves properly), you can pre-order them from PC World.
As they say, if you can afford it, get two.