Star Wars Squadrons Review | ‘A flawed homage to flight sims of decades past’

Jason Faulkner
Star Wars: Squadrons Info

genre

  • Space Sim

players

  • 1 - 10

Publisher

  • Electonic Arts

Developer

  • Motive Studios

Release Date

  • 10/02/2020
  • Out Now

Platform

  • PC
  • PS4
  • Xbox One

rating

Star Wars: Squadrons review for PC, PS4, and Xbox One.

Star Wars: Squadrons is a return to what was once a staple of Star Wars gaming. In the 90s and early-2000s, there were two great Star Wars flight series produced, X-Wing and Rogue Squadron. The former leaned towards flight simulation, with players handling complex targeting, communications, power management, and weapons systems. The latter was more of an arcade shooter, a very point-and-shoot type of game. Squadrons lies somewhere in the middle of those two extremes, channeling the frantic pace of Rogue Squadron while also offering players advanced control over their ship’s systems.

Squadron‘s biggest sin is also its greatest success. It leaves the player wanting more. The single-player campaign is relatively lean, both in completion time and scope, and puts players on a place in the Star Wars timeline that isn’t incredibly exciting. The multiplayer, which is the game’s meat, is enough to hook pilots but is sparse enough that it may lack staying power.

Review PC Specs

CPU:AMD Ryzen 7 3800X
Motherboard:ASUS ROG Strix X570-E Gaming ATX Motherboard
RAM:32GB G.Skill Trident Z Neo Series DDR4 3600MHz
GPU:Gigabyte RTX 3090 Gaming OC
Install Drive:Sabrent 1TB Rocket PCIe 4.0 M.2 SSD

New EU? Pee-Ew!

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I want to preface my critique of the plot with the statement that I think the new Star Wars Expanded Universe is absolutely atrocious. Disney’s decanonization of 30 years of characters, locations, stories, and starships has left a tangible hole that new material has done a horrible job filling. The crux of this issue pertaining to Star Wars: Squadrons is that it’s set in an awkward period that doesn’t lend to good storytelling.

The bulk of Squadrons‘ campaign takes place in the year between the Battle of Endor, where the Emperor is killed, and the Battle of Jakku, where the bulk of the remaining Imperial fleet is destroyed. It follows the New Republic’s Vanguard Squadron and the Empire’s Titan Squadron and centers around the mysterious Project Starhawk. Project Starhawk is a vital part of the New Republic’s efforts to defeat the Imperial Remnant and bring peace to the galaxy, and the two squadrons will face off to determine its fate.

The setting doesn’t lend anything to the feeling of adventure or urgency. We know that happened in the Battle of Endor, and we know a year later it’s game over for the Empire. No matter what happens with Project Starhawk, we know that their fleet will be defeated at Jakku and that 30 years later, it’ll be rusting on the surface of the planet when Rey starts doing her thing.

Star Wars: Squadron‘s campaign exemplifies the problem with Disney’s new EU. In the Legacy EU, the Empire kept chugging along for decades after Endor. Sure, it was a shadow of its former self, but it still posed a significant threat. Admirals turned warlords roamed the galaxy carving out fiefdoms, the Emperor popped back up for round two, and the New Republic struggled for years to establish itself.

Now, the Empire is KOed practically as soon as the New Republic is formed. After that, the new government proceeds to sit on their hands until the First Order slithers out of the Unexplored Regions and blows up their fleet and capital world in The Force Awakens.

Rogue, Alphabet, Vanguard Squadron

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In premise, the plot of Squadrons has potential, even if the setting itself is weak. The player switches between piloting as Vanguard and Titan Squadrons throughout a prologue and 14 missions. Unfortunately, some major issues keep the campaign from greatness.

Part of the story is spent getting to know the pilots of Vanguard and Titan Squadrons. This is done primarily through conversations in-between missions. Unfortunately, none of them are particularly interesting, mostly because we’ve already seen characters exactly like them in Star Wars before.

A few examples on the New Republic side are:

  • Feresk “Frisk” Tssat (Han Solo) is a scoundrel with a bounty on his head that fights for the rebels because they’re the only people who aren’t trying to kill him.
  • Keo Venzee (Anakin Skywalker)is a force-sensitive racing savant who joined the New Republic military after being saved from a bad situation by a member of the rebellion.

For the Empire, the cast has the same deal going on, especially with Shen (Boba Fett, Captain Phasma), a TIE pilot of few words that never removes their helmet, even outside of their ship.

Players are supposed to build an attachment to these people. However, they’re so derivative that it’s hard to see them as anything but a caricature of more established, better-written Star Wars characters.

Squad up

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The multiplayer is the central focus in Star Wars: Squadrons, and at launch, it’s entertaining, if a bit sparse. The two available modes are Dogfight, which is a team deathmatch, and Fleet Battles, which is a multi-phase, objective-based mode that works similar to Battlefield‘s Operations.

Dogfight is self-explanatory. Two teams of five fighters participate in a free-for-all. The first squadron to thirty kills wins. It’s a pretty simple mode, but it’s a good direct test of pilot ability.

Fleet Battles are the centerpiece of Squadrons’ multiplayer, and provide a longer playtime and bigger challenge than a regular dogfight. Each team has a fleet consisting of two cruisers and a larger flagship. A morale meter, shown at the top of the screen, determines which team is on the offensive. Killing an enemy AI fighter, player, or capital ship fills the morale bar, at which point the fight will move to the next phase of the offensive.

I found Fleet Battles to be the more engaging of the two multiplayer modes since it heavily encourages teamwork. The squadron that bests focuses their efforts will prevail as it takes quite a bit of firepower to take down capital ships.

A ship and a star to steer her by

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Fortunately, the real stars of Squadrons, the ships, are satisfying to fly and fight in. Several venerable starfighters are available for players to control, like the X-wing, A-wing, Y-wing, TIE fighter, TIE interceptor, and TIE bomber, as well as two lesser-known ships, the U-wing and TIE Reaper. Both the New Republic and the Empire categorizes these vessels into one of four categories: fighter, interceptor, bomber, and support. Each of these types has its own strengths, weaknesses, and equipment to pick from.

For the most part, the New Republic and Imperial fighters are roughly equivalent between categories. So, the Y-wing and TIE bomber have very similar flight characteristics and can be outfitted with the same equipment. The big difference between the two factions is that the New Republic vessels have shields, and the Imperial fighters can instantly dump power into engines or weapons.

Squadrons offers several methods of play. Pilots can use a TV/monitor and controller, but VR and HOTAS support is also included as well as keyboard and mouse on PC. Unfortunately, the relatively complex controls can be a bit busy for a controller. Players must continuously switch between targeting priorities, which must be done via a pie menu on controller. Alternatively, HOTAS and mouse and keyboard players can bind the targeting settings to buttons, which give them an advantage over those who have to select them from a menu.

Future shock

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I never thought I’d wish for a game to have a live service, but Star Wars: Squadrons could use one. EA has no plans for future DLC, and besides the Operations, which act as seasons, no additional content has been announced.

The upside to Squadrons not having a live service is that there are no microtransactions. All cosmetics and fighter upgrades are earned through the two in-game currencies, Glory and Requisitions. Since the game itself only costs $40, it’s a safe purchase for Star Wars fans.

However, I think that the game’s limit scope is to its detriment in the long run. As I stated above, I think Squadrons is set in a weaker point of the Star Wars canon, and the game would benefit from added content. I would have liked to have seen multiple ships per category at some point because the selection is small for a franchise with so much material to draw on. It would be great to get to pick between the Y-wing and the B-wing as a New Republic bomber, for example, or the TIE interceptor or TIE Defender for an Imperial interceptor.

As it stands now, there’s not enough content in Star Wars: Squadrons to keep players hooked for long. That would be fine if that’s what EA intends, but the game’s design makes it seem like a live service game with no live service.

Star Wars: Squadrons PC Review | The Final Verdict

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Star Wars: Squadrons is a flawed homage to flight sims of decades past. It’ll be a dream come true for fans of the X-Wing and Rogue Squadron series. It’s the type of Star Wars game that seemed to be extinct. It’s a niche title that highlights the fantastic starfighters of the franchise.

However, Squadrons does have issues, mostly with its setting. The campaign has a very “been there, done that” feel and is set in one of the least exciting time periods in the new canon. The multiplayer is a ton of fun, but lacks the content to stay entertaining over the long term.

The fact that Star Wars: Squadrons, at $40, is a budget title is its saving grace. The price of admittance is worth it, and even if EA doesn’t add any DLC or live service, fans will get their money’s worth.

REVOLUTION REPORT CARD

3.5
Rating
Box art - Star Wars: Squadrons
Gameplay is an excellent blend of the arcadey Rogue Squadron and the space sim X-Wing series.
Fleet Battles are complex and challenging.
Worth the $40 pricetag.
Limited content given that no DLC/live service has been announced.
Plot of the campaign is derivative and lacks punch.