Title: Star Wars: Squadrons
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Motive Studios
Genres: Space Combat
Official Site: https://www.ea.com
Available on: PC, Xbox One, and PS4
Version Tested: PC
Release Date: October 2, 2020
Star Wars: Clash of the Starfighters
All power is transferring over to the engines as an imperial TIE fighter is making a daring dodge from an X-wing fighter. The rebellious pilot makes its deadly approach, firing away red lasers toward the screaming target. By cutting the engine power by half, the TIE fighter makes a sharp turn and catches the X-wing off-guard. Right in its sights, the targeting system has locked onto the opposing pilot. By shooting a few rounds for good measure, the TIE pilot launches a missile, and the X-wing swirls into flames and debris. Your support mate resupplies you with additional ammunition as you both fly toward the enemy’s capital ship, space warfare infesting the stars.
That’s just one of the many great and incredible moments that players can experience in Star Wars: Squadrons. A starfighter combat simulator, this new adventure from developer Motive Studios and Electronic Arts is one that fans of the universe shouldn’t miss out on.
Some time ago in a galaxy far beyond our reach, there waged a war between the oppressive Empire and the hopeful Rebellion. With the help of some brave heroes, the Empire began to collapse, after the fall of its monumental Death Star II. With the New Republic now in formation, their next step toward freedom from the Empire is a mission known as Project Starhawk. It is here where Star Wars: Squadrons takes place, with a dual narrative that focuses on one team from each side that plays into Project Starhawk’s development: Vanguard for the Republic, and Titan for the Empire.
All Wings Report In
Squadrons infuses elements from other Star Wars space combat titles (such as Rogue Squadron and Starfighter) and arcade-style flight games. Entirely in first-person, you are situated inside the cockpit of either an Imperial or a New Republic spacecraft. As you work toward completing your objectives in both the single-player campaign and multiplayer, there are a few mechanics to keep in mind while in flight. Of course, the expected Star Wars action aesthetic is in full display, and it is glorious.
In combat, there are so many moments of science fiction peril that dying in the game isn’t necessarily an annoyance. It’s all about becoming adjusted to the few controls and responsibilities you have for when it comes to taking care of your starfighter. You have to manage your engines while keeping an eye on your ship’s health, as well as commanding your squadron mates to help you out there when things get heated. Too much damage can leave a mark on your cockpit’s window, and insufficient health levels leave you up in smoke if you can’t get away.
A New Hull
With the customization options that become available in singleplayer and multiplayer, you can somewhat adjust your ship to your playstyle. The customization options range from switching weaponry components to choosing a different hull for your ship. Each modification comes with a positive and negative factor, so it depends on what loadout you prefer. Personally, I stuck with the default components for the majority of my 12-hour playtime because I was having so much fun playing inside the cockpit of a TIE fighter or a Y-wing.
Not to mention that the game itself looks amazing on PC. From the ship and character models to the enormous environments in space, Squadrons does a fantastic job of pulling the player into encapsulating immersion. It almost felt as if I was in my very own Star Wars story. Flying through debris while double checking my comms and targeting map made me confident that I could do this, and each high-flying moment was only met with a smile, even after I somehow crash into an asteroid because there was so much happening at once.
The graphics resembled the movies quite significantly, and even looking around in either team’s hangar is enough to say that this game is superb when it comes to presentation, especially at higher video settings. I rarely had framerate breaks, and very seldom would an enemy AI act strangely by floating still and then suddenly boosting with power within a second.
I became so invested in the gameplay that whenever I queued into multiplayer, I would randomly call out, “Red Five, standing by” before the fighting would commence. Imagine one of the exceptional arcade games where you take control of a starfighter, and now you have that right at home with Star Wars: Squadrons. Now that you can fly side-by-side with your friends, the multiplayer is where the real magic is. Modes like Dogfight and Fleet Battles bring that pure enticing action that was birthed from George Lucas’s creation. It’s simply hard to put the controller down when you just want to keep queuing up for the next battle.
Gordy Haab and the Tunes of Star Wars: Squadrons
The game’s music was composed by Gordy Haab, who has also worked on Battlefront II and Jedi: Fallen Order. By taking familiar cues from John Williams’s well-known compositions, Haab wonderfully mixes his own action-packed symphony pieces that feel absolutely true to the Star Wars universe.
The voice actors also get a plus for their convincing performances as soldiers in space experiencing the end of a galactic war with the start of another one. The player can select from a list of voices for their character, who all sound pretty great and distinctive – and hilarious if you pair up a gruff male voice with the face of a daring female pilot. You can hear them make callouts during combat, and I appreciate the solid effort the developers made when it came to making it sound believable for the game’s universal setting. And even though I didn’t fall in love with any of the characters, I liked the inclusion of their dramatic conflicts that play throughout the campaign to keep things interesting.
The Force is Strong with This One
Playing Squadrons was like a dream come true for that particular adventure a Star Wars fan craves when it doesn’t involve the Force or lightsabers. Space combat has been experimented with in recent installments from Electronic Arts, but Squadrons is an essential addition to the player’s library if they are looking to take flight in an A-wing or TIE Bomber. I even tried it out with my VR headset, and that only elevated my enthusiasm for it. It’s VR-supported, so it’s not 100% when it comes to perfect graphical rendering, but I would definitely try it out.
The story might be the game’s weakest aspect, however. Not that it’s bad; it’s far from it, actually. The storytelling is just a mildly adequate adventure in space, told through the perspectives from both sides of the war. You get to know the characters more with the in-between hangar areas and briefings where you’ll be informed about your mission and given prompts to speak to a teammate. It’s here where you’ll get the majority of the narrative development, along with the cutscenes and dialogue during missions. But at the end of it all, I felt underwhelmed, and just wanted more from a package that slightly lacks in content (especially with the small number of multiplayer modes and maps). Maybe it was the tedious objectives of scanning and flying around, but even then I was gazing at the planets and stars out of mere enjoyment. It’s an average tale that’s easy to follow along with, but don’t expect the same space opera exquisiteness we’ve come to know and love from the movies and TV shows.
Verdict: Star Wars: Squadrons is one exhilarating space combat experience that I would recommend to anyone who enjoys both video games and Star Wars. Its addicting gameplay and beautiful presentation of a special flight simulator in space are hard to ignore. I can only hope that more content is released down the line since the delivery comes off a bit short, but I can’t say that I didn’t have fun playing it. With Haab’s incredible score, the astonishing game design, fierce action, and acceptable narrative, I’m looking forward to jumping right back into a spacecraft.