Title: Star Wars: Squadrons
Developer: Motive Studios
Release Date: October 2, 2020
Reviewed On: PS4
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Genre: Space Combat
Whether it be a Rebel X-wing, and Imperial TIE Fighter, or the Millennium Falcon herself, I’ve always wanted to get inside the cockpit of a ship from Star Wars. Maybe it’s the immersive dog fights from the films or the pilots behind the controls, but one would think that we would see more games centered around the idea of piloting these ships. Although it’s been touched on before in other titles, nothing has come close to the experience that Star Wars: Squadrons offers.
Star Wars: Squadrons puts players in two of the most elite starfighter squadrons in the galaxy: Titan and Vanguard. Shortly after the Battle of Endor and destruction of the second Death Star, the Rebellion/New Republic is working on snuffing out the Empire’s hold over the galaxy. Players take control of two customizable pilots as the two factions duke it out for supremacy.
What’s surprising is how Star Wars: Squadrons launched for $39.99. And what’s even more surprising is how it isn’t a multiplayer-only title. While the multiplayer offerings are there to keep players invested, there is a nice sized single-player campaign to play through.
Sadly, Squadrons’ plot doesn’t hold up as prominently as some of the more notable Star Wars media, but it is definitely worth playing through at least once. The story also serves as a bit of a prolonged tutorial, as it gives players the chance to take control of the available starfighters. By the time you finish the story, you might not be the best pilot online, but you’ll have a leg up over those who just jump straight into multiplayer.
Story aside, how does the game actually play? Well, I’m happy to report that Squadrons is, without a doubt, the best spaceship fighter game I’ve played. Sure, other science fiction games offer space battles, but little close to the immersion that Squadrons features.
The entire game is in the first-person perspective, making players really feel as if they are piloting each of the ships. Though things may look simple at first glance, Squadrons’ content becomes greater the more you play. The difference between someone picking the game up for the first time and a player with 40 hours of experience will show more in this game than in just about any other on the market.
Each faction has four classes of ships they can use: Fighter (TIE Fighter and X-Wing), Interceptor (TIE Interceptor and A-Wing), Bomber (TIE Bomber and Y-Wing), and Support (TIE Reaper and U-Wing).
Each of these ships plays incredibly different. Each class specializes in a unique area, making it incredibly important to figure out which class fits your playstyle best. Though you can jump into matches by yourself and still find success, getting a whole team of friends together to form a coherent squadron can help decimate the competition. Having at least one of each of the classes on your team as opposed to five TIE Fighters or X-Wings can take a squadron from decent to unstoppable.
At the time of writing, there are only two main online game modes: Dogfight and Fleet Battle. Dogfight is precisely what it sounds like: a team deathmatch-esque mode where the first team to 30 kills wins. Though it isn’t a very complicated or inspired mode, it doesn’t need to be. Good old-fashioned dogfights are exactly what I picked up Star Wars: Squadrons to experience.
The more exciting and unique mode in Squadrons is Fleet Battle. Similar to the large scale battles featured in Star Wars: Battlefront II, Fleet Battle has players fight between two large Capital Ships. Instead of simply having to take down other fighters, players will need to try and take down massive enemy ships over lengthy fights.
By destroying smaller ships and completing other objectives, each team’s morale is boosted. The team with the higher morale goes on the offensive, doing as much damage to the enemy’s Capital Ship before they are inevitably pushed back. This game of cat and mouse goes on until one team emerges victorious.
Fleet Battle is a bit of a mixed bag. While I enjoy significant objective-based encounters, it can get a bit tedious over time. Some of these matches can last for well over half an hour with very little variety in them to warrant the length. Sure, it is a nice alternative to Dogfight, but I think I’ll be sticking with the classics for most of my time online.
If you don’t really like either of these game modes, then you’re out of luck. Seeing as how Squadrons seems to be setting itself up to be a long-term game with seasons to keep players around, hopefully, they’ll add more modes in the future. However, there is also a VR mode offered for those who wish to immerse themselves more in the space battles.
All of the maps currently playable are full of interesting environments and obstacles to fly around, leading to some intense run-ins with the enemy. The environmental obstacles cause some memorable moments, such as barely pulling up to miss an asteroid after destroying an enemy or using space junk as a means to help get homing missiles off your tail.
There are some areas of Squadrons that could be improved, especially in the story, where the budget clearly hurt the narrative. Character models during interactions often look a little off and move unnaturally, making it clear they are placed on rigs. Additionally, textures will often pop in just a second or two late when approaching characters, and ships will take sharp, unnatural turns as they attempt to glitch into place during some cinematics. I would hardly call these issues deal-breaking, but they are noticeable.
Star Wars: Squadrons provides players a genuine starfighter experience with a low cost of entry. The single-player campaign offers just enough distraction from the real meat of this adventure that is found in its multiplayer modes. The best part about the experience is how it rewards those who put the most time into it, so I’m hoping to see additional modes to keep things fresh.
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