Growing up, Star Wars games like Rogue Squadron, The Clone Wars and Jedi Starfighter occupied a large amount of my time. While I love a wide variety of Star Wars games, I’ve always had a particular appreciation for the vehicular-based ones. I even owned Star Wars: Demolition.
This shit is real, y’all.
Going into Squadrons, I had my fair share of reservations. The game looked cool, sure, but EA’s track record with the Star Wars license has been spotty, to put it politely. As soon as I got behind the cockpit of an X-Wing, though, any concerns went completely out the window. Developer EA Motive has created a Star Wars experience that is fun, unique, and incredibly thrilling. It’s a game that leaves you wanting more, for better and worse.
Squadrons (reviewed on PC, also available on PS4 and Xbox One) is a dogfighting game that is controlled entirely from the view of your ship’s cockpit. There is no option to change this as most of the game’s user interface is reliant on the instruments and display panels in the cockpit. This winds up being a smart choice as it creates a true feeling of immersion, a feeling that only increases the more accessories you have at your disposal.
Playing Squadrons with a flight stick and VR headset is an experience unto itself. It’s basically the game I’ve been dreaming of since I was a 6-year-old boy pretending I was flying along Red Squadron to take down the Death Star. The scale of the ships comes alive in a way that can only be described as jaw-dropping. Skimming across the surface of a Star Destroyer while blasting its surface turrets is such a specific thrill. If you have a VR headset, Squadrons is a must-own.
The game comes with a single-player campaign and online multiplayer mode. The campaign serves a solid way to get your bearings with the surprisingly complex controls. While the game isn’t a hardcore simulation title, it does have some light sim-elements that keep things from feeling too basic. Depending on your ship you can divert power to shields, engines or weapons. You can also customize your ship’s loadout and change what weapons, missiles, engines, and countermeasures your ship is equipped with.
Oh, perhaps most importantly, you can drift a goddamn X-Wing.
The game’s story is serviceable if disappointingly slight in scope. Similarly to Battlefront II, the game takes place after the events of Return of the Jedi. The campaign places you in control of a pilot for both the New Republic and Galactic Empire as both sides do battle to either destroy or protect the mysterious Project: Starhawk.
Squadrons continues the lack of narrative ambition that has plagued the modern Star Wars games. The events between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens are largely unknown, which makes it fertile ground for some interesting storytelling. It’s a shame that Squadrons doesn’t really fill that void with anything cool. It’d be one thing if the game had some memorable characters but I’m blanking on just about everyone’s name right now.
All I’m saying is if we’re not going to be able to play through the iconic moments of the series, the new games should pull a Knights of the Old Republic and create some of their own.
The campaign is not the only place where the game is lacking. The minute-to-minute gameplay is phenomenal and provides a strong foundation for a truly fun multiplayer experience. To be fair, what’s there is a lot of fun. The problem is there’s just not a lot there.
At launch, there are only two multiplayer modes: dogfight and fleet battle. Dogfight is a traditional 5v5 team deathmatch. This mode is basically the meat and potatoes of the game. Good ass controls, thrilling space combat, this is the essence Squadrons. You can choose between five ships at the start of each match and leveling up will allow you to further customize your loadout.
Fleet Battle adds some interesting strategic wrinkles to the proceedings. Both teams are charged with protecting their flagship across three phases. A morale meter at the top of the screen builds as your squadron racks up kills. The first phase is a standard dogfight where you blast both rival players and bots. After one team fills the morale meter, they can push and begin targeting enemy cruisers with the third phase allowing you to target the enemy flagship.
It’s a really cool mode and the objective-based gameplay provides a nice change of pace from dogfight. The problem is there isn’t a wide variety of maps or ships to keep things interesting. While some of the maps are cool, most of them are based on locations seen in the campaign.
The gameplay here is really fun but a lack of variety can lead to it becoming repetitive. As of now, there are no plans for any DLC or additional content. The game comes at a $40 price tag so the lack of content isn’t egregious as much as it is disappointing.
Ultimately, Star Wars: Squadrons is a B-game with A-level execution. It completely nails the handful of things it’s trying to do. From the sound design, the incredible graphics, to the thrilling dogfights, the game is truly an experience worthwhile of the Star Wars name.
At $40, I can easily recommend Star Wars: Squadrons to anyone considering picking it up. It’s so good, you’re going to wish there was more of it.