Is Star Wars: Squadrons, EA Motive’s latest gaming entry in the franchise, a worthwhile addition to your collection?
Star Wars: Squadrons is an interesting case. It’s a game released in a window without a film to boost sales, at a budget price, from a development studio whose only other work is the campaign mode in Battlefront II. When all these elements combine, the results should be a mess of a cocktail. Yet despite very little going in its favor, Squadrons is, by and large, a success.
Permission to hop in an X-Wing and blow something up
The concern with Squadrons was that it would be multi-player focused and throw singleplayer content to the wayside. It’s surprising, then, that Squadrons offers a story worth telling. Over the course of 14 missions, Squadrons asks you to fight for both the New Republic and the Empire, as they aim to establish themselves following the death of Emperor Palpatine. The story doesn’t reinvent the wheel at all, but it’s compelling enough to keep your attention and sprinkles in plenty of lore/character cameos to legitimize the campaign. That said, there isn’t really any reason to return once you’ve finished. I managed to get through the story in two sittings (around 6 hours), and can’t imagine I’d go back for the missed achievements.
The meat of the game can be found in multiplayer which, for a title that was clearly developed with multiplayer in mind, is disappointingly barebones. That lack of content doesn’t affect the quality of what’s available, and it does boast crossplay between Xbox One, PS4, and PC players. But, with only two modes across six maps, you can’t help but yearn for a little more.
Those two modes are standard five vs. five dogfights, and “Fleet Battles”, which is a little more complex. The game asks you to reach level 5 before being allowed to play Fleet Battles, which is likely to give players the opportunity to acclimatize to the step-up in general difficulty from the campaign mode. Both modes are fun, I’m glad to report. Dogfights allow you to be more of an independent pilot, asking you and your team to rack up 30 kills quicker than your opponent. Fleet Battles ask for a bit more strategy, however. The objective is for your team to take down the enemy capital ship quicker than they can yours. Among that, you’re aiming to build “morale”, which allows for attack runs. This is a mode that basically requires communication, and you attempt to coordinate your defense and put together those runs. It’s surprisingly deep and well worth your time.
The best star pilot in the galaxy
Something worth discussing is the game’s aesthetic. Everything outside of the menus looks and feels totally authentic. The detail in both the hangars and ship interiors is nothing short of stunning. You can legitimately turn off the games HUD and successfully navigate through single or multiplayer missions solely on the feedback available to you, and that’s a testament to the detail EA Motive has put into the cockpit experience. The game is VR compatible as well, and, while I wasn’t able to play it in VR myself, I can fully see a scenario where ILM Labs takes a version of this game on the road, a la Secrets of the Empire.
That sensory feedback comes at a price; the complete lack of a third-person view. Motive has justified this by stating a third person angle would offer an unfair advantage to those who choose to use it. While I don’t necessarily disagree with that rationale, having an entirely separate third person-only multiplayer mode would have remedied this immediately. I’d like the option to see the ship I’ve designed in action, so having that option would have been a nice change of pace.
Speaking of customization, the idea of owning and piloting an X-Wing has been a dream of countless thousands for the past 40 years. I was excited to see how Squadrons took advantage of that. It’s disappointing, then, to see that customization is pretty limited. You’ve a set number of skins, decals, and trinkets for your ship’s look, and a couple of options that change how they handle, and that’s it. If the game is to receive future updates, at the very least let me design the astromech that bleeps and bloops at me. But, at the very least, I’m glad to report that Squadrons is free from microtransactions and DLC.
Squadrons is definitely a game worth picking up. It boasts a compelling enough story, and an enjoyable, albeit lacking, multiplayer offering. At the aforementioned budget price ($39.99), it’s a game that will tide you over for the remainder of this console generation and possibly up to the release of the next Star Wars title, whenever that may be.
Star Wars: Squadrons is out now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC.