Somewhere in that inner child of mine, I have always dreamt of being able to fly an X-Wing or a TIE Fighter, choosing which suits better for me as a pilot in the Star Wars universe. I’ve always loved saying the line “Red 5, standing by!” — an iconic phrase used by Mark Hamill, who’s popularly known as Luke Skywalker, in Star Wars: A New Hope way back in 1977.
Star Wars: Rogue Squadron 3D filled my desire for space and air battles with starfighters, and a classic like Star Wars: TIE Fighter definitely gives that Galactic Empire perspective. Both gave surreal enjoyment that I would never find in arcade-like Star Wars space simulators. And I’m happy to say EA Motive’s Star Wars: Squadrons fills one of the gaps that we’ve desired to have — an incredible starfighter experience across all platforms without the dumb platform exclusivity deals.
Squadrons finds itself as one of the best, medium-scale Star Wars video game to date. We’ve been wanting a starfighter simulator, and EA Motive got most of it right.
Star Wars: Squadrons isn’t even close to being a clone of Star Wars: Battlefront II‘s Starfighter Assault mode. It’s more than that. The game offers tight, in-depth flight gameplay that incorporated a lot of mechanics from classic games like TIE Fighter and Ace Combat. You don’t easily turn left and right with your right analog stick, rather, it’s pretty manual when you maneuver your starfighters. You use the left analog stick to roll left or right, and pushing it forward will give you faster acceleration while pulling it back is simply decelerating. While the right analog stick is to yaw left or right and pull the starfighter up and down. You’ll feel disoriented at first if you’re new to flight simulators, but it’s easy to adjust to the controls, and it’s not as unforgiving as other flight simulators.
You won’t be able to quickly do insane tricks or some Poe Dameron theatrics you’ve seen in The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi. But when you successfully evade a tailing missile by placing all of your starfighter power to your engine, you do some rolls and immediately pull off a drift, it feels so rewarding, boosting your self-confidence like a legit Star Wars pilot.
As mentioned above, you can manipulate how and where you want your ship’s maximum power to be. Pressing left can juice up your engine like crazy giving you the ability to boost, if you press the up D-pad button then you’ll be able to fire your laser cannons a lot longer. Being able to control what you need during battle is exciting, and there are hilarious moments when you notice you’ve actually placed more power to your engine than your weapons. Small mistakes like these can be amusing, but also punishing at the same time during player vs. player (PvP) dogfights.
It may seem to limit the fast-paced action that you’ve probably gotten from Battlefront II, and that it would take away the fun for casual players, but that’s not entirely the case. Having manual controls provide a challenge, and I see that direction really enjoyable, and the learning curve is not steep or easy, but it’s just right. Plus, the controls are surprisingly polished, and everything works as it should!
Let’s talk about the starfighters you can fly in the game. On each side, you have four different kinds of ships. Let’s identify each one of them as “standard”, “incredibly fast but defensively weak”, “slow but beefed”, and “support”.
Standard starfighters are your X-Wing and TIE Fighter. While these two provide the most standard loadouts, these are your go-to ships when you something well-balanced. It’s a great pick when you immediately hop into multiplayer.
A-Wing and TIE Interceptor are the fastest ships you could ever find, but also the weakest in terms of the overall armor. You could be sniped easily by X-Wings and TIE Fighters, but with its mobility, provided that you’re a skilled pilot, you won’t have problems in outrunning the bastards.
With Y-Wing and TIE Bombers, it’s a rather slow ship but definitely harder to break. It’s packed with arsenals that are deadly against capital ships and cruisers. They’re useful in Fleet Mode, but not so much in Dogfight.
It’s rather kind of “off” to have support-based starfighters, but it works so well that you can’t fly in a squadron without one! The U-Wing and TIE Reaper prove so useful in every match. While I want to nitpick on these ships, but I can’t. There’s no bad thing about having a support ship that can shoot shields at you that actually saves you from dying. I find it funny at first, but it definitely favors a team when they have one.
I love how each ship has a purpose and that it’s fun to be able to find the right one for you. But I have a small problem with the Imperial starships. They’re definitely underpowered compared to the New Republic’s. TIEs don’t have shields and heavily would rely on maneuverability to win matches. While I find this personally exciting and challenging, I’m afraid that casual players would be disheartened every time when they get to be in the Imperial fleet. Hopefully, a patch could go out soon to balance this.
The narrative is not the game’s biggest point. While it checks off as a Star Wars story, you have the clear distinction between good and evil, an interesting supporting cast of characters you can talk to from time to time and is considered to be canon in the Star Wars universe, there are just aspects in the game’s plot that’s kind of lacking, for some reason.
Characters like Keo and Frisk from Vanguard Squadron, even Grey and Shen from Titan Squadron, feel totally left out. Let’s take Shen, for example. He’s a damaged pilot from the Imperial fleet, he survived dozens of space battles and is still eager to fly and get his vengeance against Anvil Squadron. Who was the pilot that shot him down? What does he look like without his helmet? There’s a lot of mystery surrounding him that could’ve been explored. It’s such a waste of great characters.
What’s even more disappointing is the fact that your character is simply a pilot without a solid foundation. You have no backstory, or why you’ve become a pilot in the first place. Nothing. Even Ace Combat was able to deliver that at least. You can’t even walk to explore the hangar and bridge freely. You have to look at the door and press X to get into the bridge. It feels like the game was initially planned for VR that they’ve completely axed the ability for the player to at least move.
Squadrons falls terribly flat in terms of story. The single-player campaign is a decent way to practice, use different types of starfighters on each side, and experience the entirety of it in VR (the best way to play it!), but other than that, it’s not worth replaying for a second time.
Multiplayer is where Squadrons definitely shines. You get to face players from other platforms as it features cross-play, and you have a 5v5, Dogfight and Fleet Battle modes. The latter comes off as an objective-based PvP match with a tug-of-war like game mechanics by gaining more “morale” than the other team through shooting down enemy players and AIs, thus giving you the chance to take down the enemy’s capital ship. It’s a fun way to bring that classic Star Wars space battle experience into a game.
While there are technically two modes, you get to enjoy the starfighter dogfights as it captures the excitement, suspense of air and space battles from Star Wars perfectly. Is someone trying to shoot you down? Maneuver your X-Wing left and right, and immediately boost your way out and do a stylish drift to directly take the enemy head-on.
There’s also a lot of moments you could make especially when you get your friends to squad up. You could call for help as someone’s at your six and you need a friend to take that player down. Or have your two other friends do a bombing run in Fleet Battle. You also get to communicate with them via in-game chat regardless of which system you play on, the cross-play voice chat works phenomenally well, unlike some titles.
One thing I want to positively note, the matchmaking is quick! It doesn’t go beyond a minute for Dogfight mode, and 2 minutes for Fleet Battle. It’s evident that the major contributor is the cross-play mode, but even with new releases, it usually dies down a week or two, but I took this time to flesh out and see the consistency of players coming back. And I’m happy to say that there are a lot of players still playing the game at the time of this writing.
Squadrons is missing an important basic feature: the ability to create a custom private match. A few weeks ago, right before launch, EA marketed the game as something competitive. Players can rank through Fleet Battles. But it’s missing this feature for some reason. Games like this, especially when it’s heavy on 5v5 or small-scale team battles, should have a custom game. Without this feature, players can’t do clan battles, even tournaments. A basic feature like this should’ve been available from the get-go. They might add it in a future patch, who knows? It’s still silly not to include it.
Star Wars: Squadrons provides a well-grounded, in-depth gameplay that hardcore fans and flight-simulator veterans will definitely appreciate. It may not have the strongest story in a Star Wars game, but it does wonders in space combat and gameplay, this is where Star Wars: Squadrons gets it right.
Star Wars: Squadrons – Review
We tell you, it’s a good game! It’s not average! It might have some problems here and there, but you have to admit it is a “Good” game.