It’s been a rough few years for Star Wars games since EA’s exclusive license with the IP. Star Wars: Battlefront was a nice, if hollow, attempt at bringing back the multiplayer game to a new audience. Star Wars: Battlefront II was an absolute disaster for EA and Disney, and the loot box scandal still haunts that game (even though the game is actually quite good now). Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order was a step in the right direction but rough around the edges. This brings us to Star Wars: Squadrons. Taking the Star Wars games back to the first-person space combat genre is a bold choice, one that has its fair shares of ups and downs. While Squadrons isn’t for everyone, it is a fun game you should take a look at.
Star Wars: Squadrons is a unique take on the first-person space combat formula. In short, the game involves you playing a fictional Star Wars version of yourself. You play both as the Empire and as the Rebels/New Republic. The game involves you piloting ships and completing various tasks throughout the Star Wars universe. The uniqueness of this game involves its gameplay and its price point. Star Wars: Squadrons is a $40 “contained experience” (to quote the devs), meaning it’s a complete product that is meant to be a lighter experience versus a more expensive title. The gameplay’s uniqueness is that it’s a dogfighting space combat game. In short, that means this isn’t a simple game to control. These types of games involve more in-depth controls to pilot ships, fire weapons, use shields, etc. It’s not for those looking for a quick jump-in-and-play session.
To me Star Wars: Squadrons excels in its single-player campaign. As mentioned above, you play a fictionalized Star Wars version of yourself fighting for both the Empire and Rebels. The game tells the story of an Empire Commander turning on the Empire and helping the Rebels bring an end to the Empire’s rule on the galaxy. The story is split between playing as the Empire, trying to hunt the traitor down and destroy the Rebels, and as the Rebels, who use the help to build the ultimate super weapon and bring an end to the Empire. It’s an interesting story that does some very special things with its characters. Between each mission, you get the opportunity to talk with your fellow squadron pilots and captains, giving you an in-depth relationship with each character. Unfortunately, your character doesn’t talk back, but these moments are still something special. You truly get to know each and every member of your squadron and what motivates or discourages them from the task at hand. In the end, you already know where the story is heading as this game takes place between Episode VI and Episode VII of the Star Wars movies.
The combat is equally as good…once you truly get a handle on it. Squadrons isn’t easy to control in your first few prologue missions. Getting your mind around the control scheme involves re-writing how your brain assumes a similarly styled video game is played. Moving your ship involves both the left and right control sticks. Left stick rotates the ship 360 degrees and controls your speed, right stick controls the ship’s up and down movement.
On paper that might not sound too hard, but in-game, it’s a challenge to wrap your mind around at first. Remembering to constantly check and change your speed while turning up and left as you avoid the dozens of enemy ships and space debris in your immediate area is a lot to deal with (a lot like that sentence I just wrote). You also have the ability to control your ship’s power distribution. This means you can give more power to your ship’s weapons, shields, or flight speed. The catch? Failure to keep monitoring those things can result in your death. Lastly, you also get to control your squadron’s commands. All of this is quite overwhelming at first, and THIS is the part that makes the game not all that accessible to everyone. Many people will jump in and become so overwhelmed that they stop playing. I can only advise you to push through. Once you get past those prologue missions, your brain gets it, and suddenly the gameplay becomes an unbelievably fun challenge (in a good way).
One of the problems with Star Wars: Squadrons is when you move away from single-player to its multiplayer mode. There’s just not much to do. You can play against the A.I. in a very limited number of multiplayer maps, or you can play against other players online in a very limited number of multiplayer maps. I played a couple hours of multiplayer, and I only ever saw two maps. Maybe there’s more, but I don’t know, the game never let me choose what maps to play in, thusly, I only ever saw those two maps. There are also only two game modes: dogfighting or fleet battle. Both modes involve doing the exact same thing, except in dogfighting you’re blowing up more ships. It all gets really old, really fast.
The other problem I have with the game is how unpolished it is. I get it, it’s a $40 “contained experience.” It will not have everything a AAA game I paid $60 for may have. Yet somehow the issues with this game are fixable, and yet they aren’t fixed. It was extremely common to experience random “speed-ups.” Basically, the characters would all be moving around at super sonic speeds, even during dialogue scenes, while the voice acting, music and sound effects played at the “normal” speed.
It was also fairly common for objects to randomly spawn in and blow you up instantly. One spawning glitch I ran into was in the latter missions of the single-player game where I would load into an asteroid field and INSTANTLY die because an asteroid randomly spawned on top of my ship. It’s random, but it happened at least a dozen times in my playthrough, so it’s a common enough issue to me. The other major issue is that trophies/achievements are completely broken. Simply put, they don’t unlock. I completed the single-player campaign and received no achievements for it (I played on Xbox One X). All the medals I earned in specific missions were wiped; therefore, I got no credit for them. Even the most simple achievement (Begin the Ceremony), which unlocks by earning ANY medal in the game, never unlocked for me. Apparently, EA is aware of this, but no fix is out yet.
All in all, Star Wars: Squadrons is a good game with a strong single-player campaign. While the controls are hard to wrap your mind around at first, once you learn them, the game is quite fun. If you’re looking for a good 12 to 14-hour single-player Star Wars game, then Squadrons could be a good pick up (especially for the $40 price tag). It’s also one of the best VR experiences I’ve ever had (so far).. The reason I didn’t go in-depth about it in my review is due to the limited time I played the single-player game in VR. If you have a VR headset, I highly recommend trying it out. If you’re looking for an in-depth multiplayer experience, this isn’t your game, especially considering the developers confirmed there is no other content being added to the game.
Developer: EA Motive
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC
Release Date: 2nd October 2020