I’m of the age where I remember my PC living in the living room, beige tower buzzing away at 66MHZ, with a parental deal in place that we’d have the modem on between 6pm and 7pm.
LucasArts were on a roll back then, with one of their best games being TIE Fighter. Balancing power, targeting, load outs and priorities felt very grown up and extremely cool. We even picked up a joystick to get fully involved.
But it’s been a while since we had a full-on Star Wars in space game. The Battlefront games from EA have recently given us space battles, but they were a mixed bag. Now there’s something new. A £30 title that knows what it wants to do, made by a team of people that care.
Star Wars Squadrons is cracking in plenty of ways. I can do most of the things I did back in 1996. The targeting and power management takes me back, this time with a fidelity that is just really damn sexy. Yes, I just described sitting in the cockpit of a Y-Wing as sexy. To think any other way would be plain ludicrous.
The game splits very cleanly into two sections, story and multiplayer. There’s no DLC, no microtransactions, just a focus on the Rebellion morphing into the Republic and the Empire reeling as it looks for vengeance.
The single player campaign is serviceable, flitting between the warring factions as they tussle over the creation of a new battleship. If memory serves I don’t feel as though the individual missions take on as many different aspects as those of the nineties, but I felt part of the squadrons, and it obviously looks great. I can’t use VR but I’d be all over it if I could. I’m jealous of anyone rocking VR and HOTAS.
The nascent New Republic is exactly what you expect; a rag tag bunch of idealists with a rock-hard resolve and huge hope for the galaxy. I like them. The Imperials however present my first major issue with Squadrons. Back in TIE Fighter, I became a decorated pilot, flying alongside Darth Vader, yet I never felt evil. Here I have to target civilians and show a ruthlessness that doesn’t sit right.
This culminated in me not wanting to take part in the missions with Titan Squadron. They are…not nice people. You could say that they’ve written well, but I’m not seeing any shade of grey there. It’s a very straight up ‘Imperials are evil’, which really grates on my escapism when I’m having to shoot at civilians. I don’t want to feel bad; this isn’t Spec Ops: The Line! Jumping into a TIE could have been left to the multiplayer perhaps, especially as once again we’re presented with the old ‘prominent character defects to the Rebels’ trope.
I may not agree fully with the story choices made, but I can’t fault the acting. The time period post Return of the Jedi is still relatively unexplored, Mandalorian aside, so it’s an interesting time. Plus we also get to see more of Hera, one of my favourite characters, brought to life via mo-cap through her voice actress in Rebels, Vanessa Marshall.
The most important thing about this game though is how it plays, and bar some small things I feel are missing, it does a great job.
As much I’d love to press a button to go to Hyperspace, I understand why. Otherwise, what I thought might be a confusing amount of systems and screens to manage, is well thought out and fits onto a controller nicely.
With the four ships per faction mirroring each other, it’s important that the differences in base stats and abilities can be felt. Squadrons manages that. I could see a situation panning out a certain way and know there’s an appropriate ship for it. It all makes and feels as though it has layers to it. I had a few games online with friends, actually the first time in years that a reasonable amount of people were around on launch day. I was reminded of the old COD days, when everyone from work picked it up for £30 and was there opening night.
But notice that crafty “could” in the previous paragraph. It’s been a few weeks since Squadrons came out, and this is where the second big problem comes up. For all the excitement, I’ve barely played it. It is the imminent arrival of the PS5? Lockdown? Nasty TIE Fighter pilots? I’m not sure, but that group of friends interest, and my own, fizzled away quickly. We were very excited about paint schemes, and the Fleet Battles were an interesting tug of war. So how did it fail so spectacularly to keep our attention? I wish I could give you a clear answer.
Star Wars Squadrons has been made with a lot of care. The core mechanics, and clear love of what has come before is solid and great to see. There’s an unabashed love for Star Wars here. But the story is at best morally iffy and at worst downright uncomfortable, and who knows why it hasn’t stayed on my radar. It’s exactly what I wanted, but so far it seems not what I needed.
+ Focused on it’s core design
+ It feels so Star Wars!
+ Pew pew never looked so good
– Uncomfortably Evil Imperials
– Obvious story tropes
– No TIE Defender
Conflicting thoughts here. I can see all the greatness and care. But it hasn’t stuck and I wish I could tell you why.
NOTE – I’m aware that more things are coming now, but this was written before then. I’ll be sure to revisit if I try the new stuff.