I’ve never been a big flight sim guy… or, at least, I wasn’t before playing Star Wars: Battlefront II. The way that game handled starfighter combat really clicked with me. That’s why I was very excited to see the announcement of Star Wars: Squadrons, developed by Motive–the same studio that worked on Battlefront II‘s space combat.
Though it won’t be out until October, there’s already a lot to be excited about regarding Squadrons–much of which was revealed at last week’s EA Play livestream.
First off, let’s talk lore. As I’ve written about before, I’m a big Star Wars Expanded Universe guy (the new EU, that is–Legends, not so much), so I’m eager to see what this game will add to the franchise’s overall narrative. It’s set shortly after Return of the Jedi, when the Empire is reeling from the destruction of the second Death Star and the death of the Emperor and Vader. Alright, that’s a chunk of time that’s already been pretty thoroughly covered by the EU, so not exactly the most exciting from my perspective. However, I understand that from a game perspective, it’s when all of the most iconic ships are available, so I get why Motive chose this particular period.
The game will follow both the Imperial and Rebel/New Republic factions, with a story split between the Empire’s Titan Squadron and the New Republic’s Vanguard Squadron. I’m very happy about this–in addition to the fun of getting to fly ships from both sides, I like getting a look inside the Empire, especially during such a tumultuous time for it.
What little we’ve seen of the plot so far reminds me of the Alphabet Squadron novel by Alexander Freed that came out last year (which I loved, by the way–I’m eagerly awaiting my copy of the sequel, Shadow Fall, which is due to arrive this week). That book also dealt with a five-person New Republic starfighter squadron with a mix of different ships and a rivalry with a specific squadron of Imperial aces, and it featured one of my personal favorite Star Wars EU characters, Hera Syndulla, who turns up in the trailers for Squadrons as well. These similarities are overt enough to give me a bit of pause (it’ll be kind of boring if the two narratives are too similar), but overall, the prospect of playing something along the lines of Alphabet Squadron is an enticing one.
An exciting plot is all well and good, but it won’t be worth much on its own–it needs to be backed up by solid gameplay, and Squadrons is showing promise in that category as well.
Your view when piloting puts you right in the cockpit of your chosen vessel–a view that, I’ll admit, is going to take some getting used to for me. I’m not used to flying in first-person. That said, even the cockpits of these ships are iconic to Star Wars fans, and they’ve been rendered beautifully here. I’m looking forward to learning how to interpret the various screens and readouts that let the player know how their ship is doing; it’ll add a whole new dimension to the game compared to the flight in Battlefront II. Plus, the game will be VR-compatible, which should be awesome experience–who wouldn’t want to feel like they were really there in the cockpit? It makes me wish I had a virtual reality headset.
Perhaps the most important element of a game like this is, of course, what ships you actually get access to. Squadrons will feature eight ships in total, four Imperial and four New Republic, divided into four categories: the balanced Fighters (TIE Fighter and X-Wing); speedy Interceptors (TIE Interceptor and A-Wing); ally-buffing Supports (TIE Reaper and U-Wing); and damage-dealing Bombers (TIE Bomber and Y-Wing). This is a great selection of ships; I’m particularly happy that U-Wings made the cut–I’ve had a soft spot for them since Rogue One, but didn’t expect them to be featured here. One omission I’m surprised by is the fan-favorite B-Wing. I suppose that it would be redundant to include another bomber, but still, I’m sort of hoping that this game might get some DLC somewhere down the line that adds this odd duck to the roster (though according to the devs, there are no current plans for downloadable content).
An exciting aspect of the game for me is the ability to customize your fighter, both visually and mechanically. Given my non-Star Wars proclivities, I’m eager to slap a red paint job on my ship of choice and tweak it to run a bit faster than average! In all seriousness, though, there looks to be an impressive variety of different components (over 50, according to the trailer) that alter your weapons, shield systems, and more. It seems that pilots will have a lot of control over how exactly their ship runs.
Speaking of pilots, those are customizable too. It’s not clear how often you’ll actually see your character, given that the game is played in first-person, but still–the option is nice. I also like that there will be cosmetic options for your cockpit, like a little ewok bobble-head; it’ll be fun to make your ship feel truly yours by stacking the console with silly baubles. Okay, that sounded a bit facetious, but I meant it–I’m gonna be tossing as much junk as I can fit in there!
Naturally, multiplayer is a big focus for a game like this, and Squadrons will offer a few different ways to play with friends. The most basic of these will be Dogfight Mode, which looks like a good old-fashioned five-on-five deathmatch. No surprises there!
Fleet Battles, on the other hand, will be a bit more involved. Fleet Battles are three-staged games that kick off with a dogfight; the winner of that dogfight then pushes forward to attack the other team’s capital ships. If they’re successful in taking those out, it’s on to the enemy’s flagship, where the attacking team will need to disable the ship’s critical systems. It’s not too dissimilar to Battlefront II‘s starfighter mode, though this looks to be refined a bit. It sounds like a blast to me!
All in all, this is shaping up to be a promising addition to the Star Wars gaming canon, and one that I’ll certainly be checking out when it releases in October. With a price tag of only $40, how could I pass it up?