Star Wars: Squadrons
Genre: Action, Adventure, Dogfighting
Platform: Xbox One
Age Rating: PEGI 12
Release Date: 1/10/2020
A code was provided for review purposes.
The PlayStation 2’s Star Wars Battlefront II is a much loved game in my brother and I’s collection. Countless hours spent playing heroes vs villains mainly, but also taking down star destroyers in the space battles. I was pretty dreadful, confusing myself by spinning around and blowing myself up…but it was fun nontheless!
The news of Star Wars: Squadrons had me longing to relive those days. With the new Battlefront‘s exclusion of space battles, they seemed lost to nostalgia. Though they were introduced in the second installation of the series, there were mixed opinions. So does Star Wars: Squadrons get space battles right once and for all? Let’s find out.
The Empire Vs The Republic
First off, Star Wars: Squadrons features a single player story mode, which took me around 10 hours or so to complete. I was wary originally of how a story mode that is solely a first-person dogfighter would fare. Wouldn’t it get repetitive? How much can you really do from the cockpit of an X-Wing?
However, it was the formatting of this game mode and its characters that kept me hooked.
After loosely customising both a pilot for the Empire and for the Republic (there’s a small collection of base heads and voices to choose from), you’ve guessed that you will be playing for both sides. After each couple of missions, you switch from the Empire to the Republic, and vice versa.
It was so interesting to see both sides of the story, resulting in me having some conflicting loyalties. Set after the events of The Return of the Jedi, I loved seeing the mindset of both squadrons and exploring yet more lore in the Star Wars universe. It’s definitely a tale die hard fans will appreciate! It was full of twists and turns, and moments where all hope seems lost.
It showed that not all who fought for the Empire were inherently evil. For example, Grey was aging and planning to retire to spend time with his husband once this war was over. Shen, whose smashed in helmet which he never removes and his raging cough, saw no other life but battle. I loved talking to each of the characters in the hangar sections before the space battles begun.
A Battle for the Galaxy
You would start off each mission in the hangar, getting to know some of the characters before you headed to the briefing room. Here is where the following mission was explained through classic blue holograms. I think this was a nice change of pace before you climb into your chosen ship and take to the skies!
Now, mastering a TIE fighter or an X-Wing is a little complex. Luckily, Star Wars: Squadrons is more than helpful with its tutorials. Starting from the basics, you learn more and more with each mission, which felt very natural. There are a lot of controls to remember, such as joysticks to control your engines and ship, LB and RB to use your abilities, D Pad to increase either your engine power or weapon power…the list goes on.
Thankfully, you get a lot of reminders for these as you go and it isn’t taught all at once. But, I don’t think this is a title for beginners to gaming. I found myself really having to concentrate as the battles are so fast paced, often having to weave in and out of tight spaces too. For me, it upped the thrill and the satisfaction I got when completing a mission. However, it could be frustrating for those new to the genre or gaming in general.
From Yavin Prime to the Zavian Abyss
Though in essence you’re jumping into a ship, blasting enemies and defending allies each mission, I think there was a good variety. Each mission has different goals which progress the story. One moment you’re taking down a star destroyer by obliterating its shield generators, and the next you’re sneaking through a meteor field to avoid detection. It also helped having that change of scene from the Republic base to the Empire’s.
The numerous locations tackled this too, and each place was simply stunning. From the bright orange molten fragments in Galitan to the stormy skies striking with bolts of lightning in the Zavian Abyss, every location had its charm. The differing colour palettes helped break up any monotomy. The lighting and shadows were gorgeous, and I couldn’t help but take screenshots at every horizon! The cut scenes could be mistaken for reality at a glance too, the character models incredibly lifelike.
I was also impressed by the level of detail in the bases too. Though you couldn’t move around them, only able to look left and right, they were teeming with activity. Pilots running to their next mission, droids whizzing around or commanders having conversations. From the foreground to the background, it was so immersive having a world moving around you.
Not only this, but the ship’s cockpits were incredibly detailed. Buttons on the ship would show you when abilities were reloaded for example, and the meters switching as you increased power. Seeing your character’s hands interact with the dashboard too put you right into the pilot’s seat. I can only imagine how life-like it must be with a VR headset (only available for PS4 and PC), and equally as motion-sickness inducing!
A Star Studded Score
A Star Wars game wouldn’t be complete without an orchestral soundtrack, bouncing off the feel of the iconic score we know and love. Award-winning composer Gordy Haab, who also worked on Star Wars Battlefront I and II, has created a masterpiece which complements Squadrons perfectly. It is so like John Williams’ work that it could be easily mistaken for deriving from the films.
Enhancing the action and excitement even further is the recognisable audio. A TIE fighter’s wings slicing through the air, or its lasers pew-pewing (an adjective worthy of the dictionary?) towards their target, and snippets of your squadron’s orders in your ear. A decent set of headphones is advised for full immersion!
Take the Fight Online
There are two multiplayer modes to be played: dogfight and fleet battle. Dogfight is unranked, whereas fleet battle can be unranked against AI and ranked.
I delved into dogfight first and boy do you dive into the deep end. I don’t think the matchmaking is entirely up to scratch yet, as I was often put against players considerably higher than me. Rarely did I feel there was an even fight; I was either being thrashed, or my team and I were doing the thrashing.
However, it is a game mode filled with excitement! Using your skills from the story mode, it’s a 5 v 5 battle for glory in beautiful locations. Just like in the story, you’re able to choose your ship and customise its abilities. Do you want to be a bomber, a little slower but with powerful explosions and great hull integrity? Or do you want to be an interceptor, quick and agile?
I found that they were a lack of people choosing the support option. This meant everyone was hunting down each other in a fast paced, frantic frenzy. Having someone give you resupplies or hide your location was a rarity. But, I don’t blame people, as it is a lot more fun to attack!
The Game Mode Battlefront Needed?
I’m definitely in need of some practice, but fleet battles really took the difficulty to another level. While dogfight is simply shoot and kill, fleet battles are a lot more strategic. Playing as either the Republic or the Empire, the overall aim is to destroy the opposing team’s flagship.
However, it’s a game of defending and attacking. You must push forward and destroy the enemy’s corvettes before you get near their flagship. Take too much damage though and you are forced to retreat, protecting your own corvettes and subsequently your star destroyer or cruiser.
It’s definitely mind boggling at first, but the objectives help you stay on target. You are told when to move forward and when to defend, so you quickly get into it. It’s tough, but I enjoyed having these different goals rather than a shoot out. As you can imagine though, ranked is taken very seriously and you’ll often have people relaying their actions much like in an actual Star Wars film!
I can’t help but feel that these multiplayer modes are what should have gone into Battlefront in the first place. Though Squadrons‘ story mode and these space battles go hand in hand, it’s an odd, but probably money-orientated decision. They are not perfect; a lot of people tend to leave, leaving you in a team of 2, and as mentioned the matchmaking isn’t great (and a little slow at times). But I think this is as close to what fans wanted as it can be.
Having two different modes, especially a ranked one, will encourage players to keep returning I think. For me, I am eager to increase my level and improve at the game. I can see fans getting really into it; perhaps another esport is on the cards? Of course, there’s also the incentive of cosmetics, rare items to customise your pilot and your ship, as well as emotions to display in the briefing room. But don’t worry, EA proudly say that you earn these and the in-game currency “simply by playing the game” (wow, what a concept).
Regarding story mode, there are medals to be collected in each mission, such as one for not dying at all. These can then lead you to hike up your gamescore through achievements, which is always a welcome bonus.
Overall, I loved the story and characters, but it’s a shame we spent so little time with them. Though I am pretty dreadful at competing online, I want to keep playing and have fun while doing so. There are frustrating issues with the online modes, such as people leaving, but they never got too much that I stopped playing. I’m hoping these can improve with time.
For fans of Star Wars and/or dog fighting, it’s a no brainer. However anyone who is a pretty casual gamer or fan may not enjoy the level of concentration and multitude of controls it requires. What I can say though, is that pair Squadrons with a flight stick and a VR headset, and you’d genuinely feel as if you were a pilot fighting for the galaxy.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Star Wars: Squadrons for Xbox One at the following link: Microsoft Store