Star Wars: Squadrons
Updated: Jan 12, 2021
After playing the recent Star Wars Battlefront 1 & 2, I didn’t have high hopes for a new Star Wars game, especially one made by EA. However, Squadrons offered new gameplay options in the wide-open areas of space. Really the real downside of this whole experience was dealing with Origin (yes it was a mistake). The world is beautifully crafted and the includes some interesting characters and story beats.
I fired the story up and was pleasantly surprised when it dropped me into a ship almost immediately. Of course, it is an X-Wing and I got giddy. I finally got to pilot the ship that I loved from my childhood. After the initial tutorial, you get to jump into a squadron that is fighting the imperials at every turn. The story beats are pretty standard but done well enough. I cut my teeth in the story and by the number of times I died, I realized I was not an ace pilot. Ships and space debris were my worst enemy. But, there was one thing that kept nagging me the whole way through.
When chatting with your team members there are gaps in their speech that makes it seem like the original plan for the game was for it to be an RPG. For the first few times I cut the conversation off because I thought they were done speaking. I am always worried leaving a team member because there might be an interesting tid-bit they will talk about after the two second gap in conversation. Then I ran into the issue of not wanting to talk to most of them because they are so generic. Basically, I went from mission to mission talking with as few people as possible. There are some good characters that I went out of my way to chat with such as Frisk on the new republic side, and Shen from the galactic empire side. The others are too on the nose, good guy or bad guy.
The faces are weird, I swear that everyone gave up on making people look more like people around 2012. They still look awkward and the lips don’t move quite right. It disappointed me but at least it is a relatively small part of the overall game. Everything else about the world looks great. The ships, planets, and space travel are all beautifully designed. It really drives home the feeling of piloting and fighting in a starship. It is really satisfying when you shoot down an opposing starfighter and fly through the debris cloud, pieces of ship audibly pinging off your hull. The health monitoring is unique too. You know when you've taken damage by how your window looks. The more damaged your ship, the more cracks in your window. It provides a sense of urgency and panic that, I imagine, is reminiscent of how you would feel in a real dogfight. It really adds to the atmosphere. There were a number of times that I caught myself leaning far forward and tensing up when cutting a fight close. To me, this is a sign of a truly immersive game experience.
Jumping into multiplayer was easy and I didn't struggle to find any matches. There are two game modes: Dogfight and Fleet Battle. The dog fights are your standard 5v5 battle with respawns and load outs. This in not really my mode because I am better as a support member (aka I suck at being a sharp shooter) but it was fun and messy. It devolves into a big cat and mouse game where you want to avoid being flanked. The match is over whenever a team reaches thirty kills. I actually like the chaos of the dogfight mode but the Fleet Battles are my jam.
Fleet Battles feels a lot like World of Warships when you have a full group. You get to plan the strategy ahead of time and then push that strategy. It begins with the dog fight mode (basically) where each team has to reach a certain level of morale before being able to go on the offensive. Then each team is either defending or attacking a couple of ships. If you are on the attack and succeed, you will move on to destroying the flagship. If you fail on either end the battle will shift back. These matches can go on for a while. It reminds me of the grand operations from Battlefield V and I am sure that is where they lifted the idea from. I prefer this mode because there is more strategy involved and I can do what I do best, support the team and complete the task. I did not spend too much time playing the multiplayer because I was pretty bad at it but it was still an enjoyable time even with getting shot down regularly.
I was glad to see that, unlike Battlefront 2, that microtransactions were essentially non-existent. The only thing that might even be considered in the realm of microtransaction is with prime gaming you can get additional cosmetic gear. I was so glad to see they learned their lesson after the catastrophe that was the loot boxes in Battlefront 2. Selling upgrades that make you better is probably the best way to break a game and cause people to abandon it. That said, it was sad to see how few players were on. Less than five thousand concurrent players on Steam (that doesn’t account for console or Origin) but still it fell from above 30 thousand to five thousand in just a few months.
On a side note, for streamers, it is a pain to setup and run right through Origin (others say Steam is fine). I couldn’t get the sound to consistently run right and the video was a pain to stream, it would randomly change sizes. So, the stream would lose ¾ of the screen or it would shrink to a small corner. That isn’t a huge issue, especially for most of you but something I thought should be brought up.
In conclusion, the graphics and gameplay are great and the universe feels both alive and empty all at once. The music is grand and fitting for the Star Wars universe. All of this combine to make me feel like a pilot, if only for a half an hour at a time. Just be prepared for a meh story with a few really good plot points. I think overall the game is well worth the asking price but can easily be found for around ten to fifteen dollars on the platform of your choice. So, if you are looking for a space flight game, a Star Wars game, or a combination of both then go out and purchase this straight away. You can pick it up on any platform you would like but I suggest avoiding it on Origin.