Star Wars: Squadrons released on Friday and after a weekend full of blasting Imps and Rebel scum, I felt that I had enough playing time under my belt to give my thoughts and help others decide if they want to give it a go. I’m going to start very general and without spoilers, but I will go into more details on the story (which I have ran through once) after giving you a warning.
First things first is the important part: how the game actually plays. I’m not used to flight simulators or other similar games, so Squadrons is something very different to me. It’s easy to pick up, though, and you definitely benefit from playing through the Story Mode early in the game as they build up the skills you will need as the story goes on, starting with teaching you the basics and then building up to more advanced manoeuvres and tactical play. When I first started, I struggled in my first few flights, but quickly found myself getting used to the controls and improving, and after a few hours I naturally found myself building up to some of the more advanced play.
One thing that I will say now for those whose closest experience has been Starfighter Assault in Star Wars Battlefront II is to pay attention to how you use the throttle. In Battlefront II, you can never bring your fighter to a halt, so throttling down as much as possible still leaves you going forward, whereas doing so in Squadrons will bring you to a halt and leave you as a sitting duck if you don’t notice soon enough. Similarly, the sweet spot for tight turns is to have your throttle around halfway on Squadrons compared to throttling down fully in Battlefront II. I’ve logged probably about 14 hours and I still find myself getting this wrong out of habit!
The flying feels slow as you look out of the cockpit, but when you get into close combat, you realise just how fast it actually is, so it can be deceptive. I would definitely advise making use of your power balance, shifting max power to engines to get you through space quicker to reach the battle, before balancing out or rebalancing elsewhere – switching power balance around gives temporary performance boosts when you max one out, so take advantage of this! Don’t spend too much time rushing around, though, take a moment to appreciate the visuals because they are beautiful! The fighters and larger ships all look incredible, while all of the maps look unique.
This is where I can’t help but worry for the game. Its not a full AAA title (hence the lower price) but as a result there is a limited degree of replayability. There are certainly reasons to replay the Story Mode (I’ll get into that separately), but away from that and tutorials, you have 2 types of game: Dogfights and Fleet Battles. While no 2 games will play out the same and the choice of 4 ships and different ways to customise your ships can allow for some variety, the games themselves can quickly get repetitive and I can already see that the main replayability will come from playing in groups with your friends – unfortunately I’m yet to test this as the people I have talked to most about the game haven’t got it yet. We have not yet heard for certain if there will be any extra content, but I can’t help worry that this game’s lifespan will be limited if nothing else is added to the game.
This is something that the game does very well, with different fighters having different customisation options. Each ship has a number of performance customisation options – primary weapon, 2 auxiliary slots (repair kit, missiles, bombs, tactical shields etc), countermeasures, engines, shields (not on the all ships), hull – with the customisation options varying depending on the type of ship you’re using. All of these are unlockable for the same cost, so do not consider them as upgrades, rather different options – I often find myself sticking to standard parts so far.
As well as the performance aspect, there is also a large range of cosmetic upgrades – from a range of paint schemes, to decals (4-5 colours per design) and 3 decoration spots in the cockpit. The decals are honestly a little disappointing as they have a set spot, which means that they won’t always work with every paint scheme, while it is a little odd seeing the Sith Eternal logo in there given this is set just after the Battle of Endor. On the whole I’m impressed at the range of paint schemes as well as the history behind some of them and references to the wider canon – such as having a Cavern Angels paint scheme – but I must admit that I was very surprised not to get a design to represent Corona Squadron from Lost Stars (who also got shouted out in the Star Wars Battlefront II story) or Rogue Squadron. Hopefully this will be somewhere else we see more content down the line.
As well as your ships, you can also personalise your pilot. You have about a dozen preset faces to choose from (slightly more for the New Republic as you can unlock a couple of non-human presets), but I would like to see more personally, especially on the New Republic side. You can also change your pilot’s attire as well as their voice, which you will hear during gameplay (5-6 voice variations per gender). Honestly, though, I can’t see myself spending too much time prioritising this as there aren’t many moments that we – or those we’re playing with – get to actually see the pilot compared to the fighter.
On the whole, I’m really impressed with the story mode, but I do have a few issues. We begin with a prologue which also works as a tutorial, set shortly after the destruction of Alderaan and cleverly bringing in gameplay as both our Imperial and our Rebel pilot in one mission. After this, there are 14 missions total, switching between the Empire and New Republic every couple of missions. The length feels good, it took me about 9 hours to complete, but that was with a few pauses and issues. You can choose a difficulty level and while early missions may feel easy, they certainly build up in difficulty as you become a more confident pilot. During each mission, there are 5 medals to attain for certain acts (completing the mission, completing without dying, completing within a certain timeframe and a couple of objective-based medals) and this is where some of the replayability will come in as I didn’t know the prerequisites for the medal before the mission, while the medal’s material will vary depending on the gameplay level to encourage you to replay on harder difficulties.
What I really want to praise the story mode for is how fresh they kept the gameplay, with a variety of mission scenarios and locations stopping it from being repetitive. I was however a little disappointed that for many of the missions we were assigned a specific fighter rather than being able to pick, though some later missions did allow for us to pick between a couple of starfighters. I did also have a couple of issues where the game would almost get lost mid-mission and leave us just flying around without any objective or any progression to the mission – this seemed to happen on occasions where I was completing an objective just before it was given, for example on 1 mission I was taking out fighters and then charged to take out the frigate that launched them, but due to a gap before that objective was given I had already started firing at them to help my allies who were attacking it.
Ahead of each meeting we will have a briefing, while we also generally have the chance to talk with a couple of our fellow pilots or commanding officers between the briefing and the mission and also after the mission, which are chances to get to know your allies better. While I like all the characters, this is actually one of the areas of the game that disappointed me, as all of the conversations felt unnatural as the character would just speak to us and tell us about their past. Personally, I would have preferred more of this to come across in the gameplay itself, as you can completely skip these conversations and then it barely feels like you know the characters, which really reduces the emotional stakes.
At the start of the story, you get the chance to create both of your pilots who you will play as, basically using the same options as the pilot customisation for the rest of the game – although disappointingly we have to play as a human for the New Republic – without the option to change your uniform. You also get the chance to pick a name for each of your characters, either creating your own or using a list of pre-selected names. Unfortunately this is completely wasted as we see our characters about 2 times through the entire story, while the names are never used in game – we are referred to constantly as “Pilot” or our callsigns” – and we are never part of the ambient dialogue, only making default comments during the actual dogfights. For me, it would have been much better to the story to have created 2 proper characters who we then controlled (like Iden Versio in Battlefront II) as this would have made so much feel more natural by having a set character who could interact with the other characters. Finally for the actual story itself, I thought that it was a good story that progressed at a good pace, I did have a few issues with a few points especially towards the end, but I don’t want to spoil things for you.
On the whole, I need to say that it is a very good game. It has its flaws but is genuinely fun to play and on the whole I would consider the story a big step up from Battlefront II. To me, the issue just comes down to the price and the replayability. I’m not a regular gamer and don’t currently have a big group of friends to squad up with, so will probably not play enough to be at any real impressive level online, so I would probably feel that, though cheaper than most big releases, the cost is still high for a game with very few options for how to play.
So moving forward I will be getting into plot-specific details, so if you don’t want to be spoiled, stop scrolling!
I really enjoyed the way that the Imperial and New Republic stories intertwined due to Javes’ defection from the Empire to the Rebels leading to a desire for revenge from Terisa Kerrill, his second-in-command who became a captain of a Star Destroyer. It was nice seeing her and our pilot get “success” by causing the destruction of the prototype and get revenge on Javes, though I think this part of the story would have benefitted from some conversation with a character like Grey noting that he feels Terisa and our character are putting too much focus on getting revenge on Javes rather than destroying the entirety of Project Starhawk as the Nadiri Dockyards were not destroyed and we know from the Aftermath Trilogy that though the prototype was destroyed, more were created.
Similarly, I felt it a little odd that the decision was made to have Javes survive, as what was set up as his sacrifice along with Anvil Squadron was handled so well and felt in keeping with the actions of the Rebels and Resistance as we see in the movies. I understand that they wanted to give us an elite pilot to help lead us away from the exploding moon in that final mission, but with a talented pilot like Hera in the fleet, I feel that we could have been given a chance to fly with her rather than have the fake-out with Javes.
Seeing Admiral Sloane, Hera and Wedge in the game was great an the story works nicely as a prequel to the Aftermath Trilogy. I noticed that the end of the Imperial story noted that Titan Squadron’s next mission was in the Unknown Regions, so I think that the intention is that they were not at the Battle of Jakku and would love to see Captain Kerrill and Titan Squad appear in future stories, perhaps one showing them meeting up with Sloane after the Battle of Jakku and showing the early formation of the First Order – though I imagine that this story would involve the ace pilot Titan 3 being killed early on so that they don’t have to create a character that canonically goes against what we have created.
And finally, because I enjoy finding these links during my reviews…
Moments in Canon
- The speech from Leia at the end of the Story Mode includes the “Hope is like the Sun” saying that Poe and Holdo reference in The Last Jedi
- Gunny is from Mimban and fought in a number of battles there, including during the Clone Wars with the 224ᵗʰ Division (who are mentioned as being on Mimban during the The Clone Wars‘ episode “Rookies”) and against the Empire (the battle we see Han in when he meets Beckett’s crew in Solo: A Star Wars Story)
- Vonreg mentions both Iden Versio (Star Wars Battlefront II) and Yrica Quell (Alphabet Squadron) when discussing traitors
- Frisk got in trouble with the Empire after Thrawn recognised a painting that Frisk had acquired for an Imperial governor was a counterfeit
- Our Imperial character comes in as Titan 3, Titan 3 was destroyed in the battle above Var Shaa in the Hunted CG short
What do you think of the game?
Thanks for reading. Red 5, standing by!