Personally, I’ve always liked the Star Wars films, and there’s been a recent drought of niche Star Wars content. Thankfully Star Wars: Squadrons is filling up an important aspect of Star Wars games; the flight simulator. Developed by Motive Studios, Star Wars: Squadrons puts you in the cockpit of all your favorite Original Trilogy ships. Immersive experiences are the clear underpinning of the game, and as a result there is a steep learning curve. However, Squadrons is one of the most user friendly combat flight sims on the market right now.
When you start, the game directs you to begin the single player campaign, where you can choose a Republic or Imperial starfighter. Personally, I would highly recommend to play a few hours of the story. Every aspect of your starfighter of choice will be explained by the in game tutorial. The campaign also offers a chance to practice dogfighting skills in a lower skill environment. While there are practice modes available, the tutorial does a better job of explaining what to do contextually. Don’t go in expecting a lengthy solo experience though, as completing both halves of the campaign will take about 10 hours. Outside of these modes, there’s no other offline content. A dogfighting or AI battle mode would’ve been nice, but this is a smaller release, costing only $40. As a result, I can forgive the lack of content when comparing to a full $60 title.
Despite lacking content, Squadrons makes up for it in gameplay. Each one of the ships you fly handles perfectly. The team at Motive has captured the weight and handling of a spaceship down to the smallest detail. Because of the very realistic simulation, it takes time to learn how to fly a starship. Squadrons isn’t something you can just pick up, but it also isn’t hard to gain a competitive edge. If the idea of realistically flying a starfighter is too much, there is an option for a standard HUD, allowing for a standard level of control. Squadrons also supports flight sticks and full HOTAS setup for you to enhance your immersion. While a strict learning curve is unavoidable, there are options available to make it easier.
Graphically speaking, Squadrons is one of the best looking Star Wars games to date. All the ships are very intricate in design, and playing with the HUD off is a viable option. The maps, while sparse and lacking in detail, with most being simply empty space with one or two forms of terrain, are very well rendered. For example, the asteroid map allows you to dodge and weave through huge rocks. However, there are only a few maps, without any familiar locations. Hopefully updates will improve the amount of content available, since the little content we do have is pretty incredible.
Squadrons is a very appealing game on the surface, but does the gameplay and content on display combine for an enjoyable experience? The answer is yes, but an ultimately short one. For example, a win will reward you with glory, which you can then spend on cosmetics. As of this writing, there are only about a hundred cosmetics for each faction. These cosmetics come in two categories: pilot and spaceship. Unlocking all the cosmetics across a faction takes about 50 hours, at least if my current progress rate was extrapolated. To keep a game like this alive will take much more than the current amount of content. As someone who really enjoyed this experience, I am a bit worried about the lifespan of this title.
Despite the level of polish throughout the game, there are still massive bugs that can tarnish an otherwise amazing experience. Many players reported inaccurate frame readout as well as animations being locked to 30 FPS on the PC’s VR version. Thankfully, I didn’t experience any of these issues, however, the Origin-based netcode frequently crashed on me during multiplayer. Those with a wired connection may fare better, though I did note frequent lag de-syncs even during better connections. Despite the crashes, the game does run smoothly and has solid optimization. My system ran it at 2K 90 FPS with no stuttering, at least as far as the PC version is concerned. Loading times are also a non issue, as the game is very compact at 40GB total. Overall, when comparing to many larger recent releases, Squadrons is a compact powerhouse with potential to run on many systems.
Throughout my experience with Squadrons I’ve been unable to shake my curiosity about this game. Being made in Frostbite, and being a first person Star Wars title from EA, I can’t help but wonder if this was cut content. I even wonder if this was originally a part of a larger title that never came to be. Since the opening teaser, the developers have been adamant about how Squadrons won’t receive post launch DLC. They’ve really been vague about adding any content at all. Despite the warm reception from fans, the future looks grim.
There are also several missions which feel like they would tie into a ground section, or reference an unseen small arms fight offscreen. Coupled with flavor text recalling events from Battlefront 2, and the similar time frame of the games two stories, I feel like the two were once far more closely related. In addition, the limited menu screens feel tacked on for VR users. I hope that this is not the case, since a game as enjoyable as this deserves post launch content, even in the form of DLC or a battlepass.
Whatever the origin of this game may be, there is no doubt that this is one of the more enjoyable smaller titles to come out this year. Many games attempt to stretch themselves too thin to reach as many markets as possible. Thankfully, Star Wars: Squadrons has the rare pleasure of not being stretched thin enough. It may be a little barebones in some places, but the meat of the game is grade A. You can even team up with your friends across multiple platforms with cross play, so your squadron is never too far out of reach. If creating new iconic Star Wars memories interests you, I fully recommend Star Wars: Squadrons.
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