Star Wars games have been few and far between the last few years, but there's still plenty of legacy titles to go back to. You know the kind— the original Battlefront Series, Knights of the Old Republic, and Jedi Knight. They capture the feel of being a Jedi or soldier on the battlefield, but its been quite a bit since we've had a true, realistic flight sim like some of the older titles in the 90s. With Star Wars: Squadrons, the speed and frantic combat of fighting in a spaceship is finally in the hands of a new generation. Star Wars: Squadrons feels incredibly authentic and faithful to the series, and it's easy to tell that the developers behind it are big fans of the franchise—but the game is pretty darn rough around the edges.
Star Wars: Squadrons' Story-based Campaign
You stick around for multiplayer in games like these, but I was most excited to try out the campaign of Star Wars: Squadrons. Any time there's a new, canonical story included in the franchise, I want to learn about it. So, with the promise of new characters from both the perspective of the New Republic (formerly the Rebel Alliance) and the Imperials, I was absolutely hyped.
The campaign for Star Wars: Squadrons comprises 14 missions as well as a prologue. The entire story, takes place after the decisive Battle of Endor, so the Galactic Empire becomes a mismanaged, panicking shell of its former self. The New Republic aims to put an end to the Empire's tyranny once and for all. As mentioned, players experience both sides of the conflict, and you even get to customize your own pilots in the beginning. The customization was, quite frankly, extremely disappointing. The options were extremely limited, and perhaps even more insulting was that you see your characters in cutscenes once at the beginning of the game. That's it.
But it's not a huge deal—I mean, you're playing a first-person flight simulator. Why should your character's face matter? What's really important are the characters you meet along the way, as well as the overarching narrative. Unfortunately, the narrative as a whole leaves so much to be desired. It felt generic, lifeless, and completely unsubstantial to the franchise. There's nothing groundbreaking here at all as far as the story goes, so don't expect anything remotely good.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment was the characters. Both the New Republic and Imperials have a cast of characters you fly with. I could tell, Squadrons wants players to know more about these characters and get involved with them, but it's just not possible. There's dialogue between missions where you can interact with characters, but it's always cut short as you'll have to move on to the briefing and mission. There's little downtime for characters, which really gives no room for them to develop at all. The New Republic's cast is an assortment of humans and aliens; there's a Trandoshan swindler-turned pilot, a former racer, a few others. But if you were asked to explain their backstory in detail, it feels like an impossible feat.
The Imperials are a bit more exciting because they put a face to typically stoic and emotionless pilots from other Star Wars mediums. I'd have actually liked to learn more about these, but again, there's so little time. Shen, my favorite of the bunch, has crashed so many times his suit basically acts as life support—he's so mangled, he won't even take off his heavily scratched pilot armor. The leader of your squadron, Varko Grey, was a former police officer-turned pilot who strongly believes in the Empire and can't wait for the war to end so he can spend more time with his husband. This is fantastic, as these characters personify the Empire's soldiers a bit more.
Besides the disappointing story, the campaign serves as a semi-decent introduction for players. The mechanics of Squadrons are incredibly overwhelming at first, especially for those who haven't played a flight simulator before. The campaign goes over the core mechanics of Squadrons, like using missiles and other tools, as well as tricks and techniques like power management and drifting. Power management is absolutely essential to Squadrons, allowing players to direct more power to their engines, shields, or weapons. Giving more power to your engines, for example, allows you to speed away for a quick escape.
Meanwhile, each faction has a unique mechanic behind them. For example, New Republic ships utilize shields. The Imperials' ships have the ability to direct all power to weapons or engines, giving you an incredible boost of firepower or speed. I feel like it balances itself out quite well, because while the New Republic has extra protection, it feels like the Imperials have more firepower. Overall, the learning curve is steep, but incredibly rewarding and absolutely thrilling once you get the hang of things.
The fantastic gameplay is complemented by several intriguing scenarios and maps in the campaign. You'll go from defending a munitions depot as the Imperials to stealing a star destroyer as the New Republic. These maps have a layout that doesn't just feel like open space, either. There's debris, hazardous clouds, and other obstacles to contend with. The campaign, for all its faults, is paced well, especially with the combat scenarios provided.
Star Wars: Squadrons' Fun, Yet Lacking Multiplayer
Multiplayer is what keeps the players coming back—theoretically. What you can expect from Star Wars: Squadrons' multiplayer is the same tight, thrilling gameplay with way more ship customization, but ultimately way less content. The multiplayer is split into two different game modes: Five-versus-five Dog Fights and Fleet Battles. The former is self-explanatory: it's a deathmatch. Fleet battles, on the other hand, task players with taking down capital ships and eventually destroying an even larger ship.
Of the bunch, I'd say that Fleet Battles offers the most content. You fight with a team of five players as well as a bunch of AI ships on either side, so it feels a bit more like the campaign. You can target the giant ship's systems like the power, all the while the enemy team tries to fend you off. It's actually a pretty fun mode in bursts, but like Dogfights, it gets old fast. There's only a total of six different maps, making everything feel very, very repetitive.
The repetition is stymied a bit by the inclusion of different ship types: fighter, bomber, interceptor, and support. When you finish a match, you gain experience that will level you up. As you level up, you receive points to buy new parts for your ship. Mixing and matching different components is fun and there's a lot of different options to choose from. I appreciate that most components have a trade-off, so again, nothing feels totally overpowered. Moreover, I believe that every player can find a ship build that fits their needs quite well.
Customization also comes in the form of cosmetics, be it through your pilot or the interior and exterior of your ship. You'll see a bit more of your pilot (and other players' pilots) this time around as you wait for matches to begin, so it's cool to dabble with the suits, helmets and emotes, which are also unlocked via a currency gained from multiplayer. Customizing the interior of your ship with various doodads is a nice little touch that helps you personalize things a bit.
As time goes on, new Operations become available, which feel essentially like a battle pass. A very shallow one, at that. You can unlock cosmetic rewards restricted to these two-month long operations, but other than that, it just feels lifeless. There's simply not enough content for players to come back to, be it the small pool of maps or the pitiful amount of game modes.
Star Wars: Squadrons Review | Final Thoughts
PC technical issues are also rampant with this title. Graphical settings are completely fudged. The only refresh rate that works correctly for me, as well as many others, is 59.54 hertz, and v-sync must be enabled. Any other setting resulted in some big issues for me, including terrible performance. Even still, this fix worked temporarily. In multiplayer, my first match runs flawlessly, with no problems at all. After joining my next match, I get severe screen tearing and very low FPS. Quitting the game and joining a new match makes it seem like these drops never happened. For me, I have to play a match, quit, and join a new one to avoid any problems.
Not to mention, other users have reported terrible issues with VR and HOTAS. I played with a HOTAS controller for a duration before switching to an Xbox One controller. The flight stick was very fun in combat, but mapping and navigating menus was incredibly difficult. Players more experienced with flight sticks are reporting a 20 percent deadzone for the HOTAS controller, putting those who use one at a huge advantage—to Motive's credit, they have acknowledged this issue and there should be a fix at some point.
At the end of the day, Star Wars: Squadrons is another strike against EA. The partnership between EA and Disney have yielded less-than-stellar results, with Fallen Order being the rare exception. Star Wars: Squadrons provides nothing substantial in terms of story, nor does it have a lot of content to experience. The technical issues are just another addition to this pile of disappointment. Still, developer Motive Studios clearly shows a lot of care for the license and can create a game with some exceptional gameplay, making it feel just like a simulation. While I expected more from this title, I'll watch Motive Studios' career with great interest.
TechRaptor reviewed Star Wars: Squadrons on PC via Origin with a code provided by the publisher. It is also available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
- Fantastic and Fun Gameplay
- Interesting Singleplayer Maps
- Little Map and Mode Variety in Multiplayer
- Story Leaves Much to Be Desired
- Technical Issues