In the last few years, it has been a really rough time for Star Wars games with so many of them just hitting the mark and coming across more as a vehicle to over do Microtransactions for a lacklustre Star Wars experience. That all changed with Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, an action adventure game that delivered a fantastic story, incredible gameplay and…no Microtransations. There was a complete shift towards giving fans the best Star Wars experience they could have and going 100% in making that a rewarding one. This year has seen a follow up title that doubles down on those principles and focuses on another old school style of Star Wars game that fans of a certain generation have been longing to play again and new fans eager to experience. Thankfully Star Wars Squadrons delivers for both sets of fans!
X-Wing Vs Tie Fighter is a game cherished by many gamers and Star Wars Fans, as it brought to life one of the most exciting elements of the Star Wars universe and put fans in the cockpit of a legendary ship. It focused on delivering the excitement, the thrills and adrenalin that being either a rebel pilot or Imperial fighter pilot would bring. What Squadrons aims to do and actually nails 100% is bringing all those elements together once again in a nice arcade action feel with some additional elements that this genre has enjoyed over the years. I have also really loved the build to the release with impressive cinematic shorts introducing us to the world characters in the main campign.
The campaign is a very strong reason for a Star Wars fans to pick Squadrons up and just like Jedi Fallen Order, the cast and writing for the campaign is spot on for me. The Campaign opens up with a prologue that puts the player right in the events of Episode 4 a New hope before the main campaign story itself picks up right after the events of Return of the Jedi with the New Republic trying to push out the last of the Imperial forces and to build up their own fleet of star ships whilst the Imperial remnant is still trying to hold on to power and take back the galaxy without the Emperor and Darth Vader leading them. The story sill places you the player as a new recruit in the best fighter squadron of both sides, Vanguard for the New Republic or Titan for the Imperials. You will undertake various types of missions for both sides as the story unfolds such as escort and patrols, bombing missions and support runs.
In between missions you will get the chance to interact with members of your squadron, learning more about the members of Vanguard and Titan from their motivations for fighting to the impact the Empire had on them. The writing is strong here as you really start to see the very different life experiences of those under the boot from Imperial rule to those raised within its protection. It is strange but the time between Return of the Jedi and A New Hope is still fairly unexplored in the canon of Star Wars so getting to live the moments as the New Republic tries to establish itself and witness the refusal of some Imperial forces to let go of all their power even with the supposed death of the Emperor is a true thrill just as it was to live through the events following Order 66 in Fallen order.
Gameplay is cleverly a blend of arcade style flying and fighting and actually having to think about your loadout and ship class to best prepare for the mission, something that will help you also be prepared for the Multiplayer Modes later on. I love that you are locked to the first-person view of the cockpit which for me only makes it even more immersive with the authentic sounds of a Tie Fighter’s twin Ion engines firing up or the laser blasts from the X-Wings guns. As a fanboy of Star Wars, everything just clicks wonderfully and though some of the character interactions can feel a little filler sometimes and it would have been more fun to actually walk around the main ships instead of just moving from screen to screen hitting an interact button to start a conversation or briefing, the campaign really is satisfying to play though.
Which is handy because this game only comes with two Multiplayer modes once the campaign is done which is not surprising when you take into account that the asking price for Squadrons at launch was only £35 and now it is even cheaper to pick up. Having had this since launch, and using some Microsoft Reward points to get a nice discount on this for Xbox One X, it will no doubt appear heavily discounted in the sales leading into holiday season. The main reason I left this review until now is because I wanted to see if this was a game that could survive with just the two multiplayer modes and I am happy to say, it has. I can still find matches quickly in both modes thanks to the full cross platform play though if I try to go Xbox Only in matchmaking, the search will take a much longer time.
The Two MP modes come in traditional 5 Vs 5 Dogfights which is essentially Team Death match or the more objective based Battle Fleet mode, where you must both attach and destroy the opposing team’s ships in order to get access to take down their main Star Destroyer. Battle Fleet uses a virtual tug of war system where a losing team can pull it back and get reinforcements as their reward. Taking out the star destroyer by crippling the various ship systems like power, targeting and shield generators will help bring it down faster and naturally, the first team to take down a destroyer will win. This mode for me is the heart of the MP modes, whilst dogfighting in a traditional way is faster and still a tonne of fun, Battle Fleet is a longer fight requiring more team work and strategy which is where the campaign’s teachings about ship type and load outs pays off.
Sadly, the hope that more MP modes would come to the game seem to have been dashed with no plans to bring anything new to the game despite its success currently exist. That said, the more you play this game, the more you unlock as cosmetics from pilot look to ship skins and cockpit bling are all unlocked via gameplay which is nice and refreshing considering the mess of previous Battlefront games. The low asking price for the game does go a way to explain the limited options but the campaign and two MP modes are more than worth it for me and now a month nearly post release and the MP is still alive and kicking but I do feel it would grow even further if new modes were added to the multiplayer even if it was just new locations, maybe even taking a leaf from Battlefront 2 and adding iconic battle locations from the whole Star Wars saga. Of course if you are playing on PlayStation 4 or PC and have access to the VR then the free VR Mode in Squadrons adds a whole new level to the game experience as well, though I have not tried it due to real world events, I have friends who are just raving about the VR mode or those using flight sticks adding even more authenticity to the gameplay.
Star Wars Squadrons for me delivers a lot for the cost of entry and it’s a price that will no doubt continue to drop as we approach the holiday season. The campaign is solid and the MP modes, though limited to just two, manages to bring back the nostalgic fun of the classic X-Wing Vs Tie Fighter games whilst bringing it up to date with the use of manually adjusting ship power to boost engines, shields or weapons as you fine tune your ships load out to match your playing style. There is enough of a challenge to keep players learning to improve but accessible enough for those who just want to jump in fight in a Star Wars battle to do so.
If you are looking for that Star Wars fix until the next game appears or just as a way to get all Star Wars after watching Season 2 of the Mandalorian which kicks off this week, Squadrons has more than enough for the low price to make it satisfying for any fan whilst deliver an experience if you want an arcade flight shooter or a more hands on flight simulator style approach.
This is Red Six…standing by for the next fight!