Star Wars: Squadrons has been released, and it features both a single-player campaign mode and multiplayer modes.
I’ll be discussing the multiplayer aspect of the game in a future article, but today I’m diving into the campaign. It’s a very enjoyable experience that, though it gets repetitive at times and doesn’t show any huge developments, introduces compelling characters and tells a worthy story.
The campaign has 14 missions (not including the prologue) and takes around 6-8 hours to complete, though that can vary a bit depending on how skilled you are and how many ‘optional’ quests you complete. There are many things that feel similar to Battlefront II’s campaign (especially since musical cues from Battlefront appear in Squadrons as well), but as we know, Squadrons focuses exclusively on starfighter action. This greater focus is evident, as the starfighter action is challenging yet super fun. It’s truly the closest thing you can get to piloting one of these ships in the Star Wars universe.
If you loved some of the old X-Wing games and are a fan of Star Wars starfighting games, you’ll likely love this. But I’ll dive more into the mechanics of the game in my article about the multiplayer aspect. Here, I want to focus on the story that’s told in the campaign mode. In fact, the campaign mode was designed to be an introduction to the game, and it was the intent that players would dive into the campaign before multiplayer, as the campaign gives you a feel for what you’re doing. Having played both, I can attest to the helpfulness of the campaign, though I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary to play it first. So let’s dive in, but obviously, *** full spoilers are ahead *** so if you have not played the game and don’t want to be spoiled about what happens, don’t read any further!
The game begins with a prologue, set shortly after the destruction of Alderaan. Rae Sloane sends Helix Squadron to hunt down some Alderaanian refugees, though this command troubles the Squadron’s captain, Lindon Javes. He orders his squadmates not to fire until he orders it, and in the ensuing battle he winds up helping the refugees in their escape attempt, thus defecting from the Empire. He can’t stand to see innocents die, and soon the Rebellion shows up with reinforcements to aid the escape.
Years later, after the Battle of Endor, you join Vanguard Squadron of the New Republic – under the command of Lindon Javes. He dispatches Vanguard Squadron on a mission to explore why New Republic signals are being jammed and put an end to it. Having successfully completed this mission, Wedge Antilles recruits the Squadron to help him capture an Imperial Star Destroyer above Yavin Prime, as the Republic needs the Destroyer for its top-secret Starhawk project. Antilles, Vanguard Squadron, and Talus Squadron successfully work together to repel the Imperial forces and comandeer the Destroyer, which heads off to a secret location. On the way, however, it experiences hyperdrive issues and is left for dead, so Vanguard Squadron is sent to reinforce, protect, and escort it to the Nadiri Dockyards, the secret location of Project: Starhawk.
Meanwhile, the Imperial remnants are desperate to stop this project, and Admiral Sloane orders Terisa Kerrill to retrieve a spy who has obtained vital information about Project: Starhawk from an outpost above Hosnian Prime. Kerrill’s history with Lindon Javes runs deep, as she was his second-in-command with the Empire when Javes defected, resulting in demotion for her as well. She is thus highly motivated to stop him and the Starhawk, and dispatches Titan Squadron to escort the spy safely back to the Empire. Once having accomplished that, Titan Squadron secretly follows a group of New Republic engineers, leaving Hosnian Prime en route to Project: Starhawk. Kerrill wants to use this to be able to figure out the location of the Starhawk, but Imperial Captain Amos defies orders and attacks with his Star Destroyer. A firefight ensues, but Kerrill and Titan Squadron eventually discover the system Project: Starhawk is in.
Having learned that Terisa Kerrill is the one on their tail, Lindon Javes devises a trap for her. The first step is sending Vanguard Squadron to destroy an Imperial listening outpost. This goes exactly according to plan, and the raid lures Kerrill to an ambush at the Zavian Abyss. Kerrill’s Star Destroyer, the Overseer, pursues Vanguard Squadron into the Abyss, where the Starhawk is waiting. Javes uses the Starhawk‘s tractor beam to seriously damage the Overseer, but Kerrill manages to jump her ship to hyperspace before it is destroyed. With the Overseer damaged, Kerrill requests help from another Imperial, Colonel Gralm, but he commandeers the Overseer as part of his purposes, not caring about Admiral Sloane or the Starhawk. Kerrill begrudgingly complies, but only so that Titan Squadron can raid Gralm’s station while flying to protect it. With the supplies needed, the Overseer jumps away, leaving Gralm’s grasp.
From there, they head to Mon Cala, a major New Republic shipbuilding world, to cause enough chaos so as to draw New Republic defenders away from the Nadiri Dockyards. This sets the stage for the Imperial attack on the Nadiri Dockyards, home of the Republic Starhawk project, and Kerrill’s forces decimate the Republic defense. General Hera Syndulla desperately attempts to evacuate the station and flee with the Starhawk, but the hyperdrive is damaged. Just when all hope looks lost, Lindon Javes arrives in his cruiser (the Temperance) to absorb the Overseer‘s attacks, saving the Starhawk. As the Republic forces attempt to flee, Titan Squadron sets up a trap for them in the Ringali Nebula, destroying many Republic corvettes. In desperation, Vanguard Squadron is sent to get a distress call to the New Republic, activating coms so that Javes can send his message. Javes gets into the cockpit of an X-Wing and leads Anvil Squadron (which arrived upon hearing his message) into battle, while Vanguard Squadron protects the Starhawk. Titan Squadron engages Javes and his forces in battle, disabling the starhawk and (seemingly) killing Javes.
Mourning the loss of Lindon Javes, Hera Syndulla and the Republic officers devise a plan to allow them to escape: crash the Starhawk into the highly unstable moon nearby, by using the Starhawk‘s tractor beam to tow it into the moon. Vanguard Squadron paves the way for this, but everyone is surprised when the Starhawk comes to life, with Javes having survived! With his help, the mission is successful and the Starhawk is sacrificed, but the Imperial ships are destroyed by the ensuing blast. Meanwhile, Javes (in his X-Wing) and Vanguard Squadron just barely escape the fray, but survive to fight another day. Because of their sacrifice, though the Starhawk was lost, the Nadiri Dockyards and the New Republic engineers survived to continue producing more Starhawks.
This campaign is quite enjoyable, though that’s largely carried by the engaging gameplay, stunningly gorgeous locations, and fun connections.
Maybe the best part of the story is the characters. Specifically, the story revolves around Lindon Javes and Terisa Kerrill, both of whom are compelling characters who drive the plot along and steal the moments they’re in. When the prologue featured Javes defecting from the Empire, my first thought was, “Here we go again,” since we’ve seen the Imperial defection story plenty of times before, but that initial response was unfair. This story handled it really well and shied away from the tiresome aspects of that familiar trope, turning it instead into a story of personal vengeance in addition to the larger war. I’d love to see more of both characters in the future.
Additionally, the individual fighters of the two squadrons you’re a part of – Vanguard Squadron of the New Republic and Titan Squadron of the Empire – are intriguing. With Vanguard Squadron, you have the Mimbanese Kierah Koovah (“Gunny”), the Trandoshan Feresk Tssat, the Miralan Keo Venzee, and the human Grace Sienar – yes, part of that Sienar family, responsible for the production of the Imperial TIE Fighter. Titan Squadron was led by Varko Grey (who was the focal point of that awesome animated short film released prior to the game), and also included Rella Sol, the mysterious battle-scarred survivor Shen, and Havina Vonreg – who curiously shares the same last name as the star First Order pilot Major Vonreg. These characters and squadrons prevent tons of storytelling potential, but to be honest, this story didn’t seem too interested in diving into it all that much. The only way you really got to know these other pilots was through optional side conversations with them in the hangar, but even then the conversations felt a bit unnatural and kinda forced.
Probably part of this was due to the first-person viewership, designed that way for the VR experience, which fully immerses you in the Star Wars starfighting experience, putting you in the cockpit. This approach is impressive and probably worth it, but it simply means that the conversations in the command ships in-between missions feel a bit strange and awkward. In other words, it really didn’t feel like this campaign was as focused on diving into the characters as much as throwing you into the action. All things considered (since this is a starfighter game, after all), that’s very understandable and forgivable. But it just means that the primary character drivers here were Lindon Javes and Terisa Kerrill.
It’s not just them, however, as there are some really cool cameo appearances! Most prominently is General Hera Syndulla, who is overseeing the Starhawk project at the Nadiri Dockyards and commands Javes and Vanguard Squadron’s forces. Hera is, of course, one of the main characters of Star Wars Rebels and became a major leader in the Rebellion and then the New Republic. She appears quite a bit in this campaign, and it’s amazing to see a more realistic-looking version of the General, voiced and mo-capped by Vanessa Marshall! I love Hera, and it’s a joy to see her here. I only wish Chopper made an appearance! Additionally, Wedge Antilles appears (voiced by Denis Lawson!) and takes Vanguard Squadron on a mission to Yavin Prime, stealing a Star Destroyer. At this point, Wedge is a part of Rogue Squadron, but he’s currently on leave to help with Project: Starhawk. Finally, Admiral Rae Sloane of the Empire makes some appearances. She’s not in the campaign as much as I thought, but her presence looms large. Though she doesn’t look to have assumed the rank of Grand Admiral yet, she’s obviously quite influential, and it’s clear that her voice carries a lot of authority. But we also get some name drops and other references – my favorite of which is that Thrawn is mentioned by Feresk Tssat! (and along those lines, you can unlock a holographic Chimaera for your TIEs if you want in this game – which of course I’m all about)
Sticking with the theme of Sloane’s influence, however, one of the things that I really appreciated about this story is that it shows the fracturing of the Empire. Different Imperial commanders have different motives, and they’re not really all that interested in working with each other. Captain Amos and Colonel Gralm both butt heads with Terisa Kerrill, and even when Kerrill name-drops Sloane to the latter, he doesn’t care. We’ve previously known that the Empire is quite dis-unified in the post-Endor galaxy, and this further brings that to light.
On the other side, I loved exploring the Starhawk more. We’ve known about it – and known that it helped finalize the New Republic victory in the war – but hadn’t really focused on it. It was awesome to see it in action here, even though I was surprised that it wound up destroyed in the end. But at least they continued to manufacture more, and it was really cool to get a glimpse of it here on-screen.
So yeah, I really enjoyed this story, but I’ll also say this: you’re not going to miss a ton if you skip it. It’s a fun story, but relatively self-contained (at least right now). The Starhawk is pretty major, but otherwise, this story is primarily about the personal motivation between Javes and Kerrill. I’d highly encourage you to check it out because I think those characters are compelling enough, and because the gameplay is very fun. At times it got a bit repetitive mission after mission, but especially the final confrontation at the Nadiri Dockyards was incredible. And throughout the whole thing, the locations you visit are absolutely stunning and a complete thrill to fly. The gameplay is engaging and challenging. If you’re a fan of Star Wars starfighter games, you’ll love this.
And if you’re a fan of Star Wars stories, you’ll enjoy this one. It doesn’t seem like a “must” if you want to know what happens post-Endor (besides the general details about the Starhawk), but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth it. I enjoyed it, and I’d encourage you to check it out.