*** This review is for the multiplayer aspect of Star Wars: Squadrons. For my review of the single-player campaign, head here. ***
Star Wars: Squadrons was released a little over a week ago, and here I’m going to focus on the multiplayer aspects of the game. I’ll break it down into a couple of different sections.
Simply put, I imagine from a gameplay standpoint this is everything fans of starfighter games have been wanting for a long, long time. It is quite incredible. There are stunningly gorgeous locations to fly at, and everything about the game is designed to make it truly feel like you’re in the cockpit experiencing things for yourself (especially, I imagine, if you’re playing in VR, but even if you’re not). The game is first-person perspective (with no option otherwise), and while that initially seems like a bit of a disappointment that it’s the only option, I’ve found that you quickly adjust to it.
In the cockpit, you can customize things to better suit your tastes (more on that later), and you have full control over your ship. It is recommend that you play the campaign first, as it teaches you how to utilize all the tools in your arsenal, teaches you tips and tricks, and gives you the overview on each different ship (there are eight of them total in the game; four for the New Republic and four for the Empire). In the multiplayer, you can also modify your fighter to better fit your specifications, which again, we’ll get to in a moment.
While you’re in flight, you have total control over your ship and can make different choices depending on your need. You can divert more power to the engines (losing a bit on weapons and shields), or you can divert more power to the weapons systems (losing a bit on engines and shields), or, if your ship is equipped with them, you can divert more power to the shields (losing a bit on engines and weapons), and you can even choose whether to bolster the front or rear shields, or leave them balanced. All of this gives you, as the pilot, more flexibility on what you want to do, and brings more strategy into play. There’s a lot of responsibility put on you as you play, but it also allows you to make choices that you think will strategically help your cause.
I’m not particularly good at flying games, and so I’m certainly no expert here (there are times where my whole stragety might be best summed up as, “I’ll try spinning; that’s a good trick!”). But I have found that the controls are relatively simple to get the hang of if you just play for a bit, and the thrill of actually feeling like you’re in the middle of a Star Wars space battle is absolutely incredible.
There are essentially two multiplayer game modes in Squadrons. There’s a dogfight, where you team up with a few other players to face an enemy squad of fighters, and it’s all about taking out more enemy fighters in 5v5 combat. Then there’s fleet battles, where you either play online with other players or alone with AI, and try to take out the enemy capital ship while protecting your own.
Dogfight is relatively straightforward. The first team to the set number of kills wins, so it’s just about flying and engaging in a dogfight space battle, trying to eliminate the enemy and avoid dying too many times yourself. There’s really not a whole lot to expand upon here, as the mode is very straightforward.
Fleet battles is a bit more extensive. Basically, each side has a squadron of fighters, two cruisers, and a capital ship (a Star Destroyer for the Empire and a MC-75 Star Cruiser for the New Republic). You earn morale by defeating enemy fighters, and once you have enough, you can launch an offensive. The first step is taking out the two enemy cruisers, after which you can assault the capital ship. But your opponent is also trying to gain morale by defeating your ships, and so once they reach a certain amount they will launch an offensive as well – leaving you and your squadron to defend your ships. The first team to take down the enemy capital ship flies away victorious. As I mention, you can play this either with AI or online with other people.
Both of these modes are fun in their own right. I prefer fleet battles, but that’s because for an average (or sometimes below average) pilot like myself, having objectives I’m trying to accomplish helps, rather than just dogfighting with the enemy. But both modes are fun and enjoyable. Yet my biggest ‘issue’ with this game, if you could call it that, is that with only these two game modes, and with only six maps available, I feel like it can get rather stale quickly. So I’m really interested in seeing what the longevity of this game will be like, since EA has said they have no plans to release further content into the game. To be honest, I think this is why the game was just $40, as it doesn’t have a ton of different modes or content, but I’ll also quickly add that the content it does have is fantastic. I just wonder if it has enough to keep players regularly engaged and involved for a while.
While the game modes are kinda limited, the customization is certainly not. There are a ton of options that allow you to truly make your fighter your own, to suit your purposes and styles. All of these are able to be purchased by gaining materials available in-game as you progress and continue to play. First, there are upgrades you can make to your ship’s functionality, like with the weapons, shields, missiles, etc. There are some that I think are better than others, but like with other things in this game, there doesn’t seem to be a clear-cut best option, so a lot of these decisions are up to you on what you most want to prioritize. To upgrade in one area might mean sacrificing in another area, for instance, but those are choices that you as the pilot need to make to best fit your purposes.
Second, though, are the cosmetic items that you can purchase. These include both external (like paint colors and decals) and internal (like holograms or collectables in the cockpit). These items are very fun and also are an opportunity for the game to share more lore tidbits in describing these things. Some of my personal favorites of these items include the Ewok available for the cockpits of New Republic fighters, as well as the hologram of the Chimaera available in Imperial fighters (which shouldn’t be a surprise, considering my love for Thrawn). There are an impressive number of really cool collectibles available, and I imagine it’ll take quite a while to unlock them all. I’m not as high on the paint jobs for the ships, since with a third-person view you don’t get to see your own ship all that often), but they’re still very cool to have.
The ability to customize your own ship, both functionally and stylistically, is phenomenal in this game.
Overall, like I mentioned earlier, this is the Star Wars starfighter game many have been waiting for. The gameplay is fantastic and the customization of your fighter is terrific, which all combines to really putting you in charge of your ship. The modes are great too, but I wonder how much longevity the game will have with only really featuring the two modes. What the game does offer, however, is a thrilling experience of being in a Star Wars fighter. In many ways, it feels like you can take on the whole Empire (or New Republic) yourself. And to me, that makes this game more than worth it.