We’ve had a week of speculating what the gameplay of the new Star Wars: Squadrons flight-sim would look like. Thankfully, EA debuted the first glance during EA Play Live. With a robust offering of both singleplayer and competitive features, Star Wars: Squadrons instantly brought me back to the days of old school dogfighting titles like Star Wars: X-Wing Alliance.
Squadrons is a reminder that a Star Wars game could be more than the trench warfare of Star Wars Battlefront 2 or force-using splendour in Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order. For me, the trailer brought back memories of the days I poured over a flight stick at my PC. As a 10-year-old, I spent hours imagining what it was like to fight in the stars as a Rebel pilot. This time around, I think I’ll be flying in a much more elegant manner.
Expanding and innovating off games such as Star Wars: TIE Fighter, Squadrons is a modern flight-sim. Star Wars flight games of the past featured narrative threads. However, Squadrons tells a tale from the perspective of both the Galactic Empire and the New Republic. Players can also customize their own pilots for both factions.
On the multiplayer side, players will team up with four others to make their “squadron”. In a bid to revitalize the flight-sim games of past generations, Squadrons incorporates class-based ships like Fighters, Interceptors, and Support. Whereas Star Wars Rogue Squadron III: Rebel Strike featured some multiplayer components, Squadrons appears to be much more fleshed out.
Motive Studios, the development house behind Star Wars: Squadrons, appears to be inspired by the games we grew up with. During an on-screen interview at EA Play 2020, creative director Ian Frazier spoke about obsessively playing the older games. When talking about the studio’s fandom over the franchise, Frazier said: “I think that fandom, that love of Star Wars, has provided a good foundation for us.”
Motive Studio had created Star Wars Battlefront II only three years prior and began experimenting with space combat. That said, the focus was never solely devoted to having players in the cockpit of an X-Wing or TIE fighter. The team at Motive wanted to develop a game that expanded on their initiative in space combat. However, the studio also wanted to maintain the spirit of the games of the past. Frazier touched on this by saying: “We were trying to pull from that spiritual heritage from many different games in that time period.”
“At the same time, we wanted to something fresh and new for fans today.”
The older flight-sims told a story in the expanded universe. That said, Disney rebuilt the EU after acquiring the franchise in 2012. Details on story are still fairly scarce. However, it’s an interesting play to see a story unfold that’s being told from both sides of this galactic war. Squadrons has the opportunity to really detail how the New Republic and Empire deal with the aftermath of the second Death Star exploding in Return of the Jedi in this new canon.
As much as I’m fond of those 90s Star Wars flight-sims, they don’t hold up to modern standards. The genre has been elevated in miraculous ways over the past few decades. Of course, Squadrons is easy on the eyes, giving us detailed renderings of a cockpit, environments, and characters new and old. But it goes way beyond what you’re able to see.
Having a dedicated 5v5 multiplayer experience is very enticing. With different classes at players’ disposal, a large draw will be how the meta shapes up to be. Will a team benefit from having more frontline power of two or three well-rounded Fighter ships backed by Support? Or will the Interceptor class – which is more akin to a tank class – have the advantage in the meta? Experimenting with team builds and ship load-outs could very well be the game loop that hooks players and keeps them coming back for more.
On top of that, Squadrons will also be VR ready. My old CRT monitor and flight stick combo made me feel like a Rebel pilot. That said, playing with VR support has the potential to be a very immersive experience. Motive Studios has said Squardons will support VR on PlayStation 4 and PC.
It won’t be long before we take off in our Y-Wing as Star Wars: Squadrons is set to release on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on Oct. 2, 2020.