Priced reasonably and aimed at the multiplayer market rather than single player, Star Wars: Squadrons seemed to arrive with little fanfare last year to a response best described as muted. Though, given the controversy that greeted similarly online focused stablemate Battlefront II – thanks to its greedy, microtransaction-led focus at launch that was gradually fixed with updates – perhaps muted is not a bad thing for an EA Star Wars title’s reception.
In any case, Squadrons – with its focus on Rebel vs Imperial dogfighting – doesn’t appear to have found much of an audience, though it certainly does have appeal and, like the rest of EA’s Star Wars output, it’s dripping in classic era Star Wars atmosphere and detail.
Having not ventured online at all in my time with the title – competitive online games really don’t interest me at all – my review only covers the single player campaign.
Though relatively brief – I finished the full campaign in a little over ten hours – what’s here is pretty fun and the storyline is an engaging one, starting with an Imperial squadron leader defecting to the Rebel Alliance when he refuses an order to harm civilians in order to accomplish a mission. The Rebels, with their new ally’s insight, attempt to develop and use an experimental superweapon against the bad guys – while the Imperials do everything they can to stop their enemies from deploying their devastating new technology.
It’s a well told tale, with the expected high production values of an EA product; music, voice acting and cutscenes are brilliantly done, with some incredibly nice character models and facial animation on your squadmates and other characters. It’s a little frustrating that you’re not able to explore hangars and briefing rooms in first person, being rooted to the spot during the outside-your-cockpit scenes, but you can at least look around and jump to points of interest (and between rooms) while carrying on conversations with characters that adds a decent amount of depth to your squadmates.
Control switches between squads on both sides of the conflict over the course of the campaign too, giving a nice feel for all of the different craft on offer, both Rebel and Imperial. The ships, as you’d expect from a game solely focused on starfighter combat, are the stars of the show – the cockpit interiors are brilliantly detailed and incredibly distinctive, even between ships on the same side of the war. They control well and the slight complexity of switching power between engines, weapons, shields or a balance of all three gives a basic but welcome tactical edge to proceedings, stopping the game from feeling too arcadey or simplistic.
The campaign feels like little more than an extended tour of all of the ships on offer, with a variety of mission objectives that gets you up to speed on performing a nice mixture of tasks while in control of your fighter. The movies and other source material are deeply mined for the starfighter selection, with a great mix of TIE_based craft for the Imperials and a mostly alphabetical-letter-related selection of fighters for the Rebels (including the underutilised U-Wing, which debuted in one of the best modern Star Wars movies, Rogue One). They all stick to known, well-established characteristics demonstrated in Star Wars lore too, which is great to see.
I couldn’t help but feel a bit underwhelmed by the campaign overall however; it feels a little awkward to mark the game down because of this, due to the fact that the main draw was always intended to be player vs player online combat, but if you are looking for a single player experience it’s a little too short and light to recommend. It’s well told, nicely produced and there’s some surprising, very welcome cameos from some familiar faces from the Star Wars universe, but it can’t help feeling somewhat inessential overall.
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