For our Star Wars: Squadrons review I played the game on PC, both conventionally and in VR (Oculus Rift) using an Xbox 360 controller. In this article we focus on both experiences. As a side note: Squadrons has HOTAS support, which we tested a bit and it generally functioned well. Your experience with different sets might vary though.
Two of my teammates fly their Y-Wings toward the last Imperial cruiser defending the enemy flagship. Swarms of TIE Fighters try to hold off our bombers. I put my X-Wing into overdrive and race towards my squad. As I pick Imperial fighters of their tails, the Y-Wings drop their proton bombs and finally, their cruiser explodes into a beautifully rendered cloud of debris, almost poetically drifting into nothingness. Our next daunting task is to take down the huge, evil looking Star Destroyer, lurking in the distance… A bit of Force ghost assistance would be appreciated!
What we loved
- Immersive Star Wars experience
- Surprisingly deep
- Gorgeos graphics
- Brilliant in VR
- Relatively cheap
What needs work
- Wonky Frostbite physics
- Underwhelming singleplayer story
- More multiplayer modes
Star Wars: Squadrons review
Star Wars: Squadrons is both incredibly simple and deceptively deep. As a spiritual successor to Star Wars: TIE Fighter (1994), it wears its influences on its sleeve. Flying through space is almost like you’re playing a 3D race game. You just roll, yaw, and pitch while managing the throttle; nothing too crazy. The real beauty of Star Wars: Squadrons lies in it’s ‘easy to learn hard to master’ powerflow management of each of the three main systems: Weapons, Engine, and Shields (though the latter only applies to the New Republic ships).
Going in for the kill? Redirect all power to main weapons for more damage. In a bad spot? Maximize engine output and get the force outta there. Done with a bombing run and under fire from a huge flagship? Reinforce rear shields to soak up more damage.
It’s an insanely fun concept that makes even the most mundane dog fights exciting and challenging. Squadrons always has you thinking about your systems, your surroundings, and (depending on the game mode) the current state of the overall battle. There’s never a dull moment during a space battle, even if it’s just you and your starfighter.
I’ve got a good feeling about this
Which leads me to the fighter interiors. Every one of the eight distinct fighters (four per faction) has a unique cockpit. The game starts out by welcoming you in a TIE-fighter cockpit, which looks insanely detailed, and surprisingly claustrophobic. Then I literally gasped and shed a man-tear as I started the second mission aboard an iconic X-Wing. To actually sit in an iconic starfighter must be any Star Wars fans’ dream. And doing so in VR really takes you to a galaxy far, far away.
Looking out of the side windows to see more X-Wings opening their wings – right before attacking a gigantic Star Destroyer – gives you an unprecedented sense of immersion and scale. You get the feeling that you’re just a tiny part of this huge, intergalactic war and you’re really there. Squadrons in VR does immerse you perfectly, and totally engulfs you in the beloved Star Wars universe. And of course, playing on a regular monitor also gets the midichlorians flowing!
I inspected the gorgeous, banged up cockpit while a hologram of Admiral Ackbar was giving me a briefing. There’s all these detailed dials, displays, throttles, and buttons. They look gorgeous, but are also functional. Almost everything in the cockpit conveys some form of vital information about your ships’ systems.
Use the dials, Luke
That does mean you need to learn a slightly different ‘U.I.’ in every one of the 8 fighters. I found myself frantically looking for a specific meter or display in some of the more distinct interiors. Not the best thing to do while dodging laser blasts and ion homing missiles.
Nonetheless, the attention to detail makes the (eventual) readability a huge accomplishment by developer Motive. You can even turn the in-game HUD off and entirely rely on instruments in your cockpit. That’s how well they’re designed. That is however something only advanced players should do as it makes managing your systems, aiming, and staying up to date strategically a bit harder.
Speaking of strategy, building your ship is a treat. By leveling up you get upgrade points. Every upgrade costs one point, that’s it. You’ve got some outlandish weapons but really they’re never overpowered. There’s some pretty interesting engine and hull upgrades but they always come with a trade-off. This system gives you all the tools necessary to build ships that fit your play style and specific battle needs. It’s simple, subtle, and even elegant.
There’s another currency though, which one can earn by leveling up and completing challenges. Glory, as it’s called, can be spent on cosmetics like ship skins and interior decoration, and helmets and clothing items for your pilots. There are no microtransactions or loot boxes in Star Wars: Squadrons as of writing this review. It seems Electronic Arts has learned from the Battlefront II debacle after all.
Sadly the physics in Star Wars: Sqaudrons are ripe for the trash compactor. Getting stuck on an object, for example, is simply immersion breaking. I know, I’m no Poe Dameron when it comes to flying (or looks, for that matter). But when you’ve crashed into an object, you need to be able to get back into the fight again. The contrary can be true, as I got doad locked on an asteroid multiple times. It also feels unnatural and wonky if you hit another star fighter or flagship. Even when you spawn, there seems to be a brief moment where you’re stuck on an invisible wall.
That’s quite a big problem if you asked me. Naturally, people crash into things during hectic space combat; Even the best of pilots. So Motive really had to make sure collisions and physics worked well. And they didn’t, though at least some of the blame goes to the Frostbite engine, which isn’t great on the physics department to begin with.
The singleplayer story is another missed opportunity, arguably like the prequels themselves. Star Wars: Squadrons takes place between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. So from a story telling perspective, Motive doesn’t have a huge range of things to do. That causes Squadrons’ story to be kinda bland, alternating between the New Republic and what is left over from the Galactic Empire. It’s clearly a good vs. bad tale with little to no impact on the overall Star Wars lore. It does play like a treat and is relatively long (at least 7-8 hours, probably closer to 10 for most). Still, a few big ‘wow’ moments, iconic characters, and a truly gripping story would’ve been nice.
But none of those complaints really matter if you’re mainly buying Star Wars: Squadrons as a VR game. Given that the roster of big budget (let alone triple-A) VR games is pretty small, this game is a no-brainer for all Star Wars/dogfighting fans with a VR set. It truly enhances the experience to a point where it overshadows any negative aspect of the game.
The game is as polished, deep, extensive, and beautiful on VR as you’re going to get. Sadly my Oculus Rift is a bit of a bottle neck as it muddies up the crisp clarity the Frostbite Engine churns out. But the game does make up for Oculus’ older hardware with a huge dose of Star Wars immersion. So to wrap up this review, Star Wars: Squadrons is a VR gem, full stop.
A few missed proton torpedo’s
When you prefer to play the game as a conventional PC/console game, Star Wars: Squadrons is a lot like Luke’s proton torpedo that destroyed the Death Star in A New Hope. As if guided by the Force itself, Squadrons shoots deliberately and precisely. Combat is just insanely fun, the graphics are gorgeous, there’s enough depth to ship building to keep it interesting, yet it also doesn’t overwhelm the player with unnecessary features or monetization systems.
But even Red Squadron needed multiple tries to destroy the Death Star. And I do feel like Motive needs a few more shots to really achieve a critical hit. Mainly, another mode or two would be more than welcome. Right now there’s only two multiplayer modes. Dogfight is simply a 5v5 deathmatch. Great for a quick game, but it doesn’t take full advantage of the amazing setting.
Then there’s Fleet Battles, an immersive tug of war game mode described in the intro. For me, Fleet Battles is the bread and butter of the game; huge space battles with objectives and a dash of strategy. Not just mindless shooting. Sadly, this mode too only supports 5 versus 5 players. So one or two (preferably larger) modes would make Squadrons a potential cult classic. As of writing, the game is fun for a couple dozen hours (so a lower sustainability score would apply).
For gamers on PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One, we’d still recommend this game, though that does come with some caveats. Squadrons has a relatively limited story, so it’s not worth it solely as a singleplayer game. It has great multiplayer, but it is a little light on the modes. Still, for it’s $40 price point, it is a massive treat for anyone interested in Star Wars or dogfighting games. And if you’re both, you should probably get your intergalactic credits to the nearest digital entertainment vendor and start your epic Squadrons journey now!
Image credit: Electronic Arts / Motive Studios
What are your thoughts on Star Wars: Squadrons and the opinions in this review? Any questions about the game? Let us know in the comments below or join the conversation in our own Mos Eisley Cantina.