Star Wars games have come under scrutiny in recent years, some saying they lack the quality expected from such a massive franchise.
Rumours have bounced around that large scale projects have been canned and that the games license might be taken away from EA, but last years’ Jedi: Fallen Order managed to silence some doubters, if only for a little while.
This year’s Star Wars: Squadrons, however, might just be EA’s finest Star Wars work to date and be the charge needed to restore people’s faith the license remains in the right hands.
While I didn’t get to test the VR component – I can certainly see how the game would excel in the virtual world – this is a game that is simply wonderful, with or without the headset.
It’s a throwback to the classic X-Wing vs Tie Fighter games, but made to be more accessible and enjoyable for players of all skill levels who just want to engage in epic space battles.
I was immediately blown away by the responsiveness of the controls, the freeing sensation of soaring through space, and how different each craft feels from the next. Motive Studios have absolutely nailed the feel of flight in Star Wars.
Whether you’re dropping bombs on reactors or sending piercing lasers through a Tie Interceptor’s shell, the aerial dynamics play out exactly as you’d expect them to, creating some absolutely dazzling scenarios on your TV set in the process.
And while this is a game that thrives on multiplayer action and intergalactic tug of wars with your mates, Squadrons also has an epic campaign mode with a well-engineered story which sees you alternate between the Empire and the New Republic.
Without going too deeply into the hows and whys, you find yourself alternating between different space ports, tasked with various missions to swing the balance of power in favour of your squadron.
An event ties the two narratives together, creating a compelling reason for the New Republic’s new found hope and The Empire’s ferocious onslaught. But most importantly, it lets you fly as vessels appropriate to each faction.
Not just that, but the scenic backdrops are simply breathtaking as you sail across the stars, skirt the orbit of planets and gaze in awe at the size and scale of comparative craft.
Motive Studios have done a great job introducing us to new characters, while bringing in a few familiar faces and tieing it all together so that it makes sense in the wider, sometimes convoluted Star Wars narrative, giving them some memorable moments, and funny quips.
Despite the technicality of the controls, there’s a real arcadey feel to Squadrons with the use of individual buttons to add power to the shields, accelerator, and blasters, the way the user interface is constructed to highlight enemies and create lock-ons for targetting. You’ve also got the radar to peek at and voices of co-pilots constantly feeding through.
The campaign is a decent size- around eight hours – and never outstays its welcome, being fair in giving you access to a variety of different craft, but as mentioned, multiplayer and the challenge systems are the real selling point of the game.
Here, you can have some real fun in 5v5 battle, in true team deathmatch style, which works so wonderfully well in Squadrons that you feel like it could become its own eSport in time.
There’s just this wonderfully balanced tension to it, but also options to customise loadout, choose the craft you connect with, and really put your dodging and weaving to good use.
There’s also Fleet Battles, which is a team-based game that sees you fight back against both AI and human opponents to complete sub-objectives, like taking down huge, leadership fleets and ships.
The trick is to go in with friends, though you might get lucky with a few high ranked, well-skilled players.
But depending on how you do in each battle, you’ll earn a ranking, continuing to level up and unlock new items using an in-game currency. This includes new ship components and cosmetics for pilots, and you can continuously earn more through daily challenges and continued online play.
Star Wars Squadrons is just an absolute delight. It’s a great multiplayer game that is at its best when played with friends.
It’s exactly the kind of Star Wars game we needed after the adventuresome Jedi: Fallen Order and while it may not go down as being as iconic as the X-Wing and Tie-Fighter PC games, it’s a lovely diversion from the FPS dominated multiplayer space.
It also really seems to be a game that benefits most of all from VR, so if you do have a headset, that’s the platform you should purchase and play on. But even without it, I had so much fun with the characters, campaign, and learning the nuances of each of the game’s wonderful vessels.
Without doubt, one of EA’s very best takes on the world of Star Wars.
+ Space battles are an absolute thrill
+ Each ship feels wholly unique and special
+ Plenty to unlock over the course of play
+ Cruising through space with that iconic score is such a great feeling
+ Brilliant value for money and best played with friends
– Multiplayer can get a bit disjointed if played with randomers
– The game seems best played in VR so the lack of a headset might mean missing the game as it’s truly intended
Star Wars: Squadrons is now available on PC, PS4, and XO
Code kindly provided by EA
Tested on XO