The Empire is on the back foot from the Battle of Endor, and the New Republic rises to take its place. It’s time to suit up, prep your astromech and lock S-foils in attack position in Star Wars: Squadrons!
Set after the events of Return of the Jedi, Star Wars: Squadrons puts you in the cockpit of the New Republic or the Shattered Empire after their defeat at Endor. If you played Star Wars: Rogue Squadron or loved the starship assault mode in Star Wars: Battlefront II then Squadrons will be right up your alley. It’s a first-person only Star Wars dogfighting game that’s so simple, it’s fantastic! Both the New Republic and Empire have their iconic ships, play styles and even accents (the Empire having British). You’ll start off by creating and customising your Imperial or New Republic pilot from their face, gender, body type and voice before strapping yourself into your cockpit.
The gameplay and HUD of Squadrons is superb (and there’s VR support for PS4). There are two ways to set up your HUD with some handy hints and highlights, or realism mode where everything is handled by your ship’s instrument clusters. In each ship you can control your firepower, engines and shields (some ships like the TIEs don’t have shields, but they’re quick!). When diverting power to your engines you’ll be able to fly faster and even go into a boost mode, but it’ll take power away from your shields and lasers. By pushing the relevant button on the D-pad you can quickly divert power to certain areas as need be, or by selecting down on the D-pad your power will be equally diverted to every field.
“If you played Star Wars: Rogue Squadron or loved the starship assault mode in Star Wars: Battlefront II then Squadrons will be right up your alley.”
Funnelling power into your shields lets you regenerate and restore them. It’s worth noting though that your shields may regenerate, but your hull doesn’t. However, TIE Fighters/Interceptors/Bombers can repair some hull damage. Ships with deflector shields can even divert their shields to the front or back of the ship. So, if you’re being tailed, you can divert the shields to the rear of your ship to give you further protection, but this leaves you exposed at the front. As TIEs don’t have shields you can divert extra power to your blasters or to your engines. The extra power to the engines will instantly give you a full boost drive, but it’ll drain all the power from your laser cannons. Each ship also has special abilities, such as repairing minor damage and shields with your astromech in an X-wing, dropping bombs in your Y-wing, or resupplying allied ships in the TIE Reaper.
During missions in the story mode you’ll either select or be dropped into certain ships. The campaign is a seven to eight-hour tutorial of how to play certain ships and how to play Star Wars: Squadrons, while multiplayer has two modes. The first is a standard dogfight mode, the second a capital ship assault mode. The latter mode is similar to Battlefront II (2005) as each team defeats fighters, support frigates and then strategically attacks the capital ship. Story mode swaps between New Republic and Imperial points of view as your created pilot. Between missions you’ll return to your faction’s capital ship, and these sections are like playing an older VR game, as you’ll be teleporting around hangars and the bridge.
The cockpit of each starfighter is both unique and iconic. There are four separate ship classes in Star Wars: Squadrons. A-wings and TIE Interceptors are the fastest, but deal little damage against capital ships and have weak hulls. TIE Bombers and Y-wings are incredibly powerful against fighters and ships, but they’re dangerously slow and can’t manoeuvre as fast as other fighters. X-wings and TIE fighters are the jacks of all trades. There’s also the support ship class that reinforces your team, but also disables/disrupts enemy ships. U-wings and TIE Reapers maintain other players by restocking munitions and can even shoot temporary shields onto allies. This is the only way that TIEs can have shields. Each ship can be customised with paint jobs, logos, upgraded weapons, different support systems and even change out your engines. So, rather than have a traditional slow and powerful Y-wing, you can have a somewhat nimble Y-wing that only deals ion damage and fires cluster missiles instead of dropping bombs.
The attention to detail in Star Wars: Squadrons will really excite fans. When attacking a capital ship, you can fly through and under their shields and start dealing damage to the ship directly. If your team needs a bomber or support ship you can fly into your faction’s capital ships hangar and change your fighter. When you take some serious damage (or accidentally hit things) the glass in your cockpit will start to crack and your instrument cluster will start to catch fire too.
However, there are some things to take note of. Firstly, there are no atmospheric levels in Squadrons, everything is in space. The X-wing is the only ship that has the astromech repair option as a support ability, but Y-wings have astromechs and you can see them on the ship. Finally
Squadrons has a heap of characters in the campaign. You’ll be a member of Titan squadron for the Empire and Vanguard squadron for the New Republic. The members of Titan squadron are interesting and unique, while the New Republic characters and story feel a little flat.
The gameplay of Star Wars: Squadrons is really entertaining, and destroying a capital ship is super satisfying. Yes, it’s a basic dogfight game with two online game modes and a simple story, but it also isn’t trying to be anything else. Battlefront II (2017) tried to cover too many game modes where Squadrons directs all of its attention to dogfighting. The only real question is whether you will fight for the New Republic, or to restore the Empire to its former glory..
Star Wars: Squadrons is available now on PS4 (with PS VR support) and Xbox One.