In the ’90s and early 2000s,’ Star Wars’ flight sims were massively common, but it has been over 15 years since we saw a full-fledged title featuring star fighter action. Fortunately, in Star Wars Battlefront II, EA noticed how positively players reacted to the Starfighter Assault mode and tasked Motive Studios with developing Star Wars: Squadrons.

Image: Motive Studios

The new entry in a long line of “Star Wars” titles is Star Wars: Squadrons, with the most recent Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order taking a third-person approach to action. It is enough to say that this is a very different kind of adventure that will not cater to everyone-after all, some players want to become Jedi, while others want to feel like they are actively participating in space fights that make “Star Wars” the smash franchise it is today.

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We went hands-on with a Star Wars: Squadrons retail code to play multiple single-player campaign missions and a multiplayer block to bring you our first game impressions. More is to come, but here’s what is so far on our minds. On October 2, Star Wars: Squadrons launches and is up for pre-order now.

Star Wars: Squadrons features, in addition to two multiplayer modes, a single-player campaign that spans over a prologue and 14 missions. Soon after the Battle of Endor, the majority of the story happens and revolves around two fighter squadrons. Players will both fly as the Vanguard Squadron of the Nascent Republic and the Titan Squadron of the Galactic Empire. Both classes are among the strongest to be given by their factions and are sent on the most difficult and risky assignments.

The greatest shortcoming of the campaign is that it is set in two times that we know a lot about already. The Battle of Endor, which precedes the game, results in Emperor Palpatine’s death and Imperial forces being dispersed. A year later, the Battle of Jakku marks the final defeat of the core Imperial fleet, and the surrender of most of the Imperial remnants.

Star Wars: after the decolonization of the Expanded Universe, squadrons suffer from several problems that the series has had, there is simply not a lot of space to work with. The campaign is fun, and classics like the Rogue Squadron and X-Wing series are called to mind. However, since what will happen in the timeline after the game is obvious, it lacks punch. No matter what took place in Star Wars: Squadrons, we knew the Empire would surrender, and the sequel series would take place about 30 years later.

Villainy and scum

The core focus of Star Wars: Squadrons is multiplayer, and at launch it features two modes. As the name suggests, Dogfight mode is a five-on-five team Deathmatch-style battle with 30 points. In a multiphase combat involving capital ships, Fleet Fights, which is the real meat of the game, has two teams facing off.

For the most part, the two modes are well balanced, although some tweaks may be used. Dogfight defaults to 30 points, meaning games are relatively short (with one point awarded per kill). Since multiplayer lobbies do not remain between rounds, spending almost as much time matchmaking as you do playing can be frustrating.

Image: Motive Studios

Ship Wars, on the other hand, are longer and pit a small fleet of Imperial and Coalition forces against each other. The fights are a tug-of-war, and by collecting points, each side struggles to fill a meter at the top of the screen. The frontline will step forward when the meter is full, enabling players to advance further into the enemy fleet without being blown to bits instantly. The enemy’s two cruisers are finally lost and a squadron will capture their flagship. Destroy the flagship, and it wins the match.

The arenas, which are shared between the two modes of their models, keep things interesting. While they are all set in space, there are different barriers that vary between and map. In the middle, one has a giant space station that blocks the line of sight between the opposite sides, while another is riddled with debris in a nebula.

We find it hard to believe this is what we are saying, but unfortunately, Star Wars: Squadrons is not going to be a live operation. EA is not dedicated to more updates for the game outside of Operations at launch, acting as a multi-week, combat pass-like mechanic. The good news, however, is that there are no micro-transactions, and it is completely in-game that the money to purchase cosmetics and ship upgrades is purchased.

PHOTO: EA

This is the Red Five; we are going in there

Each side features four ships in Star Wars: Squadrons: a fighter, interceptor, bomber and support ship. Fighters are all-rounders; bombers bear heavy arms and shields at the price of speed; and help ships can recover, drop turrets and bear special guns; interceptors are swift but delicate.

In certain respects, the ships of the Imperial and New Republic vary, but are well balanced from what we have played so far. New Republic warships have regenerating shields, which ensures that further damage can be done to them. On the other hand, Imperial ships are not fitted with shields, but are quicker and allow players to dump more power into their engines or weapons systems instantly.

It is unfortunate, however, that Star Wars: Squadrons is so limited in its choice of ships. X-wings, A-wings, Y-wings and U-wings are available to the New Republic, while the Empire gets TIE jets, TIE interceptors, TIE bombers and TIE Reapers. Within each ship group, we would have liked to see some variations as well. For instance, having access to Y-wings or B-wings as bombers would have been interesting for the New Republic. According to EA, it would have provided durability and versatility to a kit that could never receive critical updates.

Utilize the Force

A breath of fresh air coming from EA is Star Wars: Squadrons. It is a perfect callback to the Star Wars flight sims of yesteryear because of its weaknesses, and anyone who loved Rogue Squadron or TIE Fighter would feel right at home here. Given that this is technically a $40 budget title, it is an amazing game that for fans of “Star Wars” is well worth the money. On October 2, Star Wars: Squadrons launches and you can now preorder it.

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