A few days ago, I sat down to write a story about how excited I to see what Star Wars: Squadrons would bring to the table. Then, I put the story down. EA hadn’t shown enough of the game that I felt confident writing about it, which says something about exactly how starfighter combat lovers have been treated the past 20 years or so.
In the early days of the 3D era, it seemed as if small-ship combat had a bright future. Games like Wing Commander and Descent: Freespace created compelling worlds, while the X-Wing series of games told original stories in the Star Wars universe. Then, it all died. The Rogue Squadron games carried on some starfighter-based storytelling after the X-Wing series ended, but those games played quite differently from the titles of the earlier era, even if they were superficially similar. Eventually, those ended too. Story-driven, AAA, starfighter-focused space combat games vanished from the market. Games like No Man’s Sky are as close as it gets, and having played both, the resemblance is modest.
EA has released a new gameplay video that showcases both the single-player and multiplayer battle modes and campaign sequences, and the game looks incredible.
Hera Syndulla and Wedge Antilles both make appearances, and the campaign takes place after the Battle of Endor, apparently in the early days of the New Republic. You’ll play as a pilot in the Vanguard (New Republic) or Titan (Imperial) squadrons. There’s mention of the New Republic’s Starhawk project — in Star Wars canon, the Starhawk-class is a post-ROTJ series of capital ships built from the remains of captured Imperial vessels. Starhawks played a major role at the Battle of Jakku, where a large Imperial Remnant fleet was eventually destroyed.
We don’t know how good the single-player experience in Star Wars: Squadrons will be. Battlefront II’s campaign was well-regarded, if fairly brief. I don’t expect the game to feature a unique mission tree like the Wing Commander games did. Those games were unique in taking that approach, and it was really only used in WC1 and WC2 — the later titles are far more linear. What I’m hoping to see is a game that will tell a genuine story and combine it with a flight model that doesn’t feel quite so arcade-centric.
Visually, the game looks astonishingly good, and we know it supports both HOTAS (Hands On Throttle and Stick) and can be played entirely in VR. I don’t recommend pre-ordering — I never recommend pre-ordering — but I’ve got high hopes for this game. As things stand, the best storytelling in starfighter combat titles has been in user-created mods and campaigns for franchises like Wing Commander. As much as I respect Wing Commander: Darkest Dawn, projects like this using a 21-year-old Freespace 2 engine can’t hold up to what a AAA developer can bring to bear.
The game is being developed by Motive Studios, who also helmed Star Wars Battlefront II, and will contain no microtransactions of any kind.
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