Star Wars Squadrons: Better Late Than Never?

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Lucasfilm and Motive Studios surprised Star Wars video gamers with the announcement of a new, multi-platform space combat game.

This comes at the time when fans’ hope for new SW-themed content has been reignited by the recent release of Jedi: Fallen Order. At the same time, nobody has been much hoping for a new flight simulator. Such a game has effectively been missing for two decades (!). The fact that it is here is a testment to the fact that Lucasfilm and EA, after years of uncertain pacing about, decided to take a leap into the unknown with not-so-obvious and not-so-mainstream choices.

Squadrons For Multiplayer Squad

Star Wars: Squadrons has been introduced as a multiplayer-focussed starfighter simulator with notably rich selection of modes and fighters to play. At the same time, it is also trying to draw the fans of expanded lore. The very first trailer showed the face of Hera Syndulla from Rebels as well as other characters from TV series and books. Those will, presumably, play a major role in the single player campaign (situated after Episode VI).

The stress on multiplayer aspects of the game clashes somewhat with the idea of a story-heavy single player campaign. Will Squadrons really manage to focus on both to everyone’s satisfaction, or will one (or in the worst case, both) of these aspects come up short? If one is neglected at the expense of the other, my bet would be on the single player getting the short end of the stick, but we shall see.

At least for now, the multiplayer aspects are presented with much attention. This is not just basic dogfighting with an X-wing on one side and a TIE on the other (even though the veterans would remember that even that can be quite a show if done right). Players in Squadrons will be able to fly different types of ships from classic fighters to bombers and various support ships, including also such beauties as the U-Wing from Rogue One. (Speaking of new films, the game seems also to be drawing the best possible inspiration from Solo in the form of Kessel location and Zavian Abyss, which is clearly inspired by the Maw from the same film.) The pinnacle of game modes should be the Fleet Battles, which is presented as hardcore, staged experience leading from dogfight to assault on enemy faction’s capital ships.

The cockpit overlay in Star Wars Squadrons is clearly detailed with the intention to bring both the feeling of being inside the fighter and reminiscing the films.

Make Piloting Great Again?

It seems like the creators want the players to feel like they are actually in the cockpit. The immersion is emphasised by the promised full VR support and the possibility to meet and plan strategy with other players before the game in a planning room, just like in the films.

The authors have admitted that they are trying to bring back the glory of classic old games like X-Wing and TIE Fighter while fully utilising today’s capabilities of software and graphics. My only question is: why did it take so long? Star Wars is, after all, about fighting among the stars.

Stealing The Audience

Here I perceive the one possible pitfall of Squadrons. As I have mentioned, there has not been a SW fighter simulator for twenty years. At the same time, space combat is such an essential part of Star Wars that most games could not really omit it. Therefore, for a long time, EA (the current holder of SW gaming license) has been practicing a policy of “wanting to both eat the cake and have it”. Its previous games (Battlefront, even SWTOR) therefore included space combat in some form, but always as a sort of secondary (if not tertiary) activity. For some players, even such sub-par version of space combat was enough. Hardcore pilots just had to cope with it, as they had no other options.

One of the major questions asked right now is this: Will Squadrons have enough of a pull for the current audience to secure a large enough multiplayer base for it? There are two problems – one being the “gate” of space simulators being a potential turnoff for players who don’t have much experience with that type of game, the other being the abovementioned fact that Battlefront 2 (and to a lesser extent, SWTOR) already offers similar modes of play. And if Squadrons succeeds in pulling the audience, what will it mean for space battles in Battlefront?

For now, we can only speculate – and wait until we learn more about Star Wars: Squadrons. If you have not seen it yet, you can watch the gameplay trailer below and make your own initial judgment of the game.

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Rostislav Kurka
Rostislav is a Protestant theologian and a self-trained Sith, counting Jan Hus, Dorothee Sölle, Darth Revan and Darth Traya among his main influences. He hails from the hundred-towered city of Prague, where he had spent a large part of his life creating worlds and inspiring young generations to roleplay. His involvement in organising children's camps led him to accidentally writing a Lord of the Rings musical, which made him temporarily famous, and a Three Musketeer-Jedi fanfilm, which didn't. He has recently moved to the frozen waste of Finland, because that's it, the Rebels are there.