Back in the 90s I was all over a little game on my friend’s PC called Star Wars: X-Wing. A cockpit focused flight sim where you played as a lone cog in a bigger war machine. It was brilliant fun and only made more satisfying when the expansion pack TIE Fighter was release, now I could be an even smaller cog and an even bigger machine! I vividly remember the first mission in TIE Fighter where I was sent on patrol and came across a small group of rebel ships, I wasn’t even allowed to engage! I had to report my findings and let the bigger dogs comeback and handle it for me. This sort of gameplay often leads to some of the best Star Wars games. Its nice to be the hero sure, but its also nice to be more directly involved in the titular combat situations.
In the vein of X-Wing, Star Wars: Squadrons is a team-based flight sim that plants your buttocks firmly in the cockpit of an assortment of fighter craft from the iconic series. You play as either the heroic New Republic with their assortment of alphabetically sorted ships, or the evil Empire and their stock-built TIE Fighter range. Each ship fulfils a different role in battle with the X-Wing and TIE being the workhouse jack of all trades ship all the way up to the U-Wing and TIE Reaper acting as a support ship with buff drops and shield rechargers for your team mates.
Getting started you are thrust into a prologue giving you the break down of controls inside your cockpit, things like how to operate your throttle and weapons systems. It can seem a little overwhelming at first as you try to work out exactly what you need at any given time during battle but soon you will find yourself flipping between the Speed, weapon and shield modes like a pro. Things get a little more tricky down the line when you are introduced to a few more advanced tricks, like properly angling your shields or drifting (quite how that works in space I will never know) & for TIE pilots, since you like the safe blanket of shields, you’ll have to learn to alternate between the more advance power modes to boost your weapons or speed to higher levels. Once you get the hang of things the ships handle like a dream and I was soon able to rake a capital ship with blaster fire, before drifting around to have another pass and cause even more destruction!
While Squadrons is predominantly an online game I still took the time to play the campaign, nothing TOO exciting here just the usual Empire bad, Rebels Good noise. Though the camaraderie shown by the squads on each side is quite heart-warming. Even the Imperial pilots seem to have a lot of love for one another. The story is set soon after the Battle of Endor, the Empire is crumbling into remnants and the Rebel’s have become a legitimate government called the New Republic. You play as a new pilot brought in to fill the gap in squadron on each side, Imperial Titan Squadron and Republic Vanguard Squadron. Your mission is to both protect and destroy the New Republics fancy new superweapon battleship, The Starhawk. The game plays out this parallel quest line mission by mission, so you may be the good guys for 2 missions only to then be the Imps for 3. It felt like there was more invested in the Empires story, which frankly seems to because, outside of the TIE Reaper, they have no shields! Making their gameplay just a bit more difficult.
The multiplayer is really where the game shines. The best way I can describe the experience is. Rainbow 6 Siege in Starfighters. Everyone picks a class, everyone plays their part and work together to achieve a goal, without some teamwork you’re doomed to be another floating heap of scrap in an uncaring universe. Your choices of mode are slim but still very fun, Dogfight which is a standard 5v5 Deathmatch mode or Fleet battles which are dogfights again, but this time a few Capital ships have joined the fray! The winners are whoever takes out the enemy’s flagship first.
During my time online, I found my niche quickly, choosing to fly support in the U-Wing or TIE Reaper equipped with shield buffs and ion lasers to shut down enemy fighters. Most players seem to jump at the chance to be a speed demon in an A-Wing or TIE Interceptor, and to be honest I don’t blame them, the lightning fast gameplay of these two craft is easily some of the most fun you can have in game. The payoff being you’re as fragile as a gym rats’ ego.
Overall, Star Wars: Squadrons is a satisfying homage to the old days of Star Wars flight sims, the exclusively first-person camera my put of some more casual players but after a while you understand this is necessary for the right level of immersion. Besides, its great to hit a button on my controller and watch a little pilots hand come up and flip the corresponding switch on the dash of my lightspeed super ship! If you love Star Wars, this is a must have title, if you just want another objective based multiplayer title for you and your friends, you could do much worse.
I give Star Wars: Squadrons 8/10