EA and Star Wars hasn’t exactly been the most consistent combination in the past, but things have turned around for them in recent years, with Battlefront 2 having recovered from its disastrous launch in impressive fashion and Jedi: Fallen Order proving to be exactly the kind of single player story-driven Star Wars game we’d been hoping it would be. Now, with Motive Studios in charge, EA are delivering another new Star Wars game, and it, too, is trying something different. The upcoming Star Wars: Squadrons will offer a focus on space dogfighting action that has been missing in Star Wars games for too long, and it’s no surprise in light of that that many people are looking forward to its launch. In this feature, as we count down the days to its imminent release, we’ll be taking a look at some key details you should know about the game.
We know that Star Wars: Squadrons is a game focused wholly on space flight and combat, but what’s the narrative that serves as the backbone for all that action? The game is set after Return of the Jedi, right after the Battle of Endor, with the New Rpublic and the remnants of the Galactic Empire locked in a furious conflict as they struggle to gain control of the galaxy.
The interesting thing about Star Wars: Squadrons’ campaign is that it’s not going to have you play as a soldier of the Republic or the Empire- it’ll have you play as both. There are essentially two sides to the campaign, with the story being told from both sides of the conflict. The Empire’s Titan Squadron and the New Republic’s Vanguard Squadron will serve as the centerpieces of their respective sides, with players playing as pilots in both those squadrons.
Of course, the real stars of the show in this game aren’t going to be the people you play as, but the ships that you’ll fly. So what exactly can we expect from Squadrons in that area? There will be four classes of starfighters available in the game- fighters, which will be a jack-of-all-trades kind of choice, with solid firepower and defense; bombers, which, as their name suggests, will be useful for dealing heavy damage; support, thanks to their heavy armour and ability to take a lot of damage, will be able to prove support to other ships; and interceptors, which will be the fastest of the bunch, and will be useful for taking on attack-minded enemy ships.
Across the four classes of ships that will be available in Star Wars: Squadrons at launch, there will be eight starfighters in total, two for each class, and four each for the Republic and the Empire. Republic pilots will be able to fly the fighter class X-Wing, the bomber class Y-Wing, the interceptor class A-Wing, and the support class U-Wing. Meanwhile, Imperial pilots will get to choose between the TIE Fighter, TIE Interceptor, TIE Bomber, and TIE Reaper.
What about the locations where you’ll be engaging in all of these fierce space battles? Well, you can expect plenty of familiar locations from past Star Wars media. There’s the gas giant, Yavin 4; there’s the Nadiri Dockyards, where the New Republic is building a massive new starship and will, as such, defend the location with everything it has; there’s Esseles, where there’s an Imperial listening post; there’s Galitan, a remote moon in the middle of an asteroid field; there’s the Zavian Abyss, an area full of asteroids, shipwrecks, electrical energy, and maelstroms; and there’s Sissubo, a planet surrounded by a debris field full of salvage from old Imperial ships.
Though the campaign is, of course, an exciting prospect in Star Wars: Squadrons, for many, the multiplayer is going to be the star attraction. And while it doesn’t look like the multiplayer offerings will be the most extensive – it is a relatively small-scale project, after all – what is on offer sounds interesting. Two multiplayer modes have been confirmed for the game. The first of these is Dogfights, which is a regular 5v5 deathmatch-type affair with respawns and weapon loadouts, with kill counts determining the winning team. And then there’s the Fleet Battles…
Fleet Battles are the centerpiece in Star Wars: Squadrons’ multiplayer component. They’re a lot like the Grand Operations in Battlefield 5 in terms of structure. Fleet Battles are large-scale conflicts taking place across multiple stages and phases. Each Fleet Battle begins in a hub area where teams device strategies, and once the battle begins, both teams are tasked with pushing the lines further into enemy territory to expand their own territory, with objectives changing based on which team is in the winning position. The final stage of Fleet Battles tasks one side with destroying a flagship, and the other side with defending it.
There will, of course, be a progression system in place in the game as well. Across both the campaign and the multiplayer component, as you play more, you earn more experience and level up. As you do so, you earn in-game currency to purchase items, and also unlock new skins, loadouts, and customization options with which to deck out your starfighter.
Given Squadrons’ multiplayer nature, its inclusion of things such as skins and in-game currencies, and the fact that it’s made by EA, you’d think that there’d be plenty of microtransactions in the game. Blessedly, that’s not going to be the case. EA have confirmed that Star Wars: Squadrons is completely free of microtransactions, and all the skins and unlockables in the game are unlocked only through gameplay.
Star Wars: Squadrons is going all in on its promise of putting you in the cockpits of these famous Star Wars ships and making your childhood dreams come true- to the extent that you can only be inside their cockpits. The game is playable only in first person, which means that cosmetic customization options that you unlock will largely be tailored for the insides of your starfighter.
Given Squadrons’ absolute focus on first person gameplay and its attempts at making you completely immersed by putting you in those outputs, you’d think that it’s perfectly suited to be a VR experience. Thankfully, developers Motive Studios agree with you. On both PS4 and PC, Star Wars: Squadrons will be entirely playable in VR, which means you’ll get to live out your Star Wars fantasies even more giddily.
NOT A LIVE SERVICE
Again, thanks to its multiplayer structure, Star Wars: Squadrons seems like a game that EA might want to slap the “live service” tag onto, but they’re not doing that. Squadrons’ developers have said that this is very much not a live service game, saying that even though they might add more content to the game following its release, at launch, it’s still going to be “a game that is complete and great in its own right”.
Cross-play has become increasingly common in games over the last couple of years, and though it’s still not completely standardized, many major AAA releases do have the feature. Star Wars: Squadrons will be another such game, with EA confirming that players across PS4, Xbox One, and PC will be able to play the game with and against each other.
For those who’re planning to play it on PC, Squadrons isn’t going to be a particularly demanding game. On minimum non-VR settings, you’ll need either an Intel i5-6600 or Ryzen 3 1300X, along with either GeForce GTX 660 or a Radeon HD 7850. On recommended non-VR settings (or minimum VR settings), you will need at least Intel i7-7700 or Ryzen 7 2700X and either a GeForce GTX 1060 or a Radeon RX 480. Finally, if you want to play the game in VR on recommended settings, you’ll need a better GPU, with either a GeForce GTX 1070 or a Radeon RX 570.
EA have been pretty honest about the fact that Star Wars: Squadrons isn’t as large and expansive as their other major AAA Star Wars releases, and that’s going to be reflected in its price as well, with the game launching for $40. Speaking about this lower price, EA’s CFO Blake Jorgensen said, “It doesn’t have the breadth of some of our games, but it is still an incredible game. That’s why we choose to price it at a slightly lower level. To also allow access to as many people as possible who have that Star Wars fantasy.”