EA’s license to develop Star Wars videogames is one normally met by an uneasy combination of anticipation and readiness. Readiness to be duped/ disappointed/ otherwise inconvenienced. However EA have bucked that trend in recent years. With the fantastic Jedi: Fallen Order last year, and now today’s game of focus, EA seems to have finally worked it all out. This is my Star Wars: Squadrons Review.
Released on the 2nd of October, and developed by Motive Studios, I’m very much aware this review is arriving a little late. Thanks to some real life shenanigans I’ve had to deal with, I’m very much behind schedule. As a direct result, I won’t be able to cover the multiplayer in today’s review. This is probably a good thing, as I’m historically terrible at dogfighting games, even though I find them entertaining!
To head off any complaints that this is a game designed for multiplayer – you’re correct. But from what I’ve learnt in the campaign, if you LIKE dogfighting games, you’ll probably enjoy the multiplayer. So consider today’s review a singleplayer one!
Let’s get into my Star Wars: Squadrons review!
Gameplay? 8/10 – Fantastic flight controls, and satisfying resource management are weighed down slightly by an odd camera only approach between missions.
If you don’t know, Star Wars: Squadrons is a dogfighting game, except in space. Because Star Wars. This means that you get full control over the starfighter of your choice, in the vast blackness of space.
A relatively wide variety of Star Wars ships are offered to you throughout the campaign and multiplayer. They’re split across the New Republic and the Empire, and are split into 4 sub-classes:
Both factions have one ship in each, and each class functions as you’d expect. Fighters are the class most Star Wars fans will be interested in, as this is where you can fly the famed X-Wing and TIE Fighter, depending on faction.
In actuality these star fighters, iconic nature aside, are your “does a bit of everything” ship. Has good handling, good pace, good weapon choices, and decent survivability. Piloting these through the 14 story missions never really gets boring, in part due to the set pieces, but also as a result of how damn good they feel. Oddly enough, the X-Wing has a darn sight more survivability than the TIE, but flying the TIE feels cooler. The latter is definitely more important in most cases.
Once the game lets you into the other classes though, the scope of the game hits you. Support ships act like a support class in any other game, allowing you to project shields onto your allies/ important objectives, drop turrets, jam signals, and more. Here you’ll be flying the U-Wing and TIE Reaper, both of which made an appearance in Rogue One, for you movie fans out there.
As you might predict, support ships are less useful in pure dog fighting, but instead offer more utility and area control. They’re also much less reactive than the other star fighters available to you, but do have the advantage of being able to take more of a beating.
Interceptors, again, play to their name. They’re smaller, faster, and more nimble than any other star fighter. If your only intention is to take down the enemy, they’re probably your best option. Arguably the most fun to pilot, due to their handling, Interceptors do have the caveat of having far less health than the alternatives. They are certainly the best option for out and out dog fighting. Interestingly, according to the EA website, the Interceptor also has a difficult frame to hit, making slotting in behind one and landing shots harder than you’d think.
The Empire version of the Interceptor (Republic being the A-Wing) is the “TIE Interceptor” and actually has a slight disadvantage here. It doesn’t actually possess ANY shields, versus the A-Wings “low” shields. Make of that what you will, although I will mention that 3 of the 4 Imperial ships also do not possess shields. Frankly, both of these smaller star fighters are an absolute blast to pilot, and truly deadly when you want to thin out the herd.
The last class, Bomber, is home to the Y-Wing and the TIE Bomber. Both of these are there to deal massive damage when allowed to get too close to an objective. Despite their slow speeds and sluggish handling, they’re surprisingly effective against fighters just due to the wide variety of weaponry available to them.
The campaign will occasionally limit you to a certain class for certain missions, but on many you’re able to fly whatever you want. Like a child, I normally chose the X-Wing or TIE Fighter just through auto-pilot. In reality, it could be said that the other classes offer far more variety in the moment to moment gameplay. I, like everyone else most likely, just did not get bored flying the most famous ships from the movies.
Star Wars: Squadrons sits somewhere between a simulator and an arcade game. It’s not oppressively complicated, but it’s engaging enough that the skill cap for multiplayer play is likely to be through the roof. During flight, you can prioritize your shields (for the TIE Reaper, and New Republic), speed, or weapons. This is triggered through the d-pad. Doing so will reduce the effectiveness of the other systems, but with a huge payoff in your selected preference.
This simple system can lead to some high risk/ high reward plays, and triggering the weapons into overtime just as you initiate a gunning run on a Star Destroyer, or as you settle an enemy fighter into your sights is quite satisfying. Along with this you can adjust where your shields are focused.
Got an X-Wing annoyingly slotted behind you? Focus your shields on your backend to survive long enough to shake them. Need to fly head first toward a Star Destroyer? Focus it at the front to survive the incoming turret fire.
Along with the above, you have access to two weapon systems. Main gun, and essentially a heavy weapon, like rockets. Then you have flares for shaking enemy rockets, the ability to heal yourself via your droid, a boost option, and lastly – a drift.
The campaign, to its detriment I would say, rarely requires you to have mastered all of the above. The story itself is almost certainly acting as an extended tutorial for the multiplayer, where I’m sure that learning the best-case for each system will be paramount to victory.
The campaign is engaging enough though in terms of gameplay, I will admit. You’re normally escorting/ defending/ attacking something or someone, but the locations and motives for doing so are supplied with just enough “Star Wars” to keep me invested for the 8-10 hour duration.
The act of piloting a star fighter genuinely feels great as well, and not entirely bewildering to a relative newcomer like myself. After an hour or so I was flipping my ship upside down in order to initiate a flyby on a Destroyer, boost, then drift around the side in order to bring my sights on target with another sub-system. There were still mishaps of course, and I blew myself up on a stray asteroid or the surface of a Destroyer more times than I’d like to admit. But, whether you are or not, the physics and presentation will make you FEEL like the best pilot who ever lived.
Unfortunately, when outside your ship, things start to fall apart a little. Star Wars: Squadrons was clearly designed as a VR title first. In fact I’d wager it was always intended to be a VR game, until someone clocked onto the fact that a new dog fighting title would go down a treat.
Between missions you’re sent back to the hangar bay for whatever faction the mission is following. Here, the game transforms into a weird point and click exposition fountain. Instead of being given first person agency to explore some of each ship like, say, Anthem and the fort, you’re instead restricted to no movement at all.
Instead of exploring, or even just wandering around the hangar bay, you have to move your camera around and click on various things to progress. Whether that be a conversation with someone in your squadron, customising your ship, or heading to the mission briefing. All of it is explored by camera alone.
Want to talk to Frisk? Can’t walk over there, you have to click on him, and wait for a cut to the conversation. Once the conversation is over, you cut back to where you were originally standing. It’s all very weird. I’m sure it would feel great in a VR space, but with a controller and TV? Not really feeling it at all personally.
All in all, Star Wars: Squadrons makes you feel like you’re flying a star fighter, which is the main goal. It’s just a shame that everything in between feels a little disjointed and out of place.
Visuals? 8/10 – An absolute stunner, Star Wars: Squadrons will regularly make your jaw drop.
Man Star Wars: Squadrons is beautiful. For a relatively cheap title, from a relatively small studio, the visual fidelity of this title is very often breathtaking. Insert Keanu Reeves.
I have no end of screenshots to provide, but Squadrons made me feel like I was in a Star Wars movie. The interior of each cockpit is unique, and lovingly recreated from the movies. Your pilot will reach out and flick switches in tune with your button presses – a really appreciated touch.
Cutscenes look absolutely fantastic, with some of the most impressive facial animations that I’ve seen in recent years. This sadly doesn’t apply to the VO in game, you’re honestly lucky if ANYTHING matches up. It’s certainly not the worst I’ve seen though, impressive again due to the lower priced entry fee.
Everything in Squadrons looks authentic, much like the Battlefront titles. Seeing an enemy TIE strafe you with lasers, then screech over you as you bank and try to maintain lock-on only to dodge incoming lasers from a Star Destroyers turrets. It looks brilliant, and entirely true to the source material.
You do lose a little fidelity on textures, I don’t advise looking TOO closely at the surface of whatever asteroid you’re orbiting for example, or the nooks of the Star Destroyer you’re bombarding. But given the hectic and constant action, you’re not likely to notice unless you ARE looking for it.
Lighting is pretty excellent as well, with the rays of a distant sun reflecting from the top of your dash, or the glow from the edge of a planet in the distance framing itself against the blackness of space. Many of the locales were especially jaw dropping as a result, a later mission in a nebula a particular standout.
Beyond the hokey lip syncing in game, and the less-than-fantastic texture work in places, I really have no complaints about Star Wars: Squadrons. It’s a game that I’ll remember for years for it’s visual prowess and direction. I did, once or twice, have an issue with the HUD though, hence the knock down to 8/10.
Quite often I found myself slightly overwhelmed by the amount of visual information that you receive. A Star Destroyer’s tractor beam, for instance, killed me a dozen times because I simply couldn’t see where the beam was originating from. Not particularly ideal, and more than a little frustrating. The issue of visual clutter didn’t directly affect much else, but it did mean I was often exhausted after a session. Mostly due to the concentration it required to decipher and filter everything.
Audio? 8/10 – Sounding exactly like Star Wars should, the game leans slightly too heavily on the OST for emotional pay off.
It’s Star Wars. Much like previous EA Star Wars titles, the sound effects truly are indistinguishable from the movies. Lasers, missiles, engines, music, it’s all spot on. Occasionally I found the reliance on Star Warsy music a little eye-rolly though.
This is because, as we’ll get to, the Story is somewhat lacking. It often felt like the game leaned on the fantastic score to artificially create tension, emotional responses, and investment. This might just be me, but I felt like occasionally the music didn’t match how sterile the narrative beats were.
I’m sounding quite harsh, but that’s only because the game nails its audio in almost every other way. Dog fights feel tense, thanks to the signature TIE screech and incoming lasers. An impending lock-on beep instills an illogical sense of panic, as you bank, dive, and twirl in order to break LOS.
Spatial sound is pretty special as well, as it would have to be. I did sometimes struggle to figure out where I was getting shot from, but this was thankfully a rare occurrence. 99% of the time I’d get whacked by a burst of laser fire and immediately be able to track the originating source, and acquire the necessary target. It’s pretty terrific stuff.
Likewise the mixing was stellar. Your squadron barking orders or advice in the middle of a fight was levelled just right, where it was cutting through the noise but not drowning out the atmospheric score and other sound effects. Much like the visual design, the audio is a love letter to Star Wars, in all of the best ways. Who cares that you can’t hear lasers in space, when lasers actually sound dope? No-one. That’s who.
Story? 6/10 – Taking next to no risks, the story is exactly as you’d expect. For better or for worse.
Tied for the weakest area in Squadrons, the story is…. fine. No more, no less. I want to emphasise here, before carrying on with my review, that Squadrons was very much designed as a multiplayer game. Everything I’ve said thus far regarding ship variety, visuals, audio, flight, it all applies to the multiplayer portion of the game. The next few sections are notably worse, but if you’re buying this for the multiplayer, you won’t care.
Unfortunately I DID buy this for the story. I never really intended to play the multiplayer post-review, and I will say now – it’s a blessing this game isn’t £60.
The game opens with a mission set immediately after the destruction of Alderaan in A New Hope. You are part of an Imperial squadron tasked with hunting down any surviving refugees from the planet. Midway through the mission your captain, Lindon Javes, obtains a conscience and defects, betraying you and the rest of the squad. Including his protege, Terisa Kerril.
The game then picks up after the New Republic’s victory at Endor, 4 years later. At this point, Lindon Javes has become an incredibly charismatic and valued member of the Republic, while Terisa has obtained command of her own Star Destroyer.
The story, despite being witnessed from a silent protagonist’s perspective (ie – you), is really the story of Javes and Kerril. This isn’t a bad thing necessarily, as both of them are arguably the standout characters found in Star Wars: Squadrons. You, however, are not.
Credit to Squadrons, they give you some agency how your player looks and sounds, but it is a pointless exercise. Not only do you never appear in proper cutscenes, you’re also entirely silent through every exchange. This makes the exposition stuffed dialogue between missions more than slightly awkward. Each of your squadrons will reveal pieces of their backstory, or their reaction to the last mission, all while you stand there and stare at them blankly.
I can’t help but feel that the silent protagonist choice for Squadrons was the wrong decision all in all. I wasn’t even slightly attached to my player characters come the end of the game, and I honestly couldn’t tell you what they looked like or what name I assigned them. A crying shame given the potential.
The story itself follows each faction, the Republic led by Lindon, and the Empire led by Kerril, as they both try to outsmart and outmanoeuvre the other through 14 single player missions. There’s mcguffin a plenty, exposition overloads, and hammy voice acting to be found everywhere throughout the story, and Squadrons fails to capitalize on it’s most promising plotline – Lindon.
Fact is, Lindon’s story is genuinely interesting. There aren’t too many storylines about defection within mainstream Star Wars media, and this was EA’s and Motive’s opportunity to try something different. If we’d been playing as Lindon and Terisa, instead of two random pilots, the connection to the contained story would’ve been far higher. Instead, these characters are largely restricted to mission briefings and not a lot else.
It kinda reminds me of Pokemon Sword and Shield, in that the main characters have done a bunch of cool stuff but the game doesn’t actually show you much of it. To make matters slightly worse, none of your squadron members on either side of the war feel particularly story-affecting. Mostly they’re restricted to trying to amp up the emotional tension between missions, talk to you about the last mission, or for cutscenes.
Credit where it’s due, these characters tend to come to life in the cutscenes, it’s just a shame that they’re so stagnant elsewhere. I knew the second I launched Squadrons that no-one important would die. No spoilers of course, but generally I was proved correct. This is a worryingly safe assumption to make about a game that had an interesting set of ideas.
I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t a disappointing story overall. I went in wanting something comparable to Jedi: Fallen Order, but I came out wondering if the title wouldn’t have been better pitched as a multiplayer-only experience.
Acting? 8/10 – Good enough to carry the unimaginative story at times, Squadrons is full of interesting and unique characters.
It’s not all bad news though. For the most part the voice acting (and, I assume, motion capture) is pretty stellar. Lindon Javes is the standout by far, and is the one character I didn’t get tired of by the end of the game.
However the rest of your squadron, for either side, are relatively well done. There is the slight issue that everyone on the Imperial side comes across as villain-esque (one of which looks and sounds like a parody of Jack from Mass Effect), but generally the performances were fairly convincing. If a little hammy at times.
The cutscenes shine though, and if you don’t look too closely could be mistaken for something out of a movie or TV show. Wonderful visuals aside, the acting here is a notch above that of the main game. Shame that genuine cutscenes are relatively rare.
It says a lot that I’d probably watch a Disney+ TV Show following the daring adventures of Frisk, or the difficult life of Shen. In case you’re wondering, Shen is an Imperial pilot who’s been in so many crashes that he’s mostly cybernetic and refuses to remove his mask as a result. Pretty cool, I can’t lie.
Likewise, I could definitely watch a 10 part series about Lindon Javes, or Terisa. In terms of believability, the New Republic side wins out by a fair margin in that none of them made my eyes roll back into my head too regularly, which I can’t say about the Jack ripoff.
Writing? 7/10 – While not breaking too far out of the box, the setup for each single player mission was enough to carry the game over the line.
In much the same way as the story, it’s fine. There were moments of levity, of emotion, but I rarely felt attached to any of the cast.
I did however enjoy the writing structure of the missions themselves. Not necessarily in terms of dialogue, but more in terms of setup. Rigging ship debris as floating mines for you to activate, flying around the inside of a star ship while fighting gravity and tractor beams, gunning it through an asteroid belt, it’s all set up in a way that makes sense.
In many videogames, set pieces are there just to make the player feel cool. There’s often a lack of context, motive, or even depth. Star Wars: Squadrons is a bit more thoughtful here, making sure you know exactly why you’re doing what you’re doing at any moment in time. It all felt very Star Wars, but not in the Clone Wars way, more in the A New Hope way. Sure, you’ll be able to find holes in the writing and thought process, but it doesn’t stop it being awesome.
Dialogue is a LITTLE worse though, I will admit. Painful exposition aside, characters will just barrel into stories about their life with next to no real prompt. Other characters seemingly exist purely to be edgy and look cool, while others are clearly supposed to emulate characters from the movies. There’s not a lot of nuance to anyone involved, and the game is somewhat saved by an interesting mcguffin that pushes the story along at a decent pace.
Much like many of the Star Wars movies, the writing quality isn’t bad. It never sinks into being unbearable or out of place, it just never really manages to land in the right way. The quality of the story, or lack thereof, doesn’t really do the writing or acting any favours, but the writing has to pull some weight.
Here, sadly, it just about manages to be fine.
Performance? 6/10 – Managing to be one of the buggier games I’ve played this year, Squadrons performed disappointingly.
Caveat: I did notice improvements to the below after a couple of patches. But I’m historically harsh on games that launch poorly so I’ve gotta maintain that energy here.
Star Wars: Squadrons did NOT perform well at all quite frankly, and given the relatively thin content offering I was pretty shocked at quite how bad it got at times. By my count I had:
- 3 hard crashes
- At least a dozen force restarts or reloads.
For context, I was playing on an Xbox One X. The hard crashes (where the game closed itself) had no rhyme nor reason to it at all to be honest. I had one during a cutscene, another between missions, and one mid mission. All of which started with the audio getting stuck, cutting out, and then the picture freezing. Then I’d get dashboarded. I never really lost any actual progress thankfully, but it’s not exactly ideal.
As for the force restarts and reloads, this was far more irritating. I had this recurring issue where frame rates would permanently tank. Easily into the 15-20 range, and it would never pick up again. This issue always required a forced restart to clear, upon which frames would be normal again. Along with this I had weird issues where the AI would get stuck? Yeah I don’t know, don’t ask me.
Essentially they’d hover in space, spinning on one axis, and would never accelerate, fire, dodge, or otherwise engage at all. Fixing this only ever required a checkpoint restart thankfully, but this did happen 6-8 times alone.
Star Wars: Squadrons is not the worst performing AAA game I’ve played, hell, I reviewed Avengers. But even still, I can’t in good conscience say it was a stable experience for me personally.
Fun Factor? 9/10 – An absolute blast, Star Wars: Squadrons is a must play for fans of either the genre or the IP.
Despite my issues with the story, writing, acting, and performance, Star Wars: Squadrons is still a fantastic game. It provides exactly what it sets out to do – it’s a damn good dog fighting title.
Piloting a star fighter, no matter the class, feels good. It feels rewarding to learn, empowering to improve, and most importantly – it’s a fun experience. I don’t think I’d ever get bored of flying a TIE Fighter, and if I ever claimed otherwise I’d be a fool.
Star Wars: Squadrons inevitably appeals to Star Wars fans, but if you like the genre I’d say it’s worth a shot as well. It won’t be the deepest dog fighting game ever, but it’s a pretty good time even at its worst.
The variety of ships, weaponry, and the clever balance of arcadey responsiveness and sim-style management systems places Squadrons in an area that will likely appeal to both camps at least in the short term. It just remains to be seen quite how much life this game has in it going forward. Especially as EA has announced there are no content expansion plans.
Value? 8/10 – At £39.99, there’s no way this isn’t good value. But if you’re buying for the story, prepare to be disappointed.
For the price you can’t really argue. It’s £39.99 and you get a 8 hour campaign, an engaging multiplayer (by all accounts that I’ve read), and a modern day Star Wars flight game.
I’ve knocked a couple of points off here mostly because I don’t think the single player story is entirely up to snuff as it were. It’s predictable, takes zero risks, and wastes its best characters in an attempt to incorporate a silent protagonist.
That being said, it’s £39.99. The joy of piloting Star Wars ships is almost worth that alone, but you get a robust set of mechanics, beautiful visuals, and a stunning soundscape to accompany you.
How Much Did The Reviewer Enjoy It? 8/10 – My attachment to Star Wars no doubt carried me through it, but Squadrons delivered exactly what I wanted – A pretty excellent dog fighter.
Aside from my aforementioned issues regarding the narrative, I had a great time with Star Wars: Squadrons. I’ve never hated dog fighters, but I’ve rarely committed too much time to one. Squadrons provided a casual approach with a slightly more hardcore set of mechanics and resource management that makes these games have such a steep learning curve.
The trick that Squadrons pulls off is making all of the available systems feel approachable and worthy of your time. There’s a place for everything, and for Motive to have struck such a sweet spot is an achievement that reminds me of Forza Horizon. It takes the fans of something like a flight simulator, and the fans of Star Wars, and mashes them together in a pretty appealing final package.
Star Wars Squadrons is a fine entry into EA’s portfolio, and while it doesn’t live up to Jedi: Fallen Order, it does provide a wholly unique experience to round out this generation of games with, and in a galaxy that’s not so far away after all:
I’ve been playing video games in some form or another for nearly two decades. My favourite campaign of all time is Halo: Combat Evolved and my favourite multiplayer of all time is Overwatch, with a dash of Halo 3. Huge lover of everything gaming, no matter the platform or source, and I enjoy a story driven campaign like nothing else!