Star Wars: Squadrons – The Gray Side of the Force

“A worthy sequel to the Star Wars: X-Wing series! It’s as fun to fly here as it was in the good old days! ” “A completely empty and monotonous game that will bore you even before the end of the campaign!” Such diametrically opposed reviews can be found on the Web about Star Wars: Squadrons, the most recent addition to the Star Wars universe. The most interesting thing is that both of these opinions are absolutely true.

Genre: Arcade space
Platforms: Windows, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, VR
Languages: English
Developer: Motive Studios
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Websites: Steam, EA

So, the Death Star has just dusted Alderaan and all of its inhabitants. Somewhere on the other side of the galaxy, Obi-Wan Kenobi felt a “significant fluctuation in the Force.” And the commander of the TIE Fighter squadron, Lyndon Javes, was ordered to find and destroy the transports with the rebels that managed to leave Alderaan a few minutes before the Holocaust. But the death of an entire planet before his eyes shook the former exemplary officer’s faith in the Empire, and instead of shooting defenseless transports, the pilot began to cover their retreat, fighting with his former comrades.

Five years later, some time after the destruction of the second Death Star in orbit around the wooded satellite of Endor, the same Lyndon Javes, now as the respected leader of the rebels, who have recently become the army of the New Republic, is leading the Starhawk project, whose goal is to create Republican analogue of the Death Star, a huge ship with a powerful draft beam, literally tearing apart the imperial Star Destroyers that hit it. And Javes is confronted by his former wingman, now the captain of his own Destroyer Theriza Kerill, the commander of the Titan squadron. She still has not forgiven the traitor, and while the broken but still not defeated Empire is gathering forces to repel the New Republic, Kerill is busy with her own vendetta.

The plot with defectors, protracted retribution and the opportunity to look at the conflict from different angles is not so new in the canon … sorry, non-Star Wars canon. In the campaign of the same Star Wars Battlefront II, we played as Eden Versio, with all his heart devoted to the emperor and the current order, and hating the rebels bringing chaos. Like Lyndon Javes, Eden Versio eventually went over to the side of the rebels, though not in the beginning, but in the middle of the game.

The entire Star Wars: Squadrons campaign, the prologue and 14 main missions, which can be completed in 4-5 hours, is dedicated to the confrontation between Lyndon Javes and Theriza Kerill, but the joke is that you are not playing for them, but for the voiceless ordinary pilots of the squadron Rebel Vanguard and Imperial Squadron Titan, respectively. At the same time, despite the fact that at the very beginning you will be asked to create a pilot and even give him a name, in all briefings and negotiations during missions you will be called exclusively by the call sign: “Vanguard-5” or “Titan-3”.

You play alternately (alternating not through one mission, but a little more chaotic) for the rebels and the Imperials, and between missions you can “wander” around your cruiser and “talk” with other squadron members and even commanders. But both verbs in the previous sentence are not accidentally taken in quotes. You can’t wander or socialize here. The hero’s movement is limited by jumping between the anchor points; you will not be allowed to walk around the hangar. I will explain why this is done a little later, but in general the limitation looks silly and extremely destructive for immersion in the game.

As for “communication”, then calling the monologues of talking heads into which you cannot insert words into communication somehow does not work out. At the same time, if only the texts spoken by your AI comrades were at least original. The impression is that the dialogues for the game were written by a schoolchild, and guided by the old principle of Kyrgyz akyns – “what I see, I sing about that”. The characters, even talking about their own lives, speak exclusively in cliches and literally pour platitudes. Well, or they retell you the events in which you yourself just participated. At first I thought it was a translation problem, but no, English text is as bad as Russian.

In a word, the heroes of the game do not evoke any sympathy and empathy, there is simply no one to get attached to. Moreover, there are no emotionally strong moments in the game, all the minor characters and even the dog Tuzik will live to see the final credits, and the game will end … literally nothing. This “filler” is a completely meaningless and empty placeholder artificially inserted between episodes of Star Wars. Yes, even “filler”, if desired, can be made something significant, see the magnificent Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, but Star Wars: Squadrons is clearly not the case.

But what are you all about the heroes and the plot, you say, come on already, fly! OK. We flew, so we flew.

As soon as the game is transferred to the cockpit of X-Wing, TIE Fighter, A-Wing, TIE Bomber and other ships familiar from films and games, it transforms. And it really causes an acute attack of nostalgia for the good old days and the Star Wars: X-Wing trilogy, the last part of which, the X-Wing Alliance, was released in 1999.

All instruments are placed on the fighter cockpit and are located in different zones, depending on the ship model. Most of it is the windshield and space view. And he’s beautiful. There is an almost classical management of shields with the movement of defenses to different hemispheres and the transfer of energy to engines, weapons or defenses. The weapon itself, placed in three slots, can be replaced by putting a slow laser with homing or something faster, but less powerful. It’s the same with rockets. Plus, for bombers there are homing mines, stationary turrets and ion torpedoes that knock out the enemy’s electronics.

For each of the parties in the game there are four types of vehicles that perform one or another function – a fighter, a bomber, an interceptor and a support ship that distributes additional ammunition or shields to partners. It is the latter that seriously makes life easier for the Imperials, who do not have ships protected by shields or repair drones. Each combat vehicle flies slightly differently and is felt in its own way in battle. However, in the campaign you will fly in those cars that are given out according to the plot, only in some missions you can choose a fighter from two or three options.

Actually, flying and shooting Star Wars: Squadrons is really interesting, but there are a couple of significant “buts”. First, the difficulty … It is not very high. Most enemy fighters are shot literally in one burst or with a torpedo, moreover, AI pilots like to fly in tight formation and literally stand in front of a shot, so multi-guidance missiles can be carried out in packs of four. It’s a little more difficult to deal with enemy destroyers and cruisers, but with skillful management of shields and the constant transfer of energy from system to system, this is also not a special problem. Well, the vaunted heavy ships, although they fire quite dense fire at you, are actually very vulnerable, especially if you take out the key systems first, and do not drive all the torpedoes into a fairly strong carcass.

However, more than the low complexity, the monotony of the missions frustrates. They all come down to … grind. Shoot ten fighters and get the right to shoot ten more fighters. Now there are 5 stormtroopers. Now there are two cruisers. Another batch of fighters. And, finally, this battleship was blocked. And so from mission to mission, almost 14 times. There are literally two non-standard tasks, they are very strange and clearly copy the famous flight of Luke in Star Wars IV and Khan in Star Wars VI. No, seriously, how could such boring space missions be done at the helm of a starfighter?

However, those who play Star Wars: Squadrons using VR headsets literally unanimously praise the game for the incredible effect of presence and the opportunity to feel like in the cockpit of a real X-Wing and TIE Fighter. And they are not confused by monotonous missions, wooden partners, or low complexity. A lot can be forgiven for the real feeling of flying. It is the owners of VR headsets that leave the most rave reviews in the discussion of the game, and it is the VR version that brought this game such high press ratings on Metacritics. Actually, VR support explains the ban on walking around the hangar between missions and the reduced difficulty of the game. The only problem is that the overwhelming majority of Star Wars fans will play Star Wars: Squadrons not in VR at all, but on quite traditional consoles and PCs.

We’ve gotten a lot of attention on the Star Wars: Squadrons campaign, but the sad truth is that it’s primarily an online game. The campaign is needed here only to acquaint players with the technique and rules of combat, and the main emphasis is on multiplayer. And … everything about him is also not very good.

I don’t know how Motive Studios did it, but the multiplayer battles in space in Star Wars: Squadrons turned out worse than in Star Wars Battlefront II, released three years ago, although they seemed to be the inspiration for the development of Squadrons. In fact, there are only two modes here, Deathmatch 5v5 and Flotilla Battles 5v5. Only in the same Battlefront II, 24 pilots took part in space showdowns at once, they were larger, more diverse and just more interesting. In the 5v5 mode, even with the participation of a number of AI pilots, the battles are shorter and … much more boring.

In fact, this is a kind of tug of war. First, shoot N enemy fighters – and you get the right to attack two frigates, demolish the frigates – you can advance to the battleship (Star Destroyer or MC75 near the New Republic) and try your luck on it. Only while you deal with the frigates, the opponents will have time to shoot their share of the fighters and also get the right to attack. So, in turn, you will try to move forward. Honestly, I haven’t seen any exceptions in a dozen fights, they all follow the same pattern and … get bored very quickly. And then it turns out that there is very little content in the game, which is declared as a game without loot boxes and DLC (yes, it is). After completing the campaign and 5-10 battles in Flotilla Battles, there is simply nothing to do here. Everything about everything will take you no more than 10 hours, unless, of course, you get bored with the game earlier. It is sad.

And just a few words about the schedule. She’s not impressive by today’s standards. Yes, in space, the game looks good overall, but this is not next-gen, rather the beginning of the current generation. The same Battlefront II, already mentioned several times, looks better to me. Yes, the reason is again in VR and trying to save resources. At the same time, the game, which works quite tolerably well even on the ancient GeForce GTX 1060, sometimes falls into a stupor, moreover, on very simple and somewhat unexpected things. Perfectly calculating space battles, explosions and reflections from lasers, the game stumbles on … cut-scenes on the engine, and only on those in which the imperial pilots participate. Moreover, fps drops from quite acceptable 40-50 to completely catastrophic 3-5. What? Why? No answer.

So, which of the statements mentioned at the beginning of this article more accurately characterizes Star Wars: Squadrons? As I said, both. If you have a VR headset and a powerful PC, then Squadrons will be an excellent attraction for you for at least a few hours, a ticket to the world of “Star Wars” and you will most likely forgive the game for all the shortcomings I wrote so much about above. If you don’t have a VR headset, then the game, after a short honeymoon and a bout of nostalgia for Star Wars: X-Wing, is likely to disappoint you. There is too little content, too plain NPCs and a completely banal plot. And the network part is unlikely to delay you for long. Already now, a week after the release, gathering 10 people for a full-fledged battle is becoming problematic, and I’m afraid this tendency will only intensify.

Alas, Squadrons are not X-Wing. And not even Battlefront II X-Wing Edition.

PS I would like to say that it would be possible to fly in multiplayer Star Wars Battlefront II, but there are now also serious problems with the number of players.

Pros: The game really does evoke nostalgia for the X-Wing series; Star Wars paraphernalia, painfully familiar X-Wing and TIE Fighter; good dynamics of space battles; different fighters really differ in control and combat role; VR support

Cons: Talking heads instead of living heroes; too simple and monotonous campaign tasks; the campaign itself is too short; only two network modes for a small number of players; friezes and brakes in completely unexpected places; feeling of budget; price

Conclusion: Unfortunately, these are not the X-Wings you are looking for.

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