‘Star Wars: Squadrons’ exceeds expectations

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Graphic Courtesy of Electronic Arts

Joshua Haynes, Volunteer Writer

Brothers, it is finally here. The game that surprised the community and took the world by storm. The game that no one was ready for but that we all wanted: “Star Wars: Squadrons”.

This is the first starfighter combat game in almost 20 years. Being entirely honest, when I did my column at the beginning of the semester on the top games coming this year, I did not have much hope for Squadrons. The publisher, Electronic Arts, has had problems in recent years regarding pay to win, loot boxes, downloadable content at launch for an incomplete game and much more. They had lost their good reputation in the community. In fact, after the disastrous Battlefront II launch in 2017, United States senators as well as Belgium considered a ban of them on the grounds that they were an illegal gambling item. Upfront, EA told us “no loot boxes, no paid dlc” for Squadrons. No one believed them. There was immense hype, however. Holy Alderaan, the hype. Three trailers over 5 minutes, a computer generated short taking place right before the events of the game. Between all of this we knew everything that we were getting in the game.

On the day of release Twitter, Reddit and Discord are beyond hype. At this point I was so excited that I changed the region on my Xbox so I could access it seven hours early. I load it up and start the first mission of the campaign and I am blown away. The graphics are stunning. Every explosion feels like I am in a movie. The shadows and lighting are gorgeous. I cannot emphasize enough how much of a home run the graphics for this game are. I know the cliche that game reviews tend to have about how it “makes you feel like…” and I really do not want to put it that way, but there is no other way to describe it.

When I get on after a long day of classes and I put my headset on, I feel like I am  no longer in Rivers. I am no longer a student. I am a soldier for the New Republic. I am an Ace pilot for the Empire. By far the best visual achievement is in the cockpits. When you fly a TIE you are stuck in what feels like a tin can with almost no peripheral vision. You are relying solely on your instruments to navigate and defend. The New Republic ships are not as claustrophobic but you feel a lack of being able to accurately assess a situation. There is almost too much information as opposed to the sleek and clean Imperial TIEs, and that’s what I think that Squadrons does best. I will not spoil the campaign, however, I will say this: The lines between what is good and what is evil are blurred. The Imperials are not necessarily the bad guys anymore. Now they are the rebels. That is something that I wish Lucas had explored more in his original works. The humanization of the Empire is the strongest point of this game in my opinion. Yes, your squad mates are still the posh British accent, narcissistic, smug Imperials that we see in the original trilogy, but you learn that they have families, dreams and lives beyond the Empire.

The thing that I was most hesitant about was the controls. I was not sure how good that the Xbox and PlayStation controllers would translate to a game that was made for VR/HOTAS, but after the initial “Okay what am I doing? Why am I upside down? and now I’m dead!” phase, the controls become increasingly intuitive. My absolute favorite part of the controls is the power management system. Being able to quickly boost power to your engines to escape a missile or a pesky A-Wing, making your attack run on the Imperial Star Destroyer and putting your Y-Wing’s power completely into weapons, or even being in tricky dog fight with a TIE Interceptor and being able to shunt power to your shields and focus the deflectors to the rear adds a depth to the game that has not been explored in many, if any, flight combat games.

The last thing that I will touch on is the customization of the fighters. There are over 50 different pieces that you can exchange for each starfighter, each affecting how your ship flies and fights (plus there is an Ewok bobble head, so the game has that going for it).

The fan reaction to Squadrons has been absolutely incredible. I was fortunate enough to get in touch with Jay Ingram, the community manager for the game. He had this to say, “It’s honestly been an honor to get to see so many people enjoying this game. It’s been wonderful to see fans of the classics get to re-experience their favorite genre and new fans jumping into a cockpit for the first time.” Hearing from him about how well received the game has been by the community is really refreshing and exciting. 

Okay, so I bet you’re thinking, “That sounds great and all, Joshua, but it’s EA. They are a greedy corporation and want to take our money. How do we know that what you’re telling us is the truth?” Excellent question, my dear readers. My word may not be enough to convince you that EA may finally be making a turnaround with their Star Wars franchise. So, I enlisted the help of a friend of mine, Craig. Craig and I are members of an online Battlefront clan called the 67th Pathfinder Battalion. It is a military sim group, which means each member is given a rank and has to follow a chain of command. In the 67th, Craig goes by the name “Blade” and holds the rank of Vice Admiral and Marshal Commander, in addition to being the leader of the elite “Shadow Squadron”. I asked him what got him into Star Wars to begin with; he said that he had been in love with the movies since he was a kid. When asked about the 2017 Battlefront II launch and its ensuing controversies he said, “I think I did have it pre-ordered. I did notice the controversy at launch, like major heroes and villains weren’t unlocked, so I only really dabbled in the online section. [I] kept coming back to play the multiplayer a couple times over the next year or so, but once they sorted it out and added clone wars heroes and maps was when I finally got proper into the multiplayer finally.”

As for lootboxes in the game he said, “I didn’t really like them, it wasn’t ideal as there is always going to be players who spend a fortune and have a decent advantage over free to play players but the main thing that bugged me was not being able to play iconic characters such as Vader.” The only issue that Craig has had with Squadrons so far was with cross platform voice chat. “That seems to be the only issue I’ve found with the game so far, and it also seems to have been resolved as we were using the in game voice chat tonight fine. So far Squadrons has really impressed me and exceeded my expectations that I had. So yeah, I’d say the launch has been smooth.”

Lastly, I asked him if he wanted DLC in the game in the future whether it be free or paid. “I would love to see some sort of free DLC definitely, not sure what they could add for it except for more maps, however. Something I would like to see is EA noticing how popular squadrons has been and they would capitalize on that and bring out a clone wars era version because there are some sweet Republic and Seperatist ships that could be used and a clone wars campaign would have so many possibilities, but one can only hope.”

Craig, like me, is clearly hopeful that EA has turned over a new leaf with Squadrons. And great things have been done on hope alone. To quote Jyn Erso, “Rebellions are built on hope”.

We rebelled dear readers and we have had our first victory in the war.