'Star Wars: Squadrons': on target to re-energise space combat games?29.07.2020, 11:22
The trailers for EA’s Star Wars Squadrons are really looking good [watch the 'gameplay' trailer at the bottom of this post]. There’s no doubt that Star Wars fans have always dreamed about an ultimate starfighter experience, and this one looks to finally bring it on.
Also, it’ll be for all game platforms (cross-play) and immersive too in VR (on the PS4 and on PC), a technology ideally suited for space combat simulation. That's a lot of players signing up in early October (release date).
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However, let’s hope that the final gameplay experience - especially multiplayer interest - will be substantial enough; much more than just a cockpit ride across the Star Wars galaxy like never before.
After all, we’ve been here before in the fast-moving Star Wars Battlefront 2 ‘Starfighter missions’, including multiplayer action, where all you have to do is turn and shoot, and try not to die. Here, the more players mean the more regularly this can happen, which perhaps limits the multiplayer depth. But it's very accessible to jump into, and this kind of scale will still be hard to beat.
The question is: with this new space combat 'mode' extended into its own new title, (and where there’s a limit on 5 versus 5 players) can it be the recipe for making BF2 pale into comparison? Most likely.
What's this new title going to offer?
You’ll get more control over your flight experience, which means energy management across shields and weapons. It may not just be about turning and firing accuracy, but those who have their shields up in the right place at the right time.
The single-player campaign mode will alternate between pilots fighting for the Empire and for the Alliance, and is set after the destruction of the second Death Star. That automatically means we may not get to play that Endor mission itself, which is a blow.
When this single-player mode is all done and dusted (although with hopefully enough thrills for future re-plays), the idea is you'll have gained familiarity with the fighters, and differences between them, on both sides.
Then it’ll be down to the multiplayer aspect to sustain interest in the game.
Luckily, cross-play support means they’ll be players across all platforms able to team up or face off against each other. However, will this mean console players will face off against PC players (with their specialist gaming hardware and keyboards, which may give them the edge on accuracy etc). Hopefully this will be compensated for, allowing for fairness. With such a variety of hardware and platforms, you can see some issues arising early on, that may need ironing out.
There’ll be a ton of options for customising your starfighter, inside and out. By the looks of things, this will include extra weapons or special load-out configurations.
Screenshot from the original Lucasarts 'X-Wing' series
If not more fun, exciting and strategic in the long-term life of a game like this, will be decent co-operative modes for working together. It’s not like Star Wars doesn't have a massive playlist of possible scenarios we all want to jump into. However ‘Fleet Battles’ looks set to be the main mode for now, where you can play co-op (only online) alongside friends against 5 other human opponents, or against AI. Working together in an effective role such as fighter or bomber will be key to survival, and taking down the capital ship over a series of stages. You can read a more in-depth article on this here.
Recently announced will be the addition of AI-enabled pilots who will back up your squadron of 5 fellow human players on each side. This should add some extra depth to the action, since apparently they won't just be background noise, but will feed into your experience.
We can ‘only hope’ at this stage, that Star Wars: Squadrons has the depth and thrills to become a title worthy of continued development and upgrades, since Star Wars space combat is a real treasure at the heart of science-fiction, with all the magnificent vessels, music and sound effects to boot. The Force is strong with this one.
However, players have been used to landing their starfighters and switching straight into first-person ground-based shooting combat in Battlefront 2, so without this, Squadrons will need to keep the space ‘space’ aspect fulfilling.
Then, perhaps, one day... we might even get a full single-player Han Solo experience, of smuggling and adventure across the galaxy, including landing on planets, stopping in for Jedi soup and chat with Yoda or Luke, or discussing the looming shadow of the Empire in wretched cantinas on Mos Eisley. In fact, they should really just inter-connect all these Star Wars games soon, so you can just enter the galaxy and find missions that correspond to characters from the movies: Jedi adventure, smuggling, piloting, soldier, spy..... The Star Wars game-world 'matrix' of the future, may not be so far, far away... for so long.
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