Squadrons is not perhaps the dreamed of triumphant return of the Lucasarts X-Wing and Tie Fighters that revolutionized the scene in their day, but it is a hopeful display of intentions.
There are few of us who spend our adolescence (and not so adolescence) glued to the screens at the controls of that “space flight simulator” called X-Wing, its sequel Tie-Fighter, the multiplayer version X-Wing vs Tie-Fighter with its Balance of Power expansion and the culmination of the tetralogy: Alliance. It was for quite some time the dream come true of fans of the original Star Wars trilogy and a breath of fresh air in a world where flight simulators were something much more serious. Well, that was more than 20 long years ago. Electronic Arts and Motive Studios pick up the baton from LucasArts and present Star Wars: Squadrons, spiritual and plot successor to the mythical collection from the 90s, updated for the first time in the 21st century. And although the general feelings are quite positive, the global count has been a bit far from the excellence that most of us expected. It’s a good start, we hope, of what the full space cockpit experience may look like, but not yet at least for now.
A new hope
It is important to separate several factors when gauging what Squadrons means to the average player; you have to isolate the nostalgic factor from the equation and the Star Wars fan factor. Because as soon as you like simulators or flight arcades and cannot alienate yourself from any of these factors, the game will excite you. But that is probably due to how much the player puts himself before what the game offers itself, with which we have had to strive in that sense because in this house we are fans of the arcades, we are fans of the Star Wars and we have such nostalgia for the flag that we even have a retro podcast. And even moving away from everything, trying to give the less visceral opinion, we can say that we are facing a good title and, better still, before the foundations of a platform that can become something great.
Of the three main game modes, two online multiplayer and the campaign, let’s start with the latter. Squadrons puts us in the shoes of a new rebel recruit and an imperial pilot and during the plot we will embody both for almost fifteen missions. We will not play the same games from both sides but the consequences of what we do with one we will live with the next, but it will always be the same story. Between missions we can get to know the rest of our squads while they have conversations, or rather monologues, giving more volume to the plot spectrum. The fact that our protagonists have names but are silent is something that seems very inaccurate to us and takes away a lot of immersion; I wish they had chosen to make it more interactive and more personal. And also, why not, a little longer. It is one of those times in which we go from absolute unknown to essential in just an hour and a half; Although Bioware is in low hours, EA could have observed the way in which it gets its characters to interact in its games and thus increase the final value of the product by giving more depth to what is being told and who is telling it, but it has not been the case. Ace Combat 7, to cite another example, also has a silent hero but manages through many more lines of dialogue (during missions) to color the protagonists a little more, even those who say nothing.
During the missions we will have the possibility of being in command of most of the iconic ships of the franchise (Xwing, YWing, AWing and the UWing support by the rebel side; Tie-Fighter, Tie-Bomber, Tie-Interceptor and the imperial counterpart. support). There are some concessions in the campaign to the “lore” of the ships in favor of the gameplay but in general we have felt very comfortable at the controls of all of them. Each one has particular characteristics and plays a different role in the squad, and can also customize their equipment as we see fit. It must be said that the missions are good but they are nothing that has blown our minds and although there are certain moments that have their epic, in general some are quite low profile.
The handling of the ship is something that has left us a bittersweet taste, especially due to the default configuration of the buttons. After playing two or three missions, we didn’t quite get used to the mapping, but fortunately the game allows you to reprogram the buttons to your liking; the feeling of flight is great and although obviously it has almost no physics system (we are in space, after all) everything responds as it should. Some classic winks from the original games have been respected, such as alternating power between engine, shots or shields (on the Alliance side) and something similar on the Imperial side, since many of their ships do not have shields. Chasing and shooting down enemies, avoiding obstacles and dodging missiles with countermeasures is, in most cases, a real madness and we have found ourselves shaking our heads several times to try to avoid a rock or to get into the wreckage of a destroyed ship to get rid of an enemy. And is that when Squadrons works, it works very well.
Designed for multiplayer
The multiplayer is divided into what could be said a team Deathmatch of 5 or an annihilate the enemy fleet of 5 vs AI or 5 vs 5. Team elimination mode is the classic you can expect: two teams fight to reach a number of deaths and when you are eliminated you can change ships in the waiting time before respawning again. The mode is frenetic and the games are usually quite short, but at least so far we have not experienced any kind of communication problem, or lag or anything. The netcode seems to work quite well, even playing with people on the other side of the pond.
The battle of fleets is the heart of the Squadrons multiplayer, and that is where the personal skill of the player comes together with the strategy of the team. This game mode revolves around annihilating the enemy mothership (say a Star Destroyer) that is protected by two smaller ships (say two Nebulon B frigates); the stage will be filled with enemies managed by the AI and real enemies, and by defeating them we will gain “morale” that, upon reaching a certain limit, will allow us to attack said ships. It’s an interesting tug of war between the two teams and you have to think about which ships are going well for fights against other players and then balance it with others that are better against the bigger ships. The games can be quite long and the team that communicates better has a great advantage to be victorious; this game mode has its “competitive” version for those who want to take it even more seriously.
It is clear that Electronic Arts has thought of Squadrons as a game at least in the medium term, rather than a short-haul, best-seller title. The first “season” will last two months and as we level up and complete the daily missions and others we are assigned in-game currency to buy cosmetics and also ship upgrades. The ship upgrades are not pure upgrades, they all have their negative counterpart, but they are exclusive to each ship and faction and there are 8 ships in total, so many games are necessary to unlock absolutely everything, both playable and especially cosmetic. On the one hand, it is comforting to see that the publisher thinks about the game beyond the launch, but on the other hand, we would not be surprised if part of the content had been reserved to gradually introduce it as updates.
Technically the game, on the Xbox One X version, behaves very well. We have not noticed any downturn at any time, no unusual artifacts and in general the game shows and handles very well. Of course, we are not talking about a graphically pointer title, far from it, rewarding stability to any other factor. And as expected, at the soundtrack and effects level we are talking about another level, this time the one expected from a production with the Star Wars brand behind it. The combination of everything is a very attractive product that, with the amount of things that are happening on the screen, notably fulfills its function and in which there is no time to look back and see if our astromech droid is still there or melted next to the chassis of the ship; But this is a straightforward arcade in every way and often, especially in multiplayer, we’ll find ourselves holding our breath as we wonder why that damn Tie-Bomber can take so many shots and we can’t get that interceptor out of the way. tail.
Also in VR (impressions by Albert Gil)
One of the biggest claims presented by this Squadrons is the possibility of enjoying the entire Star Wars experience taking advantage of the revolutionary virtual reality. It is not the first time that Lucas’s universe has made the leap to VR devices (there are the more than remarkable episodes of Vader Immortal), but with these production values. And the reality is that despite the high expectations (with a company like EA behind the production), the final result of the experience is not up to what titles like Half Life Alyx, Lone Echo or Walking Dead have. proven that it can be achieved with this technology.
We have analyzed the VR proposal from Oculus Rift S (the device that EA explicitly recommends on its website) and, from the outset, we have been surprised by the cumbersome process that must be carried out for the game to run on our glasses from the Origin platform. While it is true that we are not talking about an exclusive VR title, it is also uncomfortable to have to start the game in a normal way and then enable VR through the settings menu and, finally, have to perform a Adjust with the keyboard to calibrate the player’s point of view. It is not a process that requires a lot of effort or time, but it would have been much more comfortable, for example, to have a second executable that automatically launched the game in VR mode to avoid having to switch between one mode and another each time. This is a drawback that, to this day, the Steam version does not suffer, which allows the game to be launched directly in VR mode.
On the other hand, it also does not help for the regular VR gamer that no controller is compatible with the game and that, therefore, we are forced to be near a keyboard, controller or joystick to pilot the ship. We believe that with a little effort, the motion detection provided by the VR controllers could have been used to simulate the use of the accelerator or even to “manually” manage the different buttons in the cockpit in order to offer an experience, Although not entirely practical in a competitive environment, yes for a much more immersive and realistic result. That the use of VR technology is exploited only in the visual section seems to us a wasted opportunity.
But beyond that, what really leaves us with a bittersweet flavor is precisely the cold visual and immersive impact that being inside an X-Wing produces, due to the scarce sensation of depth as a result of the highly pixelated 2D “skybox” covering every scene and the mandatory (to this day) use of motion blur that blurs the sharpness of the moving image. Don’t be fooled: the experience is positive, essential even for fans of the Skywalker saga. The detail of the interior of the cabin is amazing, and some missions with interplanetary scenery can take our breath away, but we always end up running into the happy static background image that brings us back to reality and reminds us that we are in a simple video game . It is disappointing that a company with EA’s resources is missing out on the opportunity to deliver a game-changing experience and merely settling for offering an accomplished mode. In other words: today (who knows if in the future things will improve based on patches) Squadrons does not offer the VR experience for which to pay the price that a virtual reality device asks for, although if you have such a device already If you are a fan of this genre or the saga, it is worth taking a look.
Electronic Arts and Motive Studios have laid the foundation stone for what we hope will be the advent of the ultimate pseudo ship simulator. It is possible that for many Elite Dangerous it is still the rival to beat, although the product is a bit different from what is intended with Squadrons. In any case, it is impossible not to get carried away by the nostalgia of the original XWings or to feel transported on the back of the John Williams soundtrack as we enter hyperspace aboard a Y-wing; It’s even weird not to crack an evil smile when completing morally ambiguous goals from the imperial side. And of course, the pleasure of making those Tie-Fighters on our tail crash against the walls of an enemy frigate. Squadrons is not the excellent game that we all wanted and it is a bit short of options but it is a decent and worthy installment that in all probability will bring more joy than disappointment.
- A solid space simulator experience
- The setting so Star Wars
- Sale at a reduced price
- Very fair of options
- The campaign could be worked more
It meets the expectations of what a good game is, has quality and does not have serious flaws, although it is missing elements that could have taken it to higher heights.