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Video Games

Star Wars Squadrons

PEW! PEW! PEW!

This review was done on a PS4 Pro. I did not use a VR headset because VR makes me nauseous. Just like being in a car, boat or plane. I did wear my Turtle Beach X-Wing Pilot headset though. Not for any reason other than to be a super nerd and immerse myself in the game. Plus, it looks really cool and it was only $99. I’ve had it for years now, this isn’t a paid endorsement. Anyway, to the review! I will do my best to keep this spoiler free in regards to the storyline, but I imagine there will be some mission spoilers pop up. Race you to the cockpit!

I’ve spent about 10 hours on EA’s recent Star Wars title and I feel like I’ve got a solid enough grasp to tell you all a bit about it!

Disclaimer : I am a massive Star Wars fan and in my opinion, the greatest vehicle in the whole UNIVERSE (Star Wars or otherwise) is without a doubt, the X-Wing. I’ve always wanted to pilot one and this is as close as I’ve ever gotten. I will endeavour to remain unbiased and not be a fan boy.

Disclaimer II : I am not a massive EA fan. In my opinion, they are without a doubt, amongst the worst game developers in the UNIVERSE (Video game or otherwise). I’ve always wanted to pilot….ok, I guess that’s where the parallel ends. However, I will endeavour to remain unbiased and not be a hater. Looks like it all balances out.

A lot of reviews I’ve seen for this game are relatively negative. On the other hand, a lot of reviews I’ve seen for this game are very positive. It’s safe to say, you need to make up your own mind! Personally, I’m right down the middle. At times, I’ve had some great moments and really enjoyed this game. Other times, the game has drove me up the wall and I’ve stopped playing, worried that I might not return. I’ll put up a pros and cons list for those of you who want a quick overview and I’ll break it all down in detail afterwards for the super nerds.

ProsCons
Graphics are amazingIt’s got it’s fair share of bugs
Rewarding once you get the hang of itSteep learning curve
Mostly cool campaign (about 15 hours)Online is very basic
Lots of Star Wars references (duh)Customisation is basic
Affordable priceCan’t mute other players
I think that about sums it up…

May as well start at the top of the list. This game looks great! If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I don’t usually give out points for that. I am going to make an exception though, because I think this game looks and sounds incredible. Everything from the characters, to the environments, to the ships…it all looks stunning. The voice acting is admittedly corny and lame, but the other sound effects are all amazing. Mainly the lasers! Pew! Pew! Pew! It’s so satisfying to fly around and just fire them off at anything that moves. Rebel, Imperial, Asteroids…I don’t care. Pew!

Unfortunately, there are still a few bugs floating around. Not as many as flies on a Toydarian, but enough to be annoying. A couple times in the campaign, my next objective won’t start and I’ll be left to wonder around aimlessly in space. The only way to fix it is to quit and try again. Or to try and blow myself up. Fortunately, it’s only happened to me 3 times and never in the same part. It’s still annoying though! I have heard of others who have had worse bugs, especially if they are playing on PC. Hopefully, it is something that will be fixed in the next update.

Let’s talk about how the ship actually handles, and by extension the difficulty level of the game. There is a lot to take in when you are piloting a ship. Every vehicle is a little bit different but they all use the same basic controls. You move the left stick up and down to control your speed and acceleration. Moving the left stick left and right rolls your ship. The right stick controls steering. Personally, I found that to be unintuitive early on. The game offers complete control remapping, but I couldn’t find anything that felt better. So, I just left it alone and got used to it.

Now, you might be tempted to have your speed maxed out all the time and you might be tempted to stop moving to line up a shot. It takes practice, but try not to do either of those things. Max your speed when you are travelling, chasing or running away. Otherwise, try and keep it at about 50%. This will make you more manoeuvrable and it will be easier to dodge incoming fire and to aim shots of your own. If you are completely still, it’s very easy to line up shots, but you are also an easy target.

Combat wise it’s simple enough. L2 locks onto to the target you are looking at. Holding L2 will bring up a target wheel and you can select what you want your targeting system to lock on to – enemy fighters, objective markers, missiles etc etc. Pressing X will lock onto the nearest target, regardless of whether you can see it or not. Double pressing X will target the most recent enemy to shoot you. R2 fires your primary weapon. L1 and R1 fire your auxiliary weapons, which are anything from homing missiles to repair droids to bombs. You can also use Triangle to request a resupply from a friendly fighter. This will recharge your shield and restock your auxiliary weapons (not your repair droid though). Triangle is also used to command your fellow pilots to target or protect a ship you are locked on to (if you are looking at it).

Finally, you can divert your power to different systems for your ship. So if you want to travel faster, you divert power to the engines. If you want more power in your lasers, divert power to weapons. And if you want more protection, you divert power to your shields. When you divert power, it basically doubles your output for a short time. So your shield is twice as strong or you can fire twice as many lasers or unlock a speed boost. You can do this in advance as well, but as soon as power is diverted back to normal, the levels will slowly decline back to their original state. However, this can give you an edge in combat. If you boost shields and then divert power to your lasers, you will have a small window in which you have increased protection and an increased fire rate. You can freely switch how you divert your power and as often as you like. You use the D-Pad, Left is for engines, Up is for weapons, Right is for shields and Down is to reset to normal. Make sense?

Before I dive into the campaign, I will go over the difficulty levels. I’ve explained how the ship handles, which sounds simple enough, but in the heat of battle, it can be hard to remember to slow down when you turn or to recharge your shields or to divert power etc etc. This makes the game a bit daunting at first, because it’s easy to be bad at it. The campaign does a good job of slowly introducing mechanics to you so you aren’t overwhelmed, but it can still feel overwhelming.

Usually, I always play games at the highest difficulty (Ace) and I did so again for this. However, after a few years of playing and having only completed the prologue and first mission, I decided to turn it down until I was better at the game. You can freely change difficulty any time you like. I’m in a bit of bind, because I liked playing on the Ace difficulty, I thought it was a good challenge. Except for when you have to take on Star Destroyers or a Battleship. Then it was a little too difficult and I felt you needed a bit of luck to get through. So I dropped down to Veteran, but I found it too easy. I’ve still got a few levels left until I’ve finished, but I am missing the thrill of Ace. I will likely try to do it again on Ace, especially now that I understand all of the mechanics on offer.

As well as selecting your difficulty, you can select your HUD – standard or immersive. Usually, I like immersive. I like to think a bit instead of just having a marker on my screen. I tried this on immersive for a while, but half the time I had no idea where I was going. Combat was still easy enough to follow. Just shoot the ones that are shooting you. Everything else was too difficult though. It would tell you to follow a member of your crew and then all of your crew would fly off in different directions, all in the same ship and you would have no idea who to follow. Or it would tell you to reach the rendezvous point and I would have no idea where it was. So I would follow a teammate, but it turns out they are on rails and turn when you turn. Not helpful! Now that I have more of an understanding of the targeting system, immersive mode might be easier. I would recommend playing on standard mode for your first play through and veteran difficulty. It’s your choice though and like I said, you can switch freely at any time.

The campaign has 2 prologue missions and 14 actual missions. You swap between playing as a rebel and an imperial. You get to customise their names and appearance, but it’s pretty basic. Most missions start in the hangar. You are outside of your ship, but you can’t actually walk. I thought this was bizarre. You just look around and press X to interact with things. If you want to inspect your ship, move to another room or talk to someone, you just look at them/it and press X. Then you appear in conversation or the next room etc etc.

Sometimes you have to talk to crew members to advance the mission, most times you can just ignore them though. I’ve spent most of my time ignoring them. I’m just eager to fly! You also need to be briefed for each mission in the briefing room. You just watch a short hologram and it outlines the mission objectives. They can be a tad boring, especially if you are like me and have the “just tell me who to shoot, captain” attitude. That being said, it is worthwhile paying attention during the briefing. It will make the mission easier.

A lot of missions will tell the story line as you play. I don’t mind this, but it annoys me in Squadrons. Your speed is usually locked so you can’t reach your destination before the squad has finished talking. It really annoys me. Just put me in an actual cutscene or let me play. Don’t try and do both at the same time. These “dynamic cutscenes” can occur before, during or after a mission. Sometimes all three. I haven’t really enjoyed any of them or my time in the hangar.

When I’m actually flying though, I love this game. The campaign has a different variety of missions as well. It’s not just X-Wings vs TIE fighters. Sometimes you do escort missions. Sometimes bombing runs. Sometimes terrorist attacks on a civilian carrier. There is a lot of variety and I really enjoy it. It’s very satisfying to defeat an enemy fighter in combat or to destroy an enemy base.

I won’t say anything about the actual storyline, you can experience that for yourself. It’s getting a lot of positive feedback. I’ve only paid minimal attention to it. Some parts have interested me, some parts haven’t. I will pay more attention during my second play through. Like I said, I feel too much of it is done when I’m just eager to fly. If I’m in a cockpit, I want to shoot things, not talk.

Finally, there is the online aspect. I haven’t played it a lot, but it seems very basic. I would advise finishing the campaign first, but you don’t have to. There are dogfights and fleet battles. Dogfights are basically TDM in spaceships. Straightforward enough, I find it to be a bit dull though.

Fleet Battles are where the action is. It’s essentially a 3 phase battle, in which two teams of 5 compete. You start with a dogfight. Depending on if you win or lose, you will either advance to destroy two enemy capital ships or drop back to defend your two capital ships. Once this battle is done, you move on to destroy their flagship or protect yours. Once a flagship is defeated, it’s game over. Momentum can shift (I think they call it morale) based on how each of the phases go and you move back and forth between phases of the battle. I think, I’ve only played twice.

Fleet Battles are what’s supposed to keep you coming back to this game. You level up and unlock new cosmetic items for your ships. And that’s about it. It’s cool, but it doesn’t have much incentive to continue, other than bobbleheads and levelling up. In my opinion, the campaign is the best part of this game and offers the most replay value.

Overall, this game is probably slightly above average. There are parts I really enjoy, but they feel too few and far between. If you play the campaign twice (on veteran or ace) and mess around online a bit, you could probably get about 35 hours of gameplay. Which isn’t too bad for a $60 (AUD) title. It’s really hard to recommend this game because I think it is largely up to the individual if they will enjoy it or not. It is challenging and you do have to tough out the first few hours, underneath all of that though is a pretty cool Star Wars story and game. If you love Star Wars, check it out. Just keep your expectations low.

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