Between the good (The Mandalorian), the okay (Jedi: Fallen Order) and the straight-up poor (Episode IX: Rise of Skywalker) all coming to us in the past year, Star Wars has quite the franchise fatigue going for it. So with Star Wars: Squadrons, a game following crews of starfighter pilots, I was sceptical of its potential. Can a new title in the franchise so soon really fix things? Still, I plundered on. A galaxy far far away awaits, after all.
Setting you on your journey into the stars
Star Wars: Squadrons sets players on two sides of an intergalactic fight, alternating between playing as the heroic New Republic and the villainous Galactic Empire. The game starts off in a thrilling way: the planet Alderaan has been destroyed and Darth Vader tasks the Empire with picking off any remaining survivors that evaded the attack. When a member of the villainous task force betrays them, freeing the refugees and siding with the Rebels, the game’s events are set in motion.
Four years later, we follow a juxtaposed story of the two factions. The New Republic must work on and defend Project Starhawk, a powerful and mysterious spacecraft tool that’s promised to be in their favour. Their foes must work to destroy it and anyone that stands in their path. It’s up to two squadron teams of pilots, one from each faction, to complete their venture. This will see you leading assault bombing runs, infiltrating giant space stations cores and defending important military crafts in the campaign’s fight until you reach a quite satisfying conclusion. Admittedly, it’s a bit generic and more like a how-to for the game, but it works.
As stories go, the campaign offered here won’t differ too much from the Star Wars standard. Most of the narrative beats for the game are offered in-between missions, preparing you for the tutorial-esque gameplay ahead. Still, interesting characterisation is offered. You can chat to your squadmates in the hangar hubs between missions, learning tidbits of lore that the franchise nuts will lovingly absorb.
Whether it’s the noble Mirialan rebel Keo who uses they/them pronouns or the murderous queen that is Havina Vonreg, each has their own personal story and motivations. Their dialogue exchanges offer interesting commentary on the faction they work for too. Shen, an Empire soldier dressed head to toe in malfunctioning armour get up, is coughing and wheezing, near collapsing as he speaks to you. He can’t remove his helmet or he’ll die. Shen is literally living and breathing the Empire, even if they spare him little regards. I love that kind of exploration, and it helps to forgive a not so momentous narrative plot. It just goes to show the writing team at Motive really care for the Star Wars name, and want to do right by its universe.