Electronic Arts’ stewardship of the “Star Wars” franchise since 2013 has been a bumpy one. EA saw “Star Wars” as a vehicle for highly lucrative multiplayer projects and rebooted the “Star Wars: Battlefront” series as an extension of its “Battlefield” franchise. The efforts never really took off as expected.
Fortunately, EA changed its approach. First, it published Respawn Entertainment’s fantastic single-player adventure “Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order,” and this fall brought us “Star Wars: Squadrons” — the space-combat title that fans have clamored for since players could fly starfighters in “Battlefront.”
The sci-fi saga video games work best when they tell a story within a “galaxy far, far away.” Taking place over a prologue and 14 missions, “Squadrons” weaves a story between the Empire and New Republic after the events of “Return of the Jedi.” On one side, players take on the role of a new pilot for the elite imperial Titan Squadron. On the rival faction, players serve the Vanguard Squadron.
“Squadrons” lets fans pilot four ships on each side. Amazingly, the developer, Motive Studios, gives each craft a distinct feel. X-Wings and TIE Fighters are versatile attack craft with one relying on shields and the other asserting its dominance via speed. A-Wings and TIE Interceptors are speedy but weaker crafts, while the Y-Wings and TIE Bombers deal heavy damage but are slower.
“Squadrons” forces players to get their feet wet with aerial combat until they reach Level 5. From there, they can pick the more complicated Fleet Battles, in which teams of five work together to destroy the rival’s flagship. It’s essentially a tug-of-war, in which eliminating the opponents’ crafts creates momentum that lets the team push to the objective.
“Squadrons” can be frustrating for newcomers who aren’t used to space combat or aren’t playing on specialized equipment such as flight sticks. Players shouldn’t expect “Squadrons” to be like “Call of Duty.” The modes and maps are on the thin side. Instead, “Squadrons” focuses more on an excellent single-player campaign, and Motive finds a way to tell a compelling “Star Wars” story that spans the remnants of the Empire and the burgeoning New Republic.