Electronic Arts continue to explore the Star Wars franchise and enrich the Canonical Lore with a Shooter. Star Wars: Squadrons takes up the torch of fire the Rogue Squadron trilogy as well as the X-Wing series, and focuses exclusively on space combat, the central element of the saga imagined by George Lucas. EA Motive Studios is here interested in the art of dogfighting and focuses on the fall of the Empire seen through the prism of a cockpit. Rebel or Imperial, who will emerge victorious from this ideological confrontation? ... in a galaxy far, far away, the conflict between the New Republic and the remnants of the Galactic Empire rages on. The destruction of the Death Star as well as the deaths of Darth Vader and the Emperor at the end of Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi rebalances the debates on the galactic chessboard. Imperial troops scattered across the galaxy are trying to thwart the plans of the Rebel Alliance and more specifically the Starhawk Project which would allow them to dispose of battleships by dismantling the Interstellar Cruisers. It is in this context of civil war that we meet the Vanguard and Titan units ... two squadrons, respectively from the Rebel Alliance and the Empire, destined to clash on the battlefield.
EA promised to experience this Star Wars in the shoes of two pilots each from a camp, and the American publisher has kept its word. Throughout the 15 missions requiring between 9 and 10 hours to complete, the Story mode alternates perfectly between the two protagonists. The New Republic and the Galactic Empire are here in the same boat. Even better, the scenario respects the ideals of the rebels and the imperialists without falling into a frontal Manichaeism. Some characters question their loyalty, others doubt the orders given ... the formatted soldier sometimes gives way to the human. Note that the adventure is fully dubbed and subtitled in French as well for those who live in Canada and in Europe.
With Star Wars, fans have every right to expect a great cinematic show. Unfortunately, the EA Motive Shooter opts for a (too) minimalist staging made with sparse cutscenes, but still well made, and simple dialogue to advance the plot. Star Wars: Squadrons surprises with its lack of audacity and the conformism of its narrative structure. The missions themselves sometimes drag on, despite constantly changing objectives and situations. Our reunion with the world of George Lucas is in no way spoiled, even if there is a slight taste of the unfinished in this galactic adventure.
The Imperial Fan Academy
The story should appeal to fans who will be delighted to meet some iconic characters, including Admiral Rae Sloane and Wedge Antilles, while exploring the lore harnessed in the depths of a cockpit. The story simply fits into the Star Wars timeline without undermining the “Disney” canon and expands the universe by highlighting certain events little or little known to the general public. Faced with the complexity of a 40-year-old saga, the Squadron Civil War simply sets the galaxy ablaze without setting it on fire, a crucial point that insiders are sure to note. There emanates from this Shooter a sincere love for the creation of George Lucas. Beyond its narrative fidelity, Squadrons sniffs Star Wars from every pore. The artists have paid particular attention to the vessels as well as to the uniforms, both faithful to the original material, and depict, through various environments, a galaxy conducive to a change of scenery. Star Wars: Squadrons is an invitation to travel, to warlike heroism under a shower of pyrotechnics, served by a meticulous achievement worthy of a monument of science fiction. Then what would Star Wars be without its iconic themes and its recognizable sound design? Squadrons gratify us both which completes this tribute, not only visual but also sound, from EA Motive studios to the Star Wars franchise.
On PC, Star Wars Squadrons more than deserves its "60 FPS for all" badge as it accommodates a very wide variety of graphics cards and is surprisingly fluid, even in Ultra HD. Without having to resort to DLSS and other upscaling techniques, the title runs extremely well on unexpansive GPUs, with the level of detail to the maximum. Honestly, I was very surprised to exceed 99 FPS in 1440p with a GeForce GTX 1660 Super, and even 52 FPS in Ultra HD / 2160p. Same observation on a Radeon RX5500 XT: 84 FPS in 1440p and 45 FPS in 2160p. In short, a title that is particularly greedy and accessible to the greatest number. In terms of good points, also note that the game occupies only 30 small GB on the hard drive. In the age of AAAs over 100 GB, this saving is a pleasure. Finally, remember the configuration recommended by EA (excluding VR): Intel Core i7-7700 / AMD Ryzen 3 3200G processor, 16 GB of RAM, and GeForce GTX 1060 / Radeon RX 480 GPU.
The Hero's Offer
Star Wars: Squadrons takes the gamble of focusing on unique gaming experience, that of a fighter pilot plunged in the middle of a major conflict, and the result is up to the symbol of space combat. in the Star Wars saga. The EA Motive Shooter fully immerses us in intense and passionate dogfights that require time to adapt to master all the parameters. “Easy to learn, hard to master” sums up the intentions of Electronic Arts perfectly. The resolute arcade gameplay is intended to be accessible to as many people as possible, but manages, with skillful touches, to offer seasoned players a challenge commensurate with their talent. Immersion is really at the heart of the proposition of Canadian studios, which voluntarily abandon the subjective view, yet a great classic of the genre, in favor of a first-person camera, and only first-person. The immersive power of the cockpit is increased tenfold, as is that exhilarating feeling that grips your guts when you're in command. Pilots now manage the energy of their ship and more specifically the distribution between engines, shields, and weaponry. This "Power Management System" makes it possible to adapt in real-time to the situation and thus respond present with maximum efficiency during combat. Players control precisely the distribution of shields, prioritizing weaponry and/or engines. And that's not the only subtlety built into EA Motive.
The ships, 8 in number (X-Wing / A-Wing / U-Wing / Y-Wing / Tie Hunter / Tie Interceptor / Tie Reaper / Tie Bomber), participate in the strategic dimension of Star Wars: Squadrons. Each class of ships (Hunter, Interceptor, Bombardier, and Support) has specific features that make it indispensable on the battlefield and that should be used according to the objectives to be accomplished. Plus, the asymmetry between rebel and Imperial units adds to the equation when it comes to clashing in the vacuum of space, which complicates the debates. The “Brute deformage” approach of the units of the Galactic Empire deprived in the majority of the shield is compensated by increased speed and/or firepower, unlike the bolides of the Rebel Alliance which are distinguished by their powerful protection and adaptive capacity. Under its arcade shooter air, Star Wars: Squadrons conceals a game system much more sophisticated than it appears. The dogfights there are bitter, merciless, and require learning the hard way on the pitch in order to survive.
The Story Mode is really just a scripted tutorial ideal for learning about the controls, and the various skills of the various ships docked in the hangar. The real galactic civil war begins with a multiplayer and its various modes. In Air Combat and Battle of Fleets, two squadrons made up of 5 pilots compete on half a dozen maps with varying atmospheres including Yavin Prime, Esseles, Nadiri Shipyard, Sissubo, Galitan, and Zavian's Abyss. The first mentioned mode is a classic of its kind, the only objective being to annihilate the enemy within the allotted time. Battle of the Fleets (playable alone, co-op, or 5v5) is more complex. EA Motive scripts, as the name of the mode suggests large-scale battles in which Rebels and Imperials fulfill specific objectives. First, the opposing forces clash to undermine opposing morale by pushing back the front line, then attack secondary flagships before launching the final assault on the flagship and its sub-systems. Its destruction is then synonymous with total victory. This multiplayer mode requires coordination between members of the same squadron and in-depth knowledge of the units involved to prevail. However, some pilots could be hungry for more. As intense and thrilling as this 5v5 multiplayer is, a more ambitious mode involving fifty players as well as other game modes are missing. To end with multiplayer, Star Wars: Squadrons is Cross-Play. PC pilots, consoles, virtual reality or not, share the same battlefield ... which turns out to be excellent news.
Star Wars: Squadrons rewards the recklessness and loyalty of its pilots by integrating an experience system into multiplayer. Players unlock the components and cosmetics available for the 8 ships via two separate currencies which are Requisition and Glory Points respectively. When reading the word "currency", some players might get scared. But fear not, the EA Motive Shooter is not "Game as a Service". No microtransactions interfere with progression and obtaining rewards. All items are obtained on the battlefield and only this way. In addition, no "post launch" policy is currently on the agenda, with the exception of online events regularly updated by the studios in charge of the project. However, the implementation of challenges and operations after the launch of the game ensures certain longevity to the title by adding rare items to collect, but only cosmetic. The Squadrons experience is characterized by extensive customization of ships, and pilots. Almost everything about the Rebel and Imperial units can be modified to suit your flying style as closely as possible and increase your chances of survival. Main weapons and on-board auxiliaries, hulls, engines… the fifty or so components available profoundly alter the behavior and capacities of ships in order to meet a specific need on the battlefield. The tactical dimension of this space shooter begins before takeoff, still docked at the docks. EA Motive even manages to maintain a certain balance between all ship/component combinations. While victory depends in large part on the drivers and their skill, the importance of the equipment is clearly not to be overlooked. Finally, cosmetics are likely to stimulate the artistic fiber of fans of customization, both inside and outside of ships ... cosmetics that are all reminders of their feats of arms.
Virtual reality: a little closer to the stars
Star Wars Squadrons is fully playable with a virtual reality headset, by activating the feature in the options. Whether you own a PlayStation VR, a Rift S, an HTC Vive, a Windows Mixed Reality, a Valve Index, or even an Oculus Quest (thanks to the Link cable), you can pilot your X-Wing or your Tie Fighter with a good big surplus of immersion. I have to say that the genre lends itself particularly well to the exercise and that the result is, overall, impeccable. Turn your head freely in your cockpit, follow your opponent's gaze as he passes by the side of your ship, pass over a Star Destroyer ... so many "wow moments" that give all its flavor to this compatibility. We tested the game with a Rift S and found no concern with motion sickness, even in the most intense battles and the loops that go with it. The scale sets are very well respected and it is possible at any time to calibrate its position using a button on the joystick or a key on the keyboard. On the other hand, it is difficult to escape the inevitable loss of visual quality: the pixels become more apparent, and distant objects, in particular, can be difficult to discern. However, the rendering of the different cockpits remains stunning in detail and precision. In short, some really well-done adaptation work on the part of EA Motive and a good reason to bring your helmet out if you've been missing out since Half-Life: Alyx. Finally, note that to use VR correctly on a PC, EA recommends the use, at a minimum, of a GeForce GTX 1070 and an Intel Core i7-7700K or AMD Ryzen 3 3200G processor. A little tip, to finish: if ever VR mode refuses to launch on your PC, consider switching the game to "windowed" mode.
EA Motive sends a love letter to fans of the George Lucas saga and dogfighters. The arcade-oriented gameplay, not without a hint of simulation, captures the essence of Star Wars-style space combat, challenges seasoned pilots, and accompanies the uninitiated. Story Mode explores in style a troubled time ... the Galactic Civil War, despite a notable lack of daring in the staging. The multiplayer and its progression system promise a great competitive and cooperative experience if we omit the small number of players and game modes. Star Wars: Squadrons is ultimately the space shooter long-awaited by fans, with careful execution and always respectful of the original material ... a success no more and no less. So if you are interested to learn more, visit the Star Wars Squadrons official website, the game is available for PC, PS4 and Xbox ONE console as well.