I’ve been a flight simmer for decades but during that time there have also been a few space sim games that have stood out to me and have captured my imagination nearly as much as my experience with flight. One of those titles was TIE Fighter and it was perhaps one of the best Star Wars game experiences that I’ve ever had. Given the way things work these days I wasn’t ever expecting to have another space combat focused title at all but I have been proven wrong and it looks like EA is giving us one! Let’s have a look and see what kind of promise it might have for those of us who prefer a deeper sim experience.
This actually looks fun!
Although maybe this has vibes that more closely mimic the promise that X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter had, it’s nice to see that there is a bit of a return to the space combat genre in the last few years. The expansion of that genre again after such a long period inactivity is also a good thing for the flight sim genre and we’ve seen that through more specialized peripheral makers and more emphasis on PC gaming and support for new technologies like VR.
That’s where Star Wars Squadrons seems to come in from. Everything that I’ve learned since the cinematic trailer came out on Tuesday suggests that this is meant to be something that has more depth than what we saw from Star Wars Battlefront’s space combat sequences. With VR support being baked in from the beginning and HOTAS support confirmed it seems that the developers are at least attempting to bring in some more serious features while still appealing to their console audiences with gamepad support.
In an interview on Polygon with creative director Ian Frazier I found the most poignant comment for me was this one on their inspiration.
First and foremost, it’s inspired by World War II aerial combat footage. You see that in the original films, even down to the fact that the TIEs have green lasers and the Rebels have red lasers. That’s because those are the colors of the tracer fire in World War II for the Axis and Allies. There’s that heritage you see there, and so we’re trying to keep that same kind of theme.Ian Frazier in an interview on Polygon
This of course drove the movies creative process as well but I take it as a positive that it also seems to be inspiring Squadrons too.
A little depth
There does appear to be some depth to this game’s flight mechanics that maybe isn’t as detailed as Elite: Dangerous or Star Citizen but also not quite as simplistic as Battlefront 2. We’ve seen the ships slide in and out of standard flight and there are systems to manipulate so that you can give more power to shields, weapons, and engines just like in the original TIE Fighter. There are also a variety of ships to fly from the classic X-Wing, A-Wing and Y-Wing to the TIE Fighter, TIE Bomber, and TIE Interceptor to a few more Squadrons specific additions to the line-up that help provide a more supporting role. The ships will apparently have up to 50+ modifications to customize your ship (and probably some micro-transactions too for the cosmetic stuff).
I was against the 5v5 idea for multiplayer but after thinking on it a little I think this might actually be fun and keeps the battle size manageable. Getting a group together to fly dedicated roles keeps the battles focused and fun.
There are a bunch of different gameplay modes too. Single player seems to be a cinematic experience that helps train players on how to play. Then you move on to the various PvP versions of the multiplayer experience with ‘Dogfights’ which is a straight up 5v5 while ‘Fleet Battles’ is a multi-stage event with both AI and human pilots mixed in fighting in a larger scale battle.
For those of you out there who are space sim fans and who may also be Star Wars fans… this looks more promising than anything that I’ve seen in a while in letting you experience the star fighter pilot fantasy. It’s not a serious flight sim in the way that we have DCS World, IL-2 or X-Plane, but it does seem like it has the kind of detail and perspective that might make this satisfying for fans of more serious sims.
We’ll see if this pans out into a fun space sim experience that offers up a nice diversion from some of the more serious simulations that most of us enjoy while also having a good experience. This is still very much a game based on a fictional property rather than a replication of something in the real world but it does seem to be taking more serious pathway which I like. VR is confirmed (TrackIR is not yet confirmed) and HOTAS support is apparently in so this has potential.
Star Wars Squadrons is coming October 2, 2020 and will retail for $39.99 on PC via Steam, Origin, and the Epic Games Store as well as on on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. I’ll be keeping an eye on this one for sure.