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Letters from the Front

In all honesty, Squadrons is a game that most of us have been waiting for. In recent years, multiplayer for the Star Wars games have been quite rocky with the two rebooted Battlefront games that were published by DICE, makers of the famous Battlefield set of games. The two rebooted games was nothing but a shallow experience that didn’t require much skill, a plague that infested their other franchise but Battlefront II reached its full potiential after it was nearly immobilized by an industry-shaking controversy in 2017.

Battlefront II, despite this, ended up being a decent game after a batch of updates that made up for its rocky first impressions which kept fans coming back. These updates focused on infantry play, leaving Starfighter Assault, its premiere space fighter mode, to go without an update since the game first released. It was sent to a painful death. While it was a fun mode, it relied solely on the spectacle and speed over engaging gameplay.

Fast forward to 2020, Star Wars: Squadrons slows down the pace and replaces the one-button abilities with intricate systems that require moment-to-moment decisions and long-term planning. It is a complete flight sim from top to bottom, a refreshment amongst all the Star Wars games. It separates the good pilots from the bad pilots.

Squadrons lowers the playercount to 10, split between the Rebels and the Empire. Both sides have four classes to choose from: the all-around fighter, the dedicated bomber, a speedy interceptor, and a team-focused support ship. Imperial ships, outside of the TIE reaper, trade shields for the ability to immediately transfer power from one system to another, providing a complete laser recharge or full boost refill. They also have worse visibility, due to the classic TIE fighter cockpit design. Rebel ships, however, come equipped with shields and generally have great visibility, which is useful and handy when beginning to engage with enemy forces. Within each faction, the classes all have a distinct feel; some are more maneuverable, while others give and take more damage. Upgrades to your ship’s components can bend one class to mimic the role of another. You could outfit your fighter to be more effective or you could tweak your bomber to be more effective against other starfighters.

No two matches are ever the same within Squadrons. These upgrades always come with a trade-off, a theme that permeates throughout the rest of Squadrons. Every benefit has a drawback. In order to raise your top speed, you may need to sacrifice your overall health. This allows for a lot of personalization in your starfighters and really changes the way you play. Some loadouts may benefit from an aggressive playstyle, sometimes requiring you to quickly maneuver into the action and get out as fast as you can, while other kits allow you to move a bit slower and deal as much damage as you take. The variety of possibilities allow you to play however you like, and you have to be ready to adapt to any situation that’s being thrown your way. Squadrons is a true dogfighting game.

The two multiplayer modes within Squadrons are dogfights, as expected: you have the classic team deathmatch and fleet battles. Fleet battles is the premier mode of Squadrons. Two teams go head to head with the ultimate goal of taking down the other’s capital ship. However, both teams must go through the other defensive line of fighters, corvettes, and frigates in order to make the final approach. Each side must work to boost their morale in order to push the frontline forward and attain victory; it is very similar to Breakthrough in the Battlefield franchise.

A fleet battle begins with an epic dogfight over space. This is where you get your iconic Star Wars imagery from; interceptors and fighters fight head on to the death. The victor of the dogfight gets a moral boost and pushes the match into the next phase, while the defenders retreat towards the frigate and must now hold the frontline. The frigates serve as a defensive structure and are extremely valuable. They keep the frontline at bay from your capital ship while also providing a resupply point during the attack phases. Losing one has real cost and may cost you the fight in the end.

The constant push and pull of Fleet Battles remind me a lot of Breakthrough and Grand Operations in Battlefield 1, it is a much more engaging mode then the linear Starfighter Assault in Battlefront II. Both modes are played on the same six maps, with size variations for the two modes. They offer great variety. It challenges you and has the potential to keep players coming back for more and delving deeper into its mechanics to become better, Star Wars: Squadrons has a lot of potential.

Star Wars: Squadrons is the game that most of us have been wanting for so long. It’s a return to the games of the 1990s and early 2000’s, games like Jedi Starfighter and Rogue Squadron 3D. Squadrons is a modern day Rogue Squadron and there’s nothing more you can ask for. Stay tuned for my review.

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