In Star Wars, in German Star Wars, it is actually in the name that an integral part of the universe is the war in the vastness of space. But apart from isolated modes integrated in games such as Starfighter Assault in Battlefront 2, a lot has happened in the area of Star Wars video games on the surface of planets in recent years. Fans of space combat simulations still look wistfully back to the 90s and early 2000s when titles like the X-Wing series and the Rogue Squadron series caused epic space battles after another.
With Star Wars Squadrons (buy now for 38.98 €) This year, a game has been published for a long time that is exclusively devoted to the fascination of space warfare in the Star Wars universe. According to creative director Ian Frazier, the title arose from the ideas of a small group of developers at Motive Studios, who were also big fans of the space fighting games of the 90s. The focus was on the question of what it means to be a pilot in Star Wars, nothing more and nothing less. As part of a virtual all-round event, we were able to climb into the cockpit ourselves for the first time and fight the first battles at the wheel of X-Wing, TIE Fighter and Co.
Empire against New Republic
Star Wars Squadrons will also take its place in the overall canon of the star saga, hence a few words about the "historical" classification of the title. The game continues immediately after the Battle of Endor and the end of
Source: Lucasfilm / EA
Star Wars Episode 6: The Return of the Jedi. The second Death Star has just been destroyed, the Emperor and Darth Vader are dead, and the galactic empire has subsequently a power vacuum in its leadership. An easy enemy is the enemy of the former rebellion, which has now formed into the New Republic, but still far from it.
And so there are still clashes between the fleets of both parties. The story behind it is told in the Star Wars Squadrons single player campaign. Here, the developers take a very special approach: You experience the action both from the perspective of the empire and from the perspective of the New Republic. To do this, you create your own pilot for each side at the start of the game. However, you shouldn't expect an extensive character editor. In our sample demo we had the choice of five male and five female faces and voices, which we could freely combine with a male or female body.
In the course of the campaign, there is always a switch between these two characters. We were able to get a first impression of this in the prologue mission, which took place some time before the actual action of the game. This prelude primarily serves to introduce some important characters to the fairly staged plot. The developers also used figures such as Rae Sloane and Hera
Source: Lucasfilm / EA
Syndulla, which are already known from the expanded universe. In addition, of course, the prologue also offers a good opportunity to introduce the player to the control of a space fighter for the first time. Therefore, we only fly a patrol before the game sends us the first opponents in front of the crosshairs.
As an imperial pilot, we first hunt for some refugee transports that are hidden in the crowds of a busy space station. Among other things, there is a fight with the station's defenses. Then when we switch to the New Republic side, we don't just play the same events again from a different perspective, but start where we left off. We are now part of a reinforcement squadron that is rushing to the aid of the convoy that has already come under fire. A major space battle then developed, in which republican corvettes and imperial destroyers also took part. With the successful end of the mission, our brief insight into the story campaign ends, which definitely made you want more.
Source: Lucasfilm / EA
As the title of the game suggests, the squadron is the focus of the gameplay not only in the campaign, but also in the rest of the game. A squadron in Star Wars Squadrons always consists of five pilots. In the campaign as well as the single player variants of the different game modes, your wingmen and women are controlled by the AI, in the multiplayer these are of course different players. Accordingly, the two multiplayer modes Dogfight and Fleet Battles are designed for battle five against five.
Source: PC games
In addition to good cooperation, it also depends on the composition of the teams of 5. Both the Empire and the New Republic have four Starfighters in the Fighter, Interceptor, Bomber, and Supporter classes. While the individual counterparts such as TIE Fighter and X-Wing or TIE Interceptor and A-Wing have similar properties, there is no symmetrical balance within the ship classes. For example, X-Wings have shields that a TIE fighter does not have. In return, the imperial hunter makes up for this disadvantage with a stronger shell and other advantages.
The behavior and skills of the individual hunters can also be specifically adapted to a preferred style of play using various ship components. For example, the X-Wing has two slots for additional equipment. Here we can optionally install, for example, repair droids, rocket rockets or proton torpedoes. When selecting the components, it shouldn't be about which component is better. Each will have advantages and disadvantages. Because at the center of success in space combat is the skill of the player, i.e. how well they can deal with the mechanics available to them.
Source: PC games
This also includes the energy management of your own ship. At any time, the pilot can choose to balance his energy and redirect to shields, weapons or the drive. This then gives bonuses for protection, damage or speed. Professionals can even activate an expanded energy management in the options, with which the distribution can be continuously and individually adjusted to the individual components. With the right energy management, special skills can also be activated. Full power on the drive, for example, charges a booster that, when triggered, provides an additional boost in the form of an afterburner. With the correct use of all of these possibilities, flight maneuvers should be possible that are in no way inferior to the pilot wetnesses from the films.
Nothing is better suited to sharpen your flying skills than classic dogfights. This game mode is nothing more than team deathmatch, where a season of the empire takes on a season of the new republic. For each shot by the opposing team, their own squadron collects points and the side that first reaches a certain number of points wins. We play in the first round on the side of the New Republic and swing ourselves into a nimble A-wing. The battle takes place in the Esseles system, where the empire hid a listening post in the middle of an asteroid field.
Our squadron and the planes of the empire are buzzing around the huge station, which not only serves as a backdrop, but can also be used tactically through various openings, trenches and structures. Especially if you want to shake off enemy missiles and have no countermeasures, a daring maneuver through the inside of the base may be just right. Of course, you should avoid collisions with the structure, because your ship does not suffer such collisions for a long time. Overall, the map looks big enough to find opportunities to take a breather, but still compact enough to be in action quickly at any time.
Source: PC games
On the other hand, the situation is quite different at the heart of the game, the so-called "Fleet Battle" mode. Here too, a squadron of five pilots compete against each other on each side. This time, however, not on its own, but as part of a larger fleet that is involved in a larger space battle. This takes place in several phases. Both sides start with their fighters from the flagship of their own fleet,
Source: PC games
which is accompanied by two smaller cruisers. In the first phase, both squadrons meet in the middle of the battle area and fight for the so-called momentum in battle.
If one side manages to gain the upper hand, it goes to attack the two escort cruisers. These ships already have neat shields, armor and various turrets. The right approach strategy, energy distribution and skillful flight maneuvers contribute to longer survival. And of course the coordination with your own team members. The danger of an overpowering large battleship is of course overcome faster if everyone in the team acts in concert. For this purpose, voice and text chat as well as a special ping system are available in the game. With the latter, opponents can be marked for attacks and allies for defense.
With all the focus on the enemy cruisers, the enemy hunters must not be lost sight of. If they succeed in gaining the upper hand again through increased kills, their own team is ordered back to protect their own cruisers from attacks. The momentum can swing back and forth several times during a battle, which leads to a very dynamic and exciting course of the entire fight. As soon as one
Source: PC games
Team has managed to destroy the two escort cruisers, the way to the opponent's flagship is clear. With these massive pots, it is not only about bringing damage to the shell, but also about destroying various components such as shield generators, target and energy systems, which can be individually targeted.
Again, it is important to take care not to lose the momentum of the battle through too much of your own losses. In dogfight mode, the individual skills of each pilot are very important. That still plays a big role in the Fleet Battles, but here the component of the team is added as a very strong factor. For example, a balanced composition of the season is advantageous. Bombers that cause damage to the large combat ships, fighters that keep the bombers' back free, and supporters who, for example, provide ammunition supplies (missiles, countermeasures) at the front.
Source: PC games
Battle complete various challenges. Among other things, this can be used to earn an in-game currency that can be used in the hangar to buy cosmetic upgrades. All ships can be customized with different color kits, coats of arms and cockpit decorations. There are also various adjustment options for the pilots.
But don't worry, there will be no microtransactions. The currency for the optical items can only be earned in the game. In general, developers don't take a service game approach with Star Wars Squadrons. What will be released on October 2nd should be the entire package. There are currently no plans for further content, explains creative director Ian Frazier. The crossplay functionality across all three platforms, which is available right from the start, is also pleasing. Players on PC, PS4 and Xbox One can plunge into space battles together. The voice chat integrated in the game will work accordingly across all platforms.
The crossplay functionality even goes so far that it also covers VR mode. Star Wars Squadrons can be played entirely in VR on PC and PS4 and these players also enjoy the connection with all other players. It is a pity, however, that HOTAS systems are initially only supported on the PC. The creative director assured us that the possibility of support for consoles is currently being examined, but did not want to confirm anything in this respect.
Pleasantly thoughtful space battles, with a focus on player skill.
When Star Wars Squadrons was announced, I was quite skeptical. I expected a simple decoupling of the rudimentary space fight from Battlefront 2 and since Motive Studios was responsible for the very disappointing campaign in the same game, I have my doubts as to the quality of the single player mode. My concerns about the story have not yet been resolved, so far I have seen too little. But I was all the more pleasantly surprised by the gameplay of the space fights, which has more depth than expected and has probably not been seen in a Star Wars game since the great times of the 90s. Now I am not a proven flight simulation expert and what I already see as a complex, player-based game system might not go far enough for one or the other professional aviator. But the tactical management of ship energy, the different space fighters with their different configuration options and the interaction in the squadron are an excellent basis for gripping space battles. Especially the fleet battles with changing momentum were a lot of fun when I played. I hope only the developers offer enough variety in the finished game through a variety of maps, so that the two game modes do not lose their fascination too quickly. And also for the single player campaign, I want a good volume with an exciting narrative that not only keeps me busy for a handful of hours.
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