Star Wars: Squadrons: Good for a Star Wars game, Weak for a Fighter Sim

Star Wars: Squadrons is the latest video game addition to the Star Wars Universe, a space fighter simulator in the vein of the X-Wing and Rogue Squadron series. It offers virtual reality (VR) functionality for those with VR headsets, as well as normal console play and both a single-player campaign and online multiplayer. This review applies only to normal console play and the single-player campaign, the former because VR headsets are expensive and uncommon and the latter because a $40 game should be able to stand on its own merits. Also, I have a strict policy against playing multiplayer video games in which I cannot reach over and slap the person I am playing with if they do something stupid.

            In terms of Star Wars games, Squadrons is a solid addition. It has not been overloaded with an unreasonable amount of microtransactions and offers a single-player experience, unlike Star Wars: Battlefront. Roughly, it delivers on what it promises. The game continues the positive trends of the Star Wars games’ excellent graphics and visuals but it also perpetuates the more numerous negative trends. Its story is weak, with an open ending that offers neither satisfaction nor an effective conclusion. The characters lack development, the voice or mocap actors give mostly wooden and uninteresting performances and the game does not really add much to the existing Star Wars canon. Additionally, this is most definitely a story the protagonist is a part of rather than a story that is driven by the protagonist. You begin by customizing your characters’ appearances, but outside of a few scenes and some stock phrases, you will not really be hearing or seeing them.

            As a space fighter simulator, the game is both overly complicated and underdeveloped. As is common, there are some additional layers beyond the basic flight and weapons controls. You can divert power to shields, thrusters or weapons as well as front-load or back-load your shields. The problem is that there really isn’t much need to do so on any difficulty setting beneath Ace. Other than diverting power to thrusters to enable the boost capability, I left the power distribution alone most of the time and did not notice any real difference between different shield alignments. These overcomplicate the controls without adding anything. Additionally, the controls seem better suited to a flight stick rather than a standard controller. You get used to them but they lack the intuitive appeal of other fighter sims. The somewhat clunky controls take away from the immersion, as you just do not get the sense of visceral satisfaction that should come from lining up a perfect shot or watching an enemy capital ship break up.

All in all, 3 out of 5.

Not garbage, but not a paragon.