Star Wars: Squadrons Review

Richard Walker

Any kid who watched Star Wars for the first time presumably dreamed of climbing into the cockpit of a real-life X-wing and flying down a Death Star trench to fire a proton torpedo into an exposed exhaust port. And while numerous video games have aided in realising that dream, few have managed to fulfil the promise that X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter did, back in 1997, or Rogue Squadron did in 1998. Enter Star Wars: Squadrons from Montreal studio Motive, a game that could be considered a spiritual successor of sorts, placing you at the controls of your very own starfighter on sorties for the New Republic (formerly known as the Rebel Alliance) and the Galactic Empire. It's fantasy fulfilment at its best.

Playing as two customisable pilots on both sides of the conflict, Squadrons' single-player campaign is set almost directly after the Battle of Endor, as seen at the end of 1983's Return of the Jedi. The New Republic has been forged amid the ashes of the destruction of the second Death Star, and the Empire is fighting back to quell the uprising – and you get to see the ensuing aftermath from the perspective of each faction. As part of the New Republic, you're 'Vanguard 5', a new pilot teamed with Keo, Gunny, Grace, and Frisk, while as part of the Imperial Titan squad, you play as 'Titan 3', flying alongside a motley crew including Havina Vonreg, Varko Grey, Rella Sol, and Shen.

As for the nuts and bolts involved in flying and shooting, Squadrons steadfastly keeps you in the cockpit of your chosen starfighter, shorn of options to switch camera angles or viewpoints. Each mission commences in the hangar, where you tinker with your craft, before receiving a mission briefing from either Captain Lindon Javes, on the New Republic side, or Imperial Captain Terisa Kerrill. Then you're out among the stars alongside your squadron, and wars ensue. As a pilot, you have full control over your ship's systems, so you can distribute power to your weapons, shields, or thrusters, and the HUD is minimal – it's about as close to being a starfighter pilot as it's possible to get without journeying to a galaxy far, far away.

Happily, what could have proved fiddly and needlessly complicated – given the number of elements at play within the confines of your cockpit – is actually beautifully streamlined and wonderfully intuitive. A tap of the d-pad redirects power to wherever you need it, targeting is a button press away and you can cycle through targets with ease, while issuing specific commands to your crew, fortifying shields in a single direction, or ordering a resupply to top up hull integrity and ammo involve holding a button. Bag yourself a flight stick, meanwhile, and you'll have an even more authentic starfighter experience.

As a budget release, you might expect Star Wars Squadrons to be deficient in certain areas, like its single-player campaign, which could quite easily have been something tacked-on to placate (Han) solo players. But there's a fully fledged narrative here, each member of your squad imbued with their own unique personality and backstory, each sortie boasting its own objectives and story beats to tackle. It's a fairly substantial and varied affair, and well worth playing, beyond being a primer for the game's 5v5 multiplayer modes, of course.

Multiplayer serves as the crux of what Squadrons has to offer. Initially, you have the straightforward Dogfight mode, which simply involves shooting the other team down; then, when you reach level 5, you'll gain access to Fleet Battles. Playable against AI or other players online, Fleet Battles are deeply involving skirmishes wherein your squad attempts to push forward past the frontline, in a bid to destroy the opposing team's flagship. This injects a modicum of tactics into what would otherwise be holding down the 'pew pew' button until all the rival ships blow up; you're forced to consider your next move, rather than flying headlong into a barrage of lethal laser fire. It’s a bit like a galactic tug of war, as attackers and defenders go to and fro, switching roles on the fly as the level of morale fluctuates.

Attempt to assault an Imperial Star Destroyer or the New Republic MC75, and you'll very quickly come unstuck – the payoff being your starfighter erupting in a ball of flame and sparks. The game does a pretty poor job in explaining how Fleet Battles work in its tutorial, however, so don't be surprised to see teammates hurling themselves at rival capital ships, like lemmings decked out in helmets and flight suits. Fleet Battles essentially reward persistence and experimentation with your starfighter's loadout, and, as such, you can outfit your craft with different weaponry, shields, hull properties, engines, and more, all acquired by earning components that can be used to unlock new options.

There's a depth and detail in Star Wars: Squadrons that's remarkably impressive, and while some mission objectives can prove a mite frustrating, the thrill of being ensconced inside your starfighter's cockpit and soaring through nebulae, asteroid fields, and the debris of annihilated Star Destroyers never wears off. To write Squadrons off as a standalone version of Star Wars Battlefront's starfighter modes would not only be wide of the mark, then, but it'd also be doing Motive's game a huge disservice. This is the realisation of every self-respecting Star Wars fan's childhood dream, even if you don't get to swoop down the Death Star trench or whizz around the skies of Hoth. Star Wars: Squadrons is a proper original, and nigh-on essential for anyone longing for another X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter game – this is pretty much it.

Star Wars: Squadrons

Star Wars: Squadrons is the spiritual successor to X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter you've been waiting for, with a compelling story and tight, exciting gameplay that makes every multiplayer match a fast-paced, seat-of-the-pants experience. Rest assured, this has got it where it counts, kid.

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That eternally glorious John Williams score immediately grounds you in the Star Wars universe, while authentic sound effects are all present and correct. Voice performances are uniformly excellent, too.


A very pretty game, the farthest reaches of space have never looked so inviting. Cockpit detail is in abundance, and everything is lovely, smooth and crisp. You'll be starry-eyed looking at Squadrons' take on the Star Wars universe.


An awful lot has been crammed into the game in terms of core mechanics, and it's all been made incredibly intuitive without compromising on depth. Squadrons plays like a dream and feels like a natural successor to X-Wing vs. TIE Fighter.


A nice 10-hour (give or take) single-player campaign, a decent enough selection of multiplayer modes and numerous customisation options for both your pilot and hangar of starfighters. And, there's nary a microtransaction in sight.


Completing the game at Ace difficulty is no picnic (campaign completion achievements are glitched, too, at time of writing) and some of the medal objectives are tricky. There are loads of multiplayer tasks, too, so dig in for a grind.

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