Preview | 2020.06.19

Star Wars Squadrons cruiser asteroids XWing YWing

The Star Wars: Squadrons gameplay trailer dropped, he's my read.

Combat sim or arcade shooter?

The X-Wing series gameplay has historically been reflected in the hud and in this regard, things look about the same as '94. It's an encouraging sign that the game doesn't appear to be watered down to the fly and point Rogue Squadron/Battlefront experience. The obvious addition is "components" which seem to be an iteration on munitions and craft-specific equipment that were customizable in previous games. Since it's wordy, I bumped the loadouts analysis to the bottom.

I think this is good. While they could have gone wild with the gameplay, I'm happier with a largely classic experience and improvements elsewhere in the game (missions, AI, game modes).
Game modes

Star Wars Squadrons single player

Happily, the trailer talks about a solo campaign. I didn't get a read on its weight but I hope it's not just a trainer. Community content is almost certainly a bridge too far.

Star Wars Squadrons Fleet Battles

Squadrons supports a straight dogfight mode but bases its signature fleet battles on the epic final mission of previous games. That is, fleet battles are a multipart engagement that looks to play like the progressive objectives in games like Battlefront and Battlefield.

Star Wars Squadrons Star Destroyer run

The trailer teases a capital ship battle whose final act can be either assaulting theirs or defending yours. There's a lot of potential here, but also a risk to replay value if these don't have enough variety or depth.

Disappointingly(?), it appears even fleet battles are 5v5 with maybe a bunch of AIs. I'm not sure why 100v100 isn't in the plan, that's the movie experience that previous games simply couldn't support. There are - well - implementation decisions (respawn, etc.), but it seems like the only technial limitation would be user base.

Star Wars Squadrons TIE Bomber

The game supports VR and I think it's perfect for it. The problem with VR FPS games is that movement is very weird. Here, I presume, you're using VR for immersion and quick looks, while control is probably unchanged. Taking away an axis of motion might also mitigate motion sickness issues.

It seems like this is where things can get good or bad. Previous games allowed you to select munitions and sometimes equip tractor beams and such. There are a lot of in-universe possibilities, but things like force push and death blossom could ruin the game.

Star Wars Squadrons components
Holy crap, none of these frighten me and they all seem like a great way to have preferred builds while maintaining play balance.

Serial Microsoft Sidewinder stick

So, uh, Microsoft, you still support this, right?
Polgyon inteview (update 20 June)

Mark sent a link to this inteview with Squadrons' creative director Ian Frazier. I thought I'd grab a few quotes and give my read, emphasis mine throughout.

One of the questions people have been asking a lot lately is, ?Hey, what were your inspirations? Is this game coming from, you know, X-Wing or from Rogue Squadron or whatever??

Yes! Which?

... And the answer is kind of, ?Yes??

Uh oh.

You?ve got people that are coming to it and they remember Rogue Squadron and love it dearly, and what?s inspiring to them. I?m an old fart, so I remember X-Wing and TIE Fighter, they?re a big inspiration for me.

Oh, well, as long as you put those young'uns in their place. Also I'm now not buying your game because you're making me feel old. You're "old" and remember XvT while I fondly look back on the five-floppy original X-Wing.

If you take a freeze frame of A New Hope and you put it next to Rogue One, they don?t actually look the same. Rogue One has more technical quality to it. It?s better produced because it?s been decades, but they managed to hit the style and the flavor spot on... I think that?s similar to what we?re trying to do.

Sounds good.

If you kind of move your head forward in VR and really look closely at the displays in our cockpits, you?ll notice that we?ve we?ve constructed them in a way that looks like how ILM would have built a prop in 1977.

That's actually pretty funny.

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.

I think George Lucas would be smiling.

Star Wars Squadrons nonequivalence Interceptor A Wing

Oh yeah. Though there is commentary elsewhere about asymmetry, this seems way too close to parity. That's not how this universe works.

For instance, we went as a team and we saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and the opening scene where you know, Poe is boosting and he goes under the shields, and he?s doing his crazy kind of reckless maneuvers. We loved how that looked, we loved how that felt... You see him do that kind of spin out move by one of the turrets. Can we can we achieve that mechanically?

Ugh, a scene choreographed to make a character seem super OP. Great.

First, putting your power to engines makes your ship faster, and it makes it turn better. In addition, where you sit on the throttle also determines your turn speed.

This is slightly more reassuring. Drift-boost wasn't part of the original but seems like it could work. Cutting throttle to turn faster was a massively important mechanic and it sounds like this remains.

With full power in lasers, once they?re fully charged they?ll keep charging so you get it up to a double bar, and all of that double bar is doing extra damage.

Nonlinear benefits to power distribution, sounds good.

We wanted to give [unshielded craft] some kind of equivalent but different ability. The ships that don?t have shields have a quick power conversion ability, using some of the same buttons and inputs. You can rapidly reroute power from engine to lasers or vice versa.

Basically, it seriously debuffs the other system when you do that [on a shielded craft].

That's a neat, in-universe way to achieve parity. TIEs don't have shield but are engineered better.

We?re trying to stick to canon sources [for content], or invent new things and work with Lucasfilm to bring those to life.

This is reassuring.

I think from a conceptual standpoint, the Star Wars: X-Wing Miniature Game is absolutely an inspiration to us. A bunch of us on the team love that game.

Spiderman meme

We don?t just have, you know, ?My lasers do 5% more damage!? No, it?s chunky stuff ? even for the passives ? that make a real difference.

Really it's about finding the right level of chunkiness, but I'm starting to believe.

There?s a hull you can take on some of the ships, a Reflec Hull, that makes you more fragile... But it automatically stealths you, hides you from enemy radar after you get past a certain distance.

That's kind of cool. The original series was somewhat light on tactics (beyond your mission script), so this could be a major plus.

The lore says TIE Fighters don?t have shields, so we don?t have shields on our TIE Fighters. That?s one of the things ? we don?t even let you mod them to put shields on them, because we felt like that?s kind of part and parcel to what makes a TIE Fighter a TIE Fighter.

Take that, stupid First Order and your shielded, canon-twisting TIEs.

We try to make sure we?re abiding by sort of what makes sense chronologically, and that we?re never doing anything ? how do I put it. Because of where we sit in the timeline ? because we?re after Endor...

Good choice.

Polygon: But we?re also seeing some real meaty narrative hooks to parts of the Star Wars canon from all over. Hera Syndulla is in there. Did I see Mr. Wedge Antilles? Did he give me the thumbs up?

Ian: Ehhhh, maybe. There was there was a dude who looked a little familiar in one of those cockpits.

Got it. $40 game, limited interaction with LucasFilm. This effort is a blip on the franchise radar. It's more XvT than KoTOR. If it plays well, I'll take a game that's shallow on lore but is too insignifcant to be subject to EA franchise milking.

The vast majority of the single player story takes place after the Battle of Endor... our story plays a pretty key role in how the Rebels are ultimately able to win [at Jakku].

Okay, first of all, spoilers. Second, there being a story that can have a 'vast majority' means it's not a five minute tutorial. Thank you.

What we?re trying to do is trying to make a game that?s a little bit old school and it?s mentality. You give us your $40, we give you the game. It is a fully self-contained experience.

What is this? 1997?

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