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Review: In 'Star Wars: Squadrons' the storytelling is key

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Published in Science & Technology News

Electronic Arts' stewardship of the "Star Wars" franchise has been a bumpy one. Since striking a deal for the license back in 2013, the company's record publishing video games based on the sci-fi universe has been good but not great.

Part of the problem stemmed from its initial approach. EAsaw "Star Wars" as a vehicle for highly lucrative multiplayer projects and rebooted the "Star Wars: Battlefront" series as an extension of its "Battlefield" franchise. Although that may not have been the best use of the license, matters were complicated with the loot crate controversy. The efforts never really took off as expected.

Fortunately, something changed with EA's approach and it turned around its reputation on the "Star Wars" games. First, it published Respawn Entertainment's fantastic single-player adventure - "Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order," and this fall, the company released its space combat title, "Star Wars: Squadrons."

The latest project is the type of effort that fans have been clamoring for since players could fly starfighters in the 2015 "Battlefront." They saw the potential in the dogfight battles that echoed the classic "X-Wing" series. "Squadrons" feels like the spiritual successor to that beloved franchise, but one that casts an eye toward the strengths of "Star Wars" properties.

The sci-fi saga video games work best when they tell a story within a "galaxy far, far away." The locales and the "war" part are a fun playground to explore in multiplayer combat, but if developers want to capture the fans' imaginations, they must craft a tale within the rich fabric of that universe. That's what "Fallen Order" did and that's what "Squadrons" does in its single-player campaign.

A SAGA TOLD FROM BOTH SIDES

 

Taking place over a prologue and 14 missions, "Squadrons" weaves a story between the Empire and New Republic after the events of "Return of the Jedi." On one side, players take on the role of a new pilot for Titan Squadron, an elite unit headquartered on the Imperial Star Destroyer Overseer. On the rival faction, players step into the shoes of a pilot for Vanguard Squadron, a force serving the New Republic aboard the star cruiser Temperance.

Players create these pilots and give them names though they are referred to as Vanguard Five and Titan Three, respectively, by their wing mates.

Cmdr. Lindon Javes is the thread tying these two outfits together. As a captain in the Empire, he led missions to maintain control of the galaxy. All that changed after the emperor ordered the destruction of Alderaan. Javes began to question the morality of his leaders and that led to his defection to the New Republic. Four years after that incident, he's in charge of a secret project that could turn the tide of the war. To Vanguard, he's a trusted hero. To the Empire, he's a villainous traitor.

"Squadrons" tells both sides of the story and lets fans pilot four ships on each side. Amazingly, the developer, Motive Studios, gives each craft a distinct feel. X-Wings and TIE Fighters are versatile attack craft with one relying on shields and the other asserting its dominance via speed. A-Wings and TIE Interceptors are speedy but weaker crafts while the Y-Wings and TIE Bombers deal heavy damage but are slower. Backing up each side is the U-Wing and TIE Reaper with their support abilities that heal ships or make allies more effective in combat.

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