Recenze Star Wars: Squadrons » Vortex

Seven years have passed since the licensing agreement between Electronic Arts and Disney for the use of the Star Wars brand in video games. We’ve had two Battlefronts in that time, with the Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order event coming last year, and not counting the constellation of mobile titles or the recent Sims data disc, the last, fourth title is Star Wars: Squadrons. The intention of the developers from the Motive studio was to spiritually follow up on the legendary X-Wing series and bring players a space action that will not be completely trivial and will be different from the skirmishes from Star Wars Battlefront. The developers promised that in addition to multiplayer, the game will also offer a story part, it will not contain any microtransactions, we could also look forward to VR mode, and moreover, the game should not be sold at full price. You will surely admit that this is a very long list of tasks and exactly what I was afraid of happened. Not all points were met without reservations and the result remains far below my expectations.

A bit of everything

When the developers from Motive presented their upcoming game at the end of July, they devoted approximately the same space to information about the story part and details about multiplayer. Therefore, we could get the impression that we are waiting for two full-fledged components capable of satisfying players who are either not interested in competitive gaming at all, or, on the contrary, are not approached by game stories. But Star Wars: Squadrons is halfway there, and disappointment awaits both ends of the spectrum. To begin with, the developers have lured themselves to their own storyline, the prologue of which will take place shortly after the destruction of Alderaan and then take players ahead of the battle on the planet Jakka, which decided the definitive end of the Galactic Empire. We will therefore be at a time when the newly established New Republic is gaining the upper hand and the Empire is trying its best to prevent its downfall, which sounds very interesting, even taking into account the possibility of playing for both sides of the conflict. But the developers have made a decision that unpleasantly undermines storytelling – the ability to create your own pilot.

The Vanguard squadron on the New Republic side and the Titan squadron on the Empire side will be joined by completely new heroes, or the heroines that the game will present to you on the switchboard as the script is written. In a simple editor, you can give them your own name, choose one of the basic skins, and assign one of the votes. Unfortunately, your characters will only speak through it through generic announcements in the cockpit, while in the cutscenes and dialogues they will simply remain silent. In hangars and planning rooms, you will repeatedly witness very bizarre “conversations”, when the counterpart speaks and is obviously satisfied that he does not receive any answers. Of course, everything is conceived in such a way that the other characters do not talk to you, but to you, but because of this comes a huge depersonalization and, like the dialogues, you only pass through the whole story in absentia. It is also strange with regard to the relationships of other members of the squadron, who of course address names and tell you uniformly Vanguard 5 and Titan 3. What exactly led to this step of the developer, I have no idea about the possibility of letting the player take the story but comes.

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A canon-limited story

On the other hand, you don’t lose much – in fifteen missions, which are always preceded by a briefing and several graphically very successful animations, you usually just follow one of the partners, shoot against two or three waves of enemy fighters, complete a special task and fly home. Sure, what you would expect from space action rather than shooting at enemies, but it’s the uniformity of individual missions, significantly repetitive content and only a minimum of interesting special moments, such as bombing targets in the bowels of large stations or silent pursuit. So when, even in the tenth mission, after destroying the main target, one of the comrades-in-arms announces to you again that more and then more enemy fighters have jumped to the scene, which of course needs to be destroyed, unexpected.

Are Squadrons a remake of the original VR project?

During playing in VR, in which I went through a large part of the campaign and multiplayer, I often asked myself the question, how was it really with the original concept. It seems that the game was created from the beginning as a title for virtual reality, which would correspond to a short campaign, lightweight multiplayer content, the way hangars are processed, the ability to completely turn off the HUD and the automatically set lower price. Maybe someone at EA or Motive was scared that VR’s exclusive title would fail and that’s why they prepared a neVR version right away.

As a result, even quieter moments do not work, when someone tells you more information via radio or explains what will happen now. Although the next course of the mission is obvious to you, for example, from the briefing, you must always wait very patiently before the dialogue between your comrades-in-arms takes place. In such a case, moreover, time mysteriously stops, the whole squadron slows down dramatically, heads to the very opposite side, and after another few painful waits, accompanied by strange animations, turns around and confirms to you what you already know for a few minutes. In other words, all missions run a very strict script, which breaks all the dynamics and looks very shabby. This comes with some bugs, when, for example, after that radio intermission, targeting stops working, and even if you do what you want, the game does not accept it. True, this only happened a few times for about six hours, during which the story part can be completed, but I always had to restart the whole mission because of that, because the last checkpoint was already affected by the error. Unfortunately, the story part sounds completely empty, it does not evoke any emotions in me at all, and even though I am far from the claim that I would not remember the individual characters, they are not interesting and with the prescribed canonical end, their destinies do not really mean anything.

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Perfect flight feel

But I don’t mean that playing Star Wars: Squadrons is boring under any circumstances. In the moments when you are the master of your own ship, which you can watch exclusively from a first person point of view, a relatively catchy gameplay comes to the surface, which is also directly subject to your skill. From the beginning, you will almost certainly have clumsy moments ahead of you and you will celebrate every shot properly. But with the increasing hours, you will almost certainly become a dreaded pilot and you may start to enjoy a bit of groundbreaking control for someone. Just for the record, I played the game on a computer, and even though I had the urge to control it with a gamepad, I ended up staying with a mouse-keyboard combo. Each of the four ships on either side is relatively movable, and in addition to determining the direction, you can rotate independently around the longitudinal axis. Due to the three-dimensional space and the absent horizon, a simple turn of the ship will completely change your perspective, which can be used in close one-on-one fights even during the effort to shake off the oncoming guided missile. In addition, if you turn off all indicators and rely only on instruments in nicely modeled cockpits, a strong feeling of nostalgia can occur and you will probably recognize that the link in the introduction to the aforementioned X-Wing series is really familiar. A well-balanced difficulty also benefits from a good experience, which does not forgive you everything, but it certainly does not frustrate and very pleasantly forces you to perform better.

The behavior of ships is also influenced by gradually unlocking modifications, divided into a whole constellation of categories. You can change the main on-board weapon, secondary support systems, missiles, fuselage or engine characteristics. Combined with manual management of the energy that can be pumped between shields, weapons and propulsion, you really have a lot of options to influence the fights, which will be useful in multiplayer after the story is completed. As in the case of the story part, however, the online component does not give a complete and full impression, as it offers only two modes and a handful of areas where fights take place. The classic dogfight of five ships against five is pleasant to play, brings an extra challenge in the form of more natural behavior of opponents and higher difficulty, but it is the most standard you can imagine. The second mode – Fleet Battles – then represents a slightly longer variant of dogfights, where it is not only about frags, but also about moving the battle line, trying to defend your mother ship and destroy the opponent. I don’t know how other classic multiplayer modes would work, but the developers probably didn’t even want to try it, and if you’re not motivated by cosmetic jerks in the cabin and some hitherto untried boat modifications, you won’t find lasting fun here either. In addition, it does not seem to me that matchmaking would work extra in the evaluated matches and the fights of completely different players are on the agenda. The problem is also that the players disappear from the lobby before the game starts, but the match still starts with a numerical disadvantage for one of the teams.

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VR laskomina

To end up at this point, Squadrons would give an average mark and even the reduced price tag of CZK 1,000 as perhaps too high. But the game offers one more thing, which explains a lot of things and allows you to look at the content much more conciliatory. It seems that the title was actually created for the VR from the first moments and it is possible to play it through and through in this way. That’s probably why hangar divisions between story missions seem like a point-and-click adventure if you don’t have a headset on your head, which is why you feel that the view from some ships is comically limited when playing without VR. The moment you start VR mode, we get into a completely different sphere of experience and I do not hesitate to suddenly build Squadrons in terms of presentation and impressions just behind Half-Life: Alyx. Regardless of the reduced resolution – I personally played with Oculus Quest connected to a PC – the whole feeling is absolutely fantastic, thanks to the clearly designed devices and radar you have a perfect overview and the desired immersion in the game is finally coming. Multiplayer is perhaps even better and forces you to play further and further until your eyes and head and stomach hurt and much more. It is a pity that the tax for fluency in the CoR was an overall reduction in the quality of graphics. You won’t see anything that bothers you in dialogues or when exploring ships, quite the contrary. But the moment you leave the dock and throw yourself towards your own flight, you will see a lot of unfinished work and strange outdated effects that are constantly pulling your eyes. It is most striking on the explosions, which are also the most common things you will see in the fights and at this point the Squadrons are reminiscent of a decade of old titles. The flat and strangely intertwining textures of the explosions, the disappearing and properly ugly parts of the exploded ships, or the strange animations of the slow-flying fighters cannot be overlooked, and the otherwise successful impression is lowered again.

That’s why I can’t talk about too much success, and given the lack of plans for any later expansion of the game, we probably have to accept that there are no more than just above-average Star Wars: Squadrons. But if you have VR, get the game right away, feel free to be part of your EA Play subscription, and go for it. For a green face, a stomach on the water and a spinning world, it really cost me personally!

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