Star Wars: Squadrons is finally available and it is a surprisingly impressive experience. I was initially concerned about the game after EA unveiled their plans for progression systems and community events, but I am happy to report that Squadrons is the space combat flight-simulator all Star Wars fans hoped for.
Though I am absolutely loving the game, I was definitely taken aback by how steep the learning curve is. I cannot stress this enough: this game is not just a stand-alone expansion of Battlefront 2’s Starfighter Assault. You will not be able to immediately hop into multiplayer dogfights and blast TIEs out of the sky.
Mastering Squadrons takes a bit of time and good ole’ fashion practice. I don’t blame any players who get so frustrated within the first two hours of the game that they rage quit and slink back to BF2. I wish I had more guidance when I first jumped into the game as it would’ve saved me a lot of frustration and let me enjoy things faster.
I don’t want you to experience the same frustrations I did. So when you fire up Squadrons for the first time, keep these tips in mind and you’ll be an ace pilot in no time!
Never fly casual
If you’ve spent significant time in Battlefront 2’s Starfighter Assault, you’re aware how unforgiving the maps and environments are. Making even the slightest contact with the hull of another ship or a wandering asteroid spells certain death. Luckily, Squadrons is a lot more forgiving and allows you to bounce off of environmental obstacles rather than spontaneously combust. So take advantage of this leniency!
Take risks. Cling tight to enemy capital ships, skim the surface of asteroids, speed through the smallest gaps in scaffolding or debris. Not only will this make for exhilarating flight paths that capture the feel of classic Star Wars chase sequences, but it will make you a harder target to track and will allow you to more effectively make timely escapes when you’re under heavy fire.
Sure, you’ll definitely die horrifically in a fiery ball of destruction a few times. But you’ll have more fun and you’ll quickly get a better feel for each ship and how they maneuver under pressure.
Be very active in diverting ship power
Aside from tweaked controls and the locked first-person perspective, the biggest differentiator between Squadrons and Starfighter Assault is the ability to micromanage your ship’s power to either engines, shields, or weapons. This might seem like a minor change that you will likely use sparingly in favor of the basic, equal power distribution, but it’s actually what will set the great pilots apart from the dead pilots.
You should constantly divert your power appropriately on a moment-to-moment basis. Diverting power to engines to quickly squeeze through a gap in an asteroid then immediately boosting your rear shields to protect you from the pilot giving you chase can be the difference between escaping and being blasted out of the sky.
Think strategically about how you play with your power supply— diverting power to engines allows you to accumulate a boost, which can be used even after you divert power back to other systems. So if you know you’re hurtling into a dogfight and might need a quick escape, divert power to your engines before switching focus to your weapons. Or maybe you’re making a run on an enemy capital ship? Consider boosting shields as you make your approach before making the last-second switch to weapons as you unleash a barrage of lasers and missiles.
Whatever you do, just keep a finger poised on your d-pad (or whatever the keys are on PC) and stay vigilant with your power resource.
Don’t be passive with your throttle
When it comes to throttling and turning, Squadrons does share some resemblance to Starfighter Assault— turning at top speed is tricky while turning at low speed is smooth. Squadrons, however, is a bit more intricate than it’s Battlefront 2 counterpart and requires players to be more aware of how the throttle is impacting maneuverability.
Like power diverting, the best pilots are constantly adjusting their throttle nearly every second. Whether you’re pulling back to 75% to make a tight turn while keeping a distance from your pursuer, hitting top speeds as you make a bombing run on a cruiser, or completely killing the engines to get the jump on a pursuing fighter, playing fast and loose with the throttle will ensure you constantly have the maneuverability you need to survive.
If you always leave your throttle at 100%, you’ll never be able to out-maneuver even the most average pilot and you’ll find yourself getting shot down often. On the other hand, if you happily sit at 50% for the sake of maneuverability you’ll never outrun your pursuers and, you guessed it, find yourself constantly dying. So always be tweaking your throttle based on the situation.
The game is called Squadrons, so use your squad
It doesn’t matter if you’re playing the campaign, practicing with AI-fleet battles, or taking on other pilots online, you have to make use of your squad if you want to rack up kills and XP. I mean, the game is called Squadrons for a reason y’all.
You have the ability to see which fighters your squadmates are deploying in, so try and fill the gaps that your team needs depending on the game mode. Fleet Battles are more dynamic encounters that require a mix of dogfights and bombing runs, so make sure your squad has a bomber deployed to deal maximum damage to capital ships.
You also have the ability to point out targets for your squad-mates, which is especially key when attacking capital ship support systems. If you’re piloting a Y-Wing and targeting the shield generators of a Star Destroyer, let your squad know. They can both cover you on your bombing run and target the generators for even more damage. If you’re using ion cannons that disable enemy ships, make sure to call out your attacks so your squad knows which fighters are most vulnerable for an easy kill.
Support ships like the U-Wing and TIE Reaper are useful in any context, but can be especially effective when used strategically with a teamwork mindset. If you know you have a squad-mate in a Reaper, call out for shield assist or request a supply drop when you’re low on missile counter-measures. Making use of your squad and their load-outs will make your Squadrons experience more enjoyable and immersive.
Play the campaign
If you’re just a die-hard Star Wars fanboy like me, I probably don’t have to convince you to play the campaign. But even if you’re not all that interested in how the campaign adds to Star Wars lore (which it does, albeit quite minimally), you should still play the campaign in its entirety before you jump into multiplayer.
The campaign is just long enough to allow you to truly master Squadrons‘ gameplay mechanics and get a feel for how you like to play the game. You’ll get to test out all the available ships and gain access to all the components you’ll use to outfit your fighters in multiplayer, so you can really get a feel for how to best customize your starfighter to your play style. The campaign is also a much more forgiving practice ground that will allow you to really get the hang of piloting while making tight, daring escapes in the heat of battle.
Just think of the campaign as a six-hour Imperial or New Republic flight academy, because it is essentially a really long (and very enjoyable) tutorial. Plus, the campaign features Hera Syndullah, and more Hera is always a good thing.
Have you picked up Star Wars: Squadrons? What are your thoughts on it so far? Sound off in the comments!