STAR WARS SQUADRONS: Living life on easy mode

“I can’t wait for this game but I’m going to be so bad at it!”

This was the all-too-common refrain I saw flooding my Twitter timeline in the lead-up to the release of Star Wars: Squadrons on October 2nd. Ideally, this should have made me feel better as I, too, was expecting to be terrible at it.

But here’s the problem: every single person swearing they were going to be terrible at the game was also a person who plays video games regularly. And that’s not me. Until we went into lockdown, I hadn’t played a video game on a system newer than the PS3. My comfort zone is the PS1 and the N64.

A desire to deep dive into all sides of Star Wars canon led me to trying Battlefront II back in March. To date it remains the only (and I do mean ONLY) video game campaign I’ve ever completed. Bolstered by the confidence that came with finishing the game, I was excited to try something new.

By October 2, I had my hands on a copy of Squadrons. I wasn’t going to miss out on the hype of release weekend, no matter how bad at it I thought I would be. Though I’ve currently logged several hours in campaign mode, as of this writing I haven’t yet ventured into the world of cross-platform online play. Why?

Because, as expected, I am terrible at the game.

It is a first person flight simulator, and I’ve never played a first person game before (I used third person mode for Battlefront II). Trying to control the pitch and yaw of the ship, while steering, while also modifying the various power boosters as needed depending on the situation is proving very overwhelming so far. If I ever do decide to play online, I expect my teammates to get really annoyed, really fast as they work to take down the enemy, wondering all the while why I’m spinning in place instead of shooting with any kind of accuracy.

You think I’m joking, but I’ve been battling a stomach bug for the last three days, and haven’t picked up the controller once in that time. I set my ship to spinning with such frequency, I just know I’m going to actually make myself sick.

In my defense, I chalk some of this up to being left-handed. A note to my fellow lefties out there: If you need the southpaw setting, make sure you set that up BEFORE playing the

prologue. I didn’t realize the game even had that setting - which I’d been using for Battlefront II - until well after the training mission. By that point it became too difficult to switch. The way the game had trained me was counter-intuitive to how my brain works, but then the modified southpaw setting was going against the way I’d already learned how to control the ships. Truly, a no-win scenario.

So why, you may ask yourself, am I still putting myself through this if I’m clearly having such a rough time with it?

There are definitely things I like about it. I like that I have the option to play online with my friends sometime - even if right now I’m doing them all a favour by sticking to campaign mode. I like the personal challenge of learning how to pilot a video game ship properly, and just the fact that there’s a new game to play at all. But the thing I like best, and the main reason I stick around: character and story.

Though you play as a custom character within the game, familiar faces from canon do make guest appearances, notably Imperial Admiral Rae Sloane and Rebel leader Hera Syndulla. I suspect the timing of the game is roughly concurrent with Shadowfall by Alexander Freed, given the offhand mention of Yrica Quell and Iden Versio as Imperial defectors, and it was a bit of a thrill to see these familiar names and faces pop up as the story progressed. My favorite encounter with a canon character however, is the appearance of Wedge Antilles (voiced by Denis Lawson, who also played him in the movies). Though I’m not necessarily a dedicated Wedge fan, the man occupies such a legendary place among pilots that being yelled at him during a mission sent me down such a shame spiral, I’m not convinced I’ve properly recovered.

My interest in the larger Star Wars canon stemmed from a desire to see how it all comes together as one big story. Granted Squadrons isn’t a lore-building adventure like Jedi Fallen Order is, or even Battlefront II. It’s not supposed to be. But kudos to the developers for realizing that some of us are here for that, and for making sure we have a way to enjoy the game too. This game, like Fallen Order, offers an option called “Story Mode”, kind of like an extra-easy mode designed for those who are interested in seeing the story, and want as little obstruction as possible in getting through it.

If I had to play on standard easy mode, I’d likely still be on the training missions. I might have

even given up in frustration, since flying games are not really my thing generally. But what Star Wars has done here is recognize that in telling a large, interconnected story, all parts of that story should be made accessible to anyone who might want to experience it, video games included. The challenge is there for those that want it, the story is there for those who don’t. As of this writing, I’m only halfway through the game, so I don’t know how the story ends. But I’m grateful that things like “Story Mode” make it possible for a non-gamer like me to be part of the fun too.

I am, of course, expecting to get better at the game. It does get a little easier with each mission, even though I can’t seem to stop spinning. But if you’re ever out there in the stars, and see a little ship flying without direction and shooting without accuracy, piloted by a “Kylu-Deetoo”, please go easy on me.

Have you played Squadrons yet? Are you struggling as much as I am? Tweet me your thoughts on Twitter @ArezouAmin to continue this Star Wars Conversation!