Publisher: Electronic Arts
Developer: Motive Studio
Release Date: 10/01/2020
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X-Wing vs Tie Fighter is a PC flight classic. It was chaotic, a great mix between sim and arcade gameplay, and was a blast to play and you felt like real Star Wars pilots. Squadrons try to re-capture this lightning in a bottle by letting you play as both New Republic and Empire pilots. You fly in Vanguard Squadron for the New Republic and Titan Squadron for the Empire. You play as an unnamed pilot in each squadron and the story is set between movies VI and VII after the battle on Endor. The New Republic is trying to build a new starship and they needed Empirical parts for it while an Empirical captain is trying to stop them and wipe them out. The characters are interesting and well written and the story is rather tense with a constant tug-of-war on who keeps getting the advantage. While you’re playing on one side you don’t know what’s happening on the other and won’t find out until you switch back after a few missions, it’s really intense and I loved it.
That’s not to say the story is memorable or anything, but it’s a good start as I’m sure more of these games are to come. Once you create your pilot, which is rather basic, you jump into the base of either side and this is where things differ from other Star Wars games. You stand still and can only spin the camera around and click on contextual items. Outside of inspecting your ship, you can talk to the other squad members optionally which give you insight as to what’s going on in the war and a more detailed context of what is just going on in the Star Wars universe. The voice acting is great and each character had a great personality, but still nothing super memorable. Once you get your briefing and select your craft you head on out. The first time you start up you are launched out into space in real-time and it’s exhilarating. Flying never gets old and it’s a shame the story is only 14 missions long. Each side has the same controls, but the Empire ships have more firepower and the Rebel ships have more shielding.
Controls are slowly unlocked and dished out over the first few missions, but it’s the same all around. You can shift power between engines, lasers, and shields (shields if they are equipped) to allow more speed or firepower. This is essential as you will constantly flip between these as well as divert more power to either engines or weapons when you are the Empire. Sometimes when you destroy capital ships you want to go slower with more power, but fighting Tie Fighters, Reapers, Bombers, A-Wings, etc. will require more finesse and speed. The steering feels rather smooth and each ship feels different. Either slow or long or even zippy, the ships are well designed. Shooting something down is rather satisfying as there is a button to flip between enemies and once you track them the system can lock on for missiles or you can shoot them down with lasers. The system will tell you if you are out of range and you can’t just lay down fire forever. There are meters for refilling everything from lasers, missiles, repair kits, scatter flares, etc. You can call in for refills, but this also has a refill meter. It’s a delicate balance of using your resources wisely and this is where the simulator part comes in. The arcade part is the instant lock-on, the less obtuse flight controls, and not doing insane stuff like pre-flight checks, fuel, etc.
While I’d love a full-on simulator version of this game, what we get is fine as the balance is nicely done. I just wish the mission was more varied. I know the game is about shooting things down, but rarely did anything new come up outside of shooting these things down. It was fun attacking a giant Star Destroyer or the Starhawk itself that loomed overhead and felt like a planet. Targeting ship systems was fun and even flying inside one here and there was also a blast, but most of the game is just shooting small ships down and it got old after a while. I wanted more scripted events or something as I can shoot down small ships all day in multiplayer. The final two missions were also a serious pain as you need specific weapons and ships to complete certain objectives and I constantly died until I figured it out, and they dragged on far too long, but the rest of the missions were entertaining the first time around. The ambiance is also very Star Wars-y with chatter and banter during flights, iconic ship sounds, blasters, explosions, and great music.
The game also looks amazing. The character models are detailed, and the ship cockpits look like they were ripped right out of the movies with a lot of glowing lights, and strange shapes, but I would love to walk around the base more and just have more variety in missions. The four or five ships per side were fine, you can change the load-outs for various items like ion blasters to knock down shields faster, various engines and hulls that sacrifice one aspect to gain another such as acceleration, maneuverability, shield recharge time, etc. and there are a lot of options which mostly becomes useful in multiplayer. I feel like what we got was just part of a huge design doc and a lot of stuff got cut. I wanted a grander story, maybe some missions where you fly inside a planet and not just in space, more interior levels, and more scripted events. The space battles look great with giant asteroids, huge planets in the background, and beautiful space backdrops, but I wanted more.
The multiplayer is something that I felt wasn’t fun for too long. Unless you master the controls and a specific ship you’re going to die a lot. There are dogfights and missions that have you taking down larger ships and working together. I found the dog fights were boring after some time, but the bigger battles were a lot more entertaining, but I still don’t see this game having longevity in the multiplayer department for very long. Overall, the game plays, looks, and sounds great but feels like it wants to be more of a simulator than an arcade game sometimes, then in others more arcade. It needs to either balance these out better next time or pick one. I wanted more mission variety, a more epic story, and the ability to walk around the shipyards. What’s here is fantastic, and should be played by flight game fans or Star Wars fans.