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Star Wars Squadrons: A Future in the Stars?

Now that the millions of battles have been fought all over the world, what does the future hold for Star Wars gaming and canon?

A lot of excitement surrounded Star Wars Squadrons before its’ release on October 2, 2020. Star Wars fans were getting a first-person flight simulation game with a story mode, dogfight mode, and fleet battles and the marketing teed it up nicely. Ahead of the first reveal trailer release in June posters were shared on social media with the tagline “Pilots Needed” representing both the New Republic and the Empire followed by the gameplay trailer a few days later. The anticipation heightened, even more, when EA and Motive Studios release a special Squadrons short, Hunted, on September 15, weeks before launch. So now that the newest addition to Star Wars gaming (and Star Wars canon) has been out for a few weeks, we can take a look at how Squadrons stacks up in gameplay and story and what canon tidbits we might see in the future.

The marketing campaign materials for Squadrons included two trailers, a short film, and posters (featured on the left).

After a rocky initial launch with Star Wars: Battlefront 2 for battle modes (though positive story mode reviews with a meh conclusion) and overall positive reviews for Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order, there might have been some expectations on the story mode of Squadrons to be as engaging as the first two games in the new Star Wars canon. Certainly, more marketing support was put behind Battlefront 2 and Fallen Order: both of the former games launching with toys, novels, Art of books, and comics which all added more context to the story character’s corner of the Star Wars universe. Squadrons, however, launched almost entirely around EA’s annual EA Play Live event. This no doubt the event got a lot of eyeballs on Squadrons (especially given everyone was still in the thick of a pandemic and eager to check out the net big Star Wars game) but it became clear with the marketing and launch strategy that Squadrons was less of a game driven by story and really the first-person, VR capability flight game with no microtransactions that a large section of the fan base had been asking for.

And, from a business standpoint, Squadrons has at least impressed with streaming stats in the first week given the Twitter posts week of October 12:

Exact sales numbers are hard to come by but we do know that Squadrons did reach number one in sales it’s the first week of release, though according to various reports did not come close to Fallen Order (which has over ten million sales to date) though that is not surprising as single-player focused games, in general, do better than first-person. It was beaten on Steam by Among Us (a multiplayer social deduction game also set in space) and ending the week of October 10 also behind horror game Phasmophobia, coming in 5th in sales at the end of its first full week, and Motive Studios has stated that they’re “not planning to add more content, this is the game” (via UploadVR). And yet during the marketing campaign on the EA side, CEO Andrew Wilson stated on an investor call that the company is “going to double down on that partnership” and that “Disney continues to be very very committed to the IP and to the canon.”

So that’s where we stand with Squadrons. Motive Studios is done with the game and will not be adding to the battles or to the story mode, like Battlefront 2, and EA is committed to bringing other Star Wars stories to life via gaming, including a sequel to Fallen Order. The additional short film that was released, Hunted, currently has 1.8MM+ views on EA’s YouTube Channel and views for the “game movie” are climbing, though far behind game movies and content from Fallen Order and Battlefront 2. Given that there are more stories to be told from the Star Wars Universe via gaming, here’s what we likely will see, might see, and likely won’t see down the line regarding characters and story post Squadrons:

Clockwise from left: The Mimbanese were referenced in The Age of the Republic comic series, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Star Wars Squadrons with the character Keirah Koovah.

Might See: The Mimbanese  

While the Mimbanese species made their first on-screen appearance in Solo: A Star Wars Story, they have been referenced in canon in the Battle of Mimban during the Clone Wars in the Star Wars Age of Republic Special 1 comic, working with the 501st and the 224th Mud-Jumpers to fight off the Separatist Army. The Mimbanese Liberation Army would later battle Imperial Forces mining Mimban for hyperbaride deposits and devastating the planet’s climate.

In Squadrons, we are introduced to Kierah Koovah, aka Gunny, who is a Mimbanese pilot on the New Republic’s Vanguard Squadron. Through gameplay interaction, you learn that Gunny served in the Battle of Mimban alongside the 224th Mud-Jumpers during the Clone Wars, where she also lost her arm. Gunny seems to be close to retirement in Squadrons but, given that the Mimbanese are skilled fighters, it would be interesting to see more of the species in future battle games. There is also a possibility Mimban might be a place visited by The Bad Batch in their upcoming Disney+ series perhaps as hired mercenaries by the Mimbanese. All speculation of course but, either way, it is nice to see more Mimbanese in the Star Wars universe and would be nice to see more down the line.

The Alphabet Squadron with their Starfighters

Likely Will See: Alphabet Squadron 

This might be a step towards a bigger discussion as I would put the chances of seeing Alphabet Squadron at almost guaranteed. Alphabet Squadron first made its appearance in the 2019 novel of the same name and is a squad of five pilots specializing in every type of Starfighter (A-wing, B-wing, U-wing, X-wing, and Y-wing) in the alphabet. The leader, Yrica Quell, was a former TIE pilot who defected (along with other Imperials) due to Operation Cinder. Alphabet Squadron is tasked by Hera Syndulla to track and eliminate a deadly force of TIE fighters and learn to work together as a team as they complete various missions. Alphabet Squadron is referenced multiple times in Squadrons and Yrica Quell is name-checked by TIE pilot Havina Vonreg (more on her later in this blog).

If EA were to ever make another flight sim game or even one that revolves around pilots, Alphabet Squadron seems like a no-brainer. The game almost rights itself: compelling and popular canon story that already exists in novels and comics, a squad of different Starfighter classes to play, missions to complete, and interesting characters. Since Alphabet Squadron has already been introduced to canon, these established characters might translate to better engagement and merchandising opportunities (I could see figures and ships on shelves from this series). Time will be the only tell but my level of a surprise, if a game (or TV series) does appear, will be next to nil.

The secret project

Not Likely: Project Starhawk 

The secret that is the sort of the MacGuffin in Squadrons and driving the motivations for many of the missions, Project Starhawk is the New Republic’s answer to a Star Destroyer. The Starhawk-class consisted of a prototype developed from pieces of various Imperial Star Destroyers. In Squadrons, it is mentioned that the New Republic Senate has voted to build more to take on the Empire’s remaining capital ships and end the war in their favor.

In the end, Vanguard Squadron and the New Republic forces decide to let Starhawk be damaged beyond repair by the Titan Squadron to save civilian engineers caught in the crossfire. What is left of Starhawk is driven into an unstable moon to destroy Imperial ships and allow New Republic forces to escape with the promise that Project Starhawk will be rebuilt.

While Starhawk sounds much more pleasant than Star Destroyer, this is essentially what it is: a superweapon to compete with Imperial flagships. But the Death Star was a superweapon so iconic, it was the focus of three Star Wars films (Rogue OneA New Hope, and Return of the Jedi) and was pretty much reimagine in The Force Awakens and The Rise of Skywalker. The Star Destroyer is also an iconic ship in Star Wars and probably behind only the TIE fighter as the most popular Imperial ship. While Starhawk is an interesting plot point and reveals that the New Republic was willing to toggle that line of using Imperial tech to build their own superweapon ( Vanguard pilot Grace Sienar even throws out “Why don’t we just build a Death Star and get it over with?”), not sure how relevant it is to the overall story of the New Republic’s power struggle against the last remnants of the Empire before and even after the Battle of Jakku. A reference in The Mandalorian is possible or if there is any Hera-focused content in the future, but I feel like Project Starhawk’s story ends with Squadrons.

The Kennedys of the Star Wars Universe

Might See: A Vonreg 

If there is one thing that means ANYTHING in Star Wars, it’s a surname. Skywalker, Palpatine, and now Vonreg. We first met a Vonreg in Star Wars Resistance. Major Baron Elrik Vonreg was First Order TIE pilot decked in red with a red TIE Interceptor fighter. SPOILER ALERT – he was not long for the Resistance world and was taken out in the finale of the first season at the Battle of Castilon by our hero, Kaz  Xiono. A premature death didn’t stop him from getting a 3.75 figure and a lego set on his way out (which is more than some main characters got, *cough* Tam, *cough* Neeku, *cough* most of the Ace pilots).

Rewind back to Squadrons and we meet Havina Vonreg in the first Imperial mission, who is pretty cutthroat. We are not sure of her relation to Vonreg from Resistance but given the time difference, Havina is likely Elrik’s mother or aunt. Through a few conversations, you learn that she hates traitors with a passion and shows no mercy to anyone standing in the way of Titan Squadron’s mission (including a trigger-happy Imperial Captain who almost compromises their mission). She also lost two brothers at some point during the Galactic Civil War so definitely justified in her anger, and it makes for an interesting game character whose Aristocratic family has not had it easy.

While neither of the Vonreg’s that have appeared in Star Wars canon has had any significant impact on the stories they are included in, it might be a fun easter egg to include a Vonreg in every era of Star Wars from now on. Make them the Kennedys of the Star Wars universe.

Well FINALLY

Likely Will See: Rae Sloane

If I had to put money on anything from Squadrons showing up either in another game or show, it would be Rae Sloane. Sloane first made her appearance in the first canon novel, New Dawn, in 2014. Since that novel, she was featured in The Aftermath Trilogy about the last years of the Galactic Civil War which finds Sloane leaving for the Unknown Regions with a handful of Empire loyalists and child soldiers to build what would become The First Order. From that point in time in the canon, what happened to Sloane is still a mystery and, by the time that The Force Awakens starts, the First Order has an established leader in Emperor Palpatine Supreme Leader Snoke. She has also been mentioned in Battlefront 2Alphabet Squadron, comics, and will have a featured story in the upcoming short story collection From a Certain Point of View: The Empire Strikes Back. In summary, she is one of the oldest, newest canon characters who have yet to make an on-screen appearance in Star Wars media until Squadrons.

This is long overdue but not nearly enough screen time for a character who was a key architect of the main antagonistic force of the sequel trilogies. I’m sure there is an interesting story in between Aftermath and Force Awakens and, even with what we do know of Sloane, plenty to translate on-screen in some form.

There are plenty of other Easter Eggs in Squadrons that I didn’t mention, including certain ship designs but I really wanted to focus on the story mode since that is the canonical part of Star Wars Squadrons. We will see in the coming months whether there will not, in fact, be add ons and if this price point/ game mechanics is a new sweet spot for EA with how well Squadrons does in sales overall in comparison to Battlefront 2 and Fallen Order as squadrons around the world continue to form and play. And, although I highlighted only a handful, the story mode certainly has presented avenues in which all characters and ideas introduced in Squadrons can return in one form or another to further enrich the Star Wars universe.

Sources:

https://www.videogameschronicle.com/news/star-wars-squadrons-developer-says-its-working-on-several-new-games/

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