Now that the millions of battles have been fought all over the world, what does the future hold for Star Wars gaming and canon?
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, all of which were hyped up nicely through marketing. Ahead of the first trailer in June, posters with the tagline “Pilots Needed” were shared on social media, representing both the New Republic and the Empire followed by the gameplay trailer a few days later. The anticipation heightened 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.
After a rocky launch with Star Wars: Battlefront 2 for battle modes (and slightly more positive story mode reviews) 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 behind Battlefront 2 and Fallen Order. Both of the former games launching with toys, novels, Art of books, and comics which added more context to those corners of the Star Wars universe. However, Squadrons launched almost entirely around EA’s annual EA Play Live event. 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 more the first-person, VR capability flight game. All this with no microtransactions that a large section of the fan base had been wanting.
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 during its first week of release. Although, according to various reports, it did not come close to Fallen Order (which has over ten million sales to date) which 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 were “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 this is 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. 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 is what we likely will see, might see, and likely will not see down the line regarding characters and story post Squadrons:
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. The Mimbanese Liberation Army would later battle Imperial Forces mining Mimban for hyperbaride deposits and devastating the planet’s climate.
In Squadrons, we meet Kierah Koovah, aka Gunny, 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 as hired mercenaries by the Mimbanese. All speculation 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.
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) supposedly due to Operation Cinder. Alphabet Squadron is tasked by Hera Syndulla to track and eliminate a deadly TIE fighter squadron and learn to work together as a team. The 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 post).
If EA were to make another flight sim game or even one that revolves around pilots, Alphabet Squadron seems like a no-brainer. The game almost rights itself: a compelling and popular canon story that already exists in novels and comics, a squad of different Starfighter classes to play, missions to complete, and new characters mixed with familiar ones. Since Alphabet Squadron already exists in 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 surprise, if a game (or TV series) does appear, will be next to nil.
Not Likely: Project Starhawk
The secret that is somewhat 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, it is a superweapon to compete with Imperial flagships. But the Death Star was a superweapon so iconic that it was at the center of three Star Wars films (Rogue One, A New Hope, and Return of the Jedi), then reimagined 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 in popular Imperial ships. 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 says “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. For now, Project Starhawk’s story ends with Squadrons.
Might See: A Vonreg
If there is one thing that means ANYTHING in Star Wars, it is a surname. Skywalker, Palpatine, and now Vonreg. We first met a Vonreg in Star Wars Resistance. Major Baron Elrik Vonreg was a 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 did not 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 to Squadrons where we meet the cutthroat Havina Vonreg in the first Imperial mission. 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). Havina lost two brothers sometime during the Galactic Civil War, so her anger is sympathetic. And it makes for a great 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 overall stories, 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.
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 has been 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 was referenced in Battlefront 2, Alphabet Squadron, and the comics. Sloane will also 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.
It 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. There is an interesting story 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 did not mention, including certain ship designs, but I 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 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 compared to Battlefront 2 and Fallen Order. 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 enrich the Star Wars universe.
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