Dog-fights in space sound fun as a game in theory, but for Lennon McGuirk, it results in nothing but pain as they attempted to play through on the toughest difficulty.
A lot of gamers pride themselves on the collection of achievements and trophies they have picked up over the years, using their reams of platinums as something of a status symbol. Many see themselves as completionists, an individual that argues the entry fee of a game purchase isn’t entirely justified unless you finish every little tidbit the game has to offer. A niche subset that encourages engagement? All good on paper. Sometimes, however, a game makes it almost impossible to complete 100% while keeping your sanity. One such game is Star Wars: Squadrons (2020), a first-person, space combat game set in the Star Wars Universe. The game builds on the old dogfighting Star Wars games of the past while introducing new management mechanics to add another layer of complexity.
Now this game is extremely fun in most aspects, with the engaging gameplay doing more than enough to keep you invested. My issue came when seeing how some of the achievements necessary for 100% completion call for a perfect playthrough of the game’s campaign on the hardest difficulty, which one will quickly realise, is a borderline impossible task. Picture this, you load up the tutorial mission, it is quite simple in its task; fly your ship under a large star destroyer. This is simply to teach you the engine management mechanics, so you would think it shouldn’t take long. For me personally? A gruelling 47 attempts before I reached the next save point. Thus began the infuriating playthrough.
You see in Squadrons, one stray shot can destroy your craft, and in Ace difficulty, there are an awful lot of stray shots.
One would expect the combat in Ace difficulty, the game’s greatest challenge, to be difficult. And it most certainly is, but the hair really starts falling out when trying to perfect some of the game’s more menial tasks. You see in Squadrons, one stray shot can destroy your craft, and in Ace difficulty, there are an awful lot of stray shots. It doesn't help that the AI often has amazingly accurate aimbots that are impossible to avoid. Most missions ask you to get up close and personal with large ships, absolutely armed to the teeth with turrets that will instantly hit you the second you’re in range. It isn't an issue in lower difficulties where you have just that little bit more health, but in Ace difficulty, it’s a never-ending barrage of death screens.
Every single objective took me countless tries, getting worse and worse as the missions got more difficult. I found myself mockingly mimicking the dialogue in each scene as it replayed for the 100th time, desperate for another checkpoint so I could just move on. Not only does the AI have aimbot but the game forces you to use different types of ships with different load-outs in every mission. In lower difficulties, this is to introduce you to possible combinations to use in the multiplayer. Though, once the difficulty is knocked up a notch, it exists as yet another annoyance. You’re never able to settle into any one loadout or ship. For example, one mission forces you to use the support class spaceship, which has no attacking ability of its own. Your only form of defence is relying on your AI squadron to kill the enemies you stun. So it would be safe to assume that they would be really good at doing that, right? But they most definitely are not. The number of times I died simply because my teammate decided to not shoot the target we were tasked with blowing up, even after using the squad commands that allow you to direct them.
In most games, when you finish objectives you get that rewarding feeling of accomplishment, that little rush of positive reinforcement that your effort has seen you succeed. But I felt almost nothing, it was a brief moment of respite before begrudgingly diving back into death screen after death screen once the next task had begun.
In most games, when you finish objectives you get that rewarding feeling of accomplishment, that little rush of positive reinforcement that your effort has seen you succeed. But I felt almost nothing, it was a brief moment of respite before begrudgingly diving back into death screen after death screen once the next task had begun. Normally I take my trophy hunting seriously, completely focusing on getting each and every one of them. With Squadrons, I have simply given up. I don’t have enough controllers to make it through the last few frustrating missions.