Immediately upon launching the game, you are thrust straight into the prologue with no option to return to the main menu.
Both the New Republic and the Galactic Empire field four playable types of starfighters.
- Fighters are the most iconic fighters and are the New Republic's Incom T-65 X-wing and the Galactic Empire's Sienar TIE/LN, better known as the TIE Fighter. Think of these craft as the midfielders of a football or soccer game: flexibility is their greatest asset, and should either attack or defend as the situation demands. They can also utilize ion missiles and torpedoes to set up their allies for victory. The Empire's TIE Defender is similar to the standard TIE Fighter, but features shielding like the X-wing.
- Interceptors are the small, fast, and with the right loadout, can boast high damage. They consist of the New Republic's RZ-1 A-Wing and the Galactic Empire's TIE/IN, or TIE Interceptor. If fighters are the midfielders, then interceptors are the defenders: they must prevent the enemy from scoring points in the form of attacks on your capital ship, or by shooting down enemies farming AI fighters. They can, however, be used offensively as well, especially when equipped with rockets.
- Bombers are large, slow, and powerful. The New Republic's BTL-A4 Y-Wing and the Galactic Empire's TIE/sa, or TIE Bomber. While slouches in turning fights, bombers emphasize multi-lock missiles and mines to deal with starfighters. These craft are your forwards and your strikers: their objective is to launch attacks, score points in the form of attacking AI fighters, and ultimately winning the game. The New Republic also features the B-wing as a heavy bomber variant.
- Supports are the most versatile of the bunch, and can support a team in a number of ways. The New Republic's U-Wing and the Galactic Empire's TIE/RP, or TIE Reaper, can provide on the spot healing, enhanced shielding, and stealth to help their team. Similar to a goalkeeper, they should avoid being too close to the action and work to keep an offensive going. Supports will also coordinate their team and should generally avoid enemy players and capital ships.
Star Wars Squadrons is a full 3D flight action game, so you will have full control over pitch (moving the nose up and down), yaw (moving the nose left and right), roll (rolling the craft), and throttle. The goal is to manoeuvre your fighter to get an enemy craft in front of you, then pull the trigger to destroy them.
The entire game is played from the cockpit view, and it is not possible to switch views to a third person (unless in spectate mode). For detailed information on cockpit components, check each flyable ship's page.
Each starfighter can be equipped with various components that alter its performance. In the campaign, these are provided for you and sometimes let you pick from a variety of available options. For multiplayer (including playing against the AI), you must unlock these by spending Requisition points, which are gained upon leveling up (see Ranking).
Fighter manoeuvring can be improved by reducing your throttle to 1/2 power, letting you turn tighter. Any higher or lower and your manoeuvring power will be decreased. 1/2 power is ideal for tight turns, dodging missiles fired at odd angles, and getting enemy fighters in front of you. The ability to execute turns is the ship's manoeuvrability statistic, and is naturally higher on interceptors and fighters and lower on support craft and bombers.
Your starfighter can also be outfitted with various cosmetics to personalize it. See the Starfighter Cosmetics for the Empire and Starfighter Cosmetics for the New Republic pages for additional information.
When in combat, hold down , or to communicate with your team using automated messages. Tap this button to tell your teammates to attack this target, or if a friendly is targeted, to defend that target.,
To acknowledge another player's ping, double tap the button (for keyboard users, press). You will automatically switch targets to what your teammate has targeted.
This function is particularly useful for support players, as not only will they be in the best position to call out sneaky players, but they can target an enemy attacking them (double-tap , double-tap , or ) and request reinforcements.
In the campaign, this same button will be used for a variety of purposes. If you hold it down, it will summon an ally to repair and resupply you. If you tap it with an ally selected, it instructs your AI friends to protect that target. If you tap it with an enemy selected, your AI friends will attack your target.
Communication wheel options include:
- Help Me (target an enemy to flag it as a target for other players)
- Boo (Jeer)
- Battle Cry
Some communication messages (such as Brag or Battle Cry) are also transmitted to the enemy team.
Your starfighter is also equipped with a missile alert system that lets you know when an enemy has locked onto you. There is usually a lock-on period after which the "Incoming" alert appears, and the red arrows indicate how close the missile is to you. Some attacks - most notably mines - do not have a missile alert, and will immediately produce the "Incoming" alert.
There are three methods of defeating an incoming missile:
- Shoot the missile down with your lasers - easiest if the missile is straight ahead
- Get an obstacle between you and the missile, or retreat out of its range
- Press , , or to use missile countermeasures
Ion attacks are blue and electrical in colour, and cause minimal damage to your ship's health (though they can still kill). When struck by enough ion attacks, you have to mash any button to reboot your ship. During that time, you are a sitting duck and can be freely shot at, or be sent careening into an objective.
Disabling a ship that is then destroyed on crashing counts as a kill.
In the Options Menu, under the Controls category, you can change the Disabled State Input option from "Mash" to "Hold". This will let you hold down a button in order to recover from being disabled, instead of needing to repeatedly press any button.
Ion attacks also cause extra damage to shielding, making them very powerful against New Republic fighters and capital ships of all types. While less helpful against Imperial ships, it is still a popular tactic in Dogfights and Fleet battles to disable a target, and then use unguided rockets to finish them off. Ion attacks can come in the form of ion lasers, ion missiles, ion torpedoes, and ion bombs dropped beneath bombers.
Starfighters have three power systems that must be managed by the pilot. Raising one of the three power systems to its maximum level (at the expense of the other two) grants a bonus.
The engines, represented by a blue bar, emphasize max speed. When engine power is at maximum (or a specialized engine is equipped), the ship gains a boost meter. Boosting can then be turned into drifting, which can result in extraordinarily tight turns that are the staple of high-level play.
The weapons, represented by the red bar, is your ship's weapon system. Raising weapons power to maximum will grant your ship up to twice the number of shots. Additionally, these additional shots are overcharged, causing additional damage.
Lasers can also be used to shoot down enemy missiles.
The shields, represented by the green bar, effectively act as regenerating health. When overcharged, you can gain a second layer of shielding on top of your existing one. Additional shield power also increases the shield regeneration rate (though not fast enough to block dedicated attackers).
Therefore, overcharge your shield when not taking any damage. If you need to flee from a fight, divert power to engines instead.
While all New Republic fighters have shields, only the TIE Reaper has shields on the Empire's side. Instead, the TIE Bomber, Fighter, and Interceptor have the "Convert Power" function. It is accessed in the same way as the shield redirect shown above, and replaces this option on TIE bombers, fighters, and interceptors.
The convert power function them to sacrifice their laser energy straight to boost energy, or vice versa. While this can either leave you a sitting duck or a flying target, TIEs can have unprecedented mobility. Divert all power to engines in order to enter the fight, and once you're in a firing position, simply convert power to weapons. You will receive a huge burst of laser weapon power, usually overcharging it, letting you kill your target quickly. Then divert power back to engines to withdraw or find another victim.
Converting energy to weapon power can also let you cause huge amounts of damage to enemy subsystems by diverting power into cannons repeatedly.
, , and is used to cycle targets. What targets this button cycles through, however, is determined by a wheel menu. Hold down , , or to open the targeting wheel (right). Select one of these options to have , , and cycle through:
- Enemy Squadron (enemy players)
- Enemy AI
- All enemies
- Enemy flagship subsystems
- Enemy missiles
- My Squadron (friendly players)
- All friendlies
Alter this depending on your role. For example, when playing a support class, choosing "My Squadron" lets you cycle through all friendly players, letting you know who is in need of a heal.
In addition to enemy fighters, you will also encounter capital ships. These vessels are large and typically slow (though some can move very fast in the campaign). They also occasionally have subsystems that, when destroyed, limits their effectiveness.
All have shields and gun turrets that can be destroyed to make subsequent attacks stronger. Although all capital ships can be damaged by standard gunfire, even by interceptors, the best method to attacking capital ships is with bombers.
Capital ships also have engines that will damage anyone that gets too close to them. This damage stacks quickly, so avoid tailing enemy capital ships too closely, especially the mobile ones (usually corvettes and transports in the campaign).
Capital ships are found throughout the campaign, but will be most often encountered in Fleet Battles.
Outside Your Starfighter
It is also possible to customize your individual appearance outside your starfighter as well. You will have two different pilots - one for the New Republic, and one for the Empire.
You can freely change the facial features, gender, and other attributes of the pilot without any repercussions. The only times you will see your pilot is during the briefing screen before multiplayer matches, and during the post-battle results screen if your team won.