Inside Squadron 42: Star Citizen's ambitious singleplayer campaign

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Leyland brings up a near-finished level—a miles-long space station in the middle of an asteroid field—and tells me that it was made entirely using the kit he showed me earlier. It’s amazing, and I can’t believe it’s composed of snapped-together pieces. Thanks to this solution, designers can easily alter the layout of levels, too.

Spaceships will obviously be a crucial feature. I took some time on my tour of the studio to see a few of these being designed. An amazing amount of work goes into them. If your ship is under attack, the lights will flicker, and smoke and sparks burst from the interior. On larger ships, this means you’ll have to navigate through the chaos to reach engineering and repair the damage.

It was mentioned several times that development of features for both Star Citizen and Squadron 42 are, in a lot of cases, simultaneous. For example, the flight model will be developed by the Star Citizen team then implanted into the FPS campaign. But I’m not sure how much crossover there is in terms of purchased ships, and whether you’ll be able to play using your own personal hangar of spacecraft. As it’s a separate story, and you aren’t playing as the same character, it seems unlikely.

Squadron 42 boasts a cast of motion-capped actors including Gary Oldman, Mark Hamill and Gillian Anderson. Between the more openended missions, there’ll be a cinematic storyline to follow that’s more in line with traditional, linear first-person shooters. These enclosed set-pieces will, if all goes to plan, slot neatly into the sandbox, and feel like a natural part of your progression through the game.

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As much of what happens as possible will be viewed through the player’s eyes. Your home is a vast capital ship that’s like an spacefaring aircraft carrier—think the Battlestar Galactica—and you’ll return here regularly throughout the game. Over time, Foundry 42 want this place to feel like home. You’ll learn its layout, the routines of its crew, and the personalities of your comrades. On a number of occasions they compared Squadron 42 to the Wing Commander series, but on a much grander scale.

The Foundry 42 team is working on a conversation system that will, they say, see you forging meaningful relationships with the cast—and not always positive ones. But this won’t be relayed by some kind of binary love/ hate meter; instead, you’ll have to determine how much, or little, someone likes you through their performance. Insanely high-res character models, motion-capture, and a talented cast of veteran actors should help convey the nuance required for this to work.

But here’s the thing. I didn’t see or play any of this. Squadron 42 seems to still be very much in the early stages of development, and I wasn’t shown a working build. Everything I saw was in the CryEngine editor or described verbally by one of the developers. The concept is fantastic—a game that combines an open world, a cinematic story, and a deep FPS—but it remains to be seen whether they can actually pull it off.

The team at Foundry 42 are highly talented, so I’m optimistic, but cautious, too. They’ve taken on one hell of a task. Often when I visit game studios the room is filled with a quiet murmur, but when I walked into Foundry 42 there was a genuine buzz in the air. These people are clearly hugely excited to be working on this project. Let’s hope this translates into something that lives up to the ferocity of their ambition.

Andy Kelly

If it’s set in space, Andy will probably write about it. He loves sci-fi, adventure games, taking screenshots, Twin Peaks, weird sims, Alien: Isolation, and anything with a good story.