Star Wars: Squadrons' cockpits will look like they were built in the '70s

(Image credit: Electronic Arts)

Hot-shot space jockeys will have eight starfighters at their fingertips when Star Wars: Squadrons goes live in October: Four Imperial and four Rebel, each one belonging to a different class. That in itself isn't news, but today EA shared more about what each class can do, how pilots can get the most out of their machines, and how it's going about recreating futuristic technology from a long time ago.

The old X-Wing and TIE Fighter games have power management systems that enable players to adjust the amount of energy going to weapons, engines, and in some cases, shields, which impacts your fighter's performance accordingly: You can go faster, hit harder, or survive under fire longer, as the situation demands. Squadrons will offer a similar system, with an added bonus of "overcharging," which will provide a significant bonus to damage output or shield strength—up to double—or an afterburner-like speed boost when the relevant system is maxed out.

Fighters that don't have shields (those being all of the TIEs except the Reaper) will instead be able to shift power between energy and weapons much more quickly than other ships, giving them the ability to overcharge almost immediately rather than having to wait for things to charge up, which on paper makes them more adaptive.

Once shields are knocked out (or if they were never there), your hull will start taking a beating and your ship will begin to become visibly damaged and, eventually, destroyed. Repairs are an option, however, by using astromech droids or other repair systems, docking at flagships, or by getting a helping hand from Support class fighters.

This is what you'll be flying:

  • T-65B X-wing starfighter
  • BTL-A4 Y-wing assault starfighter/bomber
  • RZ-1 A-wing interceptor
  • UT-60D U-wing starfighter/support craft
  • TIE/ln starfighter (“TIE Fighter”)
  • TIE/sa bomber (“TIE Bomber”)
  • TIE/in interceptor (“TIE Interceptor”)
  • TIE/rp reaper attack lander (“TIE Reaper”)

Fighters are your basic, do-it-all ships, reasonably tough, reasonably fast, reasonably nimble—not great at anything, but good enough at everything that you can comfortably take them into pretty much any situation. Interceptors are glass cannons: They move fast, hit hard, and blow up really easily—you don't want to ride one of these things into a sustained, stand-up fight. Bombers are slow sluggers, capable of dealing and sustaining tremendous levels of damage and incapable of avoiding any incoming trouble that's moving faster than a slow walk. And finally, the Support fighters aren't really fighters at all, although they do have offensive weaponry, but can repair and resupply allied ships, use tractor beams to hamper enemies, and deploy mines and laser turrets—basically they're the Engineers of the Squadrons world.

(Image credit: EA)

EA said a couple of weeks ago that Squadrons will have customizable HUDs and control schemes, but developers are also taking pains to ensure that each ship's cockpit remains true to the original Star Wars aesthetic.

"This means that when we want to communicate the charge level of your lasers in an X-wing, we design the cockpit instruments for that as if we were Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) building the prop in the '70s," creative director Ian Frazier said. 

"We don't say, 'Put a red light there,' we say, 'If you needed to physically build this using the sorts of parts that ILM had, how would it be built? Is that light a bulb? An LED? How would it be integrated into the dashboard and how would its light interact with everything around it?' We ensure the screens are CRTs with appropriately curved monitors, and so forth."

That approach sounds quite a bit like what Creative Assembly did with Alien: Isolation, which worked out really well, and it's encouraging to see EA coming at it from a similar angle: It's easy to forget that Star Wars is nearly 50 years old, after all. (I'm still iffy on the whole "plastic Ewok on the dashboard" thing, though.)

Star Wars: Squadrons will be out on October 2.

Andy Chalk

Andy has been gaming on PCs from the very beginning, starting as a youngster with text adventures and primitive action games on a cassette-based TRS80. From there he graduated to the glory days of Sierra Online adventures and Microprose sims, ran a local BBS, learned how to build PCs, and developed a longstanding love of RPGs, immersive sims, and shooters. He began writing videogame news in 2007 for The Escapist and somehow managed to avoid getting fired until 2014, when he joined the storied ranks of PC Gamer. He covers all aspects of the industry, from new game announcements and patch notes to legal disputes, Twitch beefs, esports, and Henry Cavill. Lots of Henry Cavill.