Star Wars: Squadrons beginner’s guide

Unlike other recent games in the franchise, Star Wars: Squadrons focuses exclusively on spacecraft combat. Throughout the game, you’ll be piloting some of the most iconic vehicles in the story’s history — and unless you’re an ace pilot, you may need some help earning your space wings.

In this Star Wars: Squadrons beginner’s guide, we’ve assembled our best tips and tricks. Below, we’ll help you understand the game’s flight controls, effectively manage targets mid-combat, and offer some advice about moving through the game quicker.

LEARNING THE CONTROLS

Star Wars: Squadrons controls like a flight simulator. As such, controlling spacecraft can feel kind of confusing at first. If you’re using a controller, the main flight functions of your vehicle are split between both analog sticks. If you’re playing on a mouse and keyboard, the commands are split between both devices.

The default options for controller
Image: Motive Studios, Lucasfilm/Electronic Arts via Polygon
Throttle

To control the speed of your spacecraft, you have to manually set its speed with the throttle, instead of accelerating or braking like you might while driving a car. On a controller, you push your left analog stick forward to increase speed and draw it back to slow down. On a keyboard, the W key increases throttle, and S decreases it.

Pressing left and right on your left analog stick (or A and D on a keyboard) doesn’t move your craft left and right. Rather, it controls your roll. Rolling your spacecraft, unsurprisingly, rolls the ship, spinning it around toward its left or right side like you would if you were rolling across the floor. You won’t use roll as much, but it’s helpful when you’re spinning your spacecraft around large ships or if you feel like flying horizontally or upside down.

To move the nose of your ship up and down, you want to control its pitch. To adjust pitch, you’ll tilt your right analog stick up or down or move your mouse forward or backward. The direction your nose actually moves depends on whether or not you have the invert look option enabled in your options menu.

To point your nose left and right to turn, you need to control the vehicle’s yaw. This is done by moving the right analog stick side to side, same with the mouse. Thankfully there’s nothing special to consider here. Moving your controls either direction moves your craft that same direction.

If you’re playing on a controller and these settings are confusing to you, keep in mind that there are two additional control schemes that change your flight controls. The Aviator settings puts the yaw on the left stick. It also puts the roll on the right stick. Southpaw puts pitch and yaw on the left stick, almost mimicking the control scheme found in a first-person shooter while roll and throttle are added to the right stick.

WHEN IN DOUBT, CYCLE TARGETS

At any given moment, you’ll be surrounded by several different potential targets. Early on in Star Wars: Squadrons, you learn that you can lock onto targets by highlighting them and using the Select Target Ahead command. Doing so will constantly show where your target is in relation to you — and on some spacecraft, you’ll even see which direction they’re facing.

When targeting a large ship, this is easy enough. However, if you have a squadron of enemy ships swarming around you that you need to dispatch quickly, it may be hard to manually choose the best target at any given moment. To make combat easier, use the Cycle Targets command (A button on an Xbox Controller, X button on a PlayStation 4 controller, and the F key on a keyboard.)

The targeting wheel also lets you choose what targets you can cycle through
Image: Motive Studios, Lucasfilm/Electronic Arts via Polygon

Doing this will lock onto the closet target, depending on the target type (which you can change by using the targeting wheel). By default, your targeting systems will choose from all enemies, so if you’re flying near a cluster of opponents, hitting the cycle targets button will automatically lock you onto the closest enemy spacecraft. This is a great tactic to use if you’re unsure of where you should focus attention when your current mission objectives might be to take out a whole squadron of enemies.

USE LOADOUTS

After the first few missions, you’ll eventually get the option to customize your ship’s loadout. You can swap out each part of your ship, from its main weapons to auxiliary systems, which can change how you approach each mission.

You may need certain loadouts for different missions and objects
Image: Motive Studios, Lucasfilm/Electronic Arts via Polygon

Some loadout options allow you to bolster your defenses at the sake of speed. Others allow you to pick different secondary weapon systems that allow for different play styles. Since you’ll likely replay missions a few times, especially if you’re trying to get all of the Medals, try mixing and matching the loadout options to see which setups work best for you and the mission at hand.

MASTER POWER MANAGEMENT

You need to constantly divert power to different systems mid-combat, choosing between maximizing your power to your engine’s speed, your weapons’ strength, or your shield’s effectiveness. The current power distribution is represented on each spacecraft via three lights: blue for engines, red for weapons, and green for shields. By default, your ship will distribute power evenly between the three systems. However, at your will, you can power up either one by sapping power from the other two.

You can see on the bottom left that all systems have equal power
Image: Motive Studios, Lucasfilm/Electronic Arts via Polygon

To adjust systems on a controller, press:

  • Left on the D-pad to maximize engine speed (blue)
  • Up on the D-pad to maximize weapon strength (red)
  • Right on the D-pad to maximize shield power (green)

If you’re using a mouse and keyboard, you can either maximize this power or increase it. Here’s how:

  • Press 1 to increase engine speed (blue)
  • Press CTRL+1 to maximize engine speed (blue)
  • Press 2 to increase weapon strength (red)
  • Press CTRL+2 to maximize weapon strength (red)
  • Press 3 to increase shield power (green)
  • Press CTRL+3 to maximize shield power (green)

Switching power over to your engines allows you to build up your boost meter. The longer you fly with power diverted to your engines, the more your boost reserves fill up, allowing you to boost for longer.

Dumping power into your weapons systems makes them deadlier. Use this boost in strength to take out faster and smaller targets, which are often harder to hit.

Adjusting your power to focus on shields makes them more effective, allowing you to take more hits. This is great if you’re feeling overwhelmed by a swarm of enemies or you’re attacking a larger ship.

LEAVE, DON’T SKIP

If you’re running through missions again to get all the Medals you missed, keep in mind that you’ll have to redo the entire story sections preceding each mission. That means you’ll have to speak to each of your squadmates and rewatch mission briefings all over again.

To move through these as fast as you can, bypass all of the talking. When trying to move past conversation, the game gives you two options: Skip (or “Next Phase” if it’s a mission briefing) and Leave. Choose the Leave option. Skipping will just move onto the next bit of dialogue whereas Leave will let you, well, leave the conversation or briefing. You’ll still have to go through each objective before missions that require you to speak to teammates, but once you initiate the conversation, choose the leave option to skip the whole discussion.

MASTERING THE DRIFT

In Mission 3, you’ll learn how to drift turn. While flashy, it isn’t a maneuver you’ll need in the near future. However, to complete this mission, you’ll have to land the move at least once. Despite the game’s instructions on how to complete the trick, you may struggle with performing it.

Drifting requires precise movement
Image: Motive Studios, Lucasfilm/Electronic Arts via Polygon

To complete the drift turn easily, here’s how to do it with the default control scheme in mind:

  1. Put your ship into full throttle as you approach the marker you have to fly through.
  2. At the marker, hit the boost button. (Keep in mind that the A-Wing will constantly stay in boost once you hit the proper button, so make sure you don’t touch the boost until it’s time to turn.)
  3. After you clear the second marker, turn hard (yaw) while still boosting.
  4. Then you have to completely cut your throttle while turning. Instead of pulling back on the throttle while also turning at the same time, we’ve found the easiest way to perform the drift turn is to hit the boost button again while turning.

For example, on the default control scheme using an Xbox One controller, you should enter boost by pressing the left thumbstick down, boost forward, pull the right analog stick to turn, and then — while still holding the turn on the right analog stick — press the left analog stick in to cut the throttle. You know you’ve done turn properly if you happen to turn while still seeing the speed lines racing across your screen.

It takes a bit getting used to at first, but after a few hours with the game, we never had a need for this move outside of using it in mandatory mission objective.

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