Why Star Wars: Squadrons' TIE Fighters Aren't At A Disadvantage Against X-Wings

Star Wars: Squadrons took inspiration from the old X-Wing and TIE Fighter games, in more ways than one, explains creative director Ian Frazier.

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EA showed off a much longer look at Star Wars: Squadrons during its EA Play presentation, including our first look at gameplay. The dogfighting game looks to be a modernization of the classic X-Wing and TIE Fighter series. In an interview with GameSpot as part of our summer gaming celebration Play For All, creative director Ian Frazier suggested that inspiration runs deep, and shared more details on game balance and team composition.

For one thing, unlike the Rogue Squadron series, there is no option to switch to third-person view. You'll be engaging in all of your dogfights through the first-person cockpit view, in part for game balance. Frazier said that third-person would give players a competitive advantage over the limited field-of-view of first-person. But it goes a step further, to the point that you could turn off all the game HUD elements for full immersion.

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Now Playing: More Details On Star Wars: Squadrons From Creative Director

"The whole game is designed from the ground up to be first-person all the way through," Frazier said. "Now if you're in spectator mode, you're observing, there's a third-person perspective there. You are the pilot. All the diegetic information is built into the hud, so you could turn off all the game layer UI if you want and rely entirely on your instruments. We want that to be the core experience."

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That decision inevitably leads to a disparity in the types of craft. Star Wars fans know that X-Wing pilots occupy a clear wraparound cockpit window with a wide field of view, while TIE pilots have only a small circular window and two wide paneled wings that would block vision anyway. This, paired with the lack of shields on a TIE, would appear to give the New Republic ships a clear competitive advantage.

But Frazier says it's not that simple, and for the reason why he went back to the Lucasarts X-Wing and TIE Fighter games. He said when researching for the game, he looked at old competitive forums where players would ask how the TIE isn't strictly worse than the X-Wing.

"The answer then, in 1997, was you have a lot less stuff to deal with in an Imperial ship. And that is, in a sense, an advantage. I've actually found that to be shockingly true in our game," he said. "The TIE Fighter doesn't have shields--which, you don't have shields, which is a downside, right? But that also means you don't have to manage shields. It's one less thing to manage, so there's less head-space required for that. … The counterbalance of what you're losing is what you're gaining in focus."

As for how those head-to-head fights play out functionally, he also said that the studio has put some time into giving players more options. In a dogfighting game, it's easy to get caught in what he calls the "death loop," where each ship is chasing each other until one of them gets shot down. To give more strategic improvisation, Squadrons lets you shift power to three core systems: lasers, engines, and shields. If you max out your engines you get to use a boost, and you can further iterate on that by doing a drift--cutting your engines to turn and then suddenly boosting, for more evasive maneuvers.

Finally, Frazier touched on how team composition and planning your loadouts can help complement each other for advanced strategies.

"It's not one person against the world, it's always a team of five," he said. "Everything is built against that idea of a tight-knit squadron. In PvP it's not just what loadout are you taking, but what are your buddies taking? How can you get synergies between those things? So, okay, I've got the tractor beam that's going to hold them in place for a couple of seconds, she's got the Goliath missile that can kick the crap out of them but it doesn't track very well, and those two things in combination are really dangerous."

This interview was part of GameSpot's summer gaming celebration Play For All. You can see the interview in full above. Star Wars: Squadrons is coming October 2, 2020 on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. For more details, check out our Star Wars: Squadrons pre-order guide.

GameSpot has officially kicked off Play For All--a celebration of all things gaming. Join us as we bring you the summer's hottest news, previews, interviews, features, and videos, as well as raise money for COVID-19 relief efforts and Black Lives Matter with the help of our friends from around the gaming world. Check out the Play For All schedule for more.

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