The EA Play event streamed live Thursday, bringing with it several announcements and updates. Star Wars: Squadrons was unsurprisingly the main event but was hardly alone in the showcase.
I should probably start out by saying that you might be disappointed if you were hoping for an update on the next Battlefield or Dragon Age. Their combined presence consisted of some textureless models, a handful of pretty backdrops, and one admittedly impressive set of facial expressions. The same segment featured sneak peeks of a new driving sim by the developer Criterion and an interesting looking 3d puzzler being developed by Motive.
All four will be part of EA’s next-gen lineup, but it looks like it will be a few more years before any of them are ready to go. As a Dragon Age fan, I’m more than a little disappointed at the lack of details, even if it’s not a surprise.
One recurring theme was EA Cross-Play, which lets players play together whether on PC, Xbox, Play Station, or Nintendo Switch. EA has also announced that seven popular titles, including Apex Legends, The Sims 4, A Way Out, Titanfall 2, Dead Space 3, and Burnout Paradise will be coming to Steam.
Apex Legends will also be coming to the Nintendo Switch this fall. The developers of Apex Legends were eager to announce the upcoming Lost Treasures event, which will offer players a chance at earning several exclusive items. The game will be gaining a new mode called Armed and Dangerous Evolved. In this mode, players will not only be restricted to shotguns and sniper rifles but also lose access to free respawns. Instead, players will have a limited number of portable respawn beacons they can use to get their teammates back in the fight.
Fans of multiplayer shooters have something else to look forward to as well. Final Strike Games has just announced their debut title, Rocket Arena, a 3 v. 3 rocket-only hero shooter. That’s right, a shooter where every player is actually supposed to run around shooting rockets everywhere. In addition to ample explosives, each of the ten characters will bring a range of rocket-powered abilities to the table. Rocket Arena launches July 14th with the first season of content beginning on the 28th, bringing with it a brand-new playable character.
I’m not sure why they couldn’t just have eleven to start, but I’m sure Final Strike has their reasons. Not to look a gift missile in the warhead, but Rocket Arena comes across as a little gimmicky to me. I’m not sure plentiful rockets are enough to make it stand out from the crowd, but I guess we’ll find out for sure next month.
On the subject of explosions, how about a blast from the past. Command and Conquer was one of the granddaddies of real-time strategy, and EA has announced that a fully remastered version will be coming very soon. The legendary title is receiving a full graphical overhaul, an updated soundtrack, and a complete multiplayer experience. While it’s great to see such a venerable franchise getting some love, I think I’m going to miss the old music. I defy you to name anything else that was so aggressively 90s.
But if you are looking for new, story-driven IP, then don’t worry, Hazelight and Zoink Games have you covered with It Takes Two and Lost in Random.
It Takes Two is a fascinating concept from the mind behind A Way Out and Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons. It Takes Two is a co-op action platformer where players take control of two magical dolls created by a little girl struggling to get through her parents’ divorce. Players work together to make their way through a range of environments and challenges representing the emotions of the real people the dolls represent. Creative director Joseph Fares is one of the few people who seem to understand the unique storytelling potential of cooperative gameplay. If his last two games are anything to go by, It Takes Two is sure to offer a unique narrative experience.
Lost in Random meanwhile looks like something Tim Burton would have created in his prime. The developers describe it as a gothic fairytale coming of age story, and that really is the best way to put it. The game tells the story of a little girl named Even and her magical companion, Dicey, an oversized dice with arms and legs. Together they need to free the world of Random, which really does look like something out of The Nightmare Before Christmas, from the evil power of a cursed dice.
Neither reveal offered much to look at in terms of gameplay, although Lost in Random provided a few glimpses of Even battling board game monsters with her slingshot and some kind of transparent glowing mace. Both games are expected to release in 2021.
But now for the main event, the gameplay reveal of Star Wars: Squadrons. Inspired by the popular Star Wars: X-Wing and Tie Fighter games of the 1990s, Star Wars: Squadrons sets out to creates the definitive immersive Star Wars experience. EA had already stated that Squadrons will feature joystick and HOTAS controller support, but that’s only the beginning. The developers have set out to create an authentic starfighter simulator featuring a realistic instrument panel with several advanced functions. Players will need to keep a close eye on their ship, managing things like directional shields and power distribution.
The gameplay is divided between a single-player story campaign and 5 vs. 5 multiplayer battles. The single-player story takes place after Return of the Jedi and alternates between the New Republic’s Vanguard squadron and the Imperial Titan squadron. As with Star Wars: Battlefront II, it looks like some effort is being made to humanize the rank and file Imperial soldiers. I also can’t think of many other games where the player alternates between two characters that are actively trying to kill each other, which should be interesting.
The multiplayer modes include 5 vs. 5 dogfights as well as Squadrons signature Fleet Battles. Fleet battles are divided into three stages, with the initial phase resembling the standard dogfight matches. The winning side goes on to attack their opponent’s capital ships. If the defending squadron is unable to repel the assault, the Fleet Battle progresses to its final stage, an all-out assault on one team’s flagship.
This mode sounds very similar to the space combat in the first Battlefront II from 2005, right down to the number of capital ships. Considering that space battles were my favorite part of the original Battlefront II, I was definitely excited to hear about it. Fleet Battles will be playable solo, co-op or head to head.
It was also good to hear that all ship upgrades and cosmetics will be unlockable through gameplay. Now, that is not the same as EA promising no microtransactions, but it’s still good to hear. EA is not an easy publisher to trust, but this does seem to be a step in the right direction. We’ll know for sure when Star Wars: Squadrons releases on October 2nd.