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Star Wars: Squadrons makes support roles feel rewarding

Working together with others in-game can be a balm for the real-world stress we’re all facing

A loading screen from an early demo of Star Wars: Squadrons shows a team of five rebel pilots staring down an Imperial armada. Image: Motive Studios, Lucasfilm/Electronic Arts

Lone wolf online multiplayer games like Call of Duty have always been hit or miss for me. Slower-paced games like Battlefield are more my jam, and a lot of that comes down to the shooter’s class system. Playing support allows me to back my teammates up even if I can’t always rack up kills. When I saw that Star Wars: Squadrons offers a more collaborative class fighter on both the Imperial and Rebel sides, I got excited to lend a hand in a galaxy far, far away.

Multiplayer in Star Wars: Squadrons is split into two modes—Dogfight and Fleet Battles. Dogfight is your usual aerial deathmatch where two teams of five are split up against one another and duke it out until the winning kill count is reached. Fleet Battles is where Squadrons really finds its multiplayer legs because this mode pits two teams of five against one another in a gambit to try and destroy the rival team’s capital ship.

As a support ship, I am susceptible to enemy fire. My weapons are weaker and my ship is slower, though upgrades can help my hull take more damage before dying. I spend most of my time resupplying my teammates, marking enemies for them, and knocking off missiles that have been locked on to me. This is most of what I can do in-game. While it’s possible to fight back, that approach rarely ends well for support classes.

And yet, the Squadrons support experience is exhilarating in a way that multiplayer games rarely are. Despite taking a less combat-oriented approach, I still find myself in a heart-pounding dodging and weaving game against the reticles of enemy ships. That cat and mouse tension always ends with me dead or helping my teammates succeed.

I trail behind everyone as they engage the enemy ships and I go where I am needed. A cross appears above friendly ships that need support, and I make haste for those whenever I see one.

Star Wars: Squadrons Image: Motive Studios, Lucasfilm/Electronic Arts via Polygon

In the real world, everything feels out of our hands. There is a pandemic that our government has gone out of its way to do nothing about, fascism is rapidly on the rise and in power, cops continue to shoot innocent people, and election season is upon us. To say that 2020 has been a shit year would be an understatement, and finding respite—even in the smallest of ways—means a lot to me right now.

Star Wars: Squadrons has been a respite. Going into a match with random people that I will never know on any level is not something I usually think about, but while playing support, I feel closer to my team. Folks don’t usually have mics on during my games, but it doesn’t matter. Players will still try and coordinate as best they can.

The moment when playing as support in this game fully clicked for me was during a Dogfight match when other players did use their mics, though. These Squadrons fans talked about school or whatever until the match started, and then they were locked in. I heard them as they called out enemies, told each other where they were on the map, and more. I just listened and fell in where I would be useful.

After I helped one of those fans, they relayed to the team that there was a support player in the match. One of the folks in the squad broke off from combat to trail me, providing me the cover and support that my ship lacked. It was a small thing, but it made a difference.

Games aren’t an escape for me, as they usually reflect our current moment for better or worse—often for worse. Star Wars: Squadrons attempts to humanize literal in-game fascists during its story mode, for example. But when I play multiplayer, Squadrons offers respite.

The game never lets me escape my mind and the weight of 2020, but playing the support role allows me to do small acts of kindness. I try my best to keep everyone afloat, and so does everyone else. In a year when so much has been out of my control, playing support in this game has let me reclaim agency in an admittedly small way so I can help others. What Squadrons provides may be digital and fleeting, but for now, it’s enough.

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