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|Developer(s)||Cloud Imperium Games|
|Publisher(s)||Cloud Imperium Games|
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|Genre(s)||Space trading and combat, first-person shooter|
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Search Squadron 42 on Amazon.
Squadron 42 is an upcoming space trading and combat simulator game developed and published by Cloud Imperium Games for Microsoft Windows. It is the single-player component of the multiplayer-focused Star Citizen. Originally announced together with Star Citizen as an offline story-based game mode, the game was spun off into a separate, stand-alone title in 2016. Despite its initial projected launch being 2014, the game remains unreleased and has experienced several setbacks.
The game is set to follow a new recruit in the United Empire of Earth Navy during a war with an alien race called the Vanduul. Three episodes have been announced, each released as separate titles. Developers have stated the game will merge space combat and first-person shooter elements together over the course of the campaign.
Like Star Citizen, Squadron 42 is primarily funded through a crowdfunding campaign, initially opened on Kickstarter and expanded to the developer's website. Due to the initial licensing terms of the CryEngine, a lawsuit was brought against Cloud Imperium Games regarding a dispute with Crytek as the engine license was claimed to only cover a single game rather than two distinct ones.
Squadron 42 is a story-based single-player game that combines the mechanics of the space combat and first-person shooter genres and has been described as a "spiritual successor to Wing Commander". Players are given missions to complete by non-player characters, with each mission advancing the story. These missions are accompanied with briefings, providing the player with information regarding their target and objectives. Missions can involve searching for a lost vessel, fighting enemy ships, or attacking outposts. Players are given the freedom to approach missions from different angles, such as sneaking into an outpost rather than attacking it head on, though the player may have to change their approach dynamically depending on the mission objectives. First-person combat can occur both on the ground and in space, with the player using various weapons including guns and knives to subdue their enemies.
Players spend time between missions onboard a starship and can explore its interior, interacting with non-player characters and retrieving weapons and armor for missions. A branching dialogue system will allow players to have options when speaking with non-player characters, providing insight to the character or developing a relationship with them. When engaged in dialogue, the player can hear their character read off the selected option prior to confirming it.
Due to its connection to Star Citizen, developers claim that the player can affect their status in the multiplayer world by completing Squadron 42, but have stated that this is not a requirement and that the player can play either game in any order.
Squadron 42 is based in the Star Citizen universe, set 900 years in the future. The United Empire of Earth (UEE) has spread across numerous systems and is engaged in a war with an alien race known as the Vanduul. In addition to the core conflict, the UEE is at odds with various pirate and criminal factions spread out across their space. Inspired by Ancient Rome, the UEE is a militaristic republic that reserves citizenship to those who have completed military or state service, with all others considered second-class citizens.
The player takes on the role of a new recruit in the United Empire of Earth Navy. Stationed on the UEES Stanton, the player finds themselves under the wing of Steve "Old Man" Colton. The ship's commander, Noah White, sends the player on missions to deal with pirates and aliens that threaten UEE space. The player must complete these missions and develop their reputation among members of the Stanton.
In the initial Star Citizen Kickstarter campaign, a goal was met to include celebrity voice acting, including "at least one favorite from Wing Commander". In 2015, it was revealed that Mark Hamill, who voiced Commander Blair in the Wing Commander games, would feature in Squadron 42 as "Old Man" Colton. Additional cast members include Gary Oldman as Admiral Bishop, Ben Mendelsohn as Julian Wexler, Liam Cunningham as Commander Noah White, and other characters voiced by Gillian Anderson, Mark Strong, Andy Serkis, John Rhys-Davies, and Jack Huston.
Origin and funding
Squadron 42 is under development by Cloud Imperium Games, a studio founded by Chris Roberts, Sandi Gardner, and Ortwin Freyermuth in 2012. Roberts became known for his work on the Wing Commander franchise while working at Origin Systems from 1990 to 1996. In 1996, Roberts founded Digital Anvil with Tony Zurovec and Erin Roberts. While at Digital Anvil, Roberts released a spiritual successor to Wing Commander, Starlancer, in 1999. Starlancer's sequel, Freelancer, experienced a troubled development process, leading to Microsoft's acquisition of the company and Roberts' exit as director of the project. Since Star Citizen and Squadron 42's announcement, these earlier projects have led to the work of Cloud Imperium Games to be considered a successor to both franchises.
Due to its origin as an included feature of Star Citizen, Squadron 42 shares its funding with the original project. Both games stem from the original 2012 Kickstarter campaign, which ended with US$2.1 million dollars. Funding was opened up directly on Cloud Imperium Games' website and quickly surpassed the Kickstarter. By 2014, the project had amassed over US$50 million and was considered "the most-funded crowdfunding project anywhere."
After years of delays, when asked about the financial situation of the overall Star Citizen project, Chris Roberts stated: "I'm not worried, because even if no money came in, we would have sufficient funds to complete Squadron 42." By 2019, Cloud Imperium Games had raised over US$250 million from crowdfunding and an additional US$46 million from billionaire Clive Calder.
Star Citizen campaign
Squadron 42 was announced in 2012 during the Star Citizen Kickstarter campaign as "A Wing Commander style single player mode" that would be included with Star Citizen on release. According to Chris Roberts, development on Star Citizen as a whole began in 2011 using CryEngine 3. Targeted platforms were announced to include both Microsoft Windows and Linux, with the developers stating that until release Windows would be the only platform available. During the Kickstarter, it was announced that the game would contain 50 missions and have a second "mission disk", Behind Enemy Lines, to release after the completion of the game. Squadron 42 was originally slated to release side-by-side with Star Citizen in 2014.
In 2013, Erin Roberts, who had worked on Freelancer at Digital Anvil and was Chris Roberts' brother, joined Cloud Imperium Games. By 2014, he would be the head of Foundry 42, an internal studio in Austin, Texas tasked specifically with Squadron 42 development. IllFonic, a studio based out of Colorado, was contracted to work on first-person shooter mechanics and the Star Citizen Star Marine module, which was aimed to be utilized in Squadron 42. By 2016, years of delays and communication problems between Illfonic and Cloud Imperium Games led to the contact not being renewed and all work absorbed by internal studios like Foundry 42. Kythera, Moon Collider's artificial intelligence system, was implemented for the Star Citizen project in 2014.
Cloud Imperium Games partnered with The Imaginarium, a motion capture studio founded by Andy Serkis, to develop the animations and capture performances of actors for Squadron 42. Upon reaching $50 million dollars in crowdfunding, the developers announced that they would partner with linguists to develop distinctive fictional languages for several alien races, which would appear in Squadron 42. The first official trailer, starring Gary Oldman, was released in 2015 at CitCon, an annual Star Citizen convention.
Following a migration of the overall Star Citizen project to Amazon Lumberyard in 2016, it was announced that Squadron 42 would be released as a separate title but that previous supporters would retain their promised access. It had been announced prior to the split that Squadron 42 would have an additional episode added and that the scope of Behind Enemy Lines had expanded to match that of the first episode. A development roadmap released in December 2019 showed that a beta was planned for release in mid-2020, but a firm release date remains unannounced.
In 2019, the other studios under Cloud Imperium Games began to share work on Squadron 42 as Foundry 42 was "rebranded". The game remains under development as of 2020 due to consistent delays in production.
Crytek, the developers of CryEngine, filed a lawsuit for copyright infringement and breach of contract against Cloud Imperium Games in December 2017. In their suit, Crytek stated that they were seeking damages and an injunction against use of the CryEngine due to Cloud Imperium Games using it beyond what was intended in their contract. Specific claims included developing two games instead of one, not displaying Crytek logos prominently, and switching from CryEngine to Amazon Lumberyard during development. Cloud Imperium Games wrote that the action was a "meritless lawsuit that we will defend vigorously against, including recovering from Crytek any costs incurred in this matter."
When Squadron 42 was originally packaged with Star Citizen, the game was highly anticipated, drawing large amounts of speculation on its potential. In a 2015 article from PC Gamer, Andy Kelly stated: "they're attempting something far more ambitious." Some of the early discussion around the game revolved around the fidelity of the project's graphics. Eurogamer's Wesley Yin-Poole called the graphics "impressive". The voice cast in particular was a major talking point. Polygon's Julia Alexander called the voice cast reveal as "one hell of an announcement" and Robert Purchese at Eurogamer wrote that Squadron 42 "will be brought to life by an incredible list of Hollywood actors."
As the game moved past release dates and continued to be delayed, the coverage surrounding Squadron 42 became more mixed and concerns began to arise about its deliverability. When the game was delayed in 2016, Erik Kain, a Forbes contributor, said the delays were "not entirely surprising" and commented on the "feature creep" that seemed to be impacting the project. Wesley Yin-Poole from Eurogamer commented in 2019 that a release was "nowhere in sight."
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