Somewhere, out there on a space whale somewhere, Grand Admiral Thrawn is either very happy that his work’s being recognised or very pissed that someone else is taking the credit. On top of being pissed about the whole, y’know, space whale thing.
EA Games has announced that its multiplayer Star Wars starfighter combat game, Squadrons, is getting a nice little holiday gift in the form of some extra content. It’s not the first addition to the game since it launched—cosmetics themed around The Mandalorian, including an adorable Baby Yoda bobblehead your pilots could stick in their cockpits, were released to celebrate the new season of the show. But it’s the first major additional content drop, given that it doesn’t just bring new mode options like custom matches, new cosmetics like playable Pantoran pilots, and a new map to the game. It also includes two much-requested playable new ships: the B-Wing and the TIE Defender.
Naturally, the New Republic will receive the B-Wing, a new entry in the bomber class alongside the Y-Wing that will receive special modification options to help make it stand out from its fellow bombers beyond its gyroscopic cockpit and locking s-foils. Meanwhile the TIE Defender, classified as a fighter alongside the standard TIE, will stand out from the rest of its Imperial shipmates for a very big reason: it’ll be the only Imperial ship with shields.
But while Star Wars Squadrons’ cosmetic elements lean on the side of being a bit more loose with Star Wars canon than the events of its main story campaign, I’m kind of fascinated about how the TIE Defender made its way to production in this post-Return of the Jedi timeline. The New Republic having B-Wings makes sense; after all, the Rebellion had them at Endor. And Star Wars Rebels’ Hera Syndulla, who helped recruit the Mon Calamari technician who designed the “Blade Wing” that formed the basis for the fighter, plays a role in that story campaign.
But the TIE Defender was a prototype project fostered specifically by Grand Admiral Thrawn during the events of Rebels too—except, unlike the Blade Wing, it was scrapped after the factory they were being built in on Lothal was destroyed. Production was halted indefinitely, and after Thrawn himself shortly vanished into the unknown alongside Ezra Bridger in the events of Rebels’ finale, funding for the Defender project was redirected to Orson Krennic to use on Project Stardust (a.k.a. the Death Star). So who, a few years later, with the Empire on the backfoot, finally decided that it was worth the effort to put into production again?
We’ll probably never know. After all, the impetus here is just a new ship in a video game, one that pays tribute to the Defender’s own gaming roots with its debut in the classic Star Wars flight simulator TIE Fighter. But still, it’s fun to wonder just what Thrawn would make of his idea finally reaching fruition...if we weren’t also still busy just wondering what he and Ezra are up to right now, anyway.
The B-Wing and TIE Defender come to Star Wars Squadrons in a new update this December.
Update 11/18/2020 4.50PM: A previous version of this article stated that playable Chiss pilots would be coming to Squadrons—they’re actually Pantorans, a similarly blue-skinned species seen in Star Wars: The Clone Wars and in the background of the Prequels. It’s been updated to clarify, and io9 regrets the error.
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