I am not happy with Star Wars Battlefront II, both as a gamer but especially as a life long Star Wars fan. By now the controversy surrounding the game is fully known and aware to everyone including those who are not even fans of the FPS genre. I loved the first Battlefront but it was very much a case of loving the fan service more than loving the actual game which was at the end of the day rather shallow and basic and absolutely the prototype game model for rebooting this series. But I like many others were put off by the extortionate Season Pass price and so never followed up with any of the DLC and honestly once the hype for The Force Awakenings film has passed, the casual tone to it wore off and it collected dust. Star Wars Celebration 2017 had a big reveal of Battlefront II information such as DICE and EA recognizing all the fan feedback and made steps to address them by adding a single player campaign that fans screamed for and to abolish the Season Pass by stating all DLC would be free. The hype train was back on track and I was in first class for the journey. But then it all went wrong as soon as I played the beta and it seems that some lessons were not learned at all and in fact, they sabotaged their own Deathstar!
I hated what I played in the Beta, so much so that I cancelled my pre-order of the digital deluxe version of the game. I just did not like how it felt not to mention major server issues on both PlayStation 4 and Xbox One and there was just a disturbance in the Force that something was not quite right. Jump to the week early access if you had EA Access on Xbox One or Origin on PC and the realization of my worst fears started to dawn. What then happened for that week was more U-turns and back stepping from EA and DICE that left me confused and angry ahead of the games worldwide launch on Friday 17th November and oh will that be a day long remembered as the gamer rebellion flew down the trench of the EA machine, launched a proton torpedo that caused a chain reaction that blew up the Micro-transaction system as EA turned off the controversial system seen by many as the pay to win business model on the very morning the game launched. This is a huge part of this game’s experience but I will come to it later because the game itself even with that system turned off for now, has a whole load of problems that need to be addressed.
First let us take a look at the campaign, one which was presented as a fully canon and unique story campaign starring a new lead character in Iden Versio. What was supposed to make this campaign stand out was that in all the trailers and interviews with Janina Gavankar who voiced Iden, was that this was a story firmly set from the prospective of someone who had been born and raised within the Empire, someone who believed in what it stood for and saw the Rebel Alliance as a threat that had to be stamped out. Iden Versio is the daughter of high ranking Imperial Admiral Garrick Versio and is raised to be an elite pilot and soldier who becomes the Commander of Inferno Squad. Inferno is a Special Forces unit put together following the destruction of the first Death Star with the sole purpose of using any and all means to prevent anything like that happening again that would put the Empire at risk. This whole premise grabbed my attention right away with the opportunity to see the story told from the other side of the conflict.
For the first few missions this is exactly when the story is the most interesting with the story starting on the forest moon of Endor right at the climax to Return of the Jedi with Inferno Squad on the ground trying to prevent the rebels from destroying the shield generator that is protecting the second Death Star. However, Han Solo, Chewie and Princess Leia have already completed their mission and soon Iden and her squad can do nothing but watch as high above them the Death Star explodes. Retreating to her father’s ship, she is then informed to her shock and horror that the Emperor himself is dead but has left a messenger droid with instructions to begin Operation Cinder, a fail safe order should he have died. Now fueled by anger and hate, Iden is sent on missions to begin this operation. Sadly though, whilst trying to avoid too many spoilers here, this initial premise for which the story was advertised as, soon devolves into another generic “oh the Empire is actually really bad so we should probably try to stop them” story which really ticked me off. It would have been rather brave to have stuck with this story and see how the events of the first Trilogy had an impact on those who were not only raised in the Empire but also fully believed in its values and beliefs. Return of the Jedi ended with fireworks and statues being torn down around the Empire worlds (well thanks to the added scenes by George Lucas later on) and we never really as fans got to experience the fall of the Empire, it was just done. This was a chance to really tell that story from the very heart of the Imperial Army in Iden Versio, an extremely capable and deadly threat to the Rebel Alliance.The campaign does have some very nice moments in the story but pretty soon becomes more of a slew of cameo appearances when the player for no real reason suddenly move from controlling Iden to playing as hero characters such as Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo and even Lando Calrissian on different missions. Some of these do work and are enjoyable such as Luke encountering Inferno Squad member Del during a mission which challenges what Del has been taught and understands about the Jedi through his interactions with Luke. But some just feel stupid and a blatant attempt to just tie in locations fans will recognise such as the Han Solo mission, which on the surface is actually a nice touch as we find him on Takodana looking for a rebel contact there bringing him into contact with Maz Kanata and events that completely explain why she is less than happy to see him in The Force Awakenings. What then spoils it all and is something that is threaded throughout most of the hero missions is some of the most cringe worthy awful attempts at comedy dialogue that almost parody the Star Wars story which really annoyed me as a fan and left me eye rolling more than appreciating the use of so many references.
The ending also bothered me as it certainly had the “to be continued in DLC” tone to it which is not so bad if in fact all DLC is to be given to players for Free so could potentially be tied into the release of future content so all players can enjoy it but it still left me with the “wait what happens next” vibe which is great if you know a new film is coming in two years but not so great if you just dropped up to £50 for a game. I liked Iden as a character and the voice cast for the main cast is really spot on but I do feel that they squandered the chance to really tell an interesting story but instead failed to live up to what was both claimed and promised in the hype leading into the release.
The first game was all about the Multiplayer but it also suffered from having very few modes and that is the same case here with only five real MP Modes for players to sink their teeth into. Galactic Assault is the big team mode here with 20 Vs 20 matches where one side plays as the Imperial Forces and the other as the Rebels with one side defending whilst the other attacks. Now here it is full on war with every class, hero and vehicle available in the matches and the scale is indeed pretty huge as ground fighting and air battles all raging at the same time and feels the closest to the Battlefield foundation that this has clearly been built on. Next up we have Strike, an 8 Vs 8 match using objective based gameplay whilst Blast is your traditional team deathmatch mode. Heroes vs Villains is very entertaining as two teams of 4 get to use the hero or villain characters to do battle though the combat can feel a little sluggish and one sided when Lando is faced with fighting Darth Maul.
My favourite mode is still Star Fighter Assault, a 12 vs 12 player mode, which puts players in the cockpit of either Imperial or Rebel Alliance star fighters with dog fighting and objectives the key elements of the mode. This is still the biggest fan service mode for me, there is nothing quite like taking control of an X-Wing fighter and going full on Red Five against other players in some truly stunning maps and high above well known Star Wars locations. This is still and probably will be my go to mode as it was in the first game and still the most satisfying whether I win or lose the match. But even this mode has been tainted by a new addition to the game which I will come to later.
Two new elements to the multiplayer which I do celebrate are the addition of a true class system and Battlepoints. Now the game has a class of soldier system much like battlefront with Assault, Heavy, Officer and Specialist to choose to fight as. Assault is your basic grunt on the ground infantry whilst the Heavy Class gets to use powerful weapons to mow down enemies. Officer class is really the support class and can heal others which is great when playing in a squad with friends. The Specialist is the sniper class, great at long range but really rubbish close up. The second addition of Battlepoints is the real game changer for me. Much like the system used in HALO 5, everything you do in a match earns you Battlepoints which can then be spent to use a hero character or vehicle the next time you spawn in the match. In the first game you had to rely upon finding a Hero power up token scattered around the map in order to play as a hero, who made it very annoying and disappointing when you couldn’t find one or that one player kept on nabbing it first. Now your own performance can lead to just spending points to become a hero once they become available. The number of hero/hero vehicles that you can have at any one time in the match is sensibly limited so you can’t suddenly have three Yoda’s all running about but it is a fair system because of the length of most matches giving even the lowest skilled player the opportunity to get a hero at some point in the match.
This brings me to my biggest gripe with the Multiplayer on the whole and quite frankly where EA suits have taken all the good will from the whole “no season pass, all DLC will be free” by focusing on merging the progression system and star card system with the controversial and soul destroying money leeching loot-crate system. Progression in the game is focused almost entirely with the requirement of Star Cards. Star Cards, much like the first game, add new abilities or enhanced attributes to classes, heroes and vehicles. In fact the number of Star Cards and their tier is how each class is rated now, not by how much you play as that class, but how many cards you have unlocked, crafted or upgraded. Each class, hero and vehicle has three star card slots but you can only unlock the other slots once the value of the star cards for that class has been increased by having more star cards or high value ones. Scrap can be used to both craft and upgrade star cards with different tiers of value the more you upgrade a card and the only way to get scrap is with loot crates. So, here we go with my rant.
Loot boxes can be purchased using credits earned from playing with three types of crates, Trooper Crate, Hero Crate and Fighter Crate. Now you can earn crates from completing challenges for each class, playing the campaign and each day you log into the game but the progression system is completely based on players grinding to earn credits, which is not exactly a very generous amount per game in the first place, to buy new crates. Now the crates can contain scrap and new star cards with any duplicates awarding more credits however it also contains cosmetic stuff like emotes and victory poses. Just like the Overwatch crates however, you will get random items for all classes and heroes/villains especially those you may not play as. Now the logic DICE says is behind this is to encourage players to try out different classes which is fair but it still sucks when you have spent an hour to earn enough for one or two crates and literally get nothing but junk. The grind is real and it is painful because the Star Cards once you start to upgrade them are a huge factor to performance with some increasing weapon damage to increasing how much damage you can take which takes me to the pay to win element.
Yes right now the system to use real money to purchase the in game currency of ‘Crystals’ to buy loot boxes immediately has been temporarily disabled, it is very clear that this was always the intention behind the loot box system tied into progression. The grind to earn enough credits to buy loot boxes to gain star cards or the really important resource in scrap, is crazy and micro-transactions are absolutely designed to circumvent and bypass the grind. Even with it turned off you can already see the Pay to win mechanic in effect with those who bought the regular version to those who bought the digital deluxe version which gave them instant access to high level star cards and weapons. The difference is really insane and in this first week of release, that difference can make some matches an absolute waste of time when you come up against someone with that advantage so you can just imagine someone with some extra cash in their pocket deciding to drop a bunch on loot crates and instantly gaining an advantage in all multiplayer modes. This adds the pressure to spend real money just to re-balance the game which should be taken care of by normal progression by just playing the game. The progression/Star Card system is holding this game back so much and until we know what the changes that EA/DICE have promised they are making before they consider flipping the switch on micro-transactions again.
I am so angry with Battlefront II right now it is honestly the biggest disappointment of 2017 for me. Where fan service carried the first game alone, here it is so not enough because the grind and the progression system is just so negative to the enjoyment of being in a Star Wars game that though the visuals and audio effects can be instantly immersive and impactful as a fan of Star Wars, the gameplay completely snaps you out of the experience as everything becomes about loot boxes and not about being in the Star Wars Universe. How DICE and EA took all the feedback and started with the good intentions by adding a campaign mode which fans called for removing the Season Pass pay-wall and then behind the scenes managed to screw it all up by focusing on their stock values and money grabbing pay to win system with the loot boxes will leave me scratching my head for years to come. Right now there is just no way I can recommend anyone to buy this game, even if you are a die hard Star Wars fan because so much of this game is in flux. Two days before full release the cost of unlocking hero characters was dropped by 75% and then on the very day of release, the ability to buy in game currency was temporarily turned off. With changes being promised and only a few weeks now before the first new content drops when The Last Jedi film nears release, the game as it is right now could be very different by that time which is quite frankly nuts for a game in its first month of release and is way too unstable to invest your money in.
There are some good elements here and in Starfighter Assault I can just live out a little of my Star Wars childhood dream but overall there is just too much wrong with this game to pay full price for. Wait for the Christmas or new year sales for this because with so much controversy the price is sure to drop and drop quickly as physical sales are already way below that of even the first game. DICE and EA have so much work to do to get this both enjoyable and workable but the trust from the gaming community is already shattered. Star Wars should always be about the fans, something the statement from Disney made a point of saying and is something EA and DICE need to get back on board with. Make the best Star Wars experience for fans you can make and go take a look at the original series some twelve years ago now for inspiration on how to just do that. This game promised Star Wars from across all the eras but on release it is very light on that content which presumably is set for DLC in the future but I want to play as Mace Windu, I want to fight as Annakin and Obi-Wan in the clone wars for example not just the Saga films.
EA and DICE got just about everything wrong about not only what fans of the first games wanted in this sequel but also what those fans would consider reasonable in terms of micro-transactions. This game has sent shockwaves throughout the industry for all the wrong reasons and currently this game is in a real pickle that has to be fixed. Ironically in the weeks leading to the release of Battlefront II they put the price of the original game down to just £3 on both consoles and made the whole season pass content available for free. Returning to that game is more enjoyable than playing the new game and that says it all for me right now.