Star Wars Battlefront 2
Above all else Battlefront II is extremely fun. The gameplay is balanced and exciting. It is everything we, as gamers, had hoped for out of Battlefront and is a logical successor to the Battlefront series from the early 2000s.
I am not one that thought that the first Battlefront (2015) was a bad game. On the contrary, I thought it was very well done. The gameplay was simple and casual, yet you were able to play hardcore without it demeaning other player’s experiences too much. The weapons were interesting and diverse, and the maps very beautiful and very well done. That being said, the game left much to be desired. The lack of a campaign, poor balancing between infantry and starfighters, a limited “Space Battle” mode, small number of maps and long loading times were just a few things that led to people’s poor opinions of the game. Battlefront II seeked to fill in the cracks left behind by Battlefront and deliver a more complete and full experience. Complete with a single player campaign, multiple playable eras, and new gameplay and balance changes designed to increase the immersion and experience.
A single player campaign was not something I expected out of a Battlefront game. Battlefront II (2005) didn’t really have a campaign, as many claim it did. It had multiplayer levels with small objectives to complete and voice overs every so often. It had the same type of campaign that Titanfall had and was criticized for. Therefore, I was not disappointed when Battlefront did not have a campaign, however, the inclusion of one in Battlefront II was a pleasing one. The campaign follows Iden Versio, a special forces operative for the Empire. The campaign starts with the destruction of Death Star II and the events following. I will do my best to review the campaign without providing spoilers, in case anyone has not seen it yet. The campaign was mediocre at best. Iden is a very shallow character that, as a player, I have a very hard time caring about. We know very little about her past, her intentions or her character, and the campaign would rather focus on her relationship with her father and the not-so-subtle romantic subplot. Her squadmates, Del and Hask, are also quite shallow, but not as shallow as Iden. Hask is an over-dramatic Empire sympathizer, whose outbursts are something we’d expect out of a Halo marine instead of an elite soldier. However, he is a more minor character and is not investigated, nor is needed to be investigated, as much as Del is. Del is still shallow, but we understand him a bit more. Unlike Iden, Del’s experiences throughout the campaign directly lead to his character development. Iden on the other hand, since we know so little about her, goes through a similar development, but it is very abrupt. It feels so out of character for how she was set up in prior missions. The rest of the supporting cast however, is, for the most part, very well done. Luke, Leia, Han, and Lando all make appearances and are also playable characters. Their missions are some of the best in the campaign. Partly because you don’t have to play as Iden, but also because it allows for a deeper look into the story. Plus, when you play as Lando, you are introduced to Shriv, a sarcastic alien whose one-liners almost make the entire drull of the campaign worth it. Despite the poor script, the acting was quite good. The only acting I had any issues with were Luke and Leia’s voices. They weren’t as close to the original actor’s voices as Han or Lando were, but it didn’t really detract from the experience in any way.
The gameplay was quite dull as well. The game does allow you to customize your loadout, which is a nice touch, but the missions fell into one of three categories: shooting gallery, defend mission, or spaceship mission. These three archetypes were used for almost the entirety of the campaign. The hero missions mix it up a bit, but ultimately come down to one of those three types. The set pieces are very nice, however. The level of detail in each mission level is outstanding. The scale of objects, the perfection of colors, and even the way stormtroopers carry themselves, all help to the immersion of this game. Too bad it’s not enough to save it. In my opinion, a campaign has to have three things: good story, good gameplay, and good characters. Now, not all of these things have to exist to make a good campaign. If done right, and excess of one can make up for the absence of another. Halo for example as great characters and a great story, but ultimately it has uninspiring gameplay seeing as it mostly involves clearing rooms multiple times. Titanfall 2 has lousy characters and a lousy story, but the gameplay is so unique and fun, that it trumps the poor script. Both of these games are example of that point. But Battlefront II has bad characters, bad gameplay, and a mediocre story. It doesn’t exceed in any area that could make up for any other and as a result it leads to a dull, five or six hour experience. If there is one redeeming quality of the campaign, it is epilogue. This mission has you play as Kylo Ren, decades after the events of the campaign and it directly sets up “The Force Awakens.” I won’t go into more detail so as not to spoil it, but the uniqueness of this level plus the spot-on impersonation of Kylo Ren (seriously, I had to look it up to see if it actually was Adam Driver; it’s not) leads to a great finale and experience. If even half the campaign could have been this way, my thoughts would be wildly different.
Multiplayer is a different story. This is the reason that I, and many others wanted to purchase the game. Multiplayer has two main modes to choose from. You can choose to play Arcade, a local, solo or cooperative, mode that puts you into different mini missions with different difficulties. These missions may have you killing a certain number of AI enemies in a certain amount of time, playing a Blast match, or any other small scale objectives. All enemies and allies are AI, and the main focus of this mode is for practice, however it can be quite fun in local split-screen. The other mode is Online Multiplayer. Here you can play one of five modes with your friends online. Galactic Assault is the main game mode and pits two teams against each other in asymmetrical combat. The attacking team must complete a series of objectives while the defending team tries to stop them. The types of objectives that must be completed are dependent on the map, which also dictates which of the three eras the match will take place in: Clone Wars, Empire Era, or First Order Era. There is also Starfighter Assault, a mode similar to Galactic Assault, except all the combat takes place in spaceships instead of infantry. There are also three smaller-scale modes to choose from. Blast is a standard Team Deathmatch mode, Strike is an objective based mode, similar to Galactic Assault, but is only an 8v8 instead of 20v20, and Heroes vs Villains is a “Marked for Death” style mode that pits two teams of four heroes against each other. While Galactic Assault is my personal favorite, all the modes are quite fun and offer unique gameplay and strategies per mode.
Gameplay is very solid in Battlefront II. There are four classes to choose from that are similar to the Battlefield classes. Each class has three abilities at its disposal. Two regular abilities, and one class ability. These abilities are on a cooldown once used, similarly to Battlefront, while the class ability is used on a timer, then is on cooldown to recharge. The Assault class carries rifles and is designed around dealing damage. They carry a thermal detonator grenade and a scan dart, used to reveal enemies. Their class ability is the Vanguard, a pump shotgun that increases your speed and deals massive damage for its duration. The Heavy class is designed around crowd control, using their heavy rifles and high health pool to weaken enemies and provide suppressing fire. They are equipped with an impact grenade and a gun shield as well as their Sentry class ability, which equips the user with a laser minigun. The Officer is a support class based around buffing teammates. Armed with a pistol, they posses the flash grenade and auto-sentry turret as well as a support class ability. This ability gives nearby teammates armor, increased health regeneration, and increased damage for a short time. And finally, there is the Specialist class. They are the snipers and use long range rifles. They have a shock grenade, used to paralyze enemies and thermal binoculars, which can be used to see enemies through walls. Their class ability is Infiltration. It causes the user to move faster, appear off the radar, and gives them a powerful burst rifle. Each class feels different and there always seems to be a use for each class in every match and each class excels in different situations. I found that games that went the best had a good balance of each class. Class customization can be taken further with Star Cards. Star cards are equippable cards that change abilities, provide passive abilities, or buff the class ability and up to three can be equipped at one time. Star Cards can be earned via loot crates, or crafted with Crafting Parts, which I will discuss more about later. During a match, you also have access to more powerful classes such as Rocket Troopers, Super Battle Droids, Flame Troopers, and others depending on what era the match is taking place in, as well as heroes and vehicles. Unlike Battlefront, which used a powerup system, Battlefront II uses the Battlepoint System. While playing, players will earn battlepoints for completing certain actions. Getting kills, assists, playing the objective, and even dying all grant you battlepoints. During a respawn screen, you can spend battlepoints on stronger classes, vehicles, and heroes. This system is a much more fun, fair and intuitive system compared to the first game. Maps are also beautifully crafted. Similarly to the first game, the visuals are just perfect. The way sand runs off dunes, the way rain reflects light, metal dynamically reflecting explosions, all of these things add to the visual experience and the immersion. But that’s not all, the maps also feel very alive. People will run and hide during the invasion of Mos Eisley, creatures lumber around on the outskirts of the maps, the droid drill-dropships invade other buildings during the battle of Kamino. Pick a direction and you will see something not only amazing for a video game, but amazing to the immersion.
Now this is the part where I have to separate myself as a gamer and as a journalist in order to discuss the loot boxes. As a gamer, I did not have an issue with the loot box system or microtransactions. While the Star Card system does offer changes and advantages, they are more play-style oriented. EA said that Star Cards weren’t so much an advantage as player skill was, and although many people hated on them for those comments, they were correct. A prime example is a game I played the other day. My team was trying to take back an objective and I noticed I kept getting killed by someone with an upgraded sentry minigun. This upgrade made it shoot explosive shots. After being killed by him several times, I began to get frustrated, but then I realized something; my team was not even trying to stop him. We all kept running down the same hallway instead of trying to run a longer, but safer flank that would have allowed us to take him out easily. It had barely anything to do with the Star Card, even with the basic minigun he would have had a lot of kills, since no one was trying to stop him. However, as a journalist, I can understand why people were upset about the microtransaction system. It should be noted that, at this time, you cannot buy anything with real money in the game. Microtransactions will return at some point and it is unsure how. Speculation says there will be a cosmetic-only loot box, but nothing has been alluded to or confirmed.
I would like to take this opportunity to expand on the loot box controversy. This is not going to be an analysis of whether or not microtransactions should exist or about the controversy itself (that would require its own article) but if you are curious about the game, or are on the fence due to this controversy, allow me to clear the air a bit and tell you exactly how the system works so that you can be accurately informed. I will start by discussing what I consider to be the biggest part of this controversy and the thing that is the most misunderstood. That, of course, is purchasing heroes. Out of the 13 heroes and 7 hero ships available in the base game, only 6 are locked: Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, Chewbacca, Princess Leia, Iden Versio, and Luke Skywalker. During the early access, locked heroes cost roughly 60,000 credits and you would average about 1,000 credits an hour. This lead to the infamous Reddit post where someone calculated that it would take about 40 hours to unlock a single hero. This was quickly changed and now the most a hero costs is 15,000 credits. They did, however, change the amount that players earn per game, which averages about 400 per game. But the controversy still stood. The controversy was, that someone who bought loot boxes could unlock these heroes earlier than others. But this just isn’t true, at least not anymore (excluding the current absence of microtransactions.) You see, heroes don’t drop in loot boxes and they can’t be bought with the paid currency, crystals. The only things that drop from loot boxes are: Star Cards, Crafting Parts, end-game poses, and emotes. Weapons and weapon attachments can only be earn via progression and credits can only be obtained by playing or via the free daily loot box that is unable to be purchased. Therefore, paying for loot boxes will never allow someone to unlock a hero faster than anyone else. And as far as 40 hours per hero, that has been reduced to roughly 1.5 hours per hero, excluding loot box credits. Crafting parts can be used to craft and upgrade any Star Card in the game at any time, regardless of what has been unlocked via loot boxes.
To prove this, I timed all my games leading up to earning 15,000 credits, enough to buy one of the most expensive heroes, Darth Vader. I was sure to exclude any extra credits I earned from the Deluxe Edition loot boxes, and daily crates. During that time, I played 10 games. Five Galactic Assault matches, three Heroes vs Villains matches, and one game of Blast and Starfighter Assault. After 10 games and 96 minutes, I earned enough credits to unlock Vader. During that time, I did slightly below average, and averaged about 350 credits a game. This clearly does not add up to 15,000 credits in two hours, but what most people fail to tell you is that there are several other ways to earn credits. Firstly, every time you level up, you earn a large amount of credits, roughly 4000. Completing the campaign gives you 8000, as well as a few loot boxes, but they don’t drop credits. There are also a large amount of missions and challenges to complete for credits. Challenges are daily challenges to complete, while missions are a one time unlock for big rewards. Missions can be more difficult than challenges, but some of the early game ones are as simple as playing a certain class for ten minutes or getting a few kills. More difficult missions, like getting 500 kills with a single class, unlock powerful weapons, weapon attachments, and other special rewards. Remember, weapons and attachments cannot be bought, even for credits, so you have to play in order to unlock them. Challenges tend to be simple, like getting a certain amount of headshots, but they have lesser rewards and reset every day.
Above all else Battlefront II is extremely fun. The gameplay is balanced and exciting. It is everything we, as gamers, had hoped for out of Battlefront and is a logical successor to the Battlefront series from the early 2000s. It shares a similar in game progression system, the same excitement and the same heart, not to mention the same “watch those wrist-rockets” voiceline. I, and all of my friends, have been having a great time with this game and I look forward to the future. It isn’t without its problems though. There are some minor gameplay unbalances, like starfighters being too powerful against infantry or maps being too difficult to attack, coupled with the obvious EA loot box controversy. But I have hope that DICE will be releasing patches to help combat these problems and it is most likely being slowed down due to the controversy. All of these things, plus the notion that all future DLC and updates will be free, the first of which is slated for mid December and will bring new maps and heroes based around The Last Jedi, and the fact the game is just so damn fun. I give Star Wars Battlefront II an 8/10.