Fans rejoiced at the thought of a return to Star Wars Battlefront following the reveal of 2015’s installment. While the game was ultimately solid, it wasn’t what many fans sought in a revitalization of the classic series. Instead, it served more as a learning experience for what the developer should bring to the sequel. To that end, there are plenty of evolutions found in Star Wars Battlefront II. Many of these changes are good, some…not so much, with the pinnacle of its less savory changes being the highly controversial Crate-based progression system. This is something certainly worth discussing, but potential fans should know there is more to Star Wars Battlefront II than that.
Sitting at the forefront of the experience, Star Wars Battlefront II’s multiplayer features five modes reimagined from the previous game. Headlining Battlefront II‘s competitive scene are Galactic Assault and Starfighter Assault, both of which treat players to multiphase, attack/defense-style modes that tell minor stories in the grander narrative of the galactic conflict. Galactic Assault is the largest mode in the game, pitting teams of 20 players against each other, with the order and style of objectives changing depending on the planet you’re fighting on.
Starfighter Assault takes this general template into the skies and beyond, with a handful of aerial/outer space maps in which teams of 12 dogfight around space stations and other suspended structures with objectives to either be attacked or defended. The next two modes—Strike and Blast—are less complex. Strike is a small-scale version of Galactic Assault where only two objectives must be captured in a confined arena, while Blast is simply a Team Deathmatch variant. Finally, Heroes vs. Villains returns from the previous game, tasking players to take out key targets on the opposing team, which includes four characters off the roster of 14 heroes the game touts.
Both Galactic Assault and Starfighter Assault certainly feel like the core of the game’s multiplayer component, facilitating scenes of all-out war that would make the game series and films proud. While the scale of these fights hit the right notes, their objectives aren’t as varied as they initially appear. Apart from the occasional escorting of massive vehicles, nearly every objective in both modes involves capturing or blowing up a selection of points, and then moving onto the next one, or preventing such an event from happening for a certain amount of time. The narrative and action of the fights are enough to keep them enjoyable, but they aren’t the genre-defining multiplayer adventures they seem to sell themselves as.
The two smaller modes are even more simplistic, but this works in their favor. Blast and Strike offer concise, uncomplicated skirmishes as moments of fast-paced respite from the more drawn-out modes. As for Heroes vs. Villains, the charm of the characters fades after a while, but the mode serves as a useful arena in which to practice a favorite hero for use in Galactic Assault. Fortunately, no matter which mode you play in, the servers seem to be handling traffic fairly well at this point, but we will see if they can maintain this stability once the game hits it wider launch.
Battlefront II’s modes are enhanced through the game’s Battle Point system, replacing how the previous game rewarded power-ups through random map pick-ups. This in-match currency is earned over the course of a round through a number of actions, and can be spent on a variety of supportive units depending on the mode. Galactic Assault makes the greatest use of the currency, offering a selection of advanced units, vehicles, and hero characters that can be purchased and taken into the fight for varying costs. Meanwhile, Starfighter Assault only gives access to Hero ships, and Blast and Strike only allow for the purchase of advanced units. Heroes vs. Villains doesn’t support Battle Point rewards.
The ships in Galactic Assault have little impact on the ground fight, and there are some notable imbalances in the hero characters—particularly anyone wielding a lightsaber—but the system is a sufficient mechanism for incorporating the multiplayer’s more interesting features, creating exciting dynamic shifts over the course of the battle depending on how each player chooses to allocate their points.
When you don’t have points to spend on a mode’s more lavishly offensive options, players will choose from one of the multiplayer’s four trooper classes. The classes include the Assault for straightforward combat, the Heavy for aggroing enemies and holding positions, the Officer for providing team support, and the Specialist for dealing damage at long ranges, with the style of each class’ look and weapons changing depending on which era the map takes place in. As is contemporary for class-based shooters, each class supports exclusive armaments to complement their respective playstyles, as well as a number of unique abilities and equipment—such as the Heavy’s gun-mounted shield for front-facing protection, or the Specialist’s Thermal Binoculars for scouting targets at a distance.
The classes are distinct enough to give the choice some impact, but their abilities don’t serve the team as much as in other games with similar class spreads. Apart from the Battle Command ability used by the Officer, each trooper role feels very much in the fight for themselves. The disconnect between player and team is further compounded by the game’s squad system. Players cannot squad up in matches with friends. Instead, they are randomly assigned into squad every time they spawn with other players spawning in that same wave. Working in close proximity to the players you spawned in with will multiply your Battle Points income, but the system has no hope of incentivising the same team cohesion that could exist by simply letting players squad up with friends.
Classes can be bolstered with the series’ returning Star Card system, which plays a key role in players’ multiplayer progression, requiring a bit of explanation to fully grasp. Star Cards are equippable buffs for trooper classes, advanced units, hero characters, and vehicles that can provide a combative advantage or augment that entities’ gear/abilities. Star Cards—along with emotes, Crafting Parts currency, and more—are earned through the game’s Crate system, and these Crates are primarily acquired by purchasing them with Credits, one of the game’s three multiplayer currencies. Credits are earned by completing matches or through the Crates themselves. Alternatively, cards can also be crafted using Crafting Parts. Up to three Star Cards can be equipped to a class at once, but the second two slots can only be accessed by reaching certain Star Card levels, which is determined by the number and rarity of all the Star Cards in a unit’s deck. The impact of a Star Card, while fairly moderate in most cases, can be amplified greatly by upgrading the card’s rarity with Crafting Parts or finding one of a higher level in a Crate.
This may seem unnecessarily dense, but the technicalities of the Star Card and Crate system are important to understand as the system will benefit those that spend more money on the game to a degree. The third type of currency in the game, Crystals, are purchased with real money and can be used to buy Crates. It should be noted that there is no content necessarily locked behind a paywall, and weapons are unlocked through class use rather than randomly through crates, but this progression system is still not competitively healthy.
Higher tier Star Cards can be particularly advantageous, and those that throw more money into the game will reap remarkably more currency and cards than those that don’t. While it is true higher rarities of cards cannot be crafted until reaching certain player levels—with Epics not acquirable through Crates at all—a surplus of Crates will still make for a powerful loadout, which will in turn make the trek up to the level to craft Epic cards that much easier when fighting those with inferior resources. Again, everything in the game can eventually be acquired through gameplay without spending any extra money, so it becomes more a matter of time, though admittedly much more time than is acceptable. There is no question that the game’s progression system could be more fair and less convoluted, but the exact degree to which it will infringe on the experience will vary player to player, as weapons and player skill tends to impact the outcome of a fight more than Star Cards.
In order to surpass the advantages of the imbalanced Star Card system, players will have to come to grips with the unique core gameplay of Star Wars Battlefront II. True to the essence of Star Wars, the projectiles that fire from the game’s moderate selection of Blasters are large and slow-moving, generally fired at a relatively slow rate which makes hip firing extremely viable at close range. The lethality of these blasts is comparatively low as well, taking slightly longer to kill targets than the average video game bullet. Reloading is also somewhat in a realm of its own, with guns that can shoot infinitely, but overheat if shot continuously, activating a small minigame that can cool down the weapon quicker if conquered.
All of these systems create a gunplay dynamic that, while more competitive than its predecessor, still leaves matches feeling somewhat causal. Weapons’ slow projectile speed and low lethality can nullify the quick reaction time and dexterity of more competitive players that are used to hitscan weapons (firearms that do damage to a target instantly). Such combative faculties play less of a role in Battlefront II, as killing will take more time than in other games, regardless of the killer’s skill. Even when enemies finally drop, the game tallies kills and assists on the scoreboard under the same category of “Eliminations”, making it hard to determine who is actually top dog.
This is not to suggest the combative experience is inherently worse than it would be otherwise, but players shouldn’t go into it expecting to stroke their shooter ego. Rather than a collection of individual skirmishes, matches tend to feel like frantic miasmas of explosions and lasers, with waves of players crashing into each other until one or the other gives. This can serve as its own form of entertainment, as long as you don’t take it too seriously.
When players trade in their blasters for a ship, either through Battle Points in Galactic Assault or by jumping into Starfighter Assault, the gameplay is equally casual, but in an even more welcoming way. The flight controls are intuitive and easy to pick up, and the extensive HUD relays a lot of information that is useful without normally getting too overwhelming. There may not be a ton of skill to be found here (aside from avoiding driving into walls when trying to dodge enemy fire), but balancing the unique abilities of the different ship types while maneuvering around hostiles and objectives manages to be both simple and exciting if experienced in short bursts. Additionally, both trooper and ship combat can be enjoyed in first or third-person. The option doesn’t seem to serve a tactical purpose, but it is expertly implemented and brings a fresh perspective to every battle.
The final corner of Battlefront II’s multiplayer is the Arcade mode, in which players can team up with friends online or in offline split-screen to fight against waves of AI-controlled enemies. There is a substantial number of challenges to fight through, using various hero characters and trooper classes, but the two measly objective types for the mode make it feel a little vestigial. There is nothing necessarily offensive about Arcade, and it is better for it to be there than not, but it will likely gather dust quickly under the shadow of the multiplayer.
For a more fulfilling adventure, and more well-rounded overall experience, Star Wars Battlefront II also features a story campaign. Following new character to the Star Wars universe, Iden Versio, a member of the Empire’s Inferno Squad, Star Wars fans will learn about untold events that transpired between the original trilogy and Star Wars: The Force Awakens. The campaign itself is aggressively short, clocking in at less than five hours, but it features several elements that keep it interesting, such as Star Card customization and enemies based on the different multiplayer classes. It also offers an even spread of hero and ship missions, never letting the pace drop for the short time that it lasts. True Star Wars fans will likely appreciate its brevity in the hopes of learning secrets behind the newest saga. Unfortunately, Star Wars giveth, but Star Wars also taketh away, as the game teases some exciting revelations both big and small (that won’t be spoiled here), while also leaving a lot of new threads hanging that any reasonable fan would expect it to have answered. This is par for the course for the Star Wars franchise, but the promise of free single-player DLC only slightly lessens the frustration.
Star Wars Battlefront II used the previous game as a jumping off point, and while it could have admittedly jumped further, it was at least a jump forward. The enjoyably chaotic multiplayer and single-player adventures are overall well-delivered under its visually beautiful and authentically detailed Star Wars backdrop. As for the unfortunate outcome of the game’s progression system, it is understandable if players are deterred based on its lack of player friendliness, but the experience can still be enjoyed without giving it any extra money. On top of this, the recent last-minute adjustments to hero character costs suggests that EA is listening to fans and adjusting accordingly. We are off to a rocky start with Star Wars Battlefront II, but I wouldn’t outright dismiss it without a fair look.
|Publisher: Electronic Arts • Developer: EA DICE • ESRB: T – Teen • Release Date: 11.17.17|
Star Wars Battlefront II still tips more toward the causal side of multiplayer competition, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t a fair amount fun to be had. That said, the game’s potentially pay-to-win progression model doesn’t do it any favors.
|The Good||The multiplayer combat, balancing, and variety have all seen a notable step up since the previous game.|
|The Bad||There are a lot of ways to do progression systems in competitive multiplayer, but centering it around loot crates is not the best of them.|
|The Ugly||If my only two options when opening a Crate are to reveal one at a time or reveal them all, without an option to back out, just reveal them all automatically!|
|Star Wars Battlefront II is available on PS4, Xbox One, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by Electronic Arts for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.|