A long time ago, in a decade that now feels far, far away, the release of a new Star Wars game used to be a genuine event. Along with the advent of 3D in the late 90s, gamers suddenly found themselves living in the golden age of Star Wars games. Over the course of six glorious years, fans were treated to ground-breaking classics like Jedi Knight, X-Wing vs. Tie Fighter, Knights Of The Old Republic, and Rogue Squadron.
Yet, only a few years later, Star Wars games slowly started to lose their way. With releases like The Force Unleashed disappointing gamers and critics alike, the new owners of Star Wars – a little company called Disney – began to get cold feet about LucasArts, swiftly shutting down the once legendary developer.
After this messy breakup, mega-publisher Electronic Arts snapped up the keys to this beloved license. Now, with jedi-fever approaching an all-time high, this Friday sees EA releasing its second ever Star Wars video game. Yet, after being burnt by 2015’s half-baked Battlefront reboot, is this new sequel a modern gaming adaptation that finally lives up to the Star Wars name?
Unfortunately, not quite. While Star Wars: Battlefront II does do a lot right, its game-breaking implementation of loot boxes and disappointingly brief campaign make this sequel an unnecessarily frustrating experience.
Still, that’s not to say that it’s all bad news. The first thing that becomes evident after booting up Battlefront II is that this time, players are certainly getting a lot more game for their cash. With DICE’s latest offering featuring a fully-fledged campaign, a local co-op Arcade experience and five different online multiplayer modes, there’s plenty more to do here than in its bare bones feeling predecessor.
Yet despite Battlefront II’s plethora of new multiplayer offerings, for many, the promise of a new Star Wars campaign is the main draw here. When the last game was announced, Battlefront players everywhere (including a disgruntled Jon Boyega, an actual Star Wars actor) expressed their disappointment at the game’s lack of single player content. Now, fans finally have the campaign they’ve been asking for.
‘Battlefront’, A Star Wars Story
Set in between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, EA’s latest finally gives players a welcome taste of the dark side. Putting you in the shoes of a decorated Imperial soldier, Iden Versio, you’re tasked with leading an elite Imperial unit after the Battle of Endor. With the second Death Star quickly blown to smithereens and the Emperor going down with it, the Imperial army soon finds themselves in complete disarray.
Star Wars has almost always told stories that are seen through the lens of the Rebellion, and — initially at least — Battlefront II’s willingness to explore things from an Imperial perspective feels refreshing. The game’s opening sees our protagonist held prisoner on a Rebel ship. After using her droid to break out of jail, the rest of the mission sees players skulking around the Alliance-occupied vessel and mercilessly mowing down rebel scum with their blaster. It all feels wonderfully wrong, making a convincing argument that video games could be the perfect way to tell a very different kind of Star Wars story
Unfortunately, though, the narrative soon takes a drastic turn. What starts off as a unique and focused tale quickly begins to lose a lot of what makes it special. The promise of an Empire-heavy story is quickly lost as developer EA Motive seemingly gives up and just decides to shoe-horn in several of Star Wars’ biggest characters for the hell of it.
It’s a shame, because at its best this is a story that brings something surprisingly original to the Star Wars universe. When Iden and her squad witness the Death Star blowing up on Endor, it’s a genuinely heartfelt moment. As the explosion lights up the sky above them, you feel their pain. These were their friends, their colleagues. It’s a scene that does something that few Star Wars stories bother to: it humanizes the Empire.
Still, despite the sharp change in focus, there is still some fun to be had with Battlefront II’s campaign. Not only are the game’s environments breathtaking to look at, but there are a handful of genuinely inspired set pieces littered throughout the six-hour story.
Roll the DICE
Yet, it’s hard not to feel like the brief campaign is merely the appetizer here. While EA enlisted the help of Motive for the single-player component, unsurprisingly, this is still very much a multiplayer-focused Battlefront game.
After coming under fire for making the last Battlefront too overly simplistic and arcade-y, this time around, DICE has managed to craft a much more enjoyable and skill-based multiplayer mode. In the newly added Galactic Assault, the developer’s pedigree with the Battlefield series shines through. You’ll have up to 40 players sent charging around large-scale maps and progressing by completing various objectives.
While it’s hardly ground-breaking stuff, some solid map design and nice little environmental flourishes ensure that this mode feels suitably like Star Wars. However, the rather basic Team Deathmatch mode, Blast, fares less well. While its no-nonsense shooting may satisfy the Call of Duty audience, it ultimately feels simply too shallow to warrant much playtime. Strike brings objective focused gameplay to TDM-sized maps, but thanks to its reduced scale, it just ends up feeling like a watered-down version of Galactic Assault.
Surprisingly though, the jewel in Battlefront II’s crown isn’t actually made by DICE at all. After lazily implementing a half-hearted dogfight mode in Battlefront 2015, this sequel wisely saw DICE hand space combat over to Burnout creators Criterion.
Thanks to its vehicle-led expertise, soaring between Star Destroyers has never felt better.
Somehow, with Starfighter Assault, Criterion Games have managed to strike the perfect balance between complexity and fun. This mode sees players divide their time between intense dogfights with the opposing team and chasing down set objectives, making each match feel brilliantly varied.
Just like the PlayStation VR experience Criterion created for the last Battlefront, its clear to see that after nailing the gameplay, getting that Star Wars atmosphere was top on the studio’s list of priorities. This mode is undoubtedly the highlight of Battlefront II, playing like the online Star Wars dogfighter we’ve yearned for ever since the first Rogue Squadron game.
Is ‘Star Wars: Battlefront II’ Any Good?
As an overall package, there’s a surprising amount to love about Battlefront II. Starfighter Assault aside, its individual modes are arguably not strong enough to carry their own games, but the variety on offer here does feel fairly generous. Yet, despite being chock-full of some brilliant Star Wars moments, it’s EA’s instance on putting profit over the player that leaves such a sour taste in our mouths.
In a game that’s supposed to be all about skill-based multiplayer, it’s baffling that so many crucial elements of your load out can be bought through loot boxes. With recent gaming phenomenons like Overwatch proving that you can make money by only selling cosmetic items, it’s difficult to see the inclusion of character load out cards in loot boxes as anything other than greed for greed’s sake.
DICE has said that they are willing to listen and change things. Let’s hope that they can turn things around before bad business practices ruin an otherwise enjoyable game.