I’d like to start by saying that I’m no fan of Star Wars Battlefront (2015) by EA DICE. I was unhappy with the way they managed the game, with the lack of a single player campaign, with the way they sold and distributed content, with the season pass structure, with the fact that you couldn’t add bots in to fill in the empty spots in matches, and with how unbalanced the gameplay was because of the huge bias against the rebels. Playing as the Empire was a cake walk by comparison, which I’ll admit is arguably Star Wars canon. Needless to say, I was in no way on board for the soon to be released Star Wars Battlefront II when it was first announced.
I don’t let developers burn me twice often. One of the biggest problems with the gaming community today is our collective lack of self-control. A studio puts out a game with good marketing and it sells like crazy, even if it’s shit. Yet when that shitty game gets a sequel, it still sells a ton. Rather than boycotting the game and telling studios that we won’t put up with whatever bad practices made the game shit, as a whole we just buy the sequel. Which basically just tells developers that they can literally shit in our mouths and we’ll just keep paying them to do so. Now personally, I’m not that kind of person. A franchise/studio burns me once and they really have to work to get a second chance from me. Especially when we’re talking about a sequel to a game that I disliked enough to blog about. This is the case with Star Wars Battlefront I and II.
From the announcement, EA DICE has gone out of its way to promise us that Battlefront II is an objectively better game than I. For starters, it has a single player campaign, and this campaign takes place in an era of Star Wars that current fans of the film franchise actually care about right now. Also, you get to play as the Empire. Something very different from traditional Star Wars games. The multiplayer portion crosses various eras of Star Wars lore, making it fun and relevant to fans of any age group. These are strong selling points, yet not strong enough to convince me to throw away more money on this franchise.
I was pretty much already decided that I wouldn’t be buying this game. But in order to be fair, when I heard about the open beta, I decided to give it a try so that I could make an objective and final judgement. I decided that I would only compare it gameplay wise to Battlefront I. I did not get to play it as much as I would have liked before it ended, but I did play for a number of hours in multiple modes with a fair amount of time spent in all available base classes.
The first thing I’ll say about the gameplay is that it’s very fun. Even as a person who only somewhat enjoyed Battlefront I and who went into the beta with literally zero consideration of actually buying the game, I’m happy to admit that mechanically speaking, the gameplay is not only entertaining, but it’s noticeably improved over its predecessor. It is an objectively better game at a strictly gameplay level. Although that is not to say that it’s perfect.
The beta had a number of available gameplay modes. The Multiplayer (Online) mode had three of five types available. There was also Arcade mode which was for one to two player local co-op play. This mode allows for scenarios where you take on specific roles to complete objectives. The beta only had dark side scenarios available, but light side ones will be available at launch, according to the beta. This mode was nice because it allowed you to practice and actually gain some experience and credits while playing. But I spent the bulk of my time playing the online multiplayer modes. No single player campaign gameplay was available to try during the beta.
The multiplayer mode consisted of three main available modes of play: Galactic Assault, Starfighter Assault, and Strike. The first thing to note is that Strike mode was dead in the beta. I only got to try it once because just about every time I tried to play it there weren’t enough players. Just like in the previous game, you lose out on content because of other people. Strike mode is actually very interesting though. It’s a single objective, capture the flag style mode where one team has to acquire and deliver a package to a specific location and the other team has to stop them from doing so. What I especially liked about this and basically all the other modes in this game is that it’s not time based. Instead it’s team stock, which works a lot better for this type of gameplay. This mode was really nice because it required a lot of strategy in much smaller maps and really pulled your best performances out of you. But sadly, the mode is already very inactive and it’s only the beta. Hopefully this will pick up when the game launches, but I fear it will end up having the same problem as the Starfighter Mode in Battlefront I, in other words no players.
The general mechanics of the game are much different and a lot better in many respects. For starters, the hero play is considerably improved. No more looking around the map for annoying engrams (yes that’s a Destiny reference/diss) hoping for a hero mode and that the hero you want is currently available, now it’s all based on performance. As you play, you get points for performance. This is amassed from many things such as kills, streaks, and various other Halo style achievements like revenge and ending other players’ sprees. These points are then used to “purchase” heroes for use in the next turn. You can use them whenever you want or opt not to use them at all. Points continuously build and have no time limit, but they are only good for the current round. There are also available special characters/ships other than heroes. Maybe you don’t want Darth Maul but instead a rocket jump trooper. Maybe you want a better ship but not necessarily the Millennium Falcon, you can make that call now.
Choosing your character is much more streamlined and less of a commitment now. Each life lets you choose a new character with a much simpler and clearer character selection menu. There are four base classes plus the aforementioned hero/special classes. Each class has its own level. Building these up wasn’t as clear as it should be. Or the beta wasn’t working properly. It looks like it’s based on performance, but at the same time crates seemed to be doing the bulk of my leveling. My Han Solo was at level four by the end of the beta but I actually didn’t get to use him once. I did draw a bunch of his upgrades from crates though. Classes can get up to at least level 10. Levels 1, 5, and 10 each unlock a card slot.
The card system is a lot better in this game. No longer do you use it for your techniques, except in the case of special cards. Now it’s for buffs that make you perform generally better. For instance, the card in the picture below gives you battle points (what you use to play as heroes) just for taking damage. Cards have four levels and can be upgraded either through drawing them from crates or upgrading them with crafting parts. Crates can be purchased with credits that you win in matches, based on your performance. You also get a daily crate for free. I was actually very happy with the quality of my crate draws, but I won’t be surprised if they get noticeably worse when the game actually releases.
I spent the bulk of my time switching between Galactic and Starfighter Assault modes. Both of these modes were very well done. Starfighter mode is much better than in the previous game. Up to 24 players at a time, clearer objectives, and better targeting. Most importantly, people were actually playing it. That being said, it was far from flawless. They used the shame crappy flight system with the left stick controlling acceleration, but not giving you the ability to stop. The maneuverability is fine for open space, but terrible for close quarters flying, which plays a much bigger role in this game; at least for the maps available in the beta. You also can’t decelerate to pull back from an enemy that you’re flying too close to and trying to get a clear shot at. Rotating the ship is atrocious. You just get used to flying “upside down”. One thing I really didn’t like about the Starfighter mode was that there were too many objectives. While the mode works well, there were definitely times where I just wanted to dogfight. I hope they include a straight 12 v 12 first to 100 kills scenario. Such a mode was not shown or alluded to in the beta.
Galactic Assault was similar to playing Walker Assault from the previous game but not shitty, annoying, or unbalanced. I was impressed at just how fair the mode was regardless of what side you were on. I won matches on both sides several times in all the multiplayer modes. It’s a similar idea to Walker Assault where one team has to capture an area and the other team is trying to stop them, but what was nice about it was that it had multiple stages to the match with various objectives on both sides. The ground combat was very fair, making me never feel that classic “I was shooting him first, how did I die” anguish that most PVP shooters bleed in excess. The aiming was good. The weapons were effective in all classes. It’s the same as all PVP shooters where you’re only as effective as how focused your team is on the objectives, but this game implements killing as part of the objective in many situations to help combat the uselessness of selfish players.
My biggest issue with the game in general was the kill/score reporting. The first problem is that there is not a fixed end of match screen to give you your total stats and let you see those of other players. I don’t know why EA DICE thought this was acceptable because that’s basic PVP design 101. I left every match unsure of how many kills and deaths I had gotten. The end of each match randomly gives you some stats that are never consistent. When it did show me kills, it was always lower than I had seen in game. Which means either the beta wasn’t reporting kills properly or it was reporting assists as kills and making me think I was doing better than I really was. I don’t think this was the issue because the game reports assists very clearly. I even recorded some matches just to verify that I wasn’t crazy. I saw other players reporting similar issues on Twitter. You can check your score against other players mid match but you don’t have time to really examine that during normal play.
All in all, I have to say that I very much enjoyed the beta. I was impressed by the number of improvements over Battlefront I and I was happy with a number of changes both in the beta and announced but not playable. Yet I still won’t buy it. At least not at release. I only see five multiplayer modes and I can tell you for sure that you’ll only care about at most four of them, because who really likes to play Heroes vs Villains with that gameplay? As I’ve said, there is already a dead mode. I know for a fact that additional content and modes will end up getting added later for an additional fee or season pass. I just don’t see the value in picking up this game day one knowing everything I know about how they managed the last game. It is true that there is a much larger single player component, which actually gives the game some much needed value that doesn’t rely on other people to make your experience enjoyable. But I have no idea how good or how long the single player campaign actually is. The arcade mode is just short missions so if that’s not your thing, it’s not that much added value the way a serious plot is/can be.
I purchased the Ultimate Edition of Battlefront I and I have always regretted it. But that’s because I regret purchasing the game in general. Even though I only paid $20 for it, the whole experience left a bad taste in my mouth. I could see myself purchasing Battlefront II Ultimate Edition down the road for a steep discount because at least with this one there’s a campaign no matter how dead the multiplayer is by the time I buy it. My recommendation to you is to realize that you will enjoy the gameplay, but you need to really consider if you want to waste money paying for overpriced DLC when you could wait for a better buy down the road with all the additional content included.