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Star Wars Battlefront 2 is burdened by expectations. EA powerhouse developer and Battlefield veteran DICE was canned for a lacklustre debut; the original (well, the 2015 original) Battlefront was slammed for a lack of features, rushed content and a general lack of soul. Right out of the gate, Battlefront 2 was detailed as something completely different; I should know too – EA flew me to Orlando, Florida so I could be in attendance for the game’s big reveal at Star Wars Celebration earlier this year.
Battlefront 2’s success seems to be placed squarely on the shoulders of one Iden Versio, the Commander of the Empire’s Inferno Squad. Fans were elated at the premise; an in-game protagonist who works for the bad guys rather than the Jedi or the Rebellion? It simply hadn’t been done before.
“If you are growing up in the Empire, Iden is exactly [a role model],” Creative Executive at LucasFilm, Steve Blank, told me after the reveal. “She is exactly that type of hero that you would look up to and that you would aspire to be, right? Because if you are a member of an Imperial academy, and you were trained into that and that’s what you believe in, that’s what you’ve been raised to sort of to become, she epitomises that.”
“She is still heroic on that level, just from a total different perspective,” he continued. “In a new point of view that we haven’t gone quite so deep in in Star Wars before.”
But was she really? Does Battlefront 2 really offer us the chance to see the world from the Empire’s eyes?
Simply stated, no. Not at all.
While I’m not about to spoil anything, most of the known universe saw through the ploy; the story of Star Wars: Battlefront 2’s campaign is ridiculously predictable. It’s nothing that EA, DICE, Motive or LucasFilm — hell, even Criterion, and they just handled the vehicles –- promised. I’m not sure if that’s the fault of marketing, or of developers who truly believed they were doing something outside of the box.
The core of the campaign focuses on the three leads of Inferno Squad – Versio, second-in-command Hask and techie Del. Their dynamics and backstories are delicious; I truly enjoyed the trio’s interactions all throughout the game’s thirteen chapters. If we stayed tightly focused on that group as it worked through the major points of the Star Wars timeline, I’d have been a happy camper. Instead, we don’t; Inferno Squad is sent to the sidelines for around half the campaign as we instead go through nostalgia-filled romps with a number of established characters.
The need to insert a Luke, Leia or Solo detracts from the story Motive promised us all – and leads to a very rushed conclusion that comes far out of left field. We already know that the single-player campaign will continue thanks to free DLC, but to have the core game’s story end on such a low note is disappointing.
For all these negatives, the story remains a Star Wars’ fan’s dream, equal parts comedy, action and emotion. It’s also a great place to exclaim just how gorgeous Battlefront 2 is; I audibly gasped when seeing the highly-detailed likes of Maz’s Castle, Jakku, Sullust and other locations in (adaptive) 4K and HDR for the first time. And again during the second.
That said, HDR seemed to suffer from an odd stutter during the campaign’s cutscenes, and the screen will dull and brighten as you move through menus. With the story, DICE ultimately delivers a number of tension-packed scenarios and sequences, though the promise of bridging the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens is laughable -– most of the story takes place around the destruction of the second Death Star.
With three difficulty settings to choose from, I’d advise against the most difficult; while it’s enjoyably challenging for the most part, a final boss battle in the game’s second-to-last chapter proves almost impossible. As Achievements or Trophies aren’t impacted by difficulty, I’d say that most should stick to Normal to get the most out of the offering.
If campaign is a bit of a mess, multiplayer in its current state is a disaster.
Battlefront 2′s main multiplayer menu lists the five modes currently available, but two — Galactic and Starfighter Assault — are by far the most prominent. The remaining modes — Heroes vs Villains, Strike and Blast — are relegated off to the side of the menu with hardly any fanfare. It’s hardly a surprise, then, that I wasn’t able to find a Strike or Blast match in the three full days I was able to spend with the title.
While you’re able to browse Battlefront 2‘s menus as you’re initially searching for a multiplayer game, you’re forced to wait inside a queue before a game actually starts. In the case of Blast or Strike, that meant I was forced to sit and watch my character as a tooltip told me we were waiting on 6 other players to join. Nope, make that 7. Now, 8.
I desperately wanted some type of in-game chat to plead with those who’d joined the queue to remain in it, but that’s not possible — at least, on Xbox One. While group chat is on offer, it’s limited to you and your friends and even then cuts out as multiplayer maps are being loaded. I’d continually forget that and have a minute-long chat with myself while waiting for the rain-soaked platforms of Kamino to load.
Every fibre of Battlefront 2‘s being wants you to work together as a team, earning Battle Points through collaboration and success. Strangely enough, it’s near-impossible to do that, unless someone extremely proactive is willing to manually add each player on his or her team to Xbox Party chat. Without voice communication — and with relatively unhelpful emotes (stuck behind Star Card gates at that) — it’s pretty much every person for themself. Even when playing games in a group, spawning with fellow members was hit and miss.
While the action-packed, multi-stage battles of the Assault modes are great fun, I found myself playing the smaller-sized Heroes vs Villains mode more often than not. In addition to the communication problems described above, the maps in Galactic Assault are simply gigantic — I spent more time running back to an objective after a spawn than I ever did engaging an enemy. In the 8-player Hero mode, action is always around the corner.
That said, Heroes vs Villains is problematic. With a range of good and bad guys to choose from, most are locked. At four players to a side, you’re essentially stuck with two blaster-based characters and two lightsabre-based ones. This gets unfair quite quickly, and for two distinct reasons.
The first is that Hero unlocks are ridiculous — microtransaction-laden Crystals can’t be used to directly unlock the likes of Luke and Leia, so good, old-fashioned game time is necessary to do so. At the time of writing, it’s estimated that 40 hours of gameplay will be required to unlock Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, both available for 60,000 in-game Credits each. That means — at current rates — I’ll never play as Luke Skywalker, Leia, Vader or anyone else gated behind such a many-houred investment. With a lack of choice, it’s a race at the game’s start to pick your character; one he or she is collected, you’re stuck with ’em for that entire match. Good luck if you’re Bossk.
Editor’s note: An hour before the game’s review embargo was to lift, EA confirmed that the in-game cost of locked characters would be reduced by 75%. This prompt change leads us to believe (or is that hope?) that other in-game changes may be delivered sooner rather than later.
Perhaps more damning is that there’s seemingly no attempt by DICE to balance the game at all. In a lightsabre versus blaster matchup, the former will win every single time, mostly because lightsabres stagger on hi; blaster-based characters can’t activate any of their own abilities in retaliation. On balancing in general, my experience suggests skill isn’t taken into account when multiplayer teams are formed. After getting stomped three matches in a row without any player rebalancing, I was forced to evoke my own mercy rule and leave matchmaking to rejoin under better circumstances.
Arcade mode is technically a multiplayer offering but is only accessible via couch co-op mode; really, it’s a solo affair. The offerings within are meagre, hollow and not recommended whatsoever. Enough said.
Star Cards and progression
Battlefront 2 isn’t pay to win, but is more like ‘continue to keep paying to play’. Star Cards, available from loot crates, are essentially in leveling up your character classes of choice. It’s important to realise that playing as an Officer or Assault class is only important to level that type up — those rankings dictate how many Star Cards can be applied at one time. Kills with a specific weapon will also unlock more weapons for that character type, so that’s also something to keep in mind.
That said, you could theoretically play ten hours with an Officer and have extremely bad luck with loot crate drops, receiving enhancement-enabling cards for every class but the one you’re playing as. That’s a weird disconnect that I can only explain as follows — EA still wants you to drop real-life money on those crates. Rather than diligently earning skills for your character, it’s all left to chance; didn’t get what you want? Throw a couple bucks at us and maybe your luck will change.
While hardly scientific, a confirmation with fellow reviewer Nathan Lawrence suggests that each Battlefront 2 player will be awarded with 20,000 Credits upon completion of the game’s campaign. It’s not enough to buy Luke Skywalker (Editor: Well, it is now — but who knows if that 20,000 Credit reward will remain intact. Update: EA has confirmed the reward has been reduced to 5,000 Credits.), but it’ll get you a lot closer to that goal. Those with deep pockets might decide to add to their Credit pool not by long hours, but through Crystals. They can be turned in for Star Card crates; in turn, duplicate Star Cards can be exchanged for Crystals. Rinse, repeat and you’re that much closer to Luke than the rest of us.
Every single element of Battlefront 2‘s progression system seems off; slightly out of your control. While some may try to wrestle said control back using their wallets, I figure most will respond simply by turning the game off.
That’s where we found ourselves with 2015’s Star Wars: Battlefront, eh? We were presented with a game that you could appreciate, but with just enough wrong with it to make you take a step back for a second. For all the promise that this sequel has, there are equal parts that make you want to stomp your foot and yell, “And another thing!”
The fact that DICE responded so quickly to the complaint of its beta being pay to win is a good thing; a source of hope the likes of which the Rebellion can use to secure victory. Unlike a lack of response (or urgency) after the launch of Star Wars: Battlefront, I truly hope that lessons are learned quickly and implemented before Battlefront 2‘s player base walks away in protest. Again. (Editor’s note: Yeah, see above.)
For the time being, it’s a good idea to hold off on a purchase and wait for DICE to respond to (what I assume) will be pretty consistent user feedback. Maybe holding off until the time of The Last Jedi will net you a polished game at a discounted rate.
Original provisional score: 6.5/10
Update 1: 20 November
A weekend with Battlefront 2, post-launch and post-removal of microtransactions, has shown that the game is an utter mess.
Numerous play sessions over the past three days on Xbox One has shown a handful of over-powered players swimming in Star Cards. A Boba Fett in Heroes vs Villains with an Anti-Hero Rocket Star Card? Yeah, that’s damn effective. Once-off targeting Cards in Starfighter Assault? Them too.
The one thing these top players had in common was that they’d been playing in the EA Access ten-hour trial, potentially accessing microtransactions and definitely getting the chance to invest more hours in the game than those who joined in on Friday.
The imbalance we already have pointed out in the core game has gotten far worse as a result of EA’s knee-jerk reaction. Those who’ve been playing for longer have an unfair advantage compared to those who’ve just joined. Those who want to catch up have to give up any chance of investing in a new, unlockable character and are forced to throw their (minuscule amount of) hard-earned Credits in Crates, hoping for Cards that upgrade their classes or Heroes of choice.
We’re lowering our provisional score as a result.
New provisional score: 4/10
Update 2: 24 November
After a week of play, we’re done with Battlefront 2 — just as a lot of its player base appears to be. Despite looking and sounding like the most authentic Star Wars experience you can have, every single aspect of this game has been designed around the fact that microtransactions are necessary to keep up with the (space) Joneses.
With EA promising to bring back microtransactions, we can’t fathom how the game’s excessive balancing issues can be fixed, in the interim or permanently. Our 4/10 score sticks.
Star Wars: Battlefront 2 was reviewed using a promotional code on Xbox One X, as provided by the publisher. Click here to learn more about Stevivor’s scoring scale.