I’m not here to discuss loot boxes and microtransactions and “predatory” pay-to-win systems.
I don’t care about your troubles. I don’t care if you’re upset that this one time, you were playing A Game and got pseudo-murdered by someone with a Higher-Level Thing than you and it’s obviously because they spent extra money on That Thing which gave them an unfair advantage and it can’t possibly be that it’s got nothing to do with The Thing and everything to do with them simply having done a better job of wildly swinging a crosshair in the general direction of their enemy than you did.
I don’t care how you feel about “the corporations, maaan”. If you’re saddened by their ever-evolving attempts to make as much money off their creations as they possibly can, please keep your sadness to yourself. I don’t want to hear it. You’re probably “invested” in Bitcoin anyway, which means your opinion is almost as valuable to me as finding a used tissue in my pocket when I’m caught in the fury of a Jo’burg thunderstorm.
RIGHT, LET’S DO THIS.
Okay, so: Battlefront 2, this Star Wars-iest of Star Wars games I’ve been playing for the last few weeks. To be 100% clear, I didn’t get it for free. I paid the full price of admission, and I haven’t spent a cent more. And yet, somehow, despite all the odds the internet stacked against my enjoyment, I’m having an excellent time rampaging my way through it.
It’s probably got a lot to do with just how Star Wars it is. There’s no other game out there that so beautifully captures the look and feel of this universe I’ve loved so much for so long. Have there been better Star Wars games? Absolutely. But none of them can match the look, the sound, the overall aesthetic of Battlefront 2, and that in itself is a spectacular accomplishment. I still get a chill when I hear the ominous scream of a TIE fighter tearing through space somewhere nearby. There’s something unforgettable about you and your squadmates successfully dodging streams of blaster fire in the thick jungles of Yavin 4, only to find yourselves face-to-face with the business end of a disgruntled AT-ST. Spotting the telltale glow of a lightsaber in the distance, hearing its familiar snap, fizzle, and pop as the asshole carrying it hurtles towards you, is either the most horrifying or comforting thing you’ll ever experience, depending which team’s colours you’re flying.
The point is, Battlefront 2 is practically bursting with nostalgia-fuelled fan service. If you’ve ever wished to find yourself in the midst of a raging battlefield plucked straight out of a Star Wars movie, this is about as close as you’re going to get, at least for now. All those iconic vehicles, environments, characters, the assorted bits and bobs – it’s all here, and it’s been recreated in jaw-dropping detail.
First up, let’s talk about that swanky new single-player campaign. The pacing isn’t great, it lacks focus, and the plot is mostly bland, predictable and ultimately forgettable – which is a shame, because it’s meant to help canonically bridge the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. If you’re looking for innovation (or any form of meaningful contribution to the future of game design), you’ll not find it here. But! It’s nonetheless a fun ride through Star Wars country, and there are some cool moments to be had throughout the handful of hours it’ll take to blast a path through it. Also, I’m quite fond of all the characters in it (Shriv, I love you), both new and old. The plot’s motivation for including fan-favourite characters is often hilariously flimsy, but hey – STAR WARS!
Then there’s Arcade Mode, which is essentially a series of canned scenarios with gameplay modifiers attached to them. These scenarios alternate between bot-powered team battles and Horde Mode-style survival, while the modifiers include things like super-fast ability recharge timers and significantly tougher enemies. You’re also able to customise these scenarios and their modifiers to your liking. Arcade Mode is enjoyable enough, and it’s a good way to experiment with the abilities of the game’s different character classes and heroes before heading into the real meat of the game – the online multiplayer.
There’s no escaping the fact that DICE’s Battlefront is essentially DICE’s Battlefield cosplaying Jabba the Hutt. At its core, they’re very much the same game, particularly when viewed through the lens of Galactic Assault, Battlefront 2’s flagship multiplayer mode. In it, two teams of 20 players attack or defend a sequence of objectives set in recognisable environments, like the streets of Naboo or in amongst the gargantuan trees of Endor’s forest. The various maps are massive and wonderfully detailed, and the objectives ensure that the fighting is always furiously focused. The roving objectives also ensure that the scenery constantly changes throughout a match. At the start of an assault on a Kamino cloning facility, for example, you’ll find yourself indoors, blasting your way through pristine, claustrophobic white halls – but once that first objective falls, you’ll suddenly be outside in a torrential downpour, struggling for control of a pair of rain-slick landing pads.
As with Battlefield, teamwork is absolutely crucial. There are four base character classes in the game, each with a specific purpose and wielding unique, customisable abilities. Learning to work in tandem with the other classes is key. Officers, for example, can give everyone around them a huge health boost, which is incredibly useful for big pushes when you’re on the attack, or for keeping everyone alive just a moment longer during a desperate defense. The Heavy class, meanwhile, has an aura that reduces incoming explosive damage, so sticking near them can mean the difference between surviving a rogue thermal detonator, or turning into a sticky mess that someone’s going to have to clean up.
It’s brilliantly chaotic, and when all the pieces come together (i.e. when not everyone chooses the sniping-focused Specialist class, the wank-iest of the bunch), there’s an undeniable magic to it all. I’m talking the kind of magic that comes with watching two players on tauntauns clash in the shadow of an AT-AT (no, really), or seeing a Y-wing bomber single-handedly (and almost certainly accidentally) thwart the final desperate, overtime push on the final objective of a match.
I haven’t mentioned the heroes yet, because they almost seem inconsequential to me. They’re immensely powerful, sure, capable of cutting down dozens of troopers before being booted from the battlefield – but unlocking the strongest heroes requires a significant amount of Battle Points, which are earned throughout a match by killing enemies and completing objectives. Thing is, I’m not particularly good at Galactic Assault, so it’s rare for me to actually get a chance to wreak havoc as a hero in that mode. SHUT UP OKAY, I’M GOOD AT OTHER THINGS THAT AREN’T GALACTIC ASSAULT AND THE LAST TIME I SPOKE TO YOUR MOM, SHE TOLD ME YOU’RE A HUGE DISAPPOINTMENT ANYWAY. What little time I’ve spent with the heroes in Galactic Assault has been fun, obviously, but the good news is that playing as the standard troopers – which is what you’re going to be doing most of the time anyway – is already so entertaining that they never feel like a stopgap on the way to all that sexy hero fun. There’s also a bunch of other stuff to be bought with Battle Points during a match, which includes the game’s vehicles and elite troopers like Wookiee Warriors and Super Battle Droids.
The other multiplayer modes that’re available are Strike (which is like a scaled-down version of Galactic Assault), Blast (which is team deathmatch) and Heroes vs Villains (which is… heroes versus villains, and a surefire way to get your hands on hero characters without needing to worry about Battle Points). All the modes are entertaining in their own right, but Starfighter Assault is the real star of the show, second only to Galactic Assault, I’d imagine many people actually prefer it, because it’s so unique compared to what’s on offer in other multiplayer shooters. It’s pretty much Galactic Assault, but it’s all starfighters in space, all day. It’s an incredibly well-designed mode, and controlling the various starfighters is an absolute joy, even with a mouse and keyboard. Hero characters make an appearance here too, letting you expend Battle Points to take the wheel of the Millennium Falcon, Kylo Ren’s TIE silencer and more. Starfighter Assault’s maps are amazing to behold, and boast a fantastic sense of scale. You’ll be zipping through debris fields, dogfighting your way through the innards of massive capital ships and space stations, and crashing into things – often, and spectacularly. It’s great!
Right, let’s talk about that controversial progression system, because I guess I have to. Battlefront II’s progression is built around Star Cards. These are essentially ability modifiers that can be used to augment the various trooper classes, heroes, and starfighters in the game. You can equip up to three Star Cards at any given time. One such card will trade in the Assault class’s thermal detonator for an acid launcher, for example, while another improves Rey’s Mind Trick ability. Star Cards come in four different tiers of rarity, and this is where things get complicated. There are two ways to unlock upper-tier Star Cards. One is by randomly getting them from the game’s loot crates, which are bought using credits (which are earned by playing the game) or crystals (which can either be bought for real-world cash, or earned by completing specific “milestones”, which are basically achievements). The other is to craft the Star Cards you specifically want by using Crafting Parts, which are accrued either by clearing milestones, or by getting Crafting Parts as a reward in loot crates. Using Crafting Parts to upgrade Star Cards for each class first requires that you increase both your overall player level, and the level of that specific trooper class – which is done by unlocking/crafting Star Cards. Not only does crafting top-tier Star Cards require a hefty chunk of crafting parts, but you’ll only unlock the ability to craft those top-tier cards at player level 20, so you’ll be playing for a while before that’s even possible.
It’s a messy, convoluted system, that’s for sure, and it takes some tinkering to learn the ins and outs of it. Crafting a card all the way to tier four from scratch requires a significant investment of both time and crafting parts, and should you instead choose to use the credits you earn to unlock the handful of heroes that’re locked behind credit-gates (which includes Chewbacca and Leia Organa), it’ll take you even longer to grind your way to getting your Star Cards upgraded.
Here’s the thing though: I’ve been playing Battlefront 2’s multiplayer for upwards of 40 hours, and I really don’t see the Star Cards as being all that much of a decisive factor in anyone’s ability to do excellent space-murders. They’re useful, obviously, especially the ones that let you swap out existing abilities for ones that better suit your play style – but they definitely aren’t necessary. Even when I’ve stormed into the fray with nothing but tier-one Star Cards equipped, I’ve still done perfectly fine. The difference between the bonuses provided by a second-tier Star Card versus those provided by its fourth-tier variant isn’t particularly substantial, and I genuinely don’t have an issue with the system. I’ve killed many, many bad dudes during my time with Battlefront 2, and I’ve been killed by bad dudes at least 7,000 times more than I’ve done the killing. Sometimes, the bad dudes I kill (or who kill me) have Star Cards that’re better than mine. Other times, the bad dudes I kill (or who kill me) have Star Cards that’re worse than mine. My point is, at no time have I felt cheated by Battlefront 2.
Would I have preferred a more elegant system of progression in the game? Definitely. In its current state, it’s clumsy, it’s confusing, and it requires far too much grinding for my liking. Designing your progression mechanics around randomised loot boxes is a patently terrible idea. But is it worth boycotting the game over? No, you outraged micro-muppet. If you disagree with me, feel free to explain why in the comments section. I won’t read it, but maybe it’ll make you feel better. Also, only do it if you’ve actually played the game. If you haven’t, maybe consider keeping your shouty, half-formed opinion to yourself.
I’m also finding it incredibly difficult to sympathise with peoples’ complaints about Battlefront 2 when Titanfall 2 – a game that’s objectively one of the finest, most intelligently designed FPSes in existence, has no loot boxes, uses a more traditional system of multiplayer progression, and features microtransactions that’re limited to purely cosmetic items – remains, to this day, criminally overlooked and underappreciated. Want to “stick it to the man”? Well, when good games that don’t feature any of the corporate-mandated shenanigans you hate come around, maybe show them the love they deserve, yeah? I’d say that’s a far better use of your time, money, and energy.
Battlefront 2 is an exceptionally well-made game. More importantly, Battlefront 2 is an exceptionally well-made Star Wars game. It’s got issues, most glaring of all being its poorly designed progression mechanics. It does very little that’s original or unique, which is always disappointing. But what it does do, it does incredibly well. It’s fun, it’s frantic, its audio and visual design is genuinely outstanding, and it offers the sort of large-scale conflict that very few games manage to successfully deliver. With The Last Jedi opening in cinemas everywhere this Friday, you’re no doubt going to be jonesing for more Star Wars very soon – and Battlefront 2 is an excellent way to scratch that Star Wars itch.
Tarryn’s super-special super-second super-opinion of Star Wars Battlefront 2’s single-player campaign
It is a dark time for the GALACTIC EMPIRE, whose brand new DEATH STAR has been destroyed by the perfidious REBEL ALLIANCE terrorist organisation, and its beloved Emperor Palpatine murdered by the apostate Darth Vader.
With its operations in the system temporarily thwarted, the Empire’s OPERATION: CINDER contingency plan is now in effect, with climate disruption arrays launching over the treasonous NEW REPUBLIC worlds.
Meanwhile, having escaped annihilation on the forest moon of Endor, the Imperial soldiers of INFERNO SQUAD have vowed to avenge the Emperor, and restore peace and order…
You are Iden Versio, TIE pilot, Imperial Special Forces commando, and also a woman so that’s kind of interesting. Or it might’ve been, because despite a lot of pre-launch marketing hype about its intrepid “other side of the conflict” story, she (spoilers, but not actually because she doesn’t have a posh public school accent so it was already inevitable) swaps allegiances faster than it took Han Solo to finish the Kessel Run and for much less compelling reasons, and the opportunity to present something different is entirely wasted.
So much for the intriguing plot, but it doesn’t matter anyway, because Star Wars: Battlefront 2’s campaign is totally about nerd nostalgia. It’s got the authentic laser blaster noises and AT-ATs and Princess Senator General Leia, and between the SAVE THE GALAXY (… AGAIN) narrative and who’s who introduction of almost every significant character from almost every movie – sometimes on the flimsiest of pretexts but so what, it’s Maz Kanata and R2-D2 – it’s more like a superfan’s ultimate Star Wars theme party than a meaningful contribution to established canon. Which is okay, because whatever its mistakes, it’s mostly fun, and clocking in at about four hours or so, it’s over before your cardboard Boba Fett gear gets too uncomfortable.