Star Wars: Battlefront II is only a few weeks away and promises to be one of EA and DICE’s most ambitious projects yet. 2015’s Star Wars: Battlefront reboot was met with a mixed response among gamers and Star Wars fans. While many agreed the previous title was visually impressive and had faithful recreations of the source material’s characters and locations, the distinct lack of a campaign mode and a measly four maps left a sour taste when playing.
Battlefront II, however, will feature a dedicated single-player experience where players take control of Imperial agent, Iden Versio. The story takes place between the events Episode VI and Episode VII, following the second Death Star explosion. The glimpses that EA has released of the campaign show both ground and space combat, where Iden is joined by fellow Inferno Squad members to complete a series of daring missions, such as storming enemy bunkers on Endor or escaping capture aboard a rebel ship. Iden is also accompanied by a small droid that can stun foes and produce protective shields in tough situations. The droid will also be playable in sections of the campaign, as revealed in a gameplay demo that was released following the single-player trailer. Other playable characters announced for the story include Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren, although their exact involvement is yet to be revealed. Before the game’s release, players can step into the boots of Iden Versio through the prequel novel Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad by veteran writer Christie Golden.
During the buildup to the game’s release, EA has been showing gameplay snippets of each of the playable heroes that will be available at launch. With 14 heroes in total, Battlefront II doubles the number found in its predecessor, featuring characters from all three Star Wars eras including Luke Skywalker, Rey, Yoda, Darth Vader, Emperor Palpatine, Darth Maul, and Kylo Ren. Only one hero/villain from the sequel and prequel trilogies will be playable at launch, but EA has announced that gamers can expect regular content updates that will include new heroes. The first of these free DLCs has already been announced as ‘The Last Jedi’, and will unlock Finn and Captain Phasma as well as new maps from the upcoming Star Wars film.
Players will get to explore 18 different locations while journeying through the story mode and multiplayer, including iconic planets including Yavin 4, Kashyyyk, and Starkiller Base, but also brand new planets such as Vardos and Pillio that will be exclusively playable during the campaign. The wide variety of maps shown off in the ‘This Is Star Wars Battlefront 2’ trailer demonstrates what the Frostbite engine is capable of, with multiple planets being prone to extreme weather conditions. Maps range from the torrential rains of Kamino to the busy streets of Mos Eisley and, so far, look stunning reimagined in 4K. Of the 14 maps available in multiplayer, three will be epic space battles locked to the game’s dogfight mode called Starfighter Assault. While Battlefront II does not feature as many game modes as the previous title, it does promise more focus on story-driven multiplayer experiences as each map and mode will have a unique plot behind it. The four modes featured, aside from Starfighter Assault, are Galactic Assault, Blast, Strike, and the highly-anticipated Heroes vs. Villains.
The closed alpha showcased the largest of the game modes, Galactic Assault, on Naboo: Theed. Forty players competed to protect or destroy a moving Multi-Troop Transport (MTT) vehicle as either the Republic clones and Separatist droid forces. The mode was similar to that of Walker Assault in Battlefront 2015, but had a multi-staged storyline that changed player objectives in a naturally-flowing experience. Should the droids successfully advance the MTT toward the Theed palace, the clones retreat inside to guard a set of uplinks that prevent the droids from progressing any further. If the clones fail to defend the uplinks, the two forces must compete for dominance within the throne room in a ‘control-the-point’ objective. The game shifts from the open streets of Theed to the claustrophobic corridors of the palace, creating a growing sense of urgency that prevents a feeling of repetition. Despite the vast improvements over the last game, such as the inclusion of a class-based system, Battlefront II still feels unbalanced. Looking back at alpha gameplay from July 2017, footage of anything other than the Heavy class difficult to find, as its abilities were overpowered compared to those of the Assault, Specialist, or Officers.
The Heavy class was adept at amassing Battle Points, which are acquired by obtaining kills and completing objectives. Battle Points can be spent during the match to unlock playable reinforcements in the form of Starfighters, ground vehicles, advanced classes such as the B2 Battle Droid or Clone Jumptrooper, and heroes. The heroes present in the alpha were Darth Maul, Boba Fett, Rey, and Han Solo. Each hero and their abilities felt unique and suited that particular character despite some sharing similar attributes. Both Rey and Boba Fett had a ‘sense’ ability that allowed them to see enemy outlines through walls, however, both abilities were unique with Fett’s appearing more fuzzy whereas Rey’s was indicated by light blue glowing auras.
The open beta again featured the Assault on Theed mode, but also included Starfighter Assault on Fondor, Strike on Maz’s Castle, and an offline Arcade mode. Each mode available was based in a different era of Star Wars and showed the variety on offer in Battlefront II. The beta felt much more balanced in terms of classes, but some of the new reinforcements, such as the First Order Flametrooper and the LAAT airship turret, felt truly underpowered and seemed a waste of valuable Battle Points.
A divisive factor about the new game is the inclusion of loot boxes that can be purchased through micro-transactions. Not only do the loot boxes include the standard cosmetic fare typically found in similar products, they also include abilities, weapon upgrades, and attachments. The inclusion of upgrades immediately set off alarm signals within the community as the game came under fire for introducing “pay-to-win” mechanics. As well as players upgrading their class by purchasing crates, the class’s level was determined by how many upgrades they had and not by skill level.
Since information about the “pay-to-win” element became wide-spread following the open beta, EA has been quick to release an official statement titled “We’ve Listened to Your Feedback” that highlights the problems with the old progression system. The statement says that higher-levelled upgrades will be locked behind player progression and class-specific gear will only be avavilable by levelling up as that class. EA has already promised those who pre-ordered the game will have exclusive access to powerful upgrades for Yoda, Rey, and Kylo Ren, as well as the different classes in the Deluxe version. With the new progression system, those players will have a distinct advantage at launch, as others will have to grind their way to unlocking the same abilities.While EA has proven it can take on audience reactions and opinions, the choice to include microtransactions in the first instance may have been enough to put gamers off the idea. Whether the improved version of the progression system can sway audience opinion remains to be seen as the release date swiftly approaches.
Star Wars: Battlefront II will release on PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One on November 17, 2017, with a three day early access for the Deluxe Edition holders. Those with an EA Origins account can gain early access to game from November 9 for 10 hours prior to the full release.