“Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” The words of Yoda were echoing in my head as I played Battlefront II. There is certainly no shortage of hatred circulating around this game at the moment and while I will mention that later on, right now I’m going to go the way of the Jedi and focus on the good.
It’s been two years since 2015’s Star Wars Battlefront, and while that game had its share of problems, the biggest void was the pronounced lack of a campaign, or worthwhile singleplayer experience. Thankfully Battlefront II pulls out all of the stops to make amends, and ends up delivering one of the best first-person shooter narratives in a long time.
Crafted by EA’s new Motive studio in close collaboration with the Lucasfilm Story Group, we get a whole new story from the perspective of the Empire. You play as Iden Versio, an elite Imperial special forces commander during the destruction of the second Death Star, which plays out in Episode VI: Return of the Jedi. It’s an exciting chapter in the Star Wars canon, as the Empire faces the catastrophic death of their leader, Emperor Palpatine.
While a lot of the plot points are cliche, it’s refreshing because it’s all being told from an opposite side. Battlefront II humanises the enemy, in much the same way as Finn made Stormtroopers actual people in Episode VII. The campaign, which takes around 7 hours, visits a lot of familiar places with cameos from recognisable characters – such as Luke Skywalker and Han Solo.
It’s a perfect way to be introduced to the game, with the action teaching you all of the basics to get familiar with the controls. It transitions beautifully to vehicle sequences as well, seamlessly putting you into the cockpit of a Tie Fighter or an out-of-place Cloud Car to engage in epic space dogfights. The environments are lovingly designed and packed full of detail, whether you’re in the burning forests of Endor, or strafing above Star Destroyers and the remnants of the Death Star in space: everything screams Star Wars.
Iden is a likable, ambitious, and highly skilled soldier who combines a lot of traits from other Star Wars characters – such as the cocky humour of Han Solo with the distinctive swagger of Jyn Erso from Rogue One. As an Empire zealot who takes great joy in destroying Rebels, she’s torn between the blind orders of her imperial admiral father, and her own internal sense of right and wrong.
Which made me notice just how many daddy issues there are in Star Wars. Luke, Leia, Jyn, and now Iden all seem to be lacking the love and affection from their dads. But in Battlefront II, we get to witness Iden’s confrontation with her father first-hand.
It’s a shame that the game never takes this as far as it could though. Without giving away any spoilers, it pulls its punches and is far too quick to fall into predictable territory. Iden’s narrative is also broken up with side-missions which put you in control of other characters, such as Luke, Leia and Han Solo – and while they are fun, they also feel tacked on and distract from the core story. The exception is one mission featuring Lando Calrissian and his blue, bulbous headed companion Shriv, which features some hilarious banter that’s worth every second.
Overall it’s great to see how EA have listened to fans from the 2015 release and delivered a solid campaign mode. But there is a much darker side to Battlefront II. We can’t discuss the game’s multiplayer without delving into the bantha-sized issues with in-game purchases and dreaded loot boxes.
I remember back in the day where you could copy cheat codes out of magazines, sometimes scribbling them on your hand before putting a gaming magazine back on the rack of your local dairy. Nowadays people cheat by entering in credit card numbers.
It’s not just Battlefront II – all sorts of games allow you to throw money at it in order to progress faster, or be stronger. From a business side, it makes perfect sense, and Battlefront II is definitely a game that cost a lot of money to produce. For those players light on time and heavy in pocket, being able to buy your way through a game is a luxury that many will jump at.
However the problem is when a game is monetized in this way, publishers are incentivised to encourage players to spend. Battlefront II is a definite victim of this pressure. When playing a multiplayer match, you always start off as a standard soldier and you can work your way toward being able to spawn as a hero character – such as Luke, Vader, Chewbacca, Emperor Palpatine, Leia, or campaign protagonist Iden.
This is achieved by earning credits and up until EA backtracked a few days around launch, the number of credits required to unlock these heroes was insanely high. To the point where it was basically forcing many players to dish out real life money to purchase enough credits to be able to do so.
This is a big ask considering you have just paid full price for the game. Now you are tasked with the decision of either slogging out 40+ hours of multiplayer; or just buying loot boxes to unlock special abilities and weapons almost instantly.
Thankfully EA have since changed a lot of things. They started by reducing the in-game costs required to unlock characters, and then just prior to the standard edition going on sale, they temporarily removed the ability to purchase credits with real money altogether. It’s a welcome move, and much like the Rebellion, offers some hope as the industry shifts toward monetized loot boxes.
Continue reading on page 2.