Review: Star Wars Battlefront II

A long time ago, in a console generation far far away, players were inundated with a plethora of Star Wars games. The most popular among them was Star Wars Battlefront, which put players in the shoes of ordinary soldiers as they fought in the franchise’s most significant battles. Fast forward to 2015, EA and DICE sought to bring the franchise back with their take on Star Wars Battlefront. Despite nailing the look and sound of the franchise, Star Wars Battlefront was brought down by its simplicity, lack of content, and no satisfying single player component. Now, EA and DICE hope to correct past mistakes with Star Wars Battlefront II, which promises more content, in-depth gameplay and a real single player campaign. Is this the game Star Wars fans have been looking for or does Star Wars Battlefront II fall to the Dark Side?

Star Wars Battlefront II drops the multiplayer-only philosophy of its predecessor in favor of a single player campaign. In it, players will take on the role of Iden Versio, commander of the Imperial Inferno Squad, and follow her story after the destruction of the Death Star II. With the Emperor dead, Iden and her squad must persevere and fight back the triumphant Rebellion if there is to be any future for the Empire.

The premise behind Star Wars Battlefront II’s campaign is intriguing. So little canon material has focused on the Empire and the men and women that populate its ranks and it’s a refreshing idea to show that the “bad” side may not be all that bad after all. Unfortunately, the narrative falls apart rather quickly. Despite a strong opening, the story soon falls back into standard Star Wars logic, meaning good guys are good because they do good things, and bad guys are bad because they do bad things. After that happens, the story loses much of its momentum and ends in an unsatisfying cliffhanger. It doesn’t help how little screen time Iden gets. Despite being the main protagonist, the game frequently sidelines her to give players an opportunity to play as iconic heroes. While some of these, like Luke Skywalker’s mission, are important to the plot, the majority are side-filler that interrupt the flow of the story and take the spotlight from Iden, giving her little time to develop as a character. As fun as it is to control them, we didn’t need all these missions.

The campaign will last you about 4-5 hours and isn’t that exciting to play. Ground missions lack any gameplay variety and all boil down to low-energy shootouts. There’s rarely ever a moment that makes you feel like you’re participating in an epic Star Wars battle, nor does the game ever feel challenging. Asides from the space combat, which is exciting both offline and online, there’s not much here to get excited about. There also aren’t many rewards for completing the campaign. Iden Versio remains locked behind a paywall, and EA and DICE have already slashed the number of Credits earned from beating it.

This is a DICE game though, which means that we’re really here for the multiplayer, and Star Wars Battlefront II delivers the goods. There are eleven ground maps, five space maps, and fourteen heroes. There’s a lot more to do, though the game still heavily leans towards the Original Trilogy. Five of the maps and ten of the heroes are from the Original Trilogy, which feels a bit wrong considering the era already has a full game to itself. Still, at least players are getting a whole game this time.

Galactic Assault is the primary mode most players will gravitate toward. This is a forty-player objective-based mode where one team pushes towards a series of objectives and the other team attempts to defend, and it’s fun most of the time. It’s here where players will feel like they’re participating in an actual Star Wars battle. You’ll escort MTT tanks up the grassy shores of Kashyyyk as Republic forces attempt to bombard you, protect the reactor core of the Death Star from Rebel Scum and defend Maz’s Castle from the encroaching First Order. No matter the map, Galactic Assault captures the feeling of being in an epic moment from the films. It’s intense and fun, but does suffer from grenade spam when in enclosed areas.

Starfighter Assault is another gem. Though smaller in scope, Starfighter Assault captures the feeling of being in a dogfight. Unlike the first game, nothing about flying is automated. Players will be performing all their tricks and dodges as they attempt to destroy or defend their objectives. Rounding out the modes are Heroes vs. Villains, Blast, and Strike, which are all fine distractions. Heroes vs. Villains is chaotic, but an excellent way to try out different heroes. Blast is just Team Deathmatch, and Strike is a small-scale objective mode.

The multiplayer is buoyed by an increase in gameplay depth, which has been greatly improved on over the original. A new class system adds more variety to each match by finally giving players defined roles. While there should be more weapons per class, the guns that are here feel unique from one another and play differently. The game is still lacking a proper squad system. While some improvements have been made since the beta, it’s not enough to offset the need for a proper system. Teaming up with allies to coordinate strategies should be an essential aspect, yet it’s impossible when your squad changes each time there’s a respawn.

Also gone are the item pick-ups from the first game, which have been replaced by Battle Points. An in-match currency, Battle Points are rewarded for playing the game with greater rewards doled out for being a team player and playing the objective. These can then be spent on vehicles, advanced units and heroes. This was a great way to get rid of the pick-ups and add a sense of satisfaction to the game, and it feels satisfying when you’re finally able to call in a hero.

Star Wars Battlefront II has been causing quite a stir in the Force lately due to its controversial progression and rewards system. Is it as bad as it’s been made out to be? Absolutely, because Star Wars Battlefront II’s entire progression system revolves around Loot Crates. Every ability, boost and upgrade isn’t locked behind ranking up or completing challenges in-game, they’re locked behind microtransactions. Sure, you could craft a Star Card with Crafting Parts, but guess the easiest and fastest way to get those parts?

What makes this so insidious is the lengths the game goes to get players to spend real-world money. Loot Crates are insanely expensive, and Credits and Crafting Parts are doled out at such a slow rate that it could take hours before you have enough to buy any Crate. On top of this, six of the fourteen heroes are locked behind a Credit paywall (and all future ‘free’ heroes will be as well). DICE may have cut the prices for them, but they’re still outrageously expensive when you get so little Credits per match. Players are ultimately put in a no-win situation unless they pay real-world money to get Credits in Loot Crates.

Then there’s the content of the Loot Crates, which dangerously comes close to pay-to-win. While Star Cards aren’t going to win a firefight for you, they will give players some distinct advantages. Whether it be slightly more health, faster regeneration, quicker cooldown or quicker turning, players with Star Cards will have some form of an edge. The advantages won’t make a player invincible, but it’s hard not to feel partially cheated when killed by an enemy with an Elite Star Card that increases the blast radius of their grenades.

Star Wars Battlefront II’s Loot Crates are disgusting and do serious harm to the game. Rather than create an actual progression system that rewards players for playing, DICE has embraced a free-to-play game’s manipulative mechanics to earn a quick buck. This ultimately hurts the game, as without any sense of progression, Star Wars Battlefront II gets old. It’s not as exciting when you can’t try out different combinations of weapons, attachments and abilities you’ve earned while playing. The Galactic Assault scenarios won’t stay fresh forever and the gameplay still lacks the necessary depth to keep players hooked long-term. With nothing to unlock by just playing, there’s not much to keep people playing.

Star Wars Battlefront II, like its predecessor, is gorgeous. DICE continues to nail the look and feel of the Star Wars universe thanks to fantastic art direction. From the snowy plains of Hoth to the rain-drenched platforms of Kamino, Star Wars Battlefront II is a feast for the eyes, even on base hardware. Models and textures have been meticulously crafted to be as accurate to the films as possible and the end result is a game that makes these exotic locations feel like real places.

Audio, too, is fantastic. John Williams’ classic tunes and the iconic sounds of blasters and lightsabers permeate the game, creating a stellar experience for your ears. The audio experience is only ruined when a lousy impersonator pops up. Though not as bad as the original game, some of the voice actors they got to voice iconic characters like Luke Skywalker and Han Solo are laughably bad. Thankfully, some actors from the films (Daisy Ridely, John Boyega) and some from The Clone Wars show (Matthew Wood, Tom Kane, Sam Witwer) returned to add authenticity to the troopers and a few heroes. Still, despite the odd voice actor here and there, Star Wars Battlefront II is gorgeous to look at and listen to.

Closing Comments:

Star Wars Battlefront II is the epitome of taking a step forward, shooting yourself in the foot and then falling backwards in pain. It goes to great lengths to rectify the mistakes of the previous game but ends up opening a new can of worms. We finally got a single player campaign, but the story is lackluster and Iden never gets a chance to shine. There’s more content and depth, but the game is severely hampered by the lack of a progression system. What really stands out about Star Wars Battlefront II is just how terrible its Loot Crate system is, because it permeates so much of the game. DICE has stripped away an actual progression system and hidden away its contents behind overpriced microtransactions. With Credits and Crafting Parts doled out at such a low rate, Star Wars Battlefront II puts players in no-win situations in the hopes of making a quick buck. The sad thing is, there’s a lot of fun that could be had in Star Wars Battlefront II. Galactic and Starfighter Assault are fun, the game runs well, and servers are holding up, but there’s nothing rewarding to keep coming back for more. It really is a shame DICE took Star Wars Battlefront II to the Dark Side.