Over the last week or so there has been much said about Star Wars: Battlefront 2’s broken progression system built around loot crates, “star cards” and pay-to-win mechanics.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock you know doubt have seen at least an article or two about this debacle and the backlash against EA for their questionable design choices.
You may have even seen that on Friday, the day the game launched for those who refused to be duped into buying the $80 version of the game, EA backed off and removed the pay-to-win micro-transactions (temporarily) and gave the most corporate and soulless of apologizes stating that “this was never our intention” (author’s note: I call bullshit).
Given that they pulled the pay-to-win stuff out (but left all the loot boxes and such in) I felt compelled to pick the game up when I saw it in my local rental kiosk and give it a look.
And well, have you ever spent a weekend doing something and as Sunday night comes to a close you look back on the weekend wishing you had done something else?
At least the world design and presentation were beautiful.
Before I move on and answer that question I feel it is imperative that I state that in order to tell you what is wrong with this game, specifically in regards to the campaign, I absolutely have to discuss details of the story that might be considered spoilers.
So I say again spoilers ahead.
This is your FINAL SPOILER WARNING!!!!
Hask, Iden and Dell the Three Imperial Musketeers
I’m going to come straight out and say it.
Battlefront 2’s campaign is equal parts disappointing and underwhelming.
Remember back in the Spring when word broke that the campaign would have you playing on the side of the Empire?
Remember when they said we’d experience the Star Wars universe from a new perspective?
Remember this trailer?
Doesn’t that trailer look badass?
I for one thought the idea of playing as Iden Versio, an Imperial Special Forces operative, on a quest for vengeance after the destruction of the 2nd Death Star and death of the Emperor was a novel idea and looked like it could have been great fun.
It would be unlike anything we’ve ever gotten to experience, especially since the trailer shows a game that bridges the gap between Episodes 6 and 7, cover the 30 years or so between the two films with Iden stating a mere 11 seconds into the trailer that she’d waited all that time for revenge.
As a lifelong gamer and fan of Star Wars I thought that sounded like a fantastic place to set the story of the game.
So explain this….
Yes that is in fact Iden Versio not waiting 30 years for vengeance and taking part in the construction of the First Order as the trailer implies but rather that is Ms. Versio in a Rebel Alliance helmet and do you want to guess what she’s flying?
Yep that’s her X-wing.
So remember when Mark Thompson, Game Director at Motive Studios said “We wanted to create a campaign that told a story we haven’t seen before in Star Wars. It was important for us to tell a new authentic story, one that gives players a brand-new perspective. By putting players in the boots of an elite member of the Imperial forces, we can show them what the battle was like from the other side. It was the idea of the explosion [that] the Death Star is seen as a victory. That’s how it’s framed: a celebration. But we wanted to turn that victory into a loss from the Imperials perspective. We wanted the event to strengthen Versio’s belief and make her want to avenge her emperor.”?
Do you remember it being said that this game would present the “other side” of the conflict?
Where the hell did that story go? Because it’s absolutely not in this game for more than 3 missions.
The first couple of levels of the game have you firmly in the Imperial camp, mercilessly gunning down Rebel troops on foot and blasting X-wings apart in space and the game feels very much like what it was promised to be.
You even see iconic moments like from the original trilogy such as the destruction of the 2nd Death Star from Iden’s perspective on the surface of the forest moon of Endor and prior to that the classic moment of Vader’s super star destroyer the Executor crashing. These moments seemingly start building towards the story hinted at in that trailer posted a few paragraphs back. Iden is pissed and seems hellbent on taking the fight to the Rebels.
This might make a decent desktop though…
And then a poorly rendered Luke Skywalker shows up, you guide him (yes very early on the promise of “new perspective” is tossed out and you are given control of Luke F’ing Skywalker) through combat with Stormtroopers and small dog-sized alien beetles, awkwardly swinging a light saber and using force powers (the Frostbite engine is fantastic for rendering environments and shooting, not so much for lightsaber combat) until he runs into one of Iden’s companions, Dell Meeko, and they work together for the remainder of the level, looking for ancient Jedi artifacts.
After this you control Iden again as she is sent to rescue an important Imperial politician during an attack on her home world Vardos.
Those dastardly Rebels killed her Emperor and now they are hellbent on destroying her home, why wouldn’t she be out for revenge after that?
But it’s not the Rebels attacking her home world is it?
No it’s Admiral Garrick Versio, Iden’s father, purging Vardos as “an example” of the Empire’s ruthlessness as the appropriate answer to the Empire’s defeat in the battle that destroyed the 2nd Death Star.
Make sense to you? Because it sure as fuck doesn’t make sense to me.
I mean outside of being a contrived and forced plot point to push devoted Imperial special forces officer Iden Versio out of the Empire and into the arms of the Rebels.
And wouldn’t you know it that’s exactly what happens when Iden and Dell Meeko turn on Agent Hask and have to fight their way through their now former colleagues in order to escape the planet before the storms generated by the Imperial satellites destroy the planet.
From this point on the game loses all momentum and becomes a boring, by the numbers Star Wars story. You meet Lando Calrissian (apparently voiced by Billy Dee Williams giving what feels like a very phoned in performance) and join the Rebels despite having gleefully murdered their friends and cohorts mere days before (a fact lampshaded by a poorly rendered Leia before she lets you join fully,).
Iden laughably calls her killing of Leia’s people “unacceptable” in a way you would describe accidentally ordering someone the wrong kind of coffee.
You play as Leia, you play as Han, you play as Iden, you play as Lando and wrap things up as Iden again.
All the talk of the “new perspective” of seeing things as an Imperial officer was either completely and utter marketing bullshit or was focus tested out of the game (given the stories and rumors that came from Visceral’s closing about executives wanting to shoehorn more “familiar” elements to that canceled game I wouldn’t be surprised if it happened here too).
Regardless of why it is this way, the cliche nature of the story and been there before gameplay make the campaign a waste of time and not a whole lot of fun. Sadly the one promise the game made and kept is the one about bridging the gap between the original trilogy and the current one as the epilogue of the game closes the loop by setting up episode 7’s opening moments with a sequence starring everyone’s favorite emo-wannabe-Vader.
And best of all the game ends with what I call a Halo 2 ending, completely open-ended “non-ending ending” either baiting the hook for Battlefront 3 or story based DLC (because you know a game originally built around “recurrent spending hooks” such as a loot box based progression system and with pay-to-win mechanics wouldn’t be complete without locking the story’s ending behind more paid content). You find out little factoids about Iden’s life since the final battle, you see someone she cares about get murdered by a villain with unfinished business and said villain even states he knows she’ll be coming for him now as he walks away.
As for the multiplayer….I say again unsatisfying bullshit.
At least it’s also pretty to look at.
Even without the pay-to-win stuff the progression system is all kinds of broken and/or designed like shit.
You fight in a variety of scenarios that usually boil down to some variant of attack this point or defend that thing. The starting guns all feel very underpowered, especially in the face of opponents that have leveled up star cards granting them damage resistance, sped up health-regeneration or improved abilities (better grenades, special attacks, etc). Star cards are found in crates or can be crafted but I often found that even with the resources needed to improve my cards I often couldn’t because I didn’t have a high enough “card level”, a level that is only raised by having more cards for the class in question…I think?
The systems are poorly designed and a pain the ass to utilize.
Also leveling up your personal level for the opportunity to essentially pull the arm of a slot machine (get a random box of stuff) is not what I consider a proper progression system. Nor is locking newer and better weapons behind “milestones” that require you to succeed with arguably shitty default weapons (again while facing off against opponents with amped up, card driven abilities).
Simply put the Call of Duty progression system that has been around since at least MW4 is far superior and should have been used here.
Map design is largely fantastic and frankly I find it said that such inferior gameplay is occurring on such gorgeously rendered maps.
Heroes have always been a part of the Battlefront experience and they return here but as I said earlier the Frostbite engine works great for shooting and not so much for lightsabers. Han, Boba, Leia, etc all work better in the game’s engine than the awkward saber fights brought by Luke, Maul, Kylo, Rey, Yoda and Vader. While the heroes feel powerful against the regular troopers the latter group also frequently look goofy as they gracelessly flail about the battlefield with their laser-swords trying to hit their prey.
The dismayed, saddened and nonplussed faces shown here sum up the game nicely
As for bugs in the overall game I only experienced a few on the PS4 version. I had to restart on mission when my droid froze after I killed the target I had sent it to shock. This prevented me from using it to open a door, trapping me in an empty hallway with enemies staring at me through the door’s viewport. The rest were comical graphical hiccups involving hilarious rag dolling of enemy soldiers. Thankfully I did not have the experience others have, such as not being able to do damage outside of using a special attack or having my protagonist float into the ceiling of the environment but videos do exist.
Final Verdict: 3 out of 10. Battlefront 2 is a beautiful looking game with fantastic sound design wrapped around gameplay systems that don’t work and a story that falls flat on its face by failing to deliver what was promised, instead offering a disjointed, rushed and unsatisfying story in its place.
Even without the hated pay-to-win mechanics, which I need to remind you EA has stated they will reimplement at a later date once they’ve “looked at it” some more, Battlefront 2 fails and fails hard.
If you can only buy one multiplayer FPS game this winter, buy Call of Duty: WW2. If you can buy two multiplayer FPS games this winter…well hell buy two copies of Call of Duty: WW2. I was not a huge fan of that game either but at least it had an enjoyable multiplayer that as of now did not have pay-to-win mechanics looming over it.
As I said near the beginning of this, I seriously wish I had spent my weekend playing almost anything other than this but I had to know for myself.
Let my folly guide you to better decisions.
Stay away from Battlefront 2.
Stay far, far away.