- Note from reviewer: Star Wars: Battlefront II, is one of this year’s biggest release due to not only the vested interest by the titan Disney, but also with how loved the Star Wars property is. Over the past couple of weeks, in the case of EA, they have been under scrutiny and controversy for the reportedly unethical micro-transaction practices which lie at the centre of the controversy. In that regards even though I may briefly touch on these events in this review, any judgement derived from myself will be solely focused on the game itself and how it plays.
I thought 2014’s Battlefront was a fantastic game, and compared to most AAA first-person shooters, it was a lot more approachable for people who don’t necessarily play a lot of competitive shooters. For most parts of it, it was as simple as point and shoot. However, even then the biggest complain echoed throughout the internet was perhaps of how shallow it was in regards to its content when it first launched.
DICE and EA certainly seem to have noticed that complain as one of the best things about this game is that it is loaded with modes and maps from launch, one of which is the highly requested space battles that have been made in collaboration with Burnout and Need for Speed developers Criterion. Best of all, from what I have played it has not sacrificed the simplicity in order to achieve that.
The gameplay is still streamlined where you are equipped with one main weapon and a few ability cards that may or may not grant temporary special weapons before requiring a cool down. It is run, gun and shoot in its simplest terms without a heavy framework or set of rules dragging it down. As I have mentioned I am not a huge fan of competitive shooters since I get bored or discouraged rather quickly than most people and prefer to have a well built, story and character led campaign, but Battlefront II is easily one of my most played competitive games and one that I can see myself coming back to quite regularly just as I did with the first one.
But, there is another reason aside from simplicity that makes this game highly approachable, and that is the de-emphasis on death count. The main framework of the matches relies on a points system, where every action you perform contributes towards your overall score. Unlike most other multiplayer games like Call of Duty or Battlefield, it doesn’t constantly remind you how many times you have died, and this in my opinion takes away an essential part of the negativity that usually discourages you.
But what else this does is? It makes you want to focus more on objectives and not only go for kills. For once I couldn’t care less of how many times I was being obliterated, what mattered was that I complete the objectives in order to win the round. Of course classic game modes like Deathmatch are also available for those that prefer a more teeth on edge experience in regards to the kill/death ratio. Fans will also be happy to know about the inclusion of iconic blasters such as the E-11 which DICE, being the master of weapons have managed to nail both the feel and sound of similar to the movie experience.
Still, if I had to pick a favourite aspect of the game, it would to be the Starfighter battles that feel both intense and exciting at the same time, and a large part of that is due to how easy Criterion has made to control iconic ships such as the Y or X wings. On the PC, anyone who has even remotely played shooters can easily jump into the cockpit and get used to manoeuvring their ship. In my opinion it was a huge task for Criterion to match the point and click simplicity of the on-ground combat, but they have done an admirable job. Furthermore, you get to fly the Millennium Falcon, how cool is that?
Dice have really outdone themselves in regards to the lightning and particle effects techniques used. The objectives come in phases during the Starfighter battles, one of which sees you going against a star destroyer as you have to not only damage parts of it yourself, but defend your bomber fleet who will do more damage. Of course, it is the other way around for the imperial fighters where you have to defend the star destroyer and take out the bomber fleets. Class plays a huge part in this as well since you get to choose from different builds. For example, during the attack phase it would make more sense to get bombers which are slower, but do more damage to structures. So, even though at its core the gameplay for it is simple, there is a good amount of room for strategic planning.
If there was one thing that truly caught my eye, it was the game’s visual fidelity. DICE have really outdone themselves in regards to the lightning and particle effects techniques used in this game and Naboo is one of the perfect maps to highlight this, as it shows both these aspects at work from the way the light spreads and reflects on the marble floors to the way the leaves realistically sway in the wind. A lot of developers use particle effects well, but even then, they never feel like they have weight to them, whereas here with the Frostbite Engine, with the way the leaves flutter about as I have mentioned, it feels like they have a realistic volume and weight which really contributes to the graphical fidelity standing out as much as it does. The sound is another aspect of the game that has been crisply done, giving each explosion and fire a punchy feel without straying away from the source material.
Unlike the last game, quarter of the game is focused on the Singleplayer offerings, and while the arcade modes are great fun, throwing unique challenges at the player, the campaign feels underwhelming and inconsequential. Throughout the campaign we follow the story of an elite imperial trooper Iden Versio as the story goes through various battles and clichéd turning points which sees Iden progress. However, even with how much I liked the character of Iden Versio, everything she did in the campaign felt uneventful, with her defection twist that was easy to spot as soon as the game began.
Iden is not the only character you will play throughout the campaign, as the best parts have you playing as the iconic heroes: Luke, Leia, Lando and my personal favourite Solo. Luke I felt was particularly well done and acted by Matthew Mercer (McCree in Overwatch, Leon S. Kennedy), with his writing and reasoning doing the character justice. When Iden’s partner Meeko is saved by him at one point, he asks why he was spared, to which Luke as you would expect replies: “because you did not shoot at me.” It’s these reactions that truly put the Skywalker essence into him. Then on the other hand we have actors like Paul Blackthrone, who have delivered outstanding performances as their respective characters.
Still even with these shining moments, the campaign feels nothing more than an elaborate tutorial where you are shown the ropes from ground to space, and the plot point jumps from one event to the other without them seeming meaningful to the overall lore of Star Wars. Basically if you were to not play it, there wouldn’t be anything important you will miss as even the campaign is only around 4 hours long.
I believe that DICE and EA had no control over the events of the campaign as Disney has been extremely careful of their golden child, and with their past attitude towards video games, doubt would want to show important events through a video game. The last time the developers had more control, we were given the fantastic Force Awakens, which is still my favourite Star Wars game. So, I believe it was entirely possible that without the restrictions put on by Disney, this could have been a miles better experience as they had a strong group of writers like Walt Williams who had previously written the thought provoking Spec Ops: The Line. Not to mention, with the way the story ends, it feels as if Meeko was the most important character all along and the campaign could have been more interesting if we took control of him, or Iden’s position was swapped with him and we took her through his experiences but as it stands, nothing feels important in this.
Finally to address the elephant in the room, the infamous loot boxes! As much as I wanted otherwise, the progression is very confusing and loot box reliant where rather than working towards unlocks like the Battlefield games, you accumulate the in-game currency after each match which go towards a “chance” of unlocking different items and abilities. Characters like Darth Vader will require a lot of gameplay which I believe a lot of players may not be able to easily do as everyone has work or life commitments. My core problem with the loot boxes at the moment is how they give you abilities that can give you an edge, and even though micro-transactions have been disabled (for now), when they do return it will likely have pay to win elements.
As much as I have enjoyed the multiplayer portion of Battlefront II, as a full package it is rather flawed with balancing tweaks needed to the progression system, and an underwhelming campaign that is only 4 hours long and shows nothing important to the Star Wars lore. However, it does not mean it is not a game worth your time as the objective based matches and especially the excellent space battles are really engaging which I am sure will get further tweaks and additions. Overall, Battlefront II is a good game, but it could have been a great one had every aspect of it been equally polished.
+ Approachable and Fun Multiplayer
+ Space Battles
+ A Good Amount of Content At Launch
+ Great Performances
+ Fantastic Visuals and Audio
+ Playing as Solo and Lando in Campaign
- Confusing Progression System
- Random Nature of Unlocks
- Inconsequential Main Story
- Lacking Mission Structure