Star Wars: Battlefront II, a game that certainly needs no introduction at this point, and not for good reason might I add. The media is chock-full about EA and Battlefront II, be it for the loot / progression system, the gambling investigation or the constant changes that are being made to please the crowd. It’s safe to say that EA are clearly committed to ensuring that they cater for the base whilst not compromising the formula too much from the get-go. Looking at this as a sequel it goes without saying that this is by all means a massive step up from the predecessor. Not only does it come with a deeper multiplayer component, but it packs a single-player campaign that was absent (yet very much demanded) from the first game. Let us take loot boxes, microtransactions and pay-to-win banter out of the pool for a moment and consider the fact that Battlefront II delivers on almost every promise that the devs dished out. I’m not going to pull your chain and try to tell you that this is a perfect game, because it’s not. What it is is a sequel that brings that iconic Star Wars flair and effortlessly translates it into an intriguing and gripping experience that will be with you long after you put down the pad.
Unlike the first game, Battlefront II packs the content from the launch, not to mention the upcoming free content and events that have already been road-mapped by EA. The most notable inclusion however is the single-player campaign, and again this hardly needs much introduction due to EAs heavy promotional flow in weeks gone by. The story centers around the Captain of the Inferno Squad, Iden Versio. The Inferno Squad is an elite forces unit that’s under the command of the Galactic Empire, and Iden just so happens to have been born and raised by an Imperial admiral – giving her an automatic head start in life on the Dark Side. It’s almost immediately apparent that Iden isn’t just your clear cut run of the mill antagonist, but instead houses a heap of questions about not just herself but her place in the galaxy, if you like. She’s a very capable and resourceful Captain, but clearly walks constantly on the edge of the proverbial knife. In fact this becomes more so apparent when she witnesses the fall of the Death Star II, first hand.
Yes that’s right, the beginning of this campaign runs in unity with the events at the conclusion of Return of the Jedi. Iden is stationed on Endor and from the moment the mighty blast is seen in the sky, the story of Battlefront II commences, and it’s not looking good for the Empire. With the Death Star II now nothing more than flying scrap and the Emperor put into a well deserved grave, all seems lost for the Empire as the Rebels swiftly gain ground and control. From here Iden is in a state of shock and disbelief, what comes next if the Rebels win? What does this mean for Iden in the long term? What of the Inferno Squad now? These are questions (and many more) that are answered throughout the course of the short thirteen mission campaign. During your time with Iden and the Inferno Squad, you’ll journey to some of the most prolific locations in the series as well as engage with a nice chunk of well known characters.
I don’t pretend that I’m a massive Star Wars buff, because I’m not. I enjoy the movies but I know very little outside of those to consider myself a scholar of any sort. Still, when I take into account that this game bridges the gap between Episode VI and Episode VII, I can’t say that I was fully satisfied with what’s on offer. Without giving too much away there’s nothing wrong with the content in the campaign. It’s well paced, it’s well voiced and it’s well written, but it lacks the longevity that’s needed to truly deliver an epic tale. The decision to tell the story from the Empire’s point of view was a brave one, but one that’s paid off in leaps and bounds. You see much like Finn from Episode VII we get to see more than just good and evil when it comes to Iden and her motivations, we get to see the shades of grey and the story toys with that magnificently well. Needless to say that Iden’s motivations are met by a sharp dose of humanity, but it’s what she chooses to do at these moments throughout that truly sets this campaign apart from other Star Wars games.
Despite the rather short campaign the story does serve as a meta-tutorial, gearing you up for the in-depth multiplayer that’s set to swallow up your social lives for the foreseeable future. The campaign manages to feed all of those needs that you’ve been craving ever since you saw the movies, and it does so with a level of care and attention to detail that’s quite simply unmatched. It’s a credit to DICE that they’ve managed to cram so much action into the campaign, allowing you to take part in several events and activities that you’ll have seen on the big screen. It’s equally as impressive that they’ve managed to make a structural plot that doesn’t feel out of place irrespective of its length. I feared at first that it would have been a case of bobbing and weaving from location to location just for the sake of fan-service, but that’s not what’s in the box. Instead we’re served a solid plot that’s more than worth both your time and your undivided attention. Safe to say that once you’ve finished with the campaign you’ll have a firm understanding of how to play specific characters, how their abilities function, and how to put good use to the Star Cards and Credits you’ll have earned throughout your time with Iden.
Moving onto the multiplayer, this is much more fleshed out than the campaign and will certainly be where you spend most of your time. Here you can now choose from one of four class types, Officer, Assault, Specialist and Heavy, each coming with their own pros and cons to ensure that the pace of play is as chaotic and unpredictable as can be. That being said you seem to be better rewarded for playing alongside your group rather than going lone-wolf, and whilst that doesn’t necessarily boot the solo player entirely, it does promote a social experience and better engagement across the board. The more you play as a class of your choice, you’ll earn EXP that will go towards unlocking extra slots for those fabled Star Cards. Using these Star Cards you’re able to craft your tailor made class, heroes and troopers to suit your play style, and there’s heaps of powerful combinations on offer for you to take to. You can earn Star Cards in a variety of different ways, such as from the (hot topic) loot system or via buying them with crafting points.
There’s a total of four different rarity types for you to look out for, beginning with Common and leading up to Epic. The more you own, the more you’ll be able to equip. Character EXP and milestones will also enable you to upgrade your cards. I wont lie the progression system had me stumped to begin with and there’s certainly a lack of explanation as to what the hell we’re expected to do, but as soon as you gel with the fields of play, it does lift that frustration to a small degree. Playing how the game is intended to be played will see you rewarded with Battle Points, which can in-turn be spent on hero / villain characters and reinforcements. Battle Points can be earned in numerous ways, or even handed out like candy for the less than capable players out there. This helps to maintain a level playing field throughout, and even though it’s highly likely that lesser skilled players will not see as much of the higher levelled characters as others (they cost more Battle Points), it proves the system in place is steady enough for anyone to lean on comfortably and still withdraw a vast degree of fun.
It’s just a shame the progression system is as complex as it is, because that does drag the fun factor down a few notches. Customisation and levelling up should be intuitive, easy and accessible, but due to the confusing layout in progression it never feels like you’re getting anywhere for the first handful of hours of playtime. It takes some perseverance and persistence, but as soon as it begins to make sense everything falls into place thereafter. EA DICE have stated on numerous occasions since launch that they aim to tweak and update the game based on feedback, and this is one area I suspect many fans will be highlighting. No doubt in due course the devs will find a more stable progression route that makes sense and is well relayed, until then, expect bundles of frustration. Now, how about that loot box shaped elephant? Iconic hero characters are gated behind the credit system, meaning that you’ll need to work your ass off to obtain enough credits to buy one. Credits are however dished out across the campaign, the multiplayer and the arcade mode. Whilst I fully understand and appreciate the debate regarding loot boxes at the moment, I can’t completely condemn Battlefront II for what it’s being accused of.
First up, I cant quite understand the “pay to win” finger pointing that’s going on at the moment. Sure, Battlefront II had microtransaction temptation and encouragement running deep into its core before EA pulled microtransactions from the game just before launch, but this wasn’t a pay to win game, it’s probably better described as a pay-to-get-a-head-start game. On the flip side we have to take into account that future DLC such as maps, modes and characters will be free for everyone to download, something that could have been added to a season pass. I’m not trying to justify the looting and MTs, but it does beg the question – would you rather pay for a £30 / $30 season pass to stay on par with the community? Or have the choice to earn and / or buy your way up and have future content free of charge? I’m neutral on the matter at hand, and merely trying to be subjective here. In any case I thoroughly enjoyed the multiplayer and stood my own ground without forking out additional money.
Another step up from the predecessor is the multiplayer content. We have three times as many maps, three times as many vehicles to take to, and three times as many heroes on offer. You’ll get to travel to locations such as Hoth, Deathstar II, Endor, Naboo and many more. Not to mention the massively entertaining game modes to sink into. Strike and Blast are as straight forward as can be and respectively offer up 8 v 8 objective gameplay and 10 v 10 deathmatch gameplay, but it’s the other modes that steal the show. Starfighter Assault sees two teams going head to head as they pilot interceptors, ships, fighters and bombers throughout multi-stage objective based play. Heroes v Villains is a run of the mill 4 v 4 affair that really needs no explanation outside of the title itself. Galactic Assault on the other hand is where all the action is at. This is a large scale 20 v 20 mode that has both sides battling it out across multi-stage encounters, and it’s absolutely exhilarating.
Even for a laid back Star Wars fan such as myself, I couldn’t help but constantly think of how close this is to the source material. Arcade Mode is the weakest mode on offer, but still enjoyable in short bursts. Here you can tackle a range of small missions via single player or split-screen multiplayer as you battle AI enemies to better your skills. It’s not something I see many returning to in the face of everything else that’s on offer, but it does indeed prove useful for those that want that extra bit of training outside of the campaign. One thing I will commend Battlefront II for, and possibly the most endearing and highlighted part of the whole experience is the sounds and visuals. Star Wars: Battlefront II not only looks the part thanks to how gorgeously rendered each and every corner of the game is, but it sounds flawlessly authentic too. There may indeed be some daft facial animations here and there, but for the most part, this game packs a level of quality that simply needs to be appreciated.
I can fully appreciate the negativity and controversy surrounding the MTs / loot system, but for the foreseeable future EA have decided to pull these functions from the game and promise to return them in a balanced and fun state. That being said, Star Wars Battlefront II is a solid well rounded game that packs a huge portion of content to sink into. The campaign (although short) is intriguing, well written and well voiced. I do wish there had been more to it but what we do get to witness is satisfying in both concept and delivery. The multiplayer is deeply robust, and although the progression system is quite literally baffling to begin with, it does fall into place when you put in the time. It certainly could have done with more explanation, that’s for sure. In any case there’s several modes and gameplay elements to enjoy within, all of which take you closer to the movies than any game before this. It helps of course that Battlefront II is absolutely gorgeous across all segments of play, and it sounds absolutely phenomenal too. EA DICE have reassured fans that they will tweak and adjust the game constantly based on feedback, made apparent by the removal of MTs. Group that with the free post-launch content that spans modes, maps and more, and there’s a lot to appreciate Battlefront II for. This may well not be a perfect game, but it’s certainly a great one, it’s energetic, thrilling and engaging.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.