The 2015 release of Star Wars: Battlefront was a huge commercial success for EA. From a critical standpoint, not so much. A lack of single player content and an underdeveloped multiplayer suite left it feeling like it missed the mark. It was a game that was fun, but the question was how long that fun could possibly last. Understandably, EA has gone back to the drawing board for Star Wars: Battlefront 2. They’ve remedied a lot of the problems of the first game. There’s a full-fledged single player campaign this time around. The multiplayer is more robust, featuring multiple classes, heroes, and modes to play in. There’s a lot more to sink your teeth into in Star Wars: Battlefront 2, but with these additions have also come some that are unwelcome. A game that is technically impressive offering fan-service at an even higher level than its predecessor has actually managed to feel like a worse experience with the inclusion of “Pay to Win” type mechanics included in the game in the form of loot boxes.
Great additions to Battlefront 2 have come at a price
Out of the gate it’s clear that EA has taken many of the criticisms levied at the first game to heart. The single player experience in Battlefront 2 is a welcome addition and something that Star Wars fans will enjoy. It follows the story of the Inferno Squad, an elite Imperial Special Forces Unit. The story finds itself in the Star Wars timeline somewhere between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. It’s a tale of characters new and old, one that’s both a redemption story for a defector group of Imperial soldiers, but also one that sheds more light on old characters in the Star Wars universe. On the whole, it’s not quite up to the level of quality that you’d expect from a game that is solely dedicated to a single player experience, but it’s a short enjoyable trip nonetheless. If only for it being a good primer for the multiplayer experience and the incredible presentation found throughout. It’s been a while since we’ve had a good single player Star Wars experience, and Battlefront 2 offers some exciting moments. From a massive shootout on an Imperial Cruiser to taking control of fan-favorite characters like Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, Lando Calrissian and Han Solo. The story bounces back and forth between the player controlling Iden Versio, one of the Inferno Squad members, and the aforementioned heroes to ultimately lead into a pretty enjoyable ending sequence for this part of the game.
If there’s one spot that EA is absolutely nailing in this series thus far, it’s in the presentation. The sights and sounds of Star Wars are spot on once again in Battlefront 2. This exceptional level of quality is found throughout the entire single player and multiplayer aspects of the game. Battlefront 2 is truly an exceptional looking game that takes players across the galaxy to interesting locations in all of its modes. This is not one of the things that was a problem on the first go round for this reboot. The 2015 release of Battlefront was also praised for its amazing presentation, and playing the game on the Xbox One X with Enhanced graphics it absolutely shines.
Exceptional visual and audio presentation is found throughout
Multiplayer will ultimately be where many spend the bulk of their time in Battlefront 2, and again, there has been a considerable overhaul made to this part of the game. They’ve introduced numerous classes to play with, a more robust progression system, and a ton of customization that players can tinker with to create the ultimate class. It almost takes a page out of the Battlefield book here in terms of the objective based gameplay in Galactic Assault. Here the game features large-scale battles that have players attacking or defending positions and completing objectives while advancing and retreating within the map. It’s a great mode that makes you feel like you’re taking part in a bigger ongoing battle in the Star Wars universe. Couple this with the multiple classes and new mechanics that have been introduced that allow for players to more easily play with the heroes and units that they want to play with, it’s a lot of fun to play. While Galactic Assault is the real star of the show, there are other modes that also capture the essence of the action we see in the movies. Starfighter Assault is also a well done mode in multiplayer which also delivers the kind of exciting punch that we’ve found in the space-faring sequences of the films. Here again, the game uses a class based system of ships that allow for dynamic gameplay that goes beyond the massive dogfights of the previous game.
There are also a handful of modes that feature a smaller player count. One which pits the heroes of the Star Wars universe vs. the Villains and let’s players battle it out in 4v4 gameplay. A more intimate objective mode called Strike allows for smaller teams to group up for a different type of multiplayer experience. Lastly, Blast is an even smaller mode that puts players into close quarters combat. Regardless of what mode you play, Star Wars: Battlefront 2 is a better game than its predecessor. The changes that have been made to it in terms of the customization available to the player, the ability to play with the classes and characters that you want due to a rolling points system that builds over the course of a match leads to more fun for everyone involved. However, these across the board improvements in multiplayer have apparently come at a cost. EA has opted to roll-out free downloadable content for Battlefront 2, but there’s a huge downside to this… Microtransactions. As this appears to be what the publisher will offset that lost DLC revenue with.
Multiplayer gameplay has been improved over the original
Where Battlefront 2 gives you the option to play as any class that you want, making matches more dynamic, each class can be improved with Star Cards. These cards are random drops that come in the form of loot boxes. They include things that improve each class, or offer general buffs to your character of choice. They come in numerous tiers, with some offering incredible benefits to the user. Depending on how closely you’ve been following the lead up to the release of the game, you may or may not have heard of this controversial aspect. The normal progression system of Star Wars Battlefront 2 has you earning currency. And the idea is that you simply play the game, earn points, purchase loot crates with them and then build out your “Collection” to help you on the battlefield. You can take the cards that you randomly get in these boxes and then equip them to a specific unit. Each time you use this unit the card effects will be implemented in game. These can be things like more health, better shields, more powerful weapons, and many other variants for the classes. Here is where things start to get somewhat off-putting with Battlefront 2. Being as you can also purchase these loot crates, someone that is willing to spend above and beyond the initial price of the game will clearly have a head start on other players. While EA has said that the most powerful items in the game cannot be purchased, it’s certainly unclear as to just how much more powerful you can make your character if you’re willing to spend. At best, competitive multiplayer in Battlefront 2 is unbalanced if just for the heterogeneous nature of the way that different cards can be played by each player. Due to this mechanic, it’s a shooter that gives the advantage to the player with better equipped cards. At worst, it’s pay to win.
During our time with the game, we had a mixed experience. While we still had a very good time with the game, there were definitely instances where it felt like we were simply overmatched. Now, there are more powerful classes running around on the battlefield at all times in Battlefront 2. We’re not talking about not being able to kill a Hero unit or stronger class, but by another normal unit, and the case almost always turned out to be that this person had a high-tiered Star Card attached to his player (as you can see which cards they have after they kill you). Did they purchase this card? Did they get lucky and get it in a random drop? Did they use the game’s other system of crafting to make the card? It’s hard to tell with the way that this game is structured in terms of these power-ups. Furthermore, these Loot Crates don’t come quick. You’ll get a handful for completing the story campaign and there are a number of different in-game challenges that will sometimes reward you with crates other times with currency to purchase them. The epidemic of loot boxes in 2017 is continuing here with Battlefront 2, and it’s something that’s beginning to get a little bit alarming. Especially so here because of the nature of what’s in these loot boxes. While there’s a line in the sand for many in this discussion about what’s OK and what’s not in terms of the Loot Box fad, EA clearly goes above and beyond here if just for the fact that what’s in these boxes are game changing items that make your character more powerful. There’s just no way to justify this mechanic. Perhaps if they weren’t for sale the system would be interesting, but as it stands it’s indefensible. To make matters worse, they’ve also locked the best characters of the game behind large sums of in-game currency. Those looking to play with the likes of Darth Vader, Luke Skywalker, and the other most popular heroes and villains in the Star Wars universe will need to play a considerable amount of the game before being able to do so. If not for outrage by the Battlefront 2 community, this grind would have been exponentially worse as EA recently lowered the prices of these popular hero units due to backlash.
The loot box system in this game is one of the worst we’ve seen
For those who dive head first into Battlefront 2, it might not be that bad. It’s not uncommon for dedicated players to sink 10’s of hours into a good multiplayer game, and Battlefront 2 feels like it has the legs to be a game that players can and will play at length. The process might take longer for those that don’t pay, but dedicated players will eventually get the cards and heroes that they want if they are willing to spend the time necessary to do so. Where we see a bigger problem is for the more casual player, or the player that comes to Battlefront 2 months after launch. There will clearly be not only a skill gap to overcome, but an artificial gap due to the Star Card system of power-ups. These players will likely be nothing more than cannon fodder for the community at that point. It’s all quite a shame as Battlefront 2 is a much better game than its predecessor. The good news is that the core game is great and the systems within it can potentially be tweaked going forward, but at the time of this review, the real meat of the game, in competitive multiplayer, is very much something that’s as confounding as it is enjoyable. It’s commendable that EA has added the things that players asked for in a legitimate single player campaign and a more engaging multiplayer suite, but the elements that surround it were implemented shortsightedly or with predatory intent.
Like the Star Wars universe itself there’s a light side of the force and a dark side. As is the case with Battlefront 2. On one hand you’ve got an excellent single player experience and fun multiplayer suite that features a number of great modes. This great content is dripping in Star Wars fan-service that will most certainly be enjoyed. On the other, questionable in-game economy decisions try their hardest to take this game down at every turn. The dark side wins out here, as good as Star Wars: Battlefront 2 is in so many areas it just can’t overcome the aggressive, anti-consumer practices that are on display in their most egregious form to date in a $60 game.