In 2017 Star Wars: Battlefront II had what could charitably be called a bad start. With a massive controversy surrounding its loot boxes, massive grind walls and a poor single-player experience, it proved the ideal opportunity for the gaming community to put their foot down over the industry’s worst habits. While it was not the skeleton of a game that was EA’s Star Wars Battlefront (2015), this move sunk any goodwill the publisher may have had on release. Loot boxes and in-game gambling were nothing new in the industry but they had yet to be applied in such a bare-faced manner to such a beloved IP, one that is aimed in part at children. The result was catastrophic.
It is an important thing to bear in mind that when you as a company are releasing a game such as Battlefront II, which has a namesake still universally beloved by a dedicated fanbase, you need to offer more than what came before. If you do not do this then players will just go back to the old game and live with its older graphics. EA’s Battlefront II did not improve on the past. It did not even come close. Whilst visually beautiful and carried the Star Wars soundscapes its campaign was short and unengaging, it lacked variety and was overcomplicated by a mechanic incentivizing players to spend more money to burn through its ridiculous grinds. For months after release, the focus was not on the fun that could be had playing as armies of various factions but the gambling practically required to unlock Darth Vader. As a result, players turned our backs on this particular episode, seeing it as a waste of time.
A year and a half later, the smoke has cleared over the game’s controversy. The lootbox spectacle has mostly shuffled out and with more heroes, modes and units available, it seemed the wait was finally over. I finally dipped my feet into Star Wars Battlefront II and found that there was more than anger, hate and suffering to be found within. I found myself not having to deal with the game’s infamous “crates”. My progression was entirely in my own hands and while there was definitely a grind which could have been sped up through in-game currency, it was entirely for skins, emotes and victory poses. This might not be perfect but it was an improvement. The single player unfortunately is still a major issue, repetitive arcade battles and a lacklustre story do not live up to expectations. The multiplayer on the other hand has been massively upgraded. Capital Supremacy, a relatively new mode has added in new units, the old system of capturing command points and, after a controversy earlier in the year, there are finally Droidekas. Heroes and Villains is also finally up to scratch with the addition of four Clone Wars characters which diversify the roster and multitude quality-of-life improvements. While there are definitely still more options that could be added in the future, I did not feel the base setup was missing anything huge.
The gameplay itself is, mixed. The shooting is okay but has its problems when it comes to aiming and there are long grinds required to make your weapons decent. The lightsabre combat has a dumb fun appeal as you strike and swipe your way through opponents, but it still pales in comparison to the Jedi Knight games from the previous decade. And of course, while it is no longer tied to insidious gambling, the main grind is still there. The star card system is unnecessarily complicated, requiring much time spent just adding bonuses to abilities for every class and character. The cosmetic grind also requires hours to unlock only single skins. I was lucky to have a long Summer to play Battlefront II. Had I had less time I imagine I would have given up playing much earlier. It is a game which works well in short bursts of action. Over time it becomes repetitive and you realise your goals are for arbitrary credits and seeing a character look slightly different in the ten seconds before they’re shot or cut to pieces with a lightsaber. It makes for a fun experience with friends, but it becomes questionable after a while whether it’s compulsive or genuinely fun.
I am hesitant to shower Battlefront II with too much praise, when it had all the money behind it to be a perfect game on release. Though, overall EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II is a decent game two years after release. It has more variety, more choice, many of the bugs are fixed and the worst aspects which marred its release are gone. Let’s hope EA’s Fallen Order later this year does a bit better. May the Force of public opinion be with us.