Star Wars: Battlefront II is a lightning rod for controversy, from its contested single player campaign, to its smattering of online maps, to its alleged pay-to-win model that hides unlockables and a messy progression system behind a paywall riddled with the “m” word. Despite the shroud of darkness surrounding the game’s public reception, I’m here to tell you that DICE has crafted a vast, expansive, and highly detailed game set within the Star Wars universe.
Editor’s Note: As of press time for our release of this review, EA has suspended all microtransactions in Star Wars: Battlefront II. In plain English, Gamers are unable to purchase upgrade weapons, characters, and abilities with real cash and currency until the system is reevaluated. The Geekiverse did not receive a free review copy of this title, we purchased one at full retail value.
THE SHROUD OF THE DARK SIDE HAS FALLEN
It’s not easy to truly evaluate the quality and overall game of Star Wars: Battlefront II. In this review, we’ll seek to evaluate each and every detail, both the good and the bad, in an effort to help you make an informed decision on what is considered a controversial purchase for gamers. I’ll start by saying this: if you consider yourself a Star Wars fan of any level, you’ll likely find redeeming qualities in this game, whether you agree with the game’s dynamic or not. At its core, Battlefront II is a fun, high pace shooter that is one of the year’s best. As far as competitive multiplayer experiences, it’s up there with the likes of Call of Duty: WWII, Battlefield 1, and dare I say Overwatch to some degree. Customization and the ability to upgrade and make your Star Wars experience your own is truly remarkable. DICE has a good team of writers and caretakers that worked closely with Lucasfilm and Disney on this, so you know that everything fits seamlessly into the Star Wars universe. From the sights and sounds of a given battle or weapon, to the appearance of your favorite hero or planet, and even to the pleasant, soothing charm of the licensed music by John Williams, you’ll feel right at home in playing out your greatest Star Wars fantasies. Even the sound-alike music is wonderfully crafted and artistically detailed to fit into Williams’ style, perhaps to a better degree than Rogue One’s score from Michael Giacchino.
A CAMPAIGN FEATURING THE PULL TO THE LIGHT
One of the most intriguing prospects of Star Wars: Battlefront II is the highly touted single player campaign. It has been quite some time since we received a brand new Star Wars story in a video game, so to say that fans have been pining for this would be a major understatement. The story follows Commander Iden Versio of The Empire’s extraordinary spec-ops teams, Inferno Squad. Iden is the daughter of Admiral Garrick Versio, a true Star Wars name if I ever heard one. The onset of the campaign ties beautifully into Christie Golden’s prequel novel, Star Wars Battlefront II: Inferno Squad. It was exciting to see characters I envisioned and imagined from Golden’s story come to life, seamlessly transitioning to the video game’s story.
The campaign starts off strong, with Iden imprisoned aboard a Rebel Alliance cruiser, just before the Battle of Endor. Starting behind enemy lines, only to realize that it was a ruse by the Imperials all along was refreshing. Unfortunately, Iden’s role in the campaign is half main-hero and half tour guide.
This is where I am torn.
Iden’s character isn’t a truly memorable or special Star Wars character and probably won’t stand out in the greater Star Wars lore as time roles on, and that’s disappointing. Though the prequel novel gives us a good background on Iden, she is never fully realized and doesn’t really win your affections. I can’t discuss in detail without spoilers, but I’ll eat my words if Iden ends up being connected to the Skywalker Saga in any way. She comes off at times like an insecure trooper who is continuously trying to tell you that she’s in charge. Mid-game, a choice Iden makes seems awfully shallow, and I wouldn’t imagine an Imperial being swayed so easily.
Aside from the arc of Iden and her squadmates, the campaign plays out like a greatest hits of sorts for Star Wars fans, featuring just about every hero you can imagine. The way these one-off, seemingly random missions tie back into the overall story is actually quite impressive, but I can’t help think that the approximate 5 hour run time should have been 8-10 instead. When it comes to stories in games, “short” absolutely does not mean “poor,” but just imagine what DICE would have been able to do if it could have extended the story. On the other hand, there’s really no fluff, which many games these days are guilty of.
In seeing so much of The Empire and the Rebel Alliance during these non-Iden missions, the story directly after Return of the Jedi is filled in. Though we’ve received a few comics and novels depicting this period in Star Wars’ new canon, there can never be enough details to fill in. I was overwhelmingly pleased to hear so many references that fans will only understand if they have read recent Star Wars works like the Shattered Empire 4-part series from Marvel or the absolutely fantastic Lost Stars novel. Major kudos to the writing team, and Mitch Dyer in particular. I will say, however, that the premise of “a campaign that spans 30 years” is sort of a stretch, with the vast majority taking place immediately before, during, and after the Battle of Endor.
In reality, your level of enjoyment will depend on what your perspective is before heading into the campaign. If you expected a tale that followed Iden Veriso and Inferno Squad’s more secretive, spec-ops missions to snuffing out Rebellion plans or eliminating key Alliance targets, you’ll be disappointed. If you have an open mind and know that anything can happen at any time, and don’t mind playing as some of the original trilogy’s most iconic characters in missions reaching the farthest corners of the galaxy, then you’ll be pleasantly surprised. I am somewhere in the middle. Though I wanted to know what it felt like to get revenge on the Rebel Alliance one mission at a time, while avenging the Emperor’s death, I genuinely smiled and let out a few audible “wow”s while slicing through alien bugs as Luke Skywalker, or defending the Royal Palace of Theed as Princess Leia on Naboo. It’s fan service at its finest, while not being so blatantly obvious and crafting these missions for the hell of it.
THE GALAXY IS YOUR PLAYGROUND IN MULTIPLAYER
Before jumping into the game’s progression system, the multiplayer in Battlefront II takes what worked in the original game’s dynamic and feel and uses the approach “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Every battle is exciting, whether you’re running across Mos Eisley as a Storm Trooper or flying through the air after a Force jump in Maz Kanata’s watering hole on Takodano.
There are five game modes to choose from in multiplayer, down from the original game’s number, but effectively shedding the fat of modes that were thin or ultimately uninteresting. Blast is the classic multiplayer deathmatch, pitting 10 v 10 in a race to who can score the most amount of kills. I’m a sucker for the simplicity of Blast. Some of my favorite multiplayer games such as Halo 3 or Black Ops 2 resulted in me spending countless hours playing similar modes, but to do so with Star Wars characters in iconic locations is exciting. The three eras of the Star Wars films are well represented in each multiplayer mode, though it’s unfortunate that you can’t choose which one you’d like to play in. I wouldn’t be adverse to seeing a patch or update down the line from DICE that allows you to list your preferences when it comes to era, heroes or villains, and perhaps a few other minute factors. In each game mode, whichever side you find yourself on in one match (the Light Side or the Dark Side), you’ll be on the opposite in the next match. In addition to that, you’ll generally play the same map twice in a row, allowing you to experience that planet or location from each side of the war. I don’t need this, but it works well to my advantage when I randomly come across a map I particularly enjoy.
After Blast, Strike is the next closest in terms of criteria. Two teams face off in objective-based scenarios, which means taking over the other side’s command posts, Alpha and Beta. This is my least favorite mode in the game. Despite multiplayer’s well crafted balance (even with microtransactions), the side that is defending the command posts has it easiest. In order for the defending team to win, you would think that they would need to also capture the enemy’s outposts. That’s not the case here, and all you have to do is reach a certain number of kills as a team to declare victory.
Heroes vs Villains is pure Star Wars fantasy and is the funnest of the five game modes. Celebrating the iconic characters (Bossk & Iden notwithstanding) by playing as them is an abundantly enjoyable thing to do. It’s 4 v 4, light vs dark, and the winner is the team that defeats the most targets. Each round, a new player is declared the “target,” and therefore the only one that is counted towards the tally. It’s a little frustrating that not every character is unlocked for this mode, particularly to those that paid $80 for the Deluxe Elite Trooper Edition of the game. More on that in a bit.
Starfighter Assault is, just as it sounds, a dogfight in space that features the most well-rounded objectives of any mode. It’s exhilarating flying a Tie Fighter and hearing the chilling roar as you accelerate towards your next target, or begin firing on your next victim in Boba Fett’s Slave I and hearing the dead-on “pew-pew-pew” of its laser blasts. In Starfighter Assault, you’re either on the attack or you’re defending a convoy. The impressive balance between attacking and being on the defensive is another feather in the cap for DICE, and there aren’t many video games like it that feature space combat in this console generation. It takes me back to the Jedi Starfighter Playstation 2 days. I not only have to cover my own rear-end while fending off attacking ships, but I have to find a way to balance destroying other fighters, attacking my main objectives, and navigating through a field of debris on certain maps, such as the remains of the second Death Star.
Galactic Assault is the headliner and represents the most true-to-source feel and mix of Star Wars combat. It’s a combination of the other four modes that results in longer matches and feels like you are recreating one of the 8 movie’s end battles. The kicker is that up to 40 players take part in objective-based matches, playing at different moments as troopers, heroes or villains, and even piloting vehicles. I typically like the shorter multiplayer matches, but getting into a game of Galactic Assault can be thrilling. It’s not a sprint, but rather a marathon in completing your objectives.
CREDITS WILL DO FINE
The game’s progression system and absolutely horrendous PR thanks to the usage of the ever-loathing microtransactions have put Battlefront II behind the (BB)8 ball to say the least. Critics and gamers everywhere have panned EA for their system and generally, have been right to do so. It might confuse you to see me defend a company who is looked upon as poorly as EA, but hear me out.
As of press time, EA has eliminated the use of actual, real-life currency to purchase upgrades and abilities for Multiplayer. It’s not truly clear if this is temporary or not, but multiple reports have stated that the perception of this game has been so poor that Disney CEO Bob Iger stepped in to intervene. Though EA’s consumer-gouging is unforgivable, several things should be noted and I believe they affect the overall review of this game. Firstly, all future downloadable content is free. There’s no bogus $50 season pass like we saw in the original Battlefront two years ago. Though the value of that pass could be argued, it’s a non-starter for Battlefront II. Content has already been announced for December in the form of both Multiplayer and Campaign content, featuring The Last Jedi’s Captain Phasma & ex-Storm Trooper, Finn. Speaking of Phasma, I would love to play through a Star Wars campaign as her.
Secondly, as stated above, EA has not just suspended all real currency purchases, but has reduced the in-game credits needed to purchase assets by 75%. This is nothing to sneeze at. Instead of grinding for hours upon hours in modes that you might not want to play, only to be discouraged enough to spend real world cash, now you can level up your characters and add perks in a much more realistic way. Darth Vader’s cost is 15,000 credits instead of 60,000. In fact, after one night’s worth of playing the various multiplayer modes, I was able to purchase both Vader and Luke Skywalker. Every ship from the Millennium Falcon to the Slave I is unlocked immediately upon buying the game, and the only heroes stuck behind the credits wall are Chewbacca, Vader, Luke, Palpatine, and Princess Leia. Oh, and Iden Versio, which I consider to be utterly ridiculous. You’re telling me we can’t play as Versio immediately? Of the characters I mentioned, which one would you be saving your hard-earned credits towards first? Not Versio.
Unlocks are available in the form of “Crates,” of which there are three types available to purchase with credits: Trooper, Starfighter, and Hero. Each unlocks a handful of perks such as ability upgrades, weapons, and the much less necessary but still fun emotes or outfits. What can I say? It’s pretty sweet running around the battlefield as Rey in her Jedi Training garb from Episode VIII. The value here isn’t as balanced as it should be yet, but EA has demonstrated in the last week that it’s reevaluating and listening to the paying customer.
In your “Collection,” you have the ability to use credits to purchase or “craft” abilities for each of the class types, ships and other vehicles, and of course, the characters themselves. You earn credits through playing through the campaign and accomplishing certain challenges in Multiplayer, of which there are no shortage. The progression system is not the most conducive to the multiplayer environment and certainly not as polished as it should be in relation to other AAA games, but it is evolving. As of the publishing of this review, it needs help and will ultimately affect the assigned score.
I’VE SEEN THE SAME EYES IN DIFFERENT PEOPLE
As I had stated numerous times after Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm, the saga’s prequel era had been effectively shunned for a period of time before and after The Force Awakens’ release. Thankfully, those times are over. Battlefront II lets you fight across the three main eras of the 8 films, even incorporating bits and pieces of Rogue One such as the Death Troopers.
The sights and sounds of every weapon, ship, and character are meticulously recreated, with a few exceptions in the form of the voice acting (most notably Luke and Kylo Ren’s voice actors). Planets and locations such as Hoth, Takodano, Jakku, Starkiller Base, Naboo, and Kamino highlight just a few of the maps, while space battles around Cloud City and other notable sights make for a varied experience. The game’s ships include both versions of the Millenium Falcon, Maul’s Scimitar, the Slave I, Vader’s Advanced Tie, Luke & Poe Dameron’s respective X-Wings, and even Yoda’s Interceptor.
The Heroes list is what I consider to be the best of the best, if you don’t count the additions of Iden Veriso and the head-scratching Bossk. Really? Bossk? I’ve no doubt that future DLC will expand this already impressive roster, which includes Dark Side foes Vader, Palpatine, Kylo Ren, Maul, and Boba Fett (can we get Jango at some point, please?). The Light Side features Chewie, Han Solo, Leia, Rey, Yoda, and the sadly forgotten Lando Calrissian.
If you had asked me to give you a score on Star Wars: Battlefront II at the game’s launch, we would have been talking about a number that found itself in the 7 range at best. Just a few days in, and the game has already changed for the better. It is certainly flawed in some aspects, but excels in almost every other. You don’t need to be a Star Wars fanboy or girl to enjoy everything Battlefront II has to offer.
+ Gorgeous graphics and stunning recreation of the aesthetics and sounds of characters, planets, weapons, and ships make this not only one of the best looking video games to date, but one of the best sounding.
+ Campaign is a love letter to long time fans.
+ Multiplayer will keep you busy for hundreds of hours.
+ Character, planet, and vehicle roster spanning 3 eras.
– Progression system is finding its way but needs help.
– Iden Versio is not as prominent as expected in campaign.
– Lack of preferences in Multiplayer a minor detail, but a notable one.
Josiah LeRoy is The Geekiverse’s founder and foremost expert on all things Star Wars. You can catch him on Twitter, chatting The Last Jedi or on Xbox Live on the battlefield via josiahislegend.
Star Wars: Battlefront II was reviewed on an Xbox One X. It is available for Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC.
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