The following is written with the understanding that it’s a beta and plenty can change before the full game drops on November 17.
The press over the last year or so told the story of a publisher and developers who learned their lesson after releasing an enjoyable, but too often maddening “Star Wars Battlefront” in 2015. They have done away with putting map packs behind a paywall, ensuring an intact player base as the game ages.
It will offer more content at launch than the first iteration, including a single-player campaign many fans wanted (although not this author). It will feature all three “Star Wars” eras. The new game has a class system that adds some variety and balance while removing the platformer-esque power-up tokens from the 2015 version. In short, it’s shaping up to be what the first “Battlefront” should have been.
New Galactic Assault, Strike, and Starfighter
The beta included the new Galactic Assault and Strike modes, as well as the revamped Starfighter Assault.
Galactic Assault is the game’s 40-player mode. Yes, they again refused to up the player count to 64. It serves as a sort of amalgam of the first game’s Walker Assault, Supremacy, and Turning Point, with different objectives for each map.
Galactic Assault in the beta took place in Theed as the clones seek to destroy an MTT and prevent the droids from taking the throne room. It’s a (sigh) multi-stage event. Well, unless the clones destroy the MTT, then it’s a one-stage event. It’s exactly the sort of thing that EA DICE cousin “Battlefield 1” does well and “Battlefront” does not.
This map also highlighted two potentially annoying issues: Poor map use for the player count and a bad spawn system. The first stage of Theed is far too big for 20 versus 20 and the final stage suffocatingly small. DICE wisely added a squad system, but confusingly it does little more than spawn the squad far away from the action. They could (again) take a note from “Battlefield 1” here and allow spawning on squads closer to the action.
The worst part about this mode for me: It just wasn’t that exciting. I’m baffled as to why they thought Theed was the best map to promote the game. Many of the concerns from the first game were overwhelmed because the beta fulfilled everyone’s dream of taking down AT-ATs on Hoth. I’m certainly not steeped in “Star Wars” fandom, but I can’t imagine too many people grew up fantasizing about shooting droids in Naboo’s capital city (especially with the plague of leaves and birds). It was just a boring, albeit gorgeous, map. Despite all the preceding negativity, I assume Galactic Assault will be much more fun on planets like Hoth and Kashyyyk. Shame about that player count, though.
Strike, at least for the beta’s Takodana map, is a one-sided capture-the-flag mode. I found myself drawn to this mode more often than to Galactic Assault, if only because of more consistent action. I didn’t exactly love the map, but the mode itself shows promise.
Starfighter Assault wins the award for “most improved game mode.” The dogfighting mode in the first “Battlefront” felt and played like an afterthought. It’s now much more difficult (in a good way) and exciting. EA hired Criterion solely to develop Starfighter Assault, and that singular focus shows.
Loot Crates Are the Path to the Dark Side
However, none of this will matter if the game can be hijacked by those willing to buy progress. EA plans to offset losing paid map packs with now-ubiquitous loot crates. It initially seemed like the new “Battlefront” would go the route of “Titanfall 2” and “Overwatch”: Paid cosmetic items, but no pay-to-win. Unfortunately, that doesn’t look to be the case. This article explains better than I could.
Briefly, it looks like game progression alone will be no match for those willing to buy more loot crates. It also adds an annoying level of complexity to what was once a simple game. This includes crafting, a tired game mechanic like “scanning” and one that has no place in a game like this. It also has an upgrade system that doesn’t necessarily reward whatever class you’ve chosen. It’s a real shame and will waste a lot of the goodwill this game has built over the last year or so.
Largely due to the poorly implemented loot/progression system, it doesn’t seem as casual as the first game. One of the most appealing aspects of “Battlefront” was its pick-up-and-play nature: A casual gamer (often a busier, perhaps married one) could pick the game back up after a few weeks and not feel completely outmatched. Loot crates may ruin that.
Patience, You Must Have
The best part of the beta overall? Like the first game, it looks and feels like Star Wars. That counts for plenty. If nothing else, the developers excel in this aspect. And that will be enough for many people. Yet had I gone into this beta blind, knowing nothing about the game nor its status as a sequel, I can’t say I’d be too excited. It overflows with potential, but that might be squandered by the progression/loot system alone.
For now, I would not recommend pre-ordering. Instead, wait a week or two until the inevitable patches and deep-dive reviews land. And if the pay-to-win loot system doesn’t change before launch, then don’t support the practice by buying “Star Wars Battlefront 2.”