Death Star, “Star Wars Battlefront’s” highly anticipated third DLC, arrived last week. This latest addition to the Star Wars first-person shooter (FPS) asks players to either help destroy or defend the Death Star.
“Possibly the most iconic location in the Star Wars universe was released nearly a year after the game launched as paid DLC?” Only a cynic might ask this question—one who views the game as a half-finished money-grab that quickly fragmented its player base by offering several paid map packs.
A New Hope
Electronic Arts released the highly-anticipated “Star Wars Battlefront” in November 2015 in an obvious attempt to feed off “The Force Awakens” hype. While not a great FPS in pure gaming terms, “Battlefront” has proven itself a perfect option for gamers who may not have the time (or desire) to endlessly level-up or collect the best weapons and other murder-assisting doodads. This accessibility gives even terrible players like your friend Keith the chance to play as Nien Nunb without fear of being a complete embarrassment.
Even better for more grown-up gamers, the console version doesn’t feature team text or voice chat, like many online games. Casual players can enjoy a match without constant, vulgar reminders of how terrible they are or what’s been done to their mother recently. It’s like they made the game for married gamers and gamers with kids.
More importantly, “Battlefront” captures the look and sounds of the Star Wars universe better than anything this side of the movies. Facing down AT-ATs in Walker Assault, the multiplayer mode, feels as daunting as it did on Hoth. Drop into a Supremacy match on the Survivors of Endor map, and the smell of charred Ewok practically emanates from the screen. Retrieving the payload in Cargo brings back that classic game of capture the flag from “Return of the Jedi.” Even the lighter moments of the game exhibit the scale and beauty.
“Battlefront” succeeds as a fun, engaging, and thoroughly immersive game that scratches the Star Wars itch. But little maddening and avoidable issues hold back what could have easily been a great game.
I Don’t Like Sand
To start, the initial release of “Battlefront” felt… dirty. The $60 game offered players a $50 “Season Pass” of four additional DLCs (or $15 per DLC purchased separately). Additional paid content isn’t necessarily bad. However, “Battlefront’s” initial dearth of content made it fairly obvious that a complete game would cost $110 minimum. It makes for a terrible pitch to people who may only purchase a few games a year, not to mention that paid maps break up the player base.
It doesn’t help either that DICE or EA (or whomever) moves at a plodding pace to address bugs in the game. Nearly three weeks after the “early” release of the Death Star DLC, game-breaking server connection and gameplay bugs continued to plague the game as a whole. Each DLC has introduced new bugs that take far too long to fix. The existence of bugs doesn’t surprise. The sheer number and persistence of them frustrates to no end.
It’s Coarse, and Rough, and Irritating, and It Gets Everywhere
But at least the bugs eventually get fixed. Core fundamental flaws, like quickly finding a game, loading a game, or getting back into the game from a spawn point, probably take up at least half of the total “playtime.” Battlefront possesses an impressive inability to consistently put players into a preferred game mode or map. Or it will spit players out into the same map over and over and over like some sort of Scooby-Doo hallway chase scene.
In addition, the creators evidently prefer to measure spawn point distances in parsecs. X-Wings literally run out of space gas before they even get close to the targeted Star Destroyer in the new DLC. These matchmaking, server, and spawning issues persist, despite the game nearing its first birthday.
The game provides plenty of FPS game modes with enough variety to satisfy almost any preference (the lack of a single-player campaign doesn’t bother me). Unfortunately, the game’s dogfighting mode offers little and certainly no lasting entertainment. Each side features only two ship options and the occasional “hero” pickup (rumors of playable Y-Wings and B-Wings abound). Only the recent Death Star DLC has any sort of meaningful objective (while, confusingly, reducing the number of players).
Comparisons to the X-Wing series from the ‘90s or even “Rogue Squadron” may not be entirely fair, considering the specificity of those games. However, they still provide a useful and frustrating contrast to the paucity of Battlefront’s flight-sim mode. Like the game itself, Fighter Squadron feels like it was made to meet a deadline.
This brings us back to what inspired this article in the first place: the Death Star DLC. What should be an intense, thrilling battle in and around the Death Star is instead a vacuous, vapid affair. The new DLC features few game modes (supposedly what the fans wanted). The actual attempt to destroy the Death Star offers players a three-tiered, immersion-killing battle: an unnecessary Star Destroyer dogfight, a rescue attempt aboard the Death Star, and the Trench Run.
An attempt to destroy or save the Death Star should deliver endlessly replayable fun, much like Walker Assault. Yet I stopped playing after a few days and returned to other game modes. Perhaps the limited number of players reduces the sense of urgency. Or maybe putting in 20 minutes of playtime just for a chance at the Trench Run doesn’t seem worthwhile. Or maybe it’s just boring.
Instead of a great game, EA released a missed opportunity. I pity the developers and designers, likely put under immense pressure to meet deadlines to maximize sales (as if a new Star Wars game needed help from a movie tie-in). They may be stretched thin with work on “Battlefront 2,” as well.
“Battlefront’s” not bad. It’s occasionally very fun. It’s too often maddening. That’s what’s so frustrating about “Star Wars Battlefront.” It didn’t have to be this way.