Star Wars Battlefront II Review- The Force is (Mostly) Strong With This One

Posted November 20, 2017 by Thomas James Juretus in Video Games

Developers: EA DICE, Motive Studios, Criterion Software

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Release date: November 17, 2017

Available on: PC, PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One

When Star Wars Battlefront released in November, 2015, one of the biggest complaints about the game was its lack on content, particularly the lack of a single player campaign and space battles. The original game launched with only three maps and a few multiplayer modes. Over time, EA and DICE added extra maps and modes through paid DLC, and by the time the Ultimate Edition was released, the game was in far better shape, though the campaign was still missing. Flash forward two years to the day, and both publisher EA and Developer DICE seemed to have listened to fans. Star Wars Battlefront II does a lot to rectify those wrongs, though it still stumbles along the way.

I’ll hit on the good stuff first.

This time around, we do get more single-player content, including a campaign. The campaign follows the story of Iden Versio, commander of Inferno Squad and loyal to the galactic Empire. Iden and her two cohorts watch from Endor as the second Death Star is destroyed. Over the course of thirteen missions, including a prologue, we follow Iden from the events at the end of Return of the Jedi up to a point right before the beginning of The Force Awakens. While Iden is the main focus of the plot, she does cross paths with other well-known characters, which we get to control in missions mid-campaign. While it may feel like we get treated to a tour through a Star Wars greatest hits package, it still moves things forward in a coherent fashion until we get back to Iden.

On one hand, this is a bit of a shame as Iden proves to be a very capable and interesting character. Her arc doesn’t suffer too much due to the diversions, but it would have been nice to focus solely on her. Gameplay for the campaign is varied, and you can choose to play in first or third person. There are nice stealth moments, the shooting feels solid, and we even get some space battles thrown in for good measure. The new characters are all voiced well, but the voice acting feels a bit off for the classic characters, as does their facial animations. They’re not bad, mind you, but something about them doesn’t feel quite right. Fortunately, the gameplay and the story are good enough that these little flaws don’t mar the overall experience. It’s a good inclusion, made better by the fact the free story DLC will be coming in the future.

Solo players also can spend time in Arcade Mode, which delivers up bite-sized battle scenarios for you to tackle. There are eight scenarios for each side of the Force (Light and Dark), and each scenario has three tiers, with increasing difficulty levels. Each scenario can also be played co-op locally, or versus another player. In an odd move that affects progression (sort of, more on the confusing progression system to come), players can only earn up to 500 credits per day playing this mode (100 credits per scenario played). After that, you may need to wait up until 16 hours to earn more from this mode. This doesn’t affect progress towards completing challenges, which in themselves can pay off credits, give crafting parts, or open a loot crate. Completionists will need to revisit this mode often, as some of the challenges (getting 1000 kills, for example) can take a bit of time when your kill count is capped at 20 to finish a scenario.

For the most part, they’re fun to play, and you’ll hit maps from all three eras (Naboo from the prequel trilogy, Mos Eisley on Tatooine from the original trilogy, and Takodana from The Force Awakens, to name a few). And the mode does allow you to play as some of the heroes like Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader that are harder to unlock in multiplayer.

The multiplayer is where most players will be spending the bulk of their time, and this is where the game really shines and has improved since the first game. There are twelve maps available at launch compared to the first game’s three, and again, they span all three eras from the movies and provide a nice variety. You’ll move through the city of Theed on Naboo and the cloning facility on Kamino. Battles will rage through the temples on Yavin 4 or onboard the Death Star II. And you’ll fight amongst the wreckage of Imperial ships on Jakku and be able to storm Starkiller Base. There are five modes available in the multiplayer–Galactic Assault, Starfighter Assault, Heroes vs Villains, Strike, and Blast. Each mode pays off a certain amount of credits for playing, and you’ll earn battle points that can be spent during the matches to unlock heroes, specialized soldiers, or vehicles.

For most modes, players begin with four classes to choose from, each with their own perks and special abilities. Assault are your basic soldiers with blaster rifles and grenades. Heavy have more powerful weapons and can carry a shield. Officers can set up turrets, and the Specialists can operate as snipers. Each have their own set of challenges to complete (such as playing as a specific class for a certain amount of time or getting a required number of kills), and each challenge completed grants you a reward, which can be extra credits, crafting parts, or a loot crate. Each class has three slots for Star Cards, which grant extra bonuses, like enhanced grenades or doubling of battle points earned. As you level up, you’ll eventually unlock extra slots so you can equip up to three Star Cards. The classes are your starting point for three of the modes–Galactic Assault, Strike, and Blast. Heroes vs Villains allows you to play as characters you have unlocked (a few are unlocked right away). For Starfighter Assault, you begin with three classes of ships- Fighter, Interceptor, and Bomber.

Galactic Assault is the largest multiplayer mode, where 40 players wage war over a map with multiple objectives. In this mode you can unlock heroes, ships, and vehicles with your battle points. The battle points replaced the spinning icons found across the map in the first game, meaning getting the special things to play as is based on skill. Battle points are accrued through kills, kill assists, completing objectives, and so forth. You can spend them as you wish, but only truly skilled players will end up with enough points to play as the major heroes, instead of someone being just lucky enough to find an icon first. The game also wisely limits the amount of these specialized classes/vehicles/heroes to be played at any one time, meaning the other team won’t be facing a whole regiment of AT-RTs (chicken walkers) or Darth Vaders. A good thing, as it can keep the playing field more balanced, though some heroes are definitely overpowered, like Darth Maul.

Starfighter Assault answers the call for fans who wanted space battles. This has 24 players dogfighting with each other as they also try to complete objectives, with the main map seeming to be the Imperial shipyard above Fondor. You begin with one of three classes of ship, and battle points can be used to unlock hero and villain ships, such as the Millenium Falcon and Boba Fett’s Slave 1. The ships can be a bit tricky to control at first, with the right stick for basic movement and the left stick for pitch and speed. Each ship has their own perks, such as droid repair or homing missiles. Veteran players will adjust quickly, though newcomers shouldn’t take too long to get the hang of things. Flying through debris is one thing; dogfighting is another.

Strike is an objective based, 8v8 mode across a smaller map, with teams playing the best of three rounds before switching sides. Blast is basically a 10v10 deathmatch, and serves as the game’s most competitive mode, with the first team to reach 100 kills wins. Heroes vs Villains is an odd 4v4 mode, playing off four Light heroes, like Yoda and Rey, and four Dark villains, like Darth Maul and Kylo Ren. It’s a way to play the characters outside of the Arcade and other multiplayer modes, but you need to have unlocked the characters previously to use them. It feels like the least satisfying mode and can be very unbalanced, as you can end up with one team being composed of three powerful Force users against a team that may only have one.

As far as visuals and sound, this game is a joy to both look at and listen to. You’ll feel like your playing in a Star Wars film. The graphics are beautiful, with plenty of nice details and little touches thrown in. Birds will fly up from puddle strewn streets in Theed on Naboo, you’ll dodge wildlife charging through the swamps and temples on Yavin 4, and you’ll see plenty of familiar beasts in the marketplace in Mos Eisley on Tatooine. Droids will wander the hallways in Starkiller Base or on the Death Star II. Each area is lovingly replicated and instantly recognizable from the movies, with a couple, like Kamino, having weather effects. The only place the visuals stumble is in the models of certain characters. They don’t look bad, just off a bit. You’ll still recognize Luke as Luke, but something doesn’t exactly sit right. These characters are where the voice acting stumbles a bit as well, since the original actors aren’t doing the voices for them. It’s noticeable, especially when compared to the brand new characters, like Iden Versio. Fortunately, the rest of the sound design is solid, from the whine of a TIE fighter to the blasters to a lightsaber being used to put down an enemy. Those sounds are perfectly replicated from the films, and make you feel like you’re in the Star Wars universe.

For all that good stuff, the game does have its share of bad. Much has been made of the loot crates and the feeling of the game being a pay to win. Fan and press outcry caused EA to remove the use of real world money to purchase loot crates right after the Elite Edition of the game launched on November 14, ensuring you could only use in-game currency to purchase the crates, which you earn through gameplay. EA has stated they may be back at a future date as they evaluate player comments and see how players utilize the in-game systems.

Loot crates cost credits and can contain Star Cards, which can have perks, emotes, or victory poses. The crates can also contain credits (usually a small amount) and crafting parts that you can use to make some Star Cards. Oddly enough, class progression is tied to Star Cards instead of their usage in gameplay, though you need to focus on classes to complete challenges, which can earn you credits to buy loot boxes to get Star Cards. A duplicate Star Card is turned into credits, which, you guessed it, can be used to buy more loot crates to find more Star Cards. Problem is, the crates are randomized, meaning you may have to sink a whole lot of time into the game to earn enough credits to buy crates that hopefully have what you need. It’s a mess of a system, and confusing as hell. Leveling up through gameplay seems to only to open up an extra slot for more Star Cards (you begin with one open, the second opens at level 10, with the third at level 15).

Anyway you slice it, it’s a big flaw that mars an otherwise highly enjoyable game.

Other issues are less irritating, but bear mentioning. Load times can be long, especially when just starting up a session. Once started, things flow better, at least until the next match or if you switch modes. So far, frame rate has been stable for me on both the PS4 and my time with the game on the Xbox One (which I played the ten hour trail through EA Access). I do seem to get disconnected from the EA servers and an error message when I quit a mode, though I’m always connected once I jump into the multiplayer again. I haven’t encountered getting stuck in the environments, but others have reported that issue, as well as hitting lag in both the campaign and the multiplayer. The other issue seems to be the indeterminate mission boundaries, where the game tells me I’ve left the mission area, even while pursuing an enemy. Not getting back in time means instant death. For ground forces, it’s generally not a big deal, as you’ve usually just gone down a hallway too far. In space, however, it can be easy to get turned around and not make it back in time. I’d have rather had them install an invisible wall for the boundaries to prevent cheap deaths, but it’s a minor issue that doesn’t occur too often and hasn’t impacted my overall enjoyment of the game.

In all, Star Wars Battlefront II proves to be a worthy sequel, improving on the first game in most every way. It’s beautiful looking, and the sounds are straight from the movies, providing a nice bit of immersion. The amount of content has been increased, with more to come via free DLC in the future. The maps are nicely varied, and there’s a mode that should please almost any player, be they solo or jumping into the multiplayer. The campaign is fairly well done, and introduces us to a great new character in Iden Versio. With plenty of collectibles to find and challenges to complete, fans will definitely get their money’s worth. All that good stuff comes at the price of a big stumbling block in the form of the loot crates and the odd progression system. A couple of other minor issues, like loading times or wonky voice acting, hold the game back from being better than it is. It may not yet be the Star Wars game we fully yet deserve, but it’s a satisfying one that serves well enough for now.

About the Author

Thomas James Juretus