A big step forward.
As was the case two years ago, this year is shaping up to be huge for Star Wars fans. With The Last Jedi out just before Christmas and Battlefront 2 out in November, we are going to be treated to two brand new Star Wars stories within the space of two months, as well as an update to the game’s core multiplayer offerings. Now, with not long to wait, we are being given more information on both the movie and EA’s game with the new trailer for Episode VIII and the Battlefront 2 beta both being released this week. We’ve been playing the latter over the past few days and it seems to be shaping up to be a marked improvement over 2015’s reboot, especially with the exciting new mode Galactic Assault.
Finn himself, John Boyega, is a self-professed Battlefront fan (even if he wished the first game had a single player campaign) and it is him who introduces everything the beta has to offer when you begin the game. He talks you through the upcoming game’s story mode, the changes made to the multiplayer, and how the amount of content has increased dramatically over its predecessor, before letting you jump into what is on offer yourself.
The beta features three of the full game’s five modes, three locations on three planets, and four playable heroes. The first of the three modes is Strike, taking place on Takodana, which is a small scale battle featuring First Order Troopers and Resistance Forces battling over Maz’s castle, with one team attacking and the other defending. It is simple infantry only fun, that doesn’t allow powerful droids, making it a good jumping in point for newcomers that are looking to get to grips with the gameplay.
The second mode is Starfighter Assault, which is the returning aerial combat mode that allows players to jump into Tie-Fighters, X-Wings, or another of their favorite ships to take on others in fast-paced battles to protect or destroy a Star Destroyer above Fondor. The flying controls, this time being developed by racing experts Criterion Games, are much easier to get to grips with, giving you more control over the direction of your ship, without making you crash once your attention is transferred to an enemy craft. It is also fun as a break from the more intense infantry gameplay.
However, the star of the Battlefront 2 beta is its new mode, Galactic Assault. It is effectively an altered version of the first game’s main mode, Walker Assault, and features larger scale 20 vs 20 battles. The beta featured just one map, on Naboo, which sees Clone Troopers and Seperatists fighting over the Royal Palace in Theed. Starting in the streets of the city, the Separatists are trying to push their MTT towards the Palace so that they can infiltrate it while the Clone Troopers hunt for Ion Disruptors to take it down. Here the action is more varied, with one long open street and a labyrinth of side streets allowing for various tactical approaches. If the Separatists are successful here, the area of battle moves, Battlefield’s Rush mode style, into the palace. First, the attackers must bypass the throne room’s doors in the grand building’s small corridors, then they need to capture the throne room itself.
The action changes dramatically once the objective progresses, with close combat being more effective and threats being around every corner. Also, with the action being condensed, players are pushed into a smaller area, making the iconic heroes more powerful than they would be in the early area of the match. It is a fantastic mode, which showcases the variety on offer in Battlefront 2. You can switch between tactics on the fly, with objectives and surroundings changing frequently, keeping each battle feeling fresh. The Naboo map itself is also wonderfully designed, looks beautiful, and is sure to be a stand out in the full game.
Galactic Assault also takes advantage of the numerous gameplay changes made in Battlefront 2. The basics remain the same, with the first-person shooter gameplay feeling much weightier than other titles, which may feel alien to those that have been sucked in by Destiny 2 and its lighter, more responsive feel. The heavy, satisfying gameplay, coupled with DICE’s signature booming sound design makes each round feel far more like a war than other shooters. Locals flee the scene and destruction surrounds you, making Battlefront 2 a very intense experience. The first and most significant change is the game’s different approach to loadouts. Instead of being able to choose each item at your disposal, you get to choose between four classes (assault, heavy, officer, and specialist) each time you spawn, just as you do in other EA shooters. Thankfully, rather than getting the feeling that tactical freedom was being taken away, the class system feels more streamlined, allowing you to quickly alter your approach as the in-game situations change, just as they frequently do in Galactic Assault.
The second big alteration come with how powerful droids and heroes are unlocked during a match. Instead of random pick-ups littering the field of battle, you amass Battle Points for every action you make in game. By killing enemies or playing the objective, you increase your number of Battle Points, which can then be exchanged for reinforcements. You can either spend some of them for a more powerful version of your character or wait until you have 5000 to spend on a hero. The heroes once again feel incredible to play as, with their unique abilities making them stand out and be effective enough to make them worthwhile to save for.
They aren’t unreasonably priced, however, with them being at a level most competent players will reach at least once per match. Also, only one of each hero can be activated on each team, ensuring that they aren’t overpowering everyone. That does mean you may be waiting a little while to play as one once you have the required Battle Points but you simply have to hope that you are spawning at a time one is free. Battle Points are an excellent way of managing how power ups affect the match, while giving something for players to aim for at all times.
Battlefront 2’s other significant change is both interesting in concept and worrying, however. Upgrades and cosmetic changes are gained from Star Cards, which can change how powerful a player is. You can get them out of loot crates or upgrade basic ones using scraps that are also found in crates. You can earn crates by playing but you can also get them by spending real-world money, which worries me slightly. Since the simple fact is that the more money you spend, the more likely you are to unlock a powerful star card (making your character more powerful) – meaning the system is essentially pay-to-win. Of course, you can ignore the paid option and upgrade at your own pace, and we don’t know how it will play out in the full game, but it will inevitably be frustrating if you’re being overpowered by those that have spend their own cash to upgrade their character in the early weeks after the game’s release.
Loot crate worries aside, Battlefront 2 is shaping up to be a big improvement over 2015’s game. The same weighty and satisfying gameplay returns, but the changes to in-match reinforcements and the loadout system make far more sense that the original’s alternatives. Also, Galactic Assault may become the star of the show, offering expansive and varied battles that reward changing your tactics for each scenario. The beta suggests that Battlefront 2 will be a much deeper experience with better design choices and more than enough content to keep you invested. Also, don’t forget that we’re finally getting the story focused single-player campaign that we, and even John Boyega, wanted in the first game.