A definite improvement.
Star Wars Battlefront II on Xbox One
Star Wars has had the ability to reach across generations and genres like no other pop culture series ever has. It’s no surprise fans were excited for a brand new Star Wars game alongside The Force Awakens, however, for some the first one was an uneven experience that just missed their expectations. With the pedigree of the old Battlefront games it certainly had its work cut out for it. Now with Star Wars Battlefront II, DICE tries to correct course on some of the missteps made with the first game, and for the most part they succeed. Battlefront II easily feels like the game the first one should have been, and while some new head scratching design decisions are in the game, it does a marvelous job of dropping you straight into the Star Wars universe.
By far the most glaring omission from the first game was the lack of a single-player campaign, something Battlefront II fixes. You follow Iden Versio, the commander of an elite Imperial unit known as Inferno Squad. The game starts with the battle of Endor at the end of Return of the Jedi, and proceeds forward showing how both the Empire and the Rebel Alliance deal with the aftermath. As it turns out the war didn’t quite end there. The presentation of Battlefront II’s story is exceptional, both graphically and aesthetically. It’s a gorgeous game, and everything is finely tuned to give off that Star Wars look, from the costumes to the panels on ships and buildings.
Iden is almost instantly an interesting character, and seeing the battle of Endor from the Empire’s perspective is a fascinating thing to play for any fan, even more so seeing what happens after Return of the Jedi in the newly established canon for the series with Disney’s purchase. Iden and a few of the other new characters easily grow on you, and although there’s nothing mind-blowing going on here with Battlefront II’s story, it’s a fun galactic romp that matches the tone of smaller Star Wars stories, with plenty of danger, blaster fights, and snappy dialogue.
Surprisingly, however, Iden is not nearly the only character you play as. Without spoiling anything, there’s quite a few familiar faces that pop up during the story, and even a few you take control of. Battlefront II’s campaign is exceptionally well-paced, and the game does a great job of providing variety to gameplay, whether that’s through a starfighter section, or taking control of a new and powerful character. Overall the story isn’t all that long, clocking in at roughly seven to eight hours, but there’s not a moment of boredom packed into that playtime. While I did find myself really enjoying the story and characters, it can be a struggle to find the sweet spot on the gameplay side of things. Difficulty is a little off between the three difficulty modes, with the medium option feeling too easy at times, and the hard option being downright brutal at others.
For the most part this wasn’t an issue for me. However, I should note that your ally AI in the story is pretty much inept. Enemy AI does fine, but allies on the other hand can be a help, or do pretty much nothing at all. Again, this isn’t too much of a problem, but did lead to just a few small, frustrating moments where I found myself overwhelmed with enemies.
I’m definitely glad that we’re getting even more content with Iden in Battlefront II’s free update next month, as she’s a character I’d love to see more of. I consistently found myself surprised by how much I was enjoying the game’s campaign, and while it may not be the focal point of Battlefront II, it certainly helps to nicely flesh out the content of the overall package. On top of the campaign you also have arcade, which is filled with various challenge levels that hep you get a feel for heroes and units in the game. These can be played by yourself or in co-op, with a duel option also pitting two players against each other with heroes.
Of course, where you’ll be spending most of your time with Battlefront II is its multiplayer, and there’s a sizable offering this time around, with some big changes to its overall format. First off, the game just feels faster to play over its predecessor, movements are snappier, animations quicker, and a dodge roll brings some much-needed mobility to combat. Instead of freely being able to customize your character’s Star Cards, Battlefront II employs a class system with four classes – Assault, Heavy, Officer, and Specialist. Basically attacker, tank, buffer, and sniper, respectively. Then each class as well as each vehicle, starfighter, and hero in the game has their own set of Star Cards to equip.
Basically, Star Cards this time alter your class or character abilities or stats, like boosting your health recovery or powering up an Ion Grenade or other weapon. This provides a good amount of versatility to match your play style, the problem here comes with how you unlock the cards. Star Cards can be found in the loot crates you can purchase, or unlocked with scrap which you get by completing challenges or through loot crates. While the game isn’t exactly “pay to win,” if you drop a bunch of real money you’ll have access to a lot more Star Cards than someone who just started. Make no mistake; you can unlock everything without spending any money, but it’s going to take a while if you really want everything for every character in the game. If you focus on specific things you can build up your play style nicely, but the sheer amount of Star Cards in the game is incredibly overwhelming. Challenges play a big part of getting resources like scrap and credits, and each game mode has a number of ones to complete that will give you a reward, including a few free crates from completing campaign missions.
Battlefront II doesn’t force purchasing its crates en masse, and you are able to purchase them with credits gained entirely in-game. During my time with the game I’ve probably purchased a good 15-20 crates without spending any real money, gaining a good number of Star Cards in the process. However, it’s true that that paying with real money will unlock Star Cards much faster than just playing the game. The advantages form the cards do boost your stats or give you new weapon options, but I personally didn’t feel it was drastic enough that someone without as many cards couldn’t hold their own. At the same time you will be unlocking a fair amount of Star Cards through crates with credits and scrap you can use, so you won’t be going into battle empty handed.
In terms of modes, Star Wars Battlefront II certainly has a lot to offer. Strike is a smaller objective-based mode, while Blast is your basic team deathmatch. The big new additions in multiplayer come with Galactic Assault and Starfighter Assault. The latter is a new version of the space battles featured in the last game, with some pretty massive improvements. The ship controls work much better, and in general pulling off turns and spinning your ship around is just much tighter. Instead of being a straight-up deathmatch, the mode is focused on objectives, with one team attacking and another defending. Battlefront II does a great job of making these matches feel like epic space battles, adding in huge capital ships, AI fighters, turrets, and more. It’s honestly my favorite mode in all of Battlefront II, and the maps on hand already have some great variation to them, with my favorite being a space battle above Endor packed with debris you have to dodge while fighting. It’s great to see all three eras of Star Wars represented, and they help add some slight variation onto multiplayer by changing the look and feel between maps.
Galactic Assault is the new 40 player mode that plays like something you’d see in Battlefield. One team has a life counter and attacks objectives, while the other team defends them. This is where every element of Battlefront II comes into play with heroes, vehicles, and more. Instead of finding pickups for heroes and vehicles like in the first game, you now gain Battle Points for every action you take in a match. Once you’ve accrued enough during the match you can redeem them to play as a hero, special class, and more. By and large, this system works much better, as you accrue points for getting kills or playing the objective, meaning that most players will have a chance to spend their points on something. Galactic Assault is where Battlefront II gets most hectic, and often most exciting.
These battles feel massive in scale, and each is introduced with a quick bit of dialogue and exposition. Not every map in Galactic Assault features vehicles, like the Death Star II, Jakku, and Starkiller Base maps that only focus on infantry battles. There’s a unique feeling that comes over you when John William’s various Star Wars themes swell as you stare down your scope to see a big group of Stormtroopers burst over a ridge of sand on Jakku. Galactic Assault really captures that Star Wars feeling, and for the most part objectives are nicely varied. The only real issue I had was with some maps like Kashyyyk that have the defending team finding rocket launchers to open up a tank to damage for a frame of 20 seconds or so.
These segments just felt far too slow and wandering compared to the furious firefights that came after, and drug down some of the matches. So far with a little over 20 hours of multiplayer I haven’t had any significant connectivity issues. I haven’t been booted from matches or anything and matchmaking is decent if not exceptional, but I have run into lag and a few issues particularly in Starfighter Assault. Other modes have had very few issue, but quite a few Starfighter matches started to chug here and there.
Also returning to multiplayer is the popular Heroes vs. Villains mode, which does lead us to one of the bigger issues I have with the game. The mode itself is great fun, with the powerful heroes of the game squaring off, but the catch is only about half are available when you start the game. The rest of the heroes need to be unlocked with credits, exorbitant amounts of credits. For example, you can unlock Iden for 20,000 credits or Luke Skywalker for 60,000 credits (EA has since announced that they’ll be reducing the cost of heroes to 5,000-15,000 based on which ones you’re purchasing).While you do earn a fair amount of credits by playing, these amounts are astoundingly large, and it’s a huge letdown that you can’t even play as these heroes in Heroes vs. Villains without purchasing the game.
You can’t even buy these heroes outright with real money, as your money instead gets you crystals which are used to open loot crates. The big issue here is that I feel like any players not putting a significant time investment in will never get the chance to play as half of the heroes in the game, which is definitely a problem. I sincerely hope this is something that DICE and EA change in the future, or at least let players earn more credits in-game.
Star Wars Battlefront II offers a sizable improvement over the first game in almost every way. The campaign is short but well-paced and enjoyable, and multiplayer provides a robust offering with smooth and frenetic battles. You’d be hard pressed to find anything in video games that looks and sounds more like Star Wars, as the game absolutely nails those aspects, and is even visually stunning more often than not. I do hope the issues with loot crates, unlockable heroes, and resources can be ironed out, as they’re a bit more intrusive than I care for right now. Even so, Battlefront II provides a meaty experience for Star Wars fans, and feels much more in line with the original Battlefront games than its predecessor did.
SCORE: 4/5 – GREAT
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