Note: As part of the review process, EA flew me out to California to play Star Wars Battlefront II in a multiplayer setting they had set up.
EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II is more than a sequel to 2015’s team-based shooter centered on the legendary Star Wars films – it’s a response to feedback showing a desire to improve the fan experience. With a clearer focus on quality multiplayer modes, an actual single-player campaign, and a triplication of content, it’s clear that the developers were listening. At the same time, the game has some questionable features like loot crates tied to the progression system and a slow unlock system. But as far as hardcore Star Wars game experiences go, Battlefront II is a force to be reckoned with.
Here is my interview with the producer of Star Wars Battlefront II, Paul Keslin.
The original Star Wars Battlefront had its share of flaws, and a paltry single-player mode was part of it. Fortunately, Battlefront II features a full campaign. The story takes place between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, following Iden Versio, a commander in the Galactic Empire. I liked what it brought to the series’ canon, namely a unique perspective from the antagonists and a peek into what the original trilogy’s heroes were up to post-Episode VI. There’s even an original map not seen in the movies. The campaign itself is more or less a sampler of what multiplayer provides: mostly objective based missions with a smattering of Starfighter battles. There isn’t a whole lot, and the dozen missions take roughly six to eight hours to complete – longer if you look for hidden collectibles. But as a light experience with a compelling story, it’s an inclusion I appreciate as a fan of solo gaming.
Just as with the 2015's Battlefront, team-based multiplayer is the game’s selling point. The core gameplay is similar – control a trooper in first-person or third-person and shoot the other team with accompanying special abilities that must recharge after use. Thanks to a new class-based system, teams can have extra diversity. There are four base trooper classes: the all-around reliable Assault, the slow but tough Heavy, the ally-buffing Officer, and the tricky trap-laying Specialist. Each have their own specials and guns. The troopers feel different enough from one another, catering to various play styles, though none feel particularly strong.
You can raise unit stats or switch out abilities by equipping up to three Star Cards. While I like the idea of these cards for progression, the manner of obtaining them isn’t favorable. Star Cards come in four rarities, representing their tiers. The rarest type, Epic Star Cards, are only obtainable as special in-game rewards, which is fair. However, getting the other cards are completely random, mostly earned through opening Loot Crates, a free-to-play style feature that has seeped its way into many a game. In Battlefront II, you get a daily login crate with three random items, be they cards, credits, or crafting parts (for making more cards). To open more crates, you either spend credits, which you gradually earn through gameplay, or purchase with real money. Offering random in-game advantages at a cost strikes me as unfair. The benefits aren’t necessarily huge, but any gains can separate two players of otherwise equal skill. If there has to be a paywall, I would have preferred allowing players the option to choose which cards to use credits on or at least removing the rarity system. As it is now, Loot Crates don’t break the game, but are annoying and can upset the balance.
Extra power is reserved for higher classes like the Flame Troopers and my favorite, the Jet Troopers – because who doesn’t like shooting enemies while being propelled through the air? After dying, you can respawn as one of these by spending Battle Points earned midgame. It has a great risk-reward system. Should you spend points on a Trooper or save up for something potentially better, knowing that in both cases, your unit can be lost in an instant? Note that you can also use points to play as iconic heroes (and villains) from the films like Luke and Darth Vader, assuming you’ve unlocked them. Given that it costs thousands of in-game credits each for just those two characters and that you’re likely only getting a few hundred per match, it’s a slow grind. Although it's much more manageable following EA's patch that reduces the unlock cost. And since half of the heroes like Rey and Darth Maul are already available from the start, it won't take too long to get that thrill of laying waste with Luke’s lightsaber or Vader's Force choke.
Regarding modes, Battlefront II interestingly trims some of the fat, lowering the number of base online modes from nine to five. While these five modes are quality, they don’t feel too diverse from one another. The simplest game type, Blast, is your standard deathmatch between two teams of ten. Strike takes it a step further and gives one team of eight a series of objectives as their win conditions, typically seizing or sabotaging. The opposing side is tasked to defend, which usually means killing a certain quota of the other team. In my experience, it was harder but more fun to be on the attacking team. Skilled players on the defense may have an advantage, but there’s an unrivaled sense of joy that comes with completing a tough mission and not having to mow down everyone to accomplish it.
Starfighter Assault is a natural inclusion, given the series’ iconic space battles. Essentially Strike mode in space, this mode uses only high-flying spacecrafts. Getting used to the aircraft takes time, though, and I had to change settings around to prevent myself from getting dizzy from the screen spinning. Once I got the hang of the controls and aiming, Starfighter Assault ended up being one of my favorite modes. The added immersion of a first-person cockpit view is fun, but I found it much harder to fly effectively. Another favorite of mine was Heroes vs. Villains, a mode that lets you play as iconic characters (again assuming you’ve unlocked them). Within, one member from each four-man squad becomes a designated target, and it’s up to each team to take down the opposing mark first. The objective itself is decent, but the appeal is mixing legends from different eras in epic match-ups.
Galactic Assault is the game style that has the biggest opportunity to resonate with fans. At first glance, it looks like Strike on a larger scale, since two teams of 20 flood the map at once. But two major components stand out. First, matches recreate scenarios from the films, such as taking down AT-AT walkers on Hoth, disabling the cloning facility in Kamino, or destroying Starkiller Base. Second, you can spend Battle Points to unlock not just heroes, but also Starfighters and other relevant vehicles like AT-RT biped walkers or speeder bikes. Every match feels different, thanks to each unique option, and the grand scale is perfect for the mode. Forty players, engaged in both ground and air battles in a giant showdown is an experience worthy of the Star Wars name .
There is a good amount of content, even with just five modes, though you have to be invested in online multiplayer to enjoy it. Since you can’t play the modes offline, single-player is still very limited even with the campaign. There is an Arcade mode, featuring 16 missions from either the Light Side or the Dark Side, but they’re merely diversions. I enjoyed playing through familiar moments from the movies using the film’s stars and engaging in 2-player split-screen co-op and versus, but I grew tired quickly due to the repetitive onslaught missions. I would rather have the option to try out the other modes against AI bots. Also, as much as I enjoyed the multiplayer offerings, I can see it getting old over time with the same scenarios and its small handful of modes.
There are over a dozen new maps, eclipsing the measly four from the first’s base game. The maps, hailing from all three of the franchise’s major eras, are huge, and running through them was like taking a tour through the worlds themselves. Every map is detailed and visually gorgeous. Touches like the Cantina in Tatooine and the beautiful Theed Royal Palace in Naboo added authenticity, but it was also nice to see some newer areas like Maz’s Castle in Takodana. Much of the music is new, but its similarities to John William’s original scores are uncanny, which speaks a lot to the game’s composer.
Star Wars Battlefront II improves on the original with more maps and heroes, but there are fewer modes, and the online gameplay may waver over time for some. Regardless, the core gameplay is solid, and the new Galactic Assault is excellent. The single-player content is still slim, but the campaign is nonetheless a great inclusion that adds more than you’d think to the official canon. I’m not a huge fan of the Loot Crates, though I’d live with it for the promised free DLC, the first of which has content from The Last Jedi. Still, in a perfect world, Star Cards would be fairer to obtain and unlocking heroes wouldn’t be such a grind. EA plans to keep tweaking the game post launch and adding content through Live Service, and I’m intrigued to see how the game evolves over time. Overall, Star Wars Battlefront II isn’t a shooter for everybody, but it’s a must-have for fans. Indeed, the Force is strong with this one.
I am a lifelong gamer, having grown up with Nintendo since I was young. My passion for gaming led to one of the greatest moments of my life, my video game themed wedding!