The Star Wars franchise has always been about the epic battle between good versus evil. Along the way, we have witnessed these two sides go head to head in memorable battles but never have they been one in the same. That changes with Star Wars: Battlefront II. On the surface, it looks to be the perfect love letter for all Star Wars fans across all generations. Deep down, Star Wars: Battlefront II is plagued with an awful progression system and a greedy loot crate system that gives off an uncomfortable pay to win feel.
Just like the three eras of Star Wars in the game, three developers worked on the game. Dice worked on multiplayer, Criterion worked on the Starfighter mode in multiplayer and Motive worked on the story mode. In the story mode, you play as Commander Iden versio who leads an Empire Special ops group called Inferno Squad. This takes place immediately after the destruction of the second Death Star in Episode VI: The Return of the Jedi. You get to see how the Empire reacts and how they decide to move on without the command of Emperor Palpatine. Playing as the Empire is very engaging and a unique perspective. Unfortunately, any new territory that could be explored gets thrown to the side and the game goes to the predicable route which leaves much to be desired. We were promised a tale from the Empire’s perspective, but we don’t really get that here. Instead of taking a risk, the story stays safe and overall feels lazy and uninspired.
The single player campaign is hurt by the constant switching of characters. Nearly half of the 4-5 hour campaign is spent playing as famous Star Wars characters, which in theory might sound neat, but ultimately damages the pacing of the story. This should be Iden’s story and instead of building her up as an interesting and deadly character, she is given a generic good guy role that is really disappointing. The game does end on a high note with a great cameo, but the damage has already been done. The single player campaign does strives for greatness but ultimately relies on old tactics to create an uninspiring Star Wars adventure you don’t want to experience.
Before we go any further with both the multiplayer and arcade modes, we need to talk about the controversy surrounding the microtransactions and loot crates in Star Wars: Battlefront II. Loot crates are not rewarded for leveling up, and can only be obtained by collecting credits, crystals, or completing milestones. The system surrounding crystals will not be focused on too much in this review because they were turned off before November 17th which is when we got the copy of the game. While crystals are (temporarily) gone, the system ultimately comes off as something you would see in a free-to-play mobile game and not a $60 AAA video game.
The grind to get even a single loot crate is absurd and the rewards for achieving a specific milestone makes the grind feel worthless. You may find yourself doing a milestone that takes 5-10 matches to complete and get rewarded with only 250-500 credits. Loot crates range from 2,000-4,000 credits so be prepared for the grind. In the loot crates, you get star cards, which allow you to increase certain abilities like the blast radius of a grenade. Cards can range from increasing an ability from 20% to up to 40-50% in some cases. In any game, increasing an ability by 10% is pretty significant let alone increasing it 20-50%. These star cards can also increase your character’s health, increase the damage in your weapons and even make the journey to unlocking vehicles and heroes quicker. Heroes and villains are walking tanks and can turn the tides of a battle when players are constantly able to jump back in as a hero or villain. With so many advantages tied into star cards, the game becomes less about skill and more about who has the best loadout.
While star cards were in the previous Battlefront, they were not used to drastically increase a player’s overall stats. You can use parts to create or increase your star cards, but parts are still tied to loot crates. Even when you earn parts, it’s usually only 5-25 when it takes 40 parts just to create a star card, which increases with higher tiers. If loot crates were only tied to cosmetic items, it would be manageable, but they are set up for progression which is very disappointing and inconsiderate towards the consumer.
For a high-budget AAA game, things don’t always run smoothly from a technical perspective. The matches themselves run smooth with minimal lag issues, though there have been some instances that result in being kicked towards the end of the match or get disconnected when you leave a game when it is finished. The game does have its fair share of glitches such as seeing dead bodies stuck in place, falling through the map and a few others, but nothing that impacts the multiplayer too drastically. There is one mode that is heavily affected by glitch that that will be covered later in the review. Lastly, the load times become a nuisance after a few hours of playing. Star Wars: Battlefront II continues the infamous trend of releasing a somewhat unfinished AAA game at a full $60 price which, like the game itself, is a disappointment.
While it may be a tall task, if you can put aside the loot crates and the awful progression system, there is a great Star Wars multiplayer experience in here. Aside from the Starfighter Assault mode, which was developed by Criterion, DICE have done a fantastic job of recreating a lot of the key locations, vehicles, weapons, and characters that we’ve watched across all three eras of Star Wars films. Visually the game is astonishingly beautiful which should come as no surprise to anyone who has played a game by DICE. All the maps are faithfully recreated and really take you back to some of the key moments from the films. Even though the cutscenes can be boring to sit through, they are visually appealing and breathe some life into the story even if it might not be enough. DICE is also known for developing games with excellent sound design and Star Wars: Battlefront II is no different. Iconic scores from the films are played through out each match and really raise the intensity before each battle. When the battles begin, hearing the blasters scatter across the battlefield and explosions happening left and right helps create a multiplayer experience few games have been able to recreate. DICE games have always been known for their visuals but it is important not to forget how well the sound design can be in their games.
A new addition players will see compared to the original Star Wars: Battlefront are the addition of classes. Very similar to the class system in DICE’s Battlefield series, the four classes are unique and have their own designated abilities. While it would have been nice to see each role fleshed out more, the fact we do get more diverse roles should be commended. The multiplayer only has five modes and all of them seem to be directly pulled from the previous game. It is pretty safe to assume that more modes will be a part of the free DLC plan but it is still disappointing to see a lack of new modes being added at the game’s launch. Walker Assault is still a blast to play in 40 player battles across all of the new maps in the game. You also have Blast, essentially Team Deathmatch, and Strike which is an objective mode.
The final two modes are where the game shines and fails the most. Heroes vs. Villains returns and while the mode itself is the same, there have been some modifications made. Controlling the heroes and villains feels a lot more natural and strategical whereas before it felt more of who can press the button the quickest. Most of the maps are in environments that are suspended in the air, which makes it easy for any character with a force ability to knock you off the map. It’s also riddled with glitches such as falling through the map.
Hopefully a patch will be released to fix the problems in this mode because playing as the likes of Rey, Darth Maul, Yoda and more is really fun experience. It is also worth noting that not all of the character are unlocked and characters like Princess Leia and Emperor Palpatine require 10,000 credits. What about Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader who are two of the most iconic characters in the Star Wars series? Well it takes 15,000 credits to unlock them, which is still a lot even after tweaks have been made. This is just another slap in the face for players and fans who want to play as their favorite characters.
One of the biggest surprises is the newly improved Starfighter Assault mode which, unlike last time, is one of the standouts. Flying around in space and navigating your starfighter feels crisp and clean, though the mode does suffer from a lack of map variety. All of the space battles are extremely detailed and pushes the point that this is one of the best looking video games out there today.
As previously stated, when you look past all the greedy tactics and the awful progression system in Star Wars: Battlefront II, there is a great game to be found. Reliving epic battles across all eras of Star Wars films is a real delight, though the experience is tainted by star cards, loot crates and what is ultimately an unrewarding grind. EA seems to have given into the dark side and turned one of the most beloved properties into a greedy, anti-consumer mess. Fans deserve better than this. Star Wars Battlefront II strives for greatness but ultimately becomes its own worst enemy.