2015’s Star Wars: Battlefront left fans divided. On one hand, it introduced a glorious new Star Wars multiplayer experience that many were pleased with. But on the other, we had people that were left bitter over the closure of LucasArts – “for this?!” And, let’s be fair, without any massive single player content to go along with the multiplayer, some people were just plain shut out.
So, here we are two years later, with Star Wars: Battlefront II making its way to shelves. And we’re back to a two-sided situation. EA finally listened to fans and included a rock-solid (if short-lived, for now) single player campaign, alongside the much more robust multiplayer, and a fun arcade mode. But then came the flip side, or rather the Dark Side, in which microtransactions reared their ugly head.
Fans began to argue if the game was worth it, cancelling their pre-orders and pretty much shutting it out without even laying hands on it. “No way EA’s getting my money,” they screamed as they probably went for something like Battlefield 1 instead. (Don’t laugh, I’ve seen it.)
But then, lo and behold, the company came to its senses and, for now, cancelled the microtransaction program, making Battlefront II’s multiplayer more fair and balanced for its many players. That’s not to say it isn’t without its problems, but consider this shielding lifted off of EA’s Death Star as they prepare to blow the mother up and give gamers what they want. Again, for now, but it’s better than nothing.
With that, I can provide my thoughts of Star Wars: Battlefront II without running into the same issue that I had with Need For Speed Payback, in which an over-demanding system and limitations got in the way of me just having fun on the open road. Sure, Battlefront is a different game, but you get the idea, when you’re being force choked to make progress one way or another just to get any joy in the game. Thankfully, we’re without that feeling now, and we can just focus on the package in general – which is a pretty great one.
The single player campaign focuses on Iden Versio, the captain of Inferno Squad, an Imperial strike team. She’s played with gusto and finesse by Janina Gavankar, who introduces another swell female character to the picture. Throughout the story, you can really feel what she’s going through, even if the writing does take a turn into the predictable, once she finally “gets” what’s really going on.
From there, the story takes a slightly bland turn, but then picks right back up, introducing a familiar face that sets things into motion. Sadly, that’s where it ends, but the story will eventually continue on with new DLC coming in just a few weeks. While it does feel like a bit of a bummer with the cliffhanger, it gives you something to look forward to, instead of just uttering, “That’s it?!”
I liked the campaign in general, despite the uneven tone. Along with following Versio’s story, we also get reintroduced to a number of classic characters that fit right in with Battlefront’s universe. Playing as Luke Skywalker was a trip again, even if it was just basically being on flyswatter duty. And I won’t spoil the others, but you’ll be pleased to see so many faces jump back in.
That leads us to Arcade Mode, which includes a number of scenarios where you can earn some credits, offline or on, while getting some practice in for multiplayer. I kind of felt that these missions were a bit too short, and, yes, I noted some frustration with a limit of only so many credits you can earn in this mode. Still, it’s entertaining while it lasts, and it does give you some hands-on time with your favorite heroes and villains, depending on which side you choose.
But let’s get to what really counts in Battlefront II – the multiplayer. The game features five different modes, many of which will be familiar to fans of the first Battlefront. Only here, outside of that microtransaction system, they seem a little more balanced.
The real draw here will no doubt be Galactic Assault, a massive mode where it’s one side against another in all-out domination. This is probably Battlefront II’s biggest mode, although, I dunno, part of me liked what the others had to offer. Still, if it’s the most players you’re after, this is a great place to start.
My personal favorite, though, is Starfighter Assault. Nothing beats getting into epic space battles and blowing things up radically. I enjoyed playing both sides of the field here, and trying out a number of nifty space vehicles, blasting enemies out of the sky and utilizing special abilities – like a multi-firing cannon that can lay waste to even the mightiest of Star Destroyers. This was my favorite mode in the original game, and it’s a repeat feat here.
Other modes in the game include Strike, which has smaller maps than Galactic Assault and makes for tighter multiplayer sessions; and Blast, which works like Team Deathmatch, in a kill-or-be-killed fashion. Finally, Heroes and Villains is back, and it’s terrific if you ever wanted to see the likes of Darth Maul and The Force Awakens’ Rey duke it out.
My online sessions with the game worked incredibly well, despite the fact that sometimes it takes a bit for a match to set up, and waiting for respawns is a drag. I’m also not a fan of the matchmaking system at times, because I could recall getting straight-up bludgeoned during certain matches by more experienced players. With the servers opening up to everyone, though, this should see a little more balance – from the Force, I guess?
The Star Cards are also back, and while microtransactions would have provided an endless stream of these cards to those willing to pay, they’re nice to have in their current form. You’ll find a number of perks that you can use to your advantage, just like last time. We might check this out again once EA does flip the switch for microtransactions, but you’re pretty safe when it comes to jumping in today.
Now, that microtransaction system may come up again. My time with it was tiring, to say the least, but I never got to the point of discouragement, mainly because of how entertaining the multiplayer sessions were. I’ll be honest, saving the game last second with the help of Darth Maul was exhilarating, and getting hold of a special weapon can make all the difference. That said, when it’s reapplied, we’re sure to revisit this feature.
Let’s talk presentation. EA had a trio of teams working on the game: DICE with multiplayer, Motive with the single player campaign, and Criterion with the space combat. It all flows seamlessly into a wonderful looking product. The game is very polished, running at a smooth 60 frames per second (for the most part) and featuring a wondrous amount of detail. It almost looks like the films recreated.
That said, there are occasional flaws, like skips in animation and camera issues with space flight and some multiplayer. They’re sure to be fixed over time, though, so stick with it and just enjoy how awesome the game looks. (Oh, and did we mention that Iden just looks bad-ass in her Imperial armor? Indeed.)
As for audio, you’ll hear a number of familiar Star Wars themes that will immediately evoke memories from the film, along with great sound effects, from blasters to lightsabers to droid bleeps and bloops. The voice acting, though, is mixed. I love Gavankar’s work with Versio, but there are some characters that sound more annoyed than driven. At least the sound-alikes for Luke Skywalker and company aren’t bad, though. And Chewie’s still Chewie, so I’ll take it.
Star Wars: Battlefront II has gone through some rough times over the past few weeks, with fan feedback drowning out the effort that the three development teams have poured into the game. But now that EA has pretty much changed course – at least, temporarily – we can focus on the fun that the game has to offer. And there’s a lot.
Mild multiplayer issues and certain limitations aside, Battlefront II is a sequel that improves upon the original in a lot of ways. The multiplayer is more engaging than ever before; single player can offer up some great moments; and Arcade’s not bad, if you can accept the fact there’s only so much you can earn right now. All of this ties together into a Star Wars product that’s got the Force flowing through it.
And kudos to EA for making proper changes. And actually doing it, and not trying. Because, you know – there is no try.
WWG's Score: 4 / 5
Disclaimer: A review code was provided by the publisher.