These days, Star Wars and disappointment seem to go hand in hand.
The new Disney-fied stuff aside, just look back on the prequel trilogy. If you don’t want to go back that far, just look at the recent video games from a galaxy far, far away. Nothing stands out.
2015’s Star Wars Battlefront is a great example of a recent overhyped exercise. A full multiplayer game, the lack of a solo campaign left many fans unhappy. Thankfully, EA, in its infinite wisdom, saw fit to make some drastic changes to the game and Star Wars Battlefront II is the galactic epic that every padawan has been waiting for.
After wrapping up the relatively short single player campaign, and immersing myself with the various multiplayer modes, there is no doubt that this is one of the best Star Wars games ever produced. There’s no bad feeling about this one folks, as the game contains an immersive story mode, and a universe spanning multiplayer mode that covers all 3 major Star Wars eras – Prequel Trilogy, Original Trilogy and New Trilogy.
On the PlayStation 4, the game is very polished, and hands down the prettiest looking Star Wars game to date. Running at a consistent 60 frames per second, the game brings you into the Star Wars universe, complete with all the iconic soundtracks and authentic audio effects that fans have come to love and recognise.
The developers have done a great job of letting the player switch the game’s perspective on-the-fly, to suit each player’s preference. With just a simple tap of the down direction button, one can switch between first person and third person view (with right or left-hand aim). And this applies to starfighter levels too, which toggles between cockpit view and back of the starfighter view. The only exception is for the lightsaber wielding characters, who are fixed at third person view, which makes sense.
Iden Versio’s Story – A New Tale
The events of the single-player story campaign takes place after the destruction of the Death Star II, from The Return of the Jedi, and tells part of the story of what happened in the galaxy leading up to The Force Awakens. And yes, the game is (for now) official Star Wars canon. Developers of the game should pat themselves on the back for delivering good voice acting and mocap performance. Facial animations and expressions are extremely well done, unlike the wooden efforts by BioWare.
As Iden Versio, Commander of Inferno Squad, players experience life through a challenging period of the Empire, following the Battle of Endor, destruction of the Death Star II, and of course, death of Emperor Palpatine. Through the course of the campaign, you not only get to play as Iden, but also get to play as many familiar Star Wars characters. This includes favourites like Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, and several others. Revealing more will produce some spoilers, so I’ll leave it to players to discover things on their own, but there are guaranteed moments that will bring that will bring up that geek grin.
The average runtime for the campaign is about 6 – 8 hours, depending on your difficulty setting. It’s rather short, but there is a good mix of shooter and starfighter missions, and every mission is varied in location and objectives, so there is little or no feeling of repetition at all. Interspersed with beautiful cutscenes, the overall experience is a very satisfying one for any Star Wars fan.
My only gripe is that there is little replayability for the campaign, apart from wanting to relive the epic moments again. Yes, you do earn credits (which are used for unlocking characters and buying crates in multiplayer mode) for completing each mission for the first time, and for collecting all the collectibles hidden in each mission, but that’s about it. There is no additional bonus reward for playing at the harder difficulty settings (3 levels). Heck, there isn’t even a trophy for completing the game on the hardest difficulty setting!
During the various starfighter missions, as I was blasting my 100th TIE Fighter out of the sky and space, a part of me wished that my ace piloting skills would have amounted to some form of reward, such as a trophy or even bonus credits, but alas, there isn’t any real motivation to perform well. All players need to do is ignore everything else, and go straight for the exhaust port. I guess I’ll have to settle for the Starfighter Assault multiplayer mode to put those skills to proper good use.
The game ends with somewhat of a cliffhanger, which also leads in nicely to the beginning of The Force Awakens. It’s actually rare nowadays to have a game ending this good, and yes, it was quite satisfying. Although my journey with Iden has concluded, I know I won’t have to wait very long to continue with Iden’s story as there is an all-new chapter for the story campaign coming in the form of a free DLC on December 5th! While some fans might complain about buying an incomplete game, the use of DLC as a lure, or even an option to receive new content, is much appreciated. Especially since it is free.
Multiplayer Modes Galore!
No Battlefront title is complete without a multiplayer mode and with a vast variety of multiplayer modes available, there is something for everyone. Spanning across 11 locations for the ground battles, and 5 locations for aerial/space battles, there are a decent variety of maps to keep players happy. Battlefront II also brings back 4 distinct trooper classes for more tactical play – Assault, Heavy, Officer and Specialist.
Battlefront’s signature 20v20 mode, Galactic Assault, is probably going to be one of the most played multiplayer modes for Battlefront II. You get to do it all in these multi-stage, objective-based maps, from spawning as 4 trooper classes, to jumping into a ground vehicle, or piloting a Starfighter, calling in reinforcements, and being a hero character.
The ability to choose any of the options other than the standard 4 trooper classes, depends on the player’s performance, which earns them Battle Points, which will go into redeeming the use of a vehicle or hero character. This makes of a fun dynamic which could turn the tide of the match pretty quickly.
My personal favourite mode has to be the Starfighter Assault. Developed from the ground up by Criterion Games (of Burnout fame), they were the perfect studio to nail the intensity of space dogfighting. If you’re like me, and have lived through the golden era of space simulation PC games X-Wing (1993) and TIE Fighter (1994), and played the bejesus out of them back in the day, this is the closest you’ll ever get to re-live those moments again.
Except that this time, the visual and audio treatment is as close to the movies as you’ll ever get. The dogfights are frenetic and deeply satisfying, especially when you’ve earned enough points to respawn as a hero vehicle like the Millennium Falcon, Poe Dameron’s X-Wing or Darth Vader’s TIE Advanced. Much like the trooper classes, ships are also split into 3 distinct classes, Fighter, Bomber and Interceptor. Depending on your play style and situation of the fight, you can choose to respawn as a Bomber class when there is a need to take down a capital ship, or an Interceptor when there is an urge to take revenge on that particular ace pilot adversary.
Another mode that’s worthy of a mention would be the 4v4 Heroes vs. Villains mode, where players can choose from 7 dark side and 7 light side heroes and battle it out. Come 5 December, Finn and Captain Phasma will join in the fray to up the roster to a total of 16 characters! Read more about my impressions and watch a playthrough as Kylo Ren here.
There is also the Arcade mode, which lets players go solo or co-op through various quick 2 – 3 minute battle scenarios with enemy AI on three tiers of difficulty. This mode is perfect for when you have friends drop by for a gaming session in your living room, as it is the only mode that supports split-screen play. There is even a 1-on-1 versus mode (also in split-screen) for you to settle any grudges.
To round it all off, there is also the 8v8 Strike mode where players utilize teamwork to seize or sabotage objectives. And there is the 10v10 Blast mode where the first team to attain 100 kills wins. Everybody loves a good and mindless team deathmatch once in a while.
Across all the modes of play, be it single or multiplayer, the player is able to maintain a unified career progression. As you play across all modes, you earn credits, which goes towards unlocking hero characters and vehicles. Or should you choose to, the credits can go to purchasing crates, which contains random unlocks. There is a daily crate, trooper crate, vehicle crate and hero crate to choose from, so spend your credits wisely.
There are some recent complaints that the act of unlocking each hero is a grinding chore in itself, but if these detractors bothered to play the game, they would know not to assume before trying it out for themselves. A majority of the credits are actually earned in the solo campaign mode, and after completing the story campaign, you would already earn almost 30,000 in credits, which is enough to unlock multiple characters across the different eras. There has also been quite a bit of early buzz going on about the high credit costs for unlocking key iconic heroes such as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, who each cost 60,000 credits, but if you’re looking for a game that hands over everything on a silver platter, Call of Duty: World War II has also just come out. [UPDATE: It looks like EA has taken in the feedback from reddit seriously and has issued a blog statement on reducing the credit requirements in unlocking the top heroes by 75%. This means Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader now cost 15,000 credits each to unlock. Yay!]
Battlefront II’s makes use of Star Cards to adapt and enhance your characters and vehicles, to suit your play style and each battle scenario. Star Cards are earned through play and from opening crates. Each player will be able to select up to 3 cards at any one time, so choose wisely. Apart from credits, you will also earn crafting parts from playing the game’s multiplayer modes, which will go towards crafting/upgrading your existing Star Cards to a higher tier, strengthening their respective effects.
Some players may grumble at EA’s decision to include the ability to purchase crates in the game, and even with the option to buy crystals with real money, to purchase crates. Such mechanics have become a main criticism of free-to-play games, and are usually not a welcome addition to AAA game titles like Battlefront II, but from what I have gathered, the items in the crates are the same thing that you can also obtain from playing. Yes, some players might take the shortcut of buying these upgrades, but they will lose the skills gained from extensive playing.
For one thing, Epic Star Cards (the highest tier of Star Cards) are not attainable from crates, and players still need to reach a certain rank in the game (through actual gameplay) to upgrade their Star Cards through crafting. There are also weapons and gear that are unlockable only through playing the game, and achieving certain milestones.
More To Come.. FREE DLCs!
With a beautiful and complete campaign mode, and a wide variety of multiplayer modes, Star Wars Battlefront II is bound to keep fans engaged throughout this holiday season and beyond. To make it all the more sweeter, the developers have also promised that all future DLCs will be free for all owners of the game, and the first season of “The Last Jedi” DLC content has already been announced to drop on December 5th (more details here), just in time to ride on the hype for the new movie. There are new playable heroes (Finn and Captain Phasma), maps, hero ships, campaign chapter, challenges and rewards.
See you on the Battlefront!