Star Wars: Battlefront II
Two years after the mixed bag that was the rebooted shooter, Star Wars: Battlefront (2015), developer DICE is back with production company EA to bring their Star Wars license to new heights, and hit the notes that were promised in the original game. Battlefront II takes a lot of cues from fans and critics of the first, and in many ways is an improvement on the original while keeping the parts that did work well, like the fantastic sound score, graphics, and gameplay.
NOTE: My review of Star Wars: Battlefront II is based on my experience with the game on PlayStation 4.
A Much-Needed Story
Probably the most substantial addition to Battlefront II is the inclusion of a full cinematic campaign. Battlefront II takes place at the end of the Return of the Jedi (1983) film and mainly follows an Imperial Inferno Squad member, Commander Iden Versio. Overall, I thought the campaign was very well done. Cinematics were top-notch and the voice casting was great. Iden Versio became a standout character by the end. She began as somewhat stoic and unemotional, but through the campaign, she opened up quite a bit and became a very strong personality on-screen.
Something the campaign did unexpectedly well was switching perspectives through the story. There are missions placed intermittently where you play as Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo, and Lando Calrissian. I was very surprised by these segments, mostly because I wasn’t expecting to play as heroes. Luke is the first you play in the campaign and I was stoked to have that saber in my hands and have the power of the Force.
The game is also interlaced with several flying segments, where you pilot TIE fighters and X-wings. The variance of gameplay was fantastic.
You can customize Iden’s loadouts throughout the story. You begin each mission with an already-curated loadout that the developers thought to be good to use for that particular mission, but there are crates you come across that allow you to choose different abilities, specials, and weapons. You’re also able to access this menu upon death.
The campaign started out extremely well. The opening mission has you take control of a droid first thing and break Iden out of Rebel containment. It’s a stealth section to kick off the story that I very much appreciated, but once you free Iden and take control of her, the action picks up immediately as you begin blowing away Rebel soldiers. By the end of the campaign, I was feeling very excited and was enjoying myself very much. For what it is, a story that now exists within the film canon, it’s really good.
If anything negative can be said about the Battlefront II campaign, it’s that it was pretty short: maybe 5-6 hours at most. I wish they had delved a little deeper into Iden and her loyalty to the Empire, her relationship with her father, Admiral Versio, her friendship with her Inferno squadmates, Del and Hask. The pacing of the campaign felt very quick, jumping from moment to moment, battle to battle, without ever taking a substantial breath. It was fun, don’t get me wrong. It never felt dull or played out too much; I was very happily drawn into the story. But I will also say that while playing from the Imperial perspective was fun and intriguing, it was over far too quickly, as Iden defects and reluctantly joins the Rebels. It’s just another drawback due to how short the game was.
There was a segment where you play as Han Solo, who is trying to procure top secret information regarding the Imperial occupation of Kashyyyk, the Wookie homeworld. I was excited to drop in on the planet and free the Wookies that have most likely been living in slavery and tyranny since the ending of Revenge of the Sith (2005). Will it be a part of a future story DLC? I sure hope so; I definitely don’t want to wait for Battlefront III to have that answered.
Speaking of a prospective Battlefront III, I did not like the cliffhanger that the campaign ended on. The epilogue has you playing as Kylo Ren, decades after the main events of the campaign, and that was fun and all, but after the events of this final chapter, you’re itching to get the controller back in your hands and play as an older Iden and fight the early spawn of The First Order. But Battlefront II leaves you hanging, almost insultingly. With the pushback on the first game’s lack of campaign and story, this game’s campaign had to be definitive, and part of that definition comes from a solid conclusion, but we don’t get that here, unfortunately.
Gameplay & the Multiplayer
The first Battlefront game brought the excitement of Star Wars to next-gen consoles in a big way, with classic locations and hero characters battling it out on beautiful maps, backed by the iconic John Williams score. Battlefront II brings back all of those iconic aspects, thankfully. The game feels smooth and authentic to the Star Wars universe. Gunplay is fast and games can be very exciting. One basic thing that bothers me, however, is the melee. It is slow and completely throws you out of whatever you’re doing. I’m just so confused how a quick gun-bash melee wasn’t incorporated. It was in the first game, where did it go? Don’t bother trying to melee kill an enemy, just hip-fire spray your gun, it’ll be more effective.
Before I get into the online multiplayer, I do want to talk about the “Arcade” mode that was placed in the game. The first Battlefront had segments in the game they called “missions”, which were actually just a short few mini-missions and the Survival game mode (basically horde mode) on the multiplayer maps. Arcade mode has “Battle Scenarios” where there are eight missions on both the Light Side and the Dark Side, and they’re basically bot matches. You just get to control heroes. There’s also some split-screen Arcade parts where you can load in bot matches with some customizable options and either play together as allies or versus each other. Aside from the split-screen bot games, I would have completely substituted the Battle Scenarios for Galactic Conquest.
I know I’m probably the millionth person to ask for Galactic Conquest back from Battlefront II (2005) but it’s a staple of the Battlefront franchise now, and to willfully omit it in favor of useless and boring Battle Scenarios seems a little insulting and lazy. There are plenty of locations in this game that could’ve supported Galactic Conquest. It could’ve gone through all three eras, starting in the Clone Wars, through the original trilogy’s Empire, and then the sequel’s First Order Era. It could’ve been a great addition that could be played solo or split-screen; I’m not even asking for online, just solo or split-screen, that’s it. That would’ve been great. But no. We get Battle Scenarios instead.
Another aspect of the multiplayer is the Star Cards and gear customization. Despite a lot of pushback, Battlefront II has an in-game currency and crafting system for players to purchase new items and abilities. The micro-transactions are a big controversy for the game. It came under a lot of fire, pre-release, for its questionable loot crate system; many people were afraid that the game was pay-to-win. But since the early release of the Deluxe edition owners, Oskar Gabrielson, general manager at DICE, announced that they were going to suspend the in-game purchases of crystals and focus on progression through gameplay. I have to give points to DICE on this one. I have no doubt it was the execs at EA that pushed for micro-transactions, and I give props to DICE for basically going against their major publisher for their players.
The game still has a few problems with progression. There are now four basic classes (Assault, Heavy, Officer, and Specialist) and each has their own unique abilities and special weapons to use. What makes these classes a little underwhelming is that the weapons they have are extremely limited. Each class has only four guns to use. To make matters worse, the guns aren’t too different from one another. There needs to be more variation among class weapons.
However, the special Star Cards you can get for the classes do vary a good amount and they each have their own use on each map with each game type. However, there are a few special abilities that don’t feel all to special. Either they’re just really finicky and don’t feel worth the trouble using them, or they fun to use. Hero characters return and they’re a lot of fun to play. Jedi, specifically, got a tune-up. I used to favor the gunner types like Han Solo, but now I like the Jedi more. Perhaps it’s the addition of Kylo Ren and Rey.
Finally, you’re able to use heroes based on your in-game performance. You earn Battle Points through games via kills, objective plays, etc. and you can choose to play a hero by spending those points in-game.
There is a lot of give-and-take with the multiplayer in Battlefront II. The game type list has shortened to five modes, but I really enjoy each mode. Heroes vs. Villains returns and gets a nice tune-up. There aren’t any random troopers ruining the hero fights anymore; instead, it’s a 4v4 match with each player as a hero. Each round, there is a Target player that the opposing team has to eliminate. The first team to get 10 eliminations wins. This is a lot of fun. It gives everyone the opportunity to play as some of their favorite heroes. There are a lot of tense moments throughout these matches and great 1v1s. Boba Fett still destroys everything, though; some heroes still need to be rebalanced.
The major game type in Battlefront II is Galactic Assault, a 40-player dynamic objective mode. Galactic Assault is a lot of fun. The games rely heavily on teamwork; some games can be tense, close battles, or completely one-sided blowouts. The games that last are the best ones. the game modes like Strike and Clash are smaller, shorter matches that get really hectic. But one thing that holds most of these modes back is the long and far spawns. I feel spawned away from all the action too often. When a game is close and I need to get back into the fight quickly, I’m screwed over by a 10 second spawn time and spawn a mile away from anything. I understand keeping spawn killings down is important, but I can’t even spawn on squadmate. That was a very useful part of Battlefront and it’s an odd thing to strike from the game. Starfighter Assault is an awesome aerial combat mode that features some great space battles. They aren’t the space battles of old, though. You never land on another ship to sabotage its defenses, but the combat is smooth throughout and across all three areas, you can revisit some iconic space locations. There’s plenty to enjoy in these game types for both competitive gamers and casuals.
Final Rating 7.75/10
It’s a definite improvement upon the working formula that was introduced to us in the first Battlefront. Gameplay remains tight and enjoyable, and the visuals, sound design, and score are impeccable. Battlefront II is definitely one of the best-looking games out right now. The campaign is admirable really. Iden Versio is likable and well-written. I really wish it were longer to allow the story to explore this extended piece of the universe more deeply, but I enjoyed the campaign very much overall. The multiplayer is a mixed bag, yet again. The gameplay remains strong and the game modes are truly fun in their own right. However, the progression and loot system are where the game begins to rust up. Battlefront II needs to be straightforward with its progression. A basic reward system based on gameplay achievements and time is the clearest way to move forward with the future of Battlefront. I hope DICE takes these lessons into serious consideration and pushes even further to make the best Star Wars game possible. But for now, this will do just fine. Future free DLC is very exciting; I hope in-game tune-ups and restructuring are also on the menu.