It’s very clear from just a little bit of time with Star Wars Battlefront II‘s multiplayer that this is a different beast. Much has been made about the pay-to-win nature of its Star Cards system, but there are some very real positives to focus on too.
While the first game was very open about its approach to immerse players in the sights and sounds of Star Wars – unfortunately, at the expense of gameplay – this one is intent on actually giving players something to do.
Clearly some lessons have been learned about level design, objectives, and balance. There’s still some work to be done on that last one, “balance” – but if the last one put you off, it’s good to know that Battlefront II is fixing its franchise mistakes.
Objectives Are a Thing Now
For starters, there’s an instant feeling of “having something to do” in Battlefront II.
A smaller forest level had changing objectives that saw both sides sprinting an equal distance before getting to the hotspot. Interestingly, sometimes the two teams’ paths to the objective would be almost parallel. This meant there were ample lines of sight as you pushed forward, forcing you to prioritise between movement and taking shots at the enemy’s advances.
Sniper nests existed, and these could prove troublesome for the enemy team. Getting to the nest on foot requires a time-consuming trek through internal hallways that looked like they exist purely to take up time. That may well be the case. A trooper with a jumpjet could easily reach the nest without wasting that half a minute.
The right tool for the right job is important. Though at times, the right tool can only be purchased with Battle Points. More on those later.
Galactic Conquest Is a Bit Like Rush Mode
Just like Call of Duty WWII is stealing this feature from other games that did it better, so too does Battlefront II want to get in on the action.
Galactic Conquest features a very large map with cascading objectives. When one is completed, the defenders fall back to the next one. If the attackers can get everything done in time, they win.
There are a few small twists here though. The open beta’s only map for this mode was a very open city on Naboo, in which clone troopers were defending against a droid army. Much of the map was open to the player right from the start, which sometimes involved long sprints from your spawn to the fight. Make of that what you will.
One interesting point about this particular level is how level it is. The main drag has very few slopes or stairs, and the lack of change in elevation means you often have friends in your line of sight as everyone bunches around corners.
A large troop transport vehicle on the attacking side needed to make its way down a main road leading up to a capital building. If it made it, a new phase of building siege would start and the fighting would become much more close-quartered.
Instead of working against an actual clock, the attackers just needed to keep their massive vehicle alive. Single-use missile launchers would spawn periodically, the only weapon strong enough for the defenders to damage the troop transport. It was up to the attackers to make sure they could never use them.
Not only could you use your Battle Points to control more powerful units like battle droids or air vehicles, you could actually jump into one of the many weapons of the troop transport, and make the main street in the middle a very dangerous place for the enemy to sprint across.
This is a far more nuanced and involved multiplayer than we saw in the first Star Wars Battlefront.
It still doesn’t have as much going on as other multiplayer games, but I wasn’t instantly worried about this game like I was with the last. Ultimately, it’ll be the difference between becoming bored with the game after a solid week of play, instead of one solid evening.
You Mentioned Slopes?
Let’s talk about those Battle Points.
It’s an infinitely better system than before. The previous game had you running around looking for random spawns on the map that would power up the first person that made contact with them. Run through a TIE Fighter icon, and you’ll fly one. Run through a missile launcher icon, and you’ll wield one.
This new system sees you gaining Battle Points for various things like kills, playing the objective, and being close to teammates. These points can then be spent on the type of power up you want. If a particular enemy tactic is giving you trouble, you can spend a few points on an easier solution.
The main thing is you can use these points tactically, instead of running around randomly hoping for something fun to happen. It’s better.
That said, there is a worry of a “slippery slope” situation coming into play.
Jumping into a powerful vehicle or grabbing just the right weapon means – provided you don’t stuff it up – you’re about to do some damage. That means getting even more Battle Points.
This then makes it easier for your team to also do well. Battle Points beget Battle Points. Success begets success.
That manifests itself in the most dangerous possible way in the form of heroes. Darth Maul in the hands of a good player can be very tough to take down. There may yet be effective anti-hero strategies, but it’ll take some time for the community to figure those out. As it currently stands, there’s not a lot you can do when a force user comes at you.
This is the type of things betas are for, and hopefully DICE will tweak the game so when the enemy has a powerful hero, your side has a tough-but-possible way out.
Micro Transactions, Macro Effect
Then, of course, there’s the monetisation on a game that was already monetised when you bought it.
In typical “loot box” fashion, you’ll slowly unlock “Star Cards” that affect your use of troopers, vehicles, and heroes. Much of the time, these are outright numerical increases. Add 10% health, recover 20% faster, do 30% more damage.
The amount depends on how rare your Star Card is. I certainly didn’t see any top-level Star Cards drop when I was playing, but surprise surprise, you’ll be able to pay for more of them to hopefully get the ones you really want.
There’s no way around it — these are bad. The system is in no way pro-consumer. Loot boxes aren’t great in general, but this is the worst kind of implementation.
As I mentioned before, I don’t think this game will capture the attention of players for a very long time. It’ll remain interesting a lot longer than the last one did, but it has virtually no chance of being an esport. Which means the argument of “we need to spread out the acquisition of content” is moot.
The time it’ll take to unlock everything is far longer than the time it’ll take for you to move onto another game. It’s a balls-out, transparent pay-to-win scenario.
That’s obviously another big factor that’ll affect the game’s longevity. If people can’t take the game seriously in terms of competition, they’ll move on. And there are plenty of great games to choose from this year.