Star Wars Battlefront II review: Beware of the dark side

EA, DICE, Disney, Lucasfilm
EA, DICE, Disney, Lucasfilm /

Battlefront II is finally out after recently enduring much controversy and turns out it’s made many feel anything but a sense of pride and accomplishment.

Developer: DICE, Criterion, Motive
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Platforms: PS4, Xbox One, PC (version reviewed)
Release Date: November 17, 2017

Hope is a pretty simple and complex emotion. It’s that feeling of thinking that things can ultimately get better no matter what, even in the direst of situations or in the face of ultimate defeat. It’s a central theme throughout the Star Wars saga’s iconic original trilogy, and it was what many felt after the Electronic Arts’s initial announcement of Battlefront II. No season passes, no paid DLC, a single player campaign that fits in with the current lore; everything was set up for this to be a can’t-miss, premiere release in the holiday season. What the sequel to 2015’s revival of the beloved series ended up doing was taking a few tiny steps forward, but a few big ones backward that ultimately still don’t inspire much confidence for the current state of Battlefront under EA’s umbrella.

The first Battlefront‘s mixed reception came largely due to a lack of substance beyond online multiplayer. While having great visual and sound design from the folks over at DICE, the game felt hollow past that exterior. Those positive aspects are still very much in the sequel, with things looking and sounding as close to the Star Wars universe any of the related games have gotten before. What’s even better is that all three eras of the franchise are finally compiled into one big collection; the matchups of Droids-Clones, Rebels-Imperials and Resistance-First Order across the game’s 15 maps.

All three eras are represented in this sense as well, from the lush environments of Kashyyyk and Takodana to more industrialized regions like Kamino, Theed and Starkiller Base. Pivotal places like Hoth, Tatooine and Endor all make a return but aren’t really that much different than those found in the 2015 game. Some Battlefront II maps feel a bit too spacious, particularly those used in the 40-player Galactic Assault mode. It almost seems like these were designed with more players in a game at once in mind, and it was just left as is.

… [Iden Versio is] easily the standout character of the entire game.

The sound design also deserves to be commended here. Classic Star Wars scores and new tracks bellow in the heat of battle with some solid voice work in multiplayer modes for the generic trooper characters. Getting warned to watch those wrist rockets in the prequel maps does get a little old after a few games, but it’s still nice to see that some semblance of the original Battlefront titles made its way into this latest game.

Janina Gavankar’s portrayal of campaign protagonist Iden Versio is also noteworthy, as she’s easily the standout character of the entire game. Even amongst cameos of iconic Star Wars heroes and villains (that either has decent or bad voice acting attached to them), she still manages to be one of the most interesting parts of the game. It’s just a shame that her story told through the campaign isn’t exactly that way.

Star Wars Battlefront II
EA, DICE, Disney, Lucasfilm /

Speaking of which, Battlefront II‘s biggest “new” implementation, is by far the single-player campaign. Clocking in at about four-to-five hours or so, players are placed into the boots of the aforementioned Versio through the lens of the Imperial special forces group known as Inferno Squad between the events of the end of Return of the Jedi and near the beginning of The Force Awakens. Without spoiling much more of the plot than that, expect plenty of running and gunning throughout each mission in addition to occasionally taking to the skies in various spacecraft.

There is some fanservice thrown in, but those things don’t ultimately save the campaign from a  predictable narrative that goes just about the way you expect it to. The story felt very rushed together to fit a certain time limit as opposed to giving its characters a chance to breathe and the audience a moment to actually give a damn about what was happening.

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  • In fact, it’s in this mode that glitches and bugs were most apparent in my experience. Vibrating TIE Fighters piloted by the game’s slippery flight controls, enemies shooting Iden through walls and practically useless allied AI are just a few of the problems that were persistent throughout. Enemies also come from all over the place no matter what planet Iden happens to be on, as they come crawling from every nook and crevice imaginable to light her up with blaster fire.

    The multiplayer Star Card system extends to this mode as well, but unlike in multiplayer, they are earned through playing each mission and aren’t upgradable. The earned abilities end up being fairly useful, like getting healed from her companion droid, different sorts of grenades and many passive abilities that give Iden boosts in certain conditions. If the campaign is good for something, it’s teaching players the basics of how Battlefront II plays arguably much better than the tutorial does.

    While Star Wars Battlefront II improves upon the lack of gameplay variety in some ways, it just feels like more of the same as opposed to a vast improvement over the first attempt. It’s an improvement nonetheless, even with that in mind. Fans of local play will probably enjoy the arcade mode’s timed challenges can keep players busy whether done solo or with a friend via split-screen on the console versions. Customizable arcade games are also available, but once each mission has been played once, you’ve seen all there is to see. It’s a mode that’s nice to have and all, but it feels like it’s there just for the sake of being there.

    Star Wars Battlefront II
    EA, DICE, Disney, Lucasfilm /

    The real meat of a game like this is really in the online multiplayer, which is better than the 2015 game. While a relatively low bar to get over, Battlefront II manages to get over it thanks to a few new tweaks. For example, the Battle Points system is a neat way to reward players who are doing well in matches and follow objectives with the ability to play as special classes or even the assortment of Heroes and Villians appropriate to that map. Class-based warfare is also back with Assault, Heavy, Officer and Specialist. Each has their own set of unique traits like the Officers’ role as a general support character or the sniping ability of the Specialist.

    It’s a return to form to the original Battlefront games that’s only marred by the Star Card system that pretty much poisons the entire multiplayer experience by its mere existence. The game modes are fairly interesting in concept too, ranging from the massive Galatic Assault to the deathmatch-inspired Blast or the interstellar dogfights of Starfighter Assault. Much like the first game though, things get messy here once someone scratches the surface.

    There’s also Heroes vs. Villians, a fun deathmatch mode where players can take control of the hero characters and their special abilities. The roster also isn’t half bad, though some more prequel representation beyond Yoda and Darth Maul would have been nice. Obi-Wan Kenobi, Mace Windu or even General Grievous would have all made better additions than Bossk or even Lando (at least for the launch, anyway.) Also having icons like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader locked behind an in-game credit paywall is particularly egregious.

    The loot system is really where the game takes a drastic turn for the worse.

    Every hero was unlocked from the time you launched the first game and, although you had to collect silly battle tokens on the map, they still weren’t behind a massive grind. Though EA has lowered the initial price of unlocking the heroes, the grind is still pretty crazy if one wants to get all of them and snag some loot crates to buff up the troopers that they’ll be playing as most of the time. That’s not even getting into post-launch heroes that, while not costing real money, will still most likely be put behind this credit paywall.

    The loot system is really where the game takes a drastic turn for the worse. While it’s not pay-to-win anymore (at least temporarily), the way in-game credits are distributed makes it even more of a hassle to upgrade a character. For example, I earned anywhere from 200-250 credits per match. I’m about as average of a player as you can get, especially considering that some of the people I was playing against already had the highest classes of cards for their character type.

    It would have taken me a while to just be able to get one of the three crate options, as opposed to saving up to unlock heroes. Sure, there are challenges that can be completed to unlock more credits, but that doesn’t solve the problem either. It’s a problem that I wrote about when the open beta ended in October and prayed that I wouldn’t have to speak of it further. 

    Star Wars Battlefront II
    EA, DICE, Disney, Lucasfilm /

    Oh, and I don’t even want to talk about the times I opened up a crate hoping for a Heavy-class upgrade only to find an emote that I will probably never use. Because yes, the cosmetic items are thrown into the crates as well, just to give to remind you to spend more in order to maybe, just maybe get that one upgrade you need for your favorite class, ship or hero.

    The same could be said for the crafting parts, which aren’t allocated nearly high enough in order to make upgrades to specific cards and weapons. Because of all of these things and, it being the age of the Internet, EA and DICE found themselves in a metaphorical Sarlacc Pit, as opposed to a big pit of cash from unsuspecting consumers and those gullible enough to buy into this wreckless system that openly insulted fans of Star Wars and the gaming public alike.

    These randomly-generated crates being tied to character progression, even without microtransactions, is the sole problem Battlefront II has. It doesn’t look like that can, or will, be fixed at all at this point now that the game has launched. It’s the backbone of the entire multiplayer experience and it gives off more emotions of disappointment and annoyance as opposed to those of hope and even senses of pride and accomplishment.

    5. Put very simply, the Star Card system ruins what’s otherwise an actual improvement from the first of DICE’s galactic efforts. There are indeed more ways to play, albeit those ways come in the form of a largely forgettable campaign and an arcade mode that’s ultimately just not rewarding. Multiplayer is a little better,  but the entire progression system is flawed at its very core, and they run through the entire experience at large. It would take a massive overhaul that’s likely impossible in order to clean up this mess.. Electronic Arts. . Star Wars Battlefront II

    A copy of this game was provided to App Trigger for the purpose of this review. All scores are ranked out of 10, with .5 increments. Click here to learn more about our Review Policy.