Star Wars: Battlefront II is one of the most highly-anticipated video games of the year, but its progression system is so deeply flawed that it's causing an uproar amongst fans. And rightfully so DICE's sequel to their 2015 title, Star Wars: Battlefront is already a vast improvement on the "barebones" and rushed release of the first game, to which many gamers felt cheated by the lack of content. Battlefront II is the first Star Wars game since Disney's acquisition of the IP to explore all three eras of the ongoing Skywalker saga - the prequel trilogy, the original trilogy, and the sequel trilogy - as well as incorporating characters and locations from each series. What's more, the sequel contains its own single-player campaign, in which gamers take control of Iden Versio, the leader of the Imperial Special Forces group Inferno Squad.
DICE is also releasing all of Battlefront II's DLC for free in order to keep players occupied and to entice them to keep coming back. However, EA will offset the revenue lost from providing free DLC by adding microtransactions. At first, it sounded like a fair trade: free DLC for the "option" to purchase cosmetics and superfluous gear - but not necessarily the case here for EA's latest. Battlefront II's microtransactions have been fused into the game's progression system - in a similar way to how they ruined Need For Speed Payback - meaning one is directly connected to the other. Although players have the option not to pay real-life cash for any feature or extra content, they may be at a disadvantage for not doing so. They could find themselves playing the game for tens of hours just to play a character they thought would be included at launch.
The game releases Friday but has been available through EA's subscription-based EA Access service on PC and Xbox One and using this, Reddit user TheHotter Potato calculated that it could take approximately 40 hours for a player to acquire enough credits to purchase one of the upper tier Heroes, such as Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker, and that's assuming they don't spend any of their credits on anything else. However, if they were to purchase Crystals (using real-world money), they could obtain enough credits to unlock those heroes straightaway. After all, many gamers can't set aside more than a couple of hours per week to "grind" through the game - and that's precisely the issue.
Why Battlefront II's Progression System is a Major Issue
The problem with Battlefront II's "progression" system is that it's designed as if the game was a free-to-play MMO, which it's not; it's an action-shooter. Players shouldn't have to spend hours "grinding" through anything just to purchase a character (content they've actually already purchased for the retail value of the game) they wanted to play from the beginning. And once players unlock one of the bigger-named iconic heroes, they can only use them in-game once they've accrued enough points to select them and if no one else is already using them. Players have to go through quite a few hurdles before they can even utilize one of the higher tier Heroes, and again, that's assuming they don't spend their in-game credits elsewhere. So, no ships, no elite forces, no battle droids - nothing.
Unfortunately, that's not the only issue since there's a problem with the game's leveling mechanic. The only way to level up each Class is by possessing better and more cards (which only come from crates). By purchasing loot crates, a player can significantly increase their Class level, which is determined by the amount and the quality of cards the player has in each specific Class. What's preventing the game from being strictly pay-to-win, however, is the fact that the cards are gated. Players have to achieve certain ranks before they're allowed to upgrade those cards from one tier to the next (i.e. from 20% to 30% efficiency). That doesn't mean they can't obtain them beforehand. And if they pay real-world money for loot crates, they may already have enough crafting components on-hand when they reach that specified rank to attain a distinct advantage over players similarly-ranked. There's both a problem with balancing here and an element of pay-to-win.
The progression and loot crate systems, and how they tie into microtransactions is complex and confounding enough that it could easily be compared to a college-level economics course - and that's part of the issue. Complexity may eventually encourage casual players (especially children) to purchase microtransactions after realizing that they've spent hours playing the game without ever being able to acquire Luke Skywalker. EA representatives emphasized that they want gamers to "feel accomplished" when unlocking Heroes, as if rewarding grind in a casual-focused game justifies sketchy monetization of progression.
The response to EA's microtransactions has been overwhelmingly negative ever since gamers realized that they may have paid $60 to $80, if not more, only to have Darth Vader locked away at launch. The only way to play as the Dark Lord of the Sith would be to grind through the game for many hours in order to unlock just that one character. So, they better choose wisely. EA's response on Reddit was more of a non-response and they earned themselves the most downvoted post ever on Reddit. They provided no specifics and rather chose to say that they "selected initial values based upon data from the Open Beta and other adjustments made to milestone rewards before launch." That statement means nothing without providing the actual data.
EA Needs to Unlock Battlefront II's Heroes
Playing approximately 40 hours to unlock one Hero may not feel like an accomplishment to many people as much as it feels like a second job. Having all the Heroes unlocked at launch is by far the best option, but that goes against the live service trend the gaming industry (especially EA) is heading down. And now in order to appease consumers and address the record-setting backlash just days before Star Wars: Battlefront II releases, EA has announced that they will reduce the amount of credits needed to purchase Heroes by 75 percent - but is it enough? Consumers shouldn't have to purchase "starter packs" when they've already spent money to buy the game. And cards and items that can affect performance as well as a player's Class level shouldn't come from loot crates. But, that's theongoing debate that plagues many triple-A titles in 2017.
The negative buzz has certainly convinced EA and DICE to make changes to the game's progression and loot crate system prior to launch, but only time will tell if the changes will be enough. After all, this is the third time that EA has had to respond to Battlefront II's progression backlash. In the end, the best way for consumers to convey their dissatisfaction is to boycott the game, NOT by sending developers death threats.
- Star Wars: Battlefront II (2017) release date: Nov 17, 2017