Over the weekend, Star Wars Battlefront II held an open beta across Xbox One, Playstation 4, and PC, giving fans an opportunity to check out what EA and DICE have cooked up for the sequel. Their first installment of Star Wars Battlefront released in 2015, and though the game sold well and was generally well-received, it lacked the content that would have made it a true successor to previous Battlefront games first developed by LucasArts in the early 2000s.
For Battlefront II, EA indicated that they've listened to players' biggest complaints, creating a single-player campaign, including more co-op, and moved starfighter battles from low-orbit to outer space. Yet, for as welcomed as these changes are, there are other decisions the developers have made that are absolutely baffling - to the point they may have actually broken what was shaping up to be a fantastic sequel.
Where The Game Succeeds...
Surprising no one, Star Wars Battlefront II is a stunning game to play, perfectly recreating the look and feel of the Star Wars universe. This attention to detail was already evident in their first Battlefront, but it's amazing the difference only a few years can make. Though only a few multiplayer maps were available during the open beta, they are each an incredible recreation of their setting.
As for the gameplay, much will be familiar to anyone who's played the 2015 Battlefront. Players can switch from either first-person or third-person views and customize their load outs from the available weapons, as always, but this sequel now includes four available soldier classes - Assault, Heavy, Officer, or Specialist. These classes inject matches with more variety, at times forcing players to switch up their tactics or rethink how they'll approach an enemy. It isn't a perfect system, and certain classes are more useful in certain modes while less so in others, but offering players the option to play a support role as opposed to solely offensive shakes things up a bit. Star Cards still exist, providing players with powerful bonuses and abilities (more on that later), and the vehicle and hero perks which used to get picked up as items in matches are now purchased with Battle Points. These points are earned by inflicting damage to opponents and participating in objectives, and the purchased perks are only usable once per match. The idea of making something like playing as Darth Maul a perk that's earned rather than acquired by luck is a good idea, in theory, but the jury is still out on how well this works in practice. (For my part, I never earned enough to unlock a hero character, with those who did almost always being the best player and that match's MVP. So while less random, it isn't necessarily more fair.)
Both Galactic Assault and Strike Assault aren't wildly different from multiplayer modes available in 2015's Battlefront, with Galactic feeling akin to super-sized games of Turning Point and the smaller Strike Assaults playing a bit like capture the flag. These multiplayer modes are wild and chaotic, dropping players into frenetic fire fights. Each comes with a different set of objects outside of shoot the enemy dead, giving some sense of direction and order. By far, though, the mode which has improved the most in Battlefront II is Starfighter Assault. As previously mentioned, these are honest-to-goodness space battles. Not only has their setting been redesigned, but the controls feel more responsive and easier to get a handle on. (For example, rarely could I hit a ship in Battlefront's Fighter Squadron, but in Starfighter Assault, I managed to shoot down several. It's a marked improvement for myself and the game.) There are classes among the starships, too, like the agile Interceptor class which includes the A-Wing and Tie Interceptors, and choosing the right one for the mission at hand can make all the difference.
The Star Wars Battlefront II beta demonstrates that EA and DICE are interested in addressing many player's concerns from the first game, beefing up the modes available, adding in classes, while still offering content for those less interested in joining in the multiplayer madness. But for as good as all we've outlined above is, other additions to the game zap just enough of the fun and can make playing Battlefront II feel tedious.
- Star Wars: Battlefront II (2017) release date: Nov 17, 2017