Editor’s Note: Review was written and published prior to DICE’s recent announcement regarding changes to Star Wars Battlefront II’s in-game rewards system. Mammoth Gamer’s Battlefront II review will remain unchanged and reflects the state the game was in before these changes were made.
Star Wars Battlefront II is the definitive Star Wars experience, at least in terms of immersion. If what you want is to essentially roleplay within the galaxy of the Star Wars saga, you’ll no doubt get that. Unfortunately, Battlefront II is marred by a progression system so dense that the grind to earn more perks grows tiresome.
B1 battle droids going head-to-head with clone troopers in the city of Theed. Attacking the Empire’s shipyard at Fondor as an X-Wing pilot. Striking down Resistance scum on Starkiller Base, the First Order’s ultimate weapon. These are only glimpses of what awaits players, and Star Wars fans, in Battlefront II. That is, you can play across each pivotal era of the Star Wars saga, including the prequels, original trilogy, and sequel era.
This time around Battlefront II features classes such as Assault, Officer, Heavy Gunner, and Specialist, and each have a unique draw that makes them standout from the rest. The Assault class is best suited for running and gunning, and comes equipped with a scan dart that temporarily reveals enemy whereabouts. In contrast, the Heavy Gunner moves slower than most classes but has raw fire power and can deploy a protective shield at their front to soak up enemy fire. What’s more is that each class has a unique set of blasters to unlock as you level up that particular class.
Star Cards return, which are made up of abilities such as faster healing, shortened weapon cooling time, as well as offensive items like ion torpedoes, and thermal detonators. Up to three Star Cards can be equipped on each of your classes. Here’s the thing, though, Battlefront II never teaches you how the progression system works. You’ll find yourself leveling up and earning loot crates, which can hold new Star Cards inside, but why is my overall rank leveling up but not my class rank? Short story: you rank up your class by purchasing new Star Cards, which in turn opens up two more Star Card slots. Each class starts with only one slot open.
Star Cards even apply to the hero characters. Yes, even the likes of Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, and Boba Fett can be upgraded. For example, the range of Darth Vader’s Force Choke can be improved to allow for more targets choked, or, say, if Kylo Ren’s health dips below 25%, his saber strikes are greatly empowered. There’s a Star Card for every situation. It’s just a matter of seeing which best suits your style.
Here’s the problems with all this, however. Progression is a demanding grind in everything you do. I’ll try to break this down as easily as I can. Let’s backtrack to the classes again and work our way down. So you’re liking the Assault class, and you see that each of the three locked weapons in your class can be unlocked in three tiers. Get 50 kills in your class, unlock a new weapon. Simple. Then 200 kills for the second weapon, and finally 500 kills for the third. I’ve been playing the Assault class exclusively. I play Battlefront II, on average, 12-14 hours a week, or a couple of hours a night. Adjusting for time playing through the entire campaign, and replaying it to find collectibles, trying out other game modes like Heroes vs. Villains, and Starfighter Assault, in which no classes are used, I still have not reached the 200 kill tier.
So if you don’t like to stick to one game for too long, and get some decent time with Battlefront II during the week, and unless you’re playing modes that specifically use your class, and unless you’re a skilled player, reaching 500 kills for all four classes could take several months. Years if you step away from the game for a long time.
Star Cards require credits to unlock, and crafting parts to upgrade. How do you get credits? In loot crates, playing multiplayer, playing Arcade Mode, reaching career milestones, all of which can be tracked from the main menu. How do you get crafting parts? In loot crates, by locating all the hidden collectibles in the campaign, and reaching milestones. But when you do receive these currencies it feels miniscule. I have observed that players at the top of the scoreboard can average 350 credits a match, while a player at the bottom of the board can earn 320 at least for playing the objective. If Darth Vader requires 15,000 credits to unlock, at, let’s say an average of 300 credits a match, you’d have to play at least 50 matches to earn those credits, not counting bonus credits earned by reaching milestones.
If you want Darth Vader, but also want to boost your Starfighters, Heroes, or Troopers, loot crates for these cost 2,200, 2,400, and 4,000 credits, respectively. Because of the low credit returns in multiplayer, you can’t spend a single credit on crates unless you want to prolong getting Vader even further. And while you can earn 100 credits for every arcade match, Battlefront II’s Arcade Mode has a credit restriction in place. Once you earn 500 credits in arcade, you can’t earn anymore until after an eight hour cool-down period. You can still play Arcade Mode as you wish, but you won’t earn credits once you’ve capped out.
Credits are wholly joined at the hip for progression. It’s no surprise that EA has come under fire for their business practice, but it’s true in Battlefront II’s case. While, today, you can’t pay-to-win, that’s still how this game was designed to work. A third currency, called Crystals, while not currently active, is tied to real world money. By purchasing Crystals with your money, you can spend those on loot crates which contain a randomized assortment of Star Cards, Crafting Parts, and Credits. Had you found the grind for more credits through normal means of play to be too exhausting, you could spend real money to get it instantly.
With the current, and temporary, omission of microtransactions, progression in Battlefront II is such a slog. EA’s current reputation is not the focal point of this review, but you can’t deny their dysfunctional system impacted Battlefront II severely. The Star Cards system is completely terrible in execution.
But where does Battlefront II go right? There’s now a single player campaign that follows the story of Iden Versio and Inferno Squad immediately after the Battle of Endor. While a little on the short side, I was still entertained by the campaign. The cast was spot-on, and I had no doubt in my mind that I was witnessing a cinematic Star Wars story and, more importantly, a tale in the new canon. That being said, some have given a certain moment in the campaign some heat as well as its choice of pacing. To remain impartial, from the perspective of a gamer I can see how the story arc may throw some for a loop. However, having read the Inferno Squad novel beforehand (and having a clear understanding of the Star Wars canon) I found the ends justify the means. I couldn’t help grinning to hear how the game throws mentions at names and events already expanded on in the saga’s novels and comics, including the motives of Operation Cinder and Fleet Admiral Gallius Rax. The way Battlefront II weaves these threads together will be quite entertaining to the most hardcore of Star Wars aficionados.
While the campaign largely has you boots-on-ground, there are moments when you jump into the cockpit of a TIE fighter, or play as legacy characters like Luke and Han. While there’s a good size of the game devoted to the hero characters, I wish there was more starfighter gameplay. There’s one occasion where Iden flies her TIE right into the docking bay of a Rebel cruiser and the camera shifts into a cockpit view while you blast rebel scum away with your brilliant emerald green lasers.
In fact, starfighter gameplay has been revamped completely. It’s a little difficult to describe flight controls, but know that navigation and combat while in a ship is leaps and bounds better than in the first game. U-turns and rolls are now fully controllable rather than being relegated to buttons on the D-pad. While a little jarring at first, and after adjusting flight controls to my preferences, I was scoring kills faster and more consistently than I ever did in the first game. Because of this, Starfighter Assault is one of the funnest game modes to play in Battlefront II.
There’s no longer a hero power-up to be found in the map. DICE has dropped that in favor of a Battle Points system. Battle Points are earned by getting kills, playing the objective, and can even be multiplied if you do these things while sticking with your squad. Earn enough Battle Points and you can spend them on more elite characters like super battle droids, jump pack troopers, Wookiee warriors, and flame troopers. You can even man the guns of an AT-AT Walker, LAAT ship, or take control of an AT-ST. However, the most sought after characters are the legacy characters, Vader, Emperor Palpatine, Leia, Luke, Han, Lando, Kylo Ren, and more. Any player is capable of having their turn as a hero character. It’s a great improvement over randomly stumbling upon a hero power-up, where all your teammates are in a mad scramble to be the first one to claim it.
I still enjoy playing Battlefront II, despite its numerous and ill-conceived flaws. I see the beautiful and imaginative worlds in the saga’s galaxy and I grow excited. I can hear a clone trooper shout, “let’s get those clankers!” and know that this is definitely Star Wars. Dodging house-sized chunks of debris, in my ship, following the second Death Star’s destruction is amazing. The immersion is the best I’ve felt in a long time.
Yet there’s no overlooking the sad, harsh truth. While fun to play, Battlefront II’s progression system not only knocks players over, it also kicks them while they’re down, and would have gone for their wallets, too. The consumer was right to feel afraid prior to the game’s launch. What was it that Master Yoda said about fear? “Fear is the path to the dark side. Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate, leads to suffering.” EA and DICE have since made significant changes to the game, dropping Darth Vader’s and Luke Skywalker’s credit cost by 75%, and temporarily suspending microtransactions. Pray they alter the deal further…. for the greater good. Pray, because the Force is not strong with this one.