I spent a lot of time this weekend exploring the Star Wars: Battlefront II open beta (customary article reference here). After having played the first game enough to realise that it was an incomplete mess, I’d seen many a promising trailer for the sequel, and had decided that the EA DICE development team could only travel in one direction: straight up. Battlefront II boasts a significant increase in the amount of launch-day content over its predecessor; it has also done away with the notorious season pass, courtesy of EA’s hasty business MO change. But are these charitable alterations enough to bring Battlefront II out from the shade?
Yeah, you sell it, John Boyega.
I’ll begin by stating the obvious: Battlefront II is a vast improvement over its older sibling. By making the weapons feel unique and the classes distinct, the game already begins to depart from the unabashed anarchy of Battlefront; choosing a class, selecting a weapon, and adding your own customisation are all things that ought to have been fundamental in the development of a FPS. I found myself switching classes with surprising frequency as the game modes demanded it of me: the Specialist rifles actually were terrible in close quarters, whilst the Assault weapons required some trigger discipline at range.
Of course, the Heroes remained as powerful as one might expect – they were also easier to come by, provided you could accumulate enough Battle Points over the course of a round. But easy access to vehicles and lower-tier Elite Classes meant that it was still uncommon to see Darth Maul’s sabre spinning furiously more than once per game, and though no one enjoys being ruined by a Jet Trooper, the limitations on numbers forced players down alternate BP-spending routes.
Now, I’m still a little sore that vehicles no longer simply spawn on-map over the course of a round, but the sheer presence of so many more (and this applies to much of the new Battlefront II content) is a definite boon. That said, I am left hoping that larger maps offer more land-based vehicle variety, particularly because piloting a spacecraft can be pretty dull without others to dogfight. Did I mention just how entertaining dogfights are? No? We’ll get there.
The Beta did not offer much by way of map-and-mode content, but this did not hinder the experience. Galactic Assault translated the AT-AT Assault mode of yore into alternative settings, as the Republic fought to keep the Federation MTT from the palace in Theed (on Naboo, for the unaware). Here was a good opportunity to try out everything the Beta had to offer, from soldier classes to types of combat; I particularly enjoyed the chaotic gunfights within the palace walls, assuming the Federation got that far.
Starfighter Assault took the opportunity to show off the revamped space combat, complete with actual space battles, Star Destroyers, and a game mode that involved less random dogfights and more cooperation. I’m a huge fan of the space combat in the Battlefront series, and came away feeling pleasantly surprised. Intelligent UI helped pick out targets and avoid incoming fire, whilst the lack of preset “evasive manoeuvres” made for some great flying.
Strike left me in two minds. On the one hand, the 3rd person perspective excelled here, as the tiny map and frantic gameplay suited being more spatially aware; on the other hand, some matches lasted mere seconds, where others dragged on into tense overtime conclusions. The lack of short-range sights became a real problem, as using the crosshairs to aim became essential unless you could find a nice hillock on which to perch your Specialist rifle.
What struck me about Battlefront II was that everything made a bit more sense. Heavy soldiers lumbered forward through doorways with shields up and weapons spinning; Specialist snipers spied the glint of opposition scopes and engaged in long-range duels; Officers ran around, being largely useless and yelling morale-boosting commands as they were eviscerated by light-sabre blades. Sure, it might take a little more refinement before the game can be compared to its competitors, but Battlefront II has something that most other titles don’t: a vibrant pre-built fictional universe with its own loyal fan-base. My younger cousin goes crazy for these games because they provide fan service like no other: fighting in the Theed palace throne room just like Padme did in TPM has never looked so beautiful.
EA DICE are promising a significant increase in content that will walk hand-in-hand with free DLC over the course of 2018. The trade off is of course that loot crates have been introduced, but I’ve personally never found reason to bemoan their existence, provided they don’t prove fundamental in being the best. No: what will make or break Battlefront II is the support that EA DICE offer; the way in which the game unfolds and expands upon the clear potential demonstrated in the beta and whether or not players left feeling empty after the previous entry can be bought, bargained, or won.
Star Wars: Battlefront II is scheduled for release on console and PC on 17th November, which happens to be the day after my birthday. Nice. The open beta is now running until October 11th, extended from the 9th, so if you haven’t given it a go, now is your chance.