By now so much has been written, documented and flamed about the loot crates in Star Wars: Battlefront II, one might be forgiven for forgetting there’s a game in there somewhere.
The last week and a half has been a PR nightmare for EA and DICE (and every other entity associated with BFII), to the point that the publisher – and it probably was EA rather than the developers – gave the go ahead to turn all microtransactions involving real-world cash payments off ahead of launch.
This is a temporary measure – apparently at some stage they’ll be reinstated – but it does give players and media alike the space to appraise what might have been. That is, with its predatory money gouging feature switched off, does Star Wars: Battlefront II stack up as a bona fide sensible purchase right now?
In a word, no.
There are two reasons for this appraisal and the first and most obvious one is that EA plans to turn on the pay-to-win feature in the future. The second, is that even if EA decided to leave well enough alone on its initial plans to violate players’ wallets, Star Wars: Battlefront II still wouldn’t be worth investing in unless one is prepared to play it every single day for an entire year – as one Wall Street wonk suggested we all do – and there just isn’t enough here to justify the time investment.
Star Wars: Battlefront II offers three modes. There’s a single player campaign, a multiplayer fragfest and an arcade mode.
The first of these three is pretty unremarkable; the story revolves around a TIE fighter pilot named Iden who heads up an elite Imperial squad. After a couple of missions she becomes shocked that the Empire would sanction the death of civilians – clearly she never heard what happened to Alderaan – and switches over the Rebellion.
Her dad happens to be a committed Star Destroyer commander, which one guesses is supposed to offer some moral conflict, but really, this is pretty pedestrian stuff. Iden’s missions are intercut with scenarios that involve some of the Star Wars universe’s more iconic characters – Luke, Han and Lando among them – but the main story arch involves Iden coming to terms with her questionable past, trying to do the right thing and then a Hail-Mary pass to try and save her dad. We’ll leave it to you to ponder whether she succeeds.
Annoyingly the campaign’s ending leaves enough narrative threads in the air to assume at that best, it’ll provide grist for the mill for a sequel, and at worst, that there’s story-based DLC in the pipeline that players will have to pay for if they want to see how the campaign plays out.
If that prediction sounds cynical, it’s borne out by the progression in the game’s multiplayer but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Aside from the campaign and the multiplayer, there’s an arcade mode in which one to two players engage in run ‘n gun (or run ‘n slash) tear ups, earning stars and in-game cash depending on how quickly they smash up oncoming foes. It’s fun, but lightweight. The meat of this game is in its multiplayer mode.
Of the five match types on offer, Starfighter Assault, is probably the best of the bunch. Like Galactic Assault, it’s an objective-based affair, but the fact that players are plonked behind the controls of a fighter means they don’t have to wait too long before they run into some enemies. Heroes Vs Villains is a 4 on 4 match in which players use the heroes they’ve unlocked to batter the hell out of each other. Blast and Strike are BFII’s take on Team Deathmatch and a pared down version of Galactic Assault respectively.
Right, now let’s address the elephant in the room.
The game’s multiplayer mode – and to a degree its single-player and arcade mode – are dominated by something called ‘the Star Card’ system. Star Cards are essentially ability-conferrers that have game-changing effects. Players who invest in them gain a substantial edge in the multiplayer; Star Cards gift abilities such as increased splash damage on grenade throws, increased sprint time and faster cool-down on class powers.
If you’re not prepared to invest in Star Cards to a significant level you’re going to be behind the curve. Star Cards can be crafted but the easiest way to get hold of them is through loot crates. The problem here is that shelling out for loot crates – and at the time of writing the only way one can do this is with in-game currency – doesn’t guarantee that one will obtain cards that dovetail with the classes they enjoy playing with.
On top of that, spending one’s in-game currency on loot crates leaves them less money with which to buy hero class characters.
So once the single-player campaign is wrapped up, you’re looking at a grind. A deep grind – one that can be easily compared to EA’s last attempt to crack open players’ wallets, Need For Speed: Payback. However, it’s fair to assume slapping the words ‘Star Wars’ on a game – especially ahead of the release of Star Wars Episode VIII: The Last Jedi next month – will likely guarantee more folks will buy it.
Anyone who picks up this game will be faced with a war of attrition. It’s certainly possible to get up to speed through grinding but that’ll involve a lot of online battles in which the Star Card-strong will rip through their opponents like paper. If you’re on the receiving end of that exchange, it’s likely you won’t be having much fun, unless of course you’re such a fan of this franchise that seeing a loading screen on a regular basis isn’t a problem for you.
For the rest of us, Star Wars: Battlefront II presents its own set of problems. Perhaps this is a local issue, but in the course of reviewing this game, I lost count of the number of times I successfully joined a multiplayer lobby only to see that between six and nine more players were required to get a match started.
On top of that there were numerous times I was unceremoniously booted from a match for no discernible reason and on a couple of occasions, my earnings from a match weren’t recorded because the ‘data wasn’t available’.
For a Triple A game, this isn’t good enough.
For a Triple A game sold at full price with pay-to-win features inserted into it that, at a later date, may cost real-world money, this is unconscionable.
Star Wars: Battlefront II Review – Verdict
In spite of the fact that the ability to spend real-world money on it after retail purchase has been suspended, there’s no getting away from the fact that Star Wars: Battlefront II is a full-price game that’s also a pay-to-win affair. Right now, the edge goes to players prepared to grind, but this may change in the not-too-distant future.
To be frank, Star Wars: Battlefront II feels like a game that would be more at home in an age when movie studios viewed games the same way they did T-shirts, or stickers, or lunchboxes. Yes, they were blatant cash-ins, but at least they were cheap at the price.
- Star Wars: Battlefront II was reviewed on an Xbox One. A retail copy was provided by the publisher.