Oh how the mighty have fallen. Star Wars Battlefront has been a staple in the gaming community for what seems to be ages. The most profitable game of the whole franchise and probably the most loved – nothing begged for a remake more than it. But times have changed, as well as the owners. George Lucas no longer has Star Wars and LucasArts is gone. The old traditions are lost and the new times are fast approaching. Now Star Wars brand is in the hands of the most powerful company in Hollywood and all Star Wars games are being developed by companies owned by huge and all-powerful EA. Different times indeed.

The first Star Wars Battlefront (the second first) of 2015 was a deeply flawed game, marred by insufficient content and expensive Season Pass. But it was, all the same, fun. It wasn’t a smashing success, but it sold well and was, at least, harmless. All of that can’t be said about Star Wars Battlefront II – the long awaited successor which promised to erase all mistakes of the past. And at first, we were sold. All eras, new modes and a respectable amount of content – what’s not to like? But after a while, something started to show. A hint of the Dark Side. Microtransactions. Unfair rewards. Unreasonable slow progression system. It all crumbled. I thought the first game was a PR nightmare, but boy was I wrong. Compared to what happened with Star Wars Battlefront II even No Man’s Sky debacle seems like not a big deal.

Read also: 9 Star Wars Battlefront mistakes EA cannot repeat in the sequel

An Imperial Princess

As I have said, it all seemed like a guaranteed success. All ingredients are there. Even the story campaign, which was widely advertised as something truly amazing – even revolutionary. For the first time (not really) we were to be able to play as the bad guys. EA Motive promised a true story from the perspective of the Empire with a new protagonist (antagonist?) at the center. And indeed it looked interesting – even cool. Iden Versio – the new anti-heroine – seemed badass, and the prequel novel by Christie Golden confirmed that. We were told over and over just how fantastic the story is. And we believed. We shouldn’t’ve.

At the center of the story is, indeed, Iden Versio. A well-respected commander of the Inferno Squad – the feared and esteemed special forces unit created shortly after the destruction of the first Death Star by admiral Versio – Iden’s father. In the game, we first encounter Iden not long before the mission to Endor and the annihilation of the second Death Star. How will the Empire react? What will Iden do? How will the remnants of the fleet retaliate?

Unfortunately, all promised badassery just doesn’t happen. While Iden seemed cool in the first mission (escape from the Rebel cruiser), she quickly loses all respect after a couple of missions. It all starts with admiral Versio who receives a message from the deceased Emperor, asking him to destroy a loyal Imperial planet as a show of force. He doesn’t even think to ignore the order from a dead person and asks Iden to help him with the plan. The doomed planet turns out to be Vardos – the home world of Iden. You see where I’m going?

Star Wars Battlefront II
Iden Versio disappointed me the most. She was to be the new cool baddy, but our hopes were misplaced. She still looks gorgeous on Frostbite engine.

(some spoilers ahead)

Iden – the person who found peace after the destruction of Alderaan – cannot live with herself. Suddenly she sees that the Empire is, well, bad. It oppresses people – who knew? Just like that her consciousness is born and she abandons the mission, blasting tons of stormtroopers in the process. After about an hour of gameplay she is no longer an Imperial. Soon she becomes a full-fledged Rebel, even Leia’s personal bodyguard or something. All marketing was a lie. And even if it wasn’t, the story is almost nonexistent.

It’s told through episodes. In different episodes we control different persons. Sometimes, it’s a random hero like Luke Skywalker or Leia Organa. Sometimes, it’s Iden, doing their bidding. There’s almost no story at all, just random pieces of the puzzle. The story of the game coincides with parts of recent Star Wars novels, and if you read them, there’ll be almost nothing new for you.

I was devastated by the campaign, which is, by the way, about 4 hours long! In terms of gameplay, it was okay. Nothing really interesting or new. I don’t know why did EA hire another studio for it, since nothing separates it from series of tutorials. There are some kind of collectibles, but that’s not interesting. There’s also a rudimentary stealth, but, once again, it’s not important and can be completely ignored.

Star Wars Battlefront II
The story is separated into disconnected episodes. Mostly to show off all the cool heroes, unlockable in the multiplayer. On the picture we can see one of the new planets. Sadly, it’s nowhere to be found in the multiplayer.

There are some positives. Visually it is a treat. The first Star Wars Battlefront looked (and still does) stunning, but Star Wars Battlefront II is better in every way. Even humans look real enough – the Frostbite engine just keeps on giving. I loved watching cut scenes (which should’ve been longer), because the world and the characters looked so real. I liked hearing them, too, since all the actors here are fantastic. Kudos to Janina Gavankar (there’s a Star Warsy name if I ever heard one) for portraying the character – it’s not her fault that the story is so bad. Anthony Skordi was also amazing in the role of Imperial devotee Garrick Versio.

The sound design is great as well – the game could’ve been nominated for it, if not for all the scandals.

Shooting blanks

Star Wars Battlefront II
Something is seriously wrong with Luke’s face.

The story could’ve been great, but that would’ve changed nothing. Star Wars Battlefront has always been about multiplayer, and we all know it. The multiplayer wasn’t great in the first game, since it was so shallow. Here, everything is different. Instead of just soldiers, we get multiple classes – just like the originals all those years ago. You can be an assault type, a heavy, an officer or a specialist.

All classes are vastly different. They don’t repeat the ones from the originals, but come close enough. Assault is the most standard type – your ordinary soldier with usual abilities. Heavy has a big ol’ gun and a shield. It’s powerful, but slow. The officer helps others, but is pretty weak himself. Finally, the specialist is a sniper. There are also “bonus” types which can be unlocked for a sum of battle points. Among those are fierce Wookie warriors and super battledroids.

Star Wars Battlefront II
Heroes are aplenty, but getting to them is hard work. Even when I got enough points, it was usually at the very end of the match.

A decent base for a multiplayer game. Heroes make a comeback, but the system is completely different. Forget tokens, which allowed random players to play as any hero he likes – now you have to work in order to become Darth Vader. Only the best players become heroes, which is both fair and unbalanced, since the best only become better, and ordinary players feel like cannon fodder. But yeah, it’s hard – near impossible – to balance the game with heroes. Nothing will ever feel ideal. I think that the system is a bit too harsh, but fair nonetheless. I just wish I could, too, become a hero – it’s seems almost impossible. And when I was a hero, the game was near the finish. It’s infuriating.

The heroes feel different overall. Some familiar faces from the first game are back – along with a couple of newcomers from different eras. We see the return of Han Solo, Leia Organa, Lando Calrissian, Luke Skywalker, Chewbacca, Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Bossk and the Emperor. Among the new arrivals are Darth Maul, Yoda, Kylo Ren, Rey and Iden Versio. New heroes are already planned for December.

Star Wars Battlefront II
Inferno Squad. The deadly special forces had one good book, but their role in the game is almost nonexistent.

As you can see, that’s a lot of heroes if one’s to remember the meek assortment of stars from Battlefront One. And that’s a good thing! The new and improved Heroes vs. Villains mode was also reworked into something similar to the original mode from 2005. Personally, I feel sad that there are no more ordinary soldiers here, but that’s only me. Overall, the mode feels great. It’s fast and fun – even if some heroes feel a lot stronger than the others. As always, the Force is the ultimate cheat code.

Unfortunately, there aren’t that many modes, and a lot of modes from the previous game don’t make a return. That’s a shame, especially since those modes aren’t that hard to replicate. Among the current modes are: Heroes vs. Villains, Galactic Assault, Strike, Blast and Starfighter Assault.

I can’t really say anything bad about these modes. Some are good, some excellent, and some are just meh. A lot of people surprisingly fell in love with Starfighter Assault – a mode which was widely criticized in the first game. Here it was completely redone with the help of Criterion, and it shows. The gameplay is excellent. I loved controlling ships from different eras. Too bad all ship designs from the sequel era are boring as hell, since they all more or less repeat Lucas’s designs from 40 years ago. What an astonishing lack of creativity – but that’s not the game’s fault.

Star Wars Battlefront II
Space battles are finally here, and they are quite nice too. But we still can’t capture the ships on foot like in Battlefront 2005. But kudos to Criterion for improving the mode. Now make a new Burnout! Burnout Tatooine?

The core gameplay is as solid as ever. I loved shooting in the first game and I love doing it here. The guns are more precise and require a bit more skill. Killing an enemy is very satisfying, which is probably the most important thing in a shooter.

Star Wars Battlefront II has a lot of flaws, but I have to say, I absolutely loved the locations. There are a lot more maps this time around, and all of them are amazing. Once again, we see the return of familiar planets and a couple of new ones from other trilogies. Kamino is by far my favorite. Fantastic work by DICE here. I was also glad to see the return of the “true” Tatooine which is very reminiscent of the older games.

Star Wars Battlefront II
Different classes. Too bad the soldiers are not customizable at all – a huge step backwards from Battlefront One.

Оружие классов меняется в зависимости от эпохи. Если же вы хотите использовать оружие из другой эпохи, то его нужно приобрести отдельно за кредиты.

Still, I can’t say that the game works impeccably. There are serious problems with the connection. A lot of times the game glitched all over the place, teleporting players across the map. In situations like that it’s almost impossible to aim. It looks like an issue with the Internet, but I have no problems in other games. Star Wars Battlefront had similar issues, but never this often. The problem persists long after the release.

Another, minor problem, is about optimization. Unnoticeable for some, it concerns those playing on the weaker hardware. Most of the critics review games on the best possible hardware, which is understandable, but unhelpful for the majority of players. I played on the basic PlayStation 4 and had some hiccups on the bigger maps. Nothing major (and I think the patches will fix that), but I could definitely feel the dip in FPS. Unpleasant, but certainly not game breaking.

Matchmaking is also something DICE should look into. Sometimes I have to wait for ages before the game starts. I know that the game wasn’t a smashing hit, but still, it’s weird for a brand new game. Heroes vs. Villains is particularly bad in that aspect. Something must be done.

The same can be said about the menu system. I can’t believe there’s no way to choose the map I want to play on! It was a feature in the older game, why not here? I usually play on this one planet over and over again. Is there a Yavin, you say? I don’t know – I haven’t seen it once after four days of playing!

Star Wars Battlefront II

A long grind away…

As you can see, the foundation for a good game is here. Gameplay, modes, planets, classes. All of this does work. But why all the hate? Just why is Star Wars Battlefront II the most hated triple A title of the year?

I already mentioned the weak progression system. But it’s not just bad – it is bewilderingly bad. It simply doesn’t work. And the worst of all, it is unfair to new players.

There’s no secret that the players despised the Season Pass from Star Wars Battlefront. It was expensive and divided the player base. It harmed the game, even if it did contain good maps. But that game was rushed – thanks, Disney. Here there are no excuses. The game is bigger than it was and all heroes and maps are to be free. But nothing’s really free nowadays, isn’t it? Instead of paid DLCs we get microtransactions – the bane of modern gaming. These come in form of loot boxes. These boxes contain precious loot which is essential for upgrading all classes and heroes – even ships.

Star Wars Battlefront II
It’s very nice to be able to use ships from different eras.

Every class and a hero has three slots for so-called Star Cards which improve the player’s chances of success. The cards have a degree of rarity, and a player with all rare cards has a serious advantage over the newbies.

This is not simply unfair – it’s scandalous. This is pay-to-win. This can’t be inside a triple A game which already costs $60. And that’s what caused the uproar.

This is gambling. And because of it the unlocking of all what the game has to offer seems impossible without additional funds. Don’t wonna pay? Well, grind! Grind for hundreds of hours. And even then you won’t get everything.

Star Wars Battlefront II
Star Cards destroyed this game. They are hard to understand. They beg you to pay for them.

At first, the game seems generous enough with its credits and free loot boxes, but only at first. The progression is slow and the card system is not only unfair, it is utterly meaningless and requires a doctorate degree to understand. This is not how these games are supposed to be!

Verdict

I know a lot of critics and gamers who were only happy to jump on the EA hate bandwagon. I’m not one of those. While the company is guilty of a lot of crimes, I desperately wanted Star Wars Battlefront II to succeed. The first game was fun and the second is a definite improvement. Almost everything is better and deeper. If not for the scam with the loot boxes, this could have been a shooter of the year contender. I genuinely enjoy playing Star Wars Battlefront II. It’s fun, it’s easy to understand (for the most part) and it’s… Star Wars. Now with my favorite prequel era and those stupid but charming battledroids. But the recent scandal harmed not only EA, but DICE and the franchise overall.

I wanted to see the positives, and there are a lot of those. And yet, the game doesn’t feel like a product worthy of your $60. It’s fundamentally broken at its core – the progression. Without it, an online shooter cannot survive. EA gambled and lost, but DICE did a solid job, improving in almost every way. They know how to make a good shooter. They know how to make a beautiful game. But they didn’t have the final say. The creativity fought – and lost.