So, microtransactions!! How can I start a review about this game without talking about the biggest topic in gaming at the moment? There is no getting away from the fact that EA has shown their greed and general attitude towards gamers with the way they handled the microtransaction fiasco. It has cost them billions from their bottom line and I will give you my spin on that at the end of this review, however, I would like to write the review about the game and for now at least, ignore the fact there are microtransactions so that we can focus on the game itself.
I was sent the game by EA to review, please remember that this will not stop me telling you what I think so I’ll start with the single-player campaign which I have to say I really enjoyed. I found myself wanting more as I battled through the 5 hours of story-driven Star Wars fun. Set predominantly after Return of the Jedi but before the Force Awakens, you play as Commander Iden Versio as you lead Inferno Squad, an imperial special forces outfit to undermine Rebel forces locked in conflict with the Empire. This sees you looking up at the 2nd Death Star as its destroyed and presumably as the Ewoks have that party in the woods where Han and Leia admit they are in love you are in a fight to survive. After seeing the Imperial army commit atrocities you start to question yourself, probably some internal dialogue saying “are we the baddies?” runs through your mind and you defect.
The campaign is surprisingly good, I mean, really very good, the voice acting is top tier and as with any good story you get emotionally involved, however, 5 hours was not enough and it really did leave me wanting more. Unfortunately, whilst EA has their greedy little fingers in this pie I don’t think we will ever get much more than this for any campaign because you can’t monetize single player right?
This is a shame because the campaign in Star Wars Battlefront II is well written, interesting, varied and fun so whilst you get all the feelings of watching the movies and the joy of the universe, you also have to stop playing it after a few hours and it would have been so good in co-op I cannot believe it isn’t happening right now.
A standout mission, which shows what EA is capable of, is Battle of Jakku. It takes place above and on Jakku obviously and has you piloting an X-Wing, battling foes in the sky and then you have to land, to take out a Bomber factory, once you do this its back to your ship and more aerial combat, then to the ground again to help some troopers defeat a walker attack. It is absolutely fantastic. Its everything I want, action-packed, interesting, varied and above all, fun. This is what you could do EA if you didn’t have to have your hand in the cookie jar, this is the type of game you could make.
So that brings us to the main meat and dumplings of the game, the multiplayer and I have to say, this is the MOST disappointed I have been in a game for a very long time.
I have been playing Call of Duty WWII for a review and the multiplayer is fast and fun, the weapons sound good but they feel better. When I shoot someone they feel shot, when I kill someone it feels like it was because I was better in that moment. Not so in Star Wars Battlefront II.
Let’s begin with the way it looks, as I have already mentioned, this looks and feels like Star Wars and whilst you run around the different maps they help to sell the immersion because graphically at least, this game is AAA. Where the game starts to fall down is the gunplay.
Something is wrong, the first game felt fast and fun, the progression system was a little convoluted but you got what you were doing. Here, however, my weapons feel like pea shooters and I see 10 shots bouncing off an enemy who takes me out with a single shot only to respawn and do the same thing over and over. The maps are good but the multiplayer feels fragmented and weak. During the campaign when I shoot at an AI I score a few hits and they die, during multiplayer it really feels like my weapons are having no effect. It gets worse, the reason your weapons are having no effect is that of the matchmaking which ALWAYS sees me pitted against high-level players with tonnes of gear, maybe if I spent some money on loot boxes I could have better gear and be competitive?
It appears then that the progression system is tied to the loot boxes and these give you random gear, this random gear is mostly unusable by your favored class and this, in turn, means you end up having to play as the class you have the best gear for not as the class you enjoy. If you want to enjoy playing the game you will need to earn loot crates, or buy them for real money, however, you cannot do this anymore because EA was so greedy and made microtransactions so invasive that people actually rebelled. They lost billions from their share prices and have had to do a complete u-turn on the whole saga. This means a game that was designed around having a hand in your wallet is now a messy affair and no real way forward as I see it apart from a complete redesign.
You know what, I wasn’t going to get into the microtransactions until the end of the review but as I type my blood starts to boil and I went off on a rant. I wanted to review Star Wars Battlefront II as a game but it’s not possible to do this without saying its broken and here is why.
The gameplay is great in the campaign and this shows just how messed up the multiplayer is because of the greed of the money men at EA. Let us be frank, they are not gamers, they are people who want to make as much money from us as possible and they don’t care how shameless they are about it. They want microtransactions to be the norm, they want games as a service, you only have to hear about the plans for the upcoming Anthem to see where there are going with this.
After screwing up Star Wars Battlefront IIs’ multiplayer you would hope that EA would see that microtransactions for anything other than cosmetic items are not going to wash, however, when the furor has died down EA will add them back because they do not care.
Here is their statement about the whole debacle:
“Thank you to everyone in our community for being the passionate fans that you are.
Our goal has always been to create the best possible game for all of you – devoted Star Wars fans and game players alike. We’ve also had an ongoing commitment to constantly listen, tune and evolve the experience as it grows. You’ve seen this with both the major adjustments, and polish, we have made over the past several weeks.
But as we approach the worldwide launch, it’s clear that many of you feel there are still challenges in the design. We’ve heard the concerns about potentially giving players unfair advantages. And we’ve heard that this is overshadowing an otherwise great game. This was never our intention. Sorry, we didn’t get this right.
We hear you loud and clear, so we’re turning off all in-game purchases. We will now spend more time listening, adjusting, balancing and tuning. This means that the option to purchase crystals in the game is now offline, and all progression will be earned through gameplay. The ability to purchase crystals in-game will become available at a later date, only after we’ve made changes to the game. We’ll share more details as we work through this.
We have created a game that is built on your input, and it will continue to evolve and grow. Star Wars Battlefront II is three times the size of the previous game, bringing to life a brand new Star Wars story, space battles, epic new multiplayer experiences across all three Star Wars eras, with more free content to come. We want you to enjoy it, so please keep your thoughts coming. And we will keep you updated on our progress.”
Here is what they wanted to say:
“You arseholes have ruined this gravy train for us by whining about spending money
We tried to add as many monetizing features in the game as possible and we have been caught, we had to make changes we didn’t want to make and this has meant we have had to tell our shareholders that we will just add things back later.
You have told us we messed up, we would have done nothing if it wasn’t necessary to keep things going because we don’t care if people who pay more get better things, they paid more, they should win, you could win if you paid more. Sorry, you caught us.
We have no option but to turn off the purchases for now while we find a way to add them back so that you don’t realise or care about it, we will then tell you this is what people asked for so that we can say the same thing to our shareholders because a watered down means of making money off of you time and again is better than no way for you to keep giving us money for the same thing.
We have created a game that would make us the most money back per dollar spent, we will continue to evolve and grow our strategy of games as a service and this will, in turn, lead to the demise of gaming. We have made a game that could have been so much better had we not been greedy we will keep asking ourselves questions that are easy to answer or make it seem as though we have listened and will then feed this bullshit back to you because you are so stupid you won’t notice. We love money.”
OK, that’s over cynical and is more of a joke than reality but there is truth there. EA have done many shameful things in the pursuit of money but this is the first time they have really been called on it. I hope this is the future for them, I hope this is the future for all microtransactions and day one DLC or DLC that is actually the end game we should have got when we bought the game anyway. OK, I think I have enough of this off my chest to continue. I will try and talk about the multiplayer again.
Set across the entire Star Wars movie saga Battlefront II’s online mode offers a whole host of game modes and with 14 multiplayer maps, countless weapons, abilities, costumes, and characters there is a lot of content here and it’s great to see everything so well put together.
The character movement is excellent and visually the game is on another level in terms of realism but I keep coming back to the feeling that the gunplay has been ruined. Progression is such a mess thanks to the loot box system that I really don’t feel I know what is going on or if I want to stick to a class and role I enjoy or keep switching things up. The matchmaking is awful and on the whole, the multiplayer feels broken and fragmented.
The good news though is that with a few tweaks to the base game Star Wars Battlefront II has the potential to be the best Star Wars game of all time. Despite the flaws I have found myself really enjoying the Arcade mode where you battle against the AI and Heroes vs Villians is a great distraction for 4 friends to take their unlocked characters and have fun in an over the top way shooting rockets and having lightsaber battles with 4 equally equipped opposition.
The 40-player conquest battles make a return in Galactic Assault but I prefer the smaller, infantry-focused skirmishes in Blitz and Strike and again there is a wider variety of multiplayer modes than the first game with the same fantastic visuals and sound which gives you those “OMG Star Wars” moments.
As you play in each mode you accrue Battle Points, these can be used to purchase battle rewards like taking control of a hero character and it still surprises me how this one character can have the impact they do on battles so timing is everything.
In the first Star Wars Battlefront, as can be attested by my streams, I wasn’t very good at piloting the starfighters, I crashed every single time or was shot down very quickly and this is an area that has been much improved. The controls seem to work better and I found I could actually get a few kills before crashing into the ground for a fiery death. The Star Fighter Assault mode has benefitted greatly from this improved control system so will be a part of the game I can come back to in the future as opposed to a tacked-on element only the very best could play.
The multiplayer is overly complicated by the star cards. They can either amplify your abilities or stats or can give you a specific weapon like a powerful sniper weapon or rocket launcher. The cards have a class they are tied to, for example, I have unlocked a rocket launcher for the heavy class and cannot use this perk with any other class, I don’t like playing as the heavy but have been forced to simply by the sheer number of options I have for its loadout. I really don’t understand this part of the game and there doesn’t appear to be any explanation for how it works only that you need to increase your rank to match the card, that the rank of the card matters for it to be worth using and more cards are better. I am sure most of that is wrong but it just doesn’t work as a system, you have to gamble your credits to hopefully get something for the class that you want to use. It’s made all the more annoying when you open a crate to find that you have cards for heroes you haven’t unlocked only to be told by a friend that they have unlocked something great, it makes you want to lash out at your loved ones. This is a poor system and could be solved by having a fixed progression system and doing away with the loot crates. This could be one of those “me not getting it” issues but you cannot open loot crates without leaving a lobby too so if you get a loot crate you have to drag your entire party out of a match to find you have a card for a character you don’t have.
To sum up, I am really disappointed with this game, not because its bad but because it could have been great. The loot box system should be consigned to free to play games, the paywalls need to go and the campaign needed to be longer and have co-op. The loot crate system has also ruined the multiplayer element for me and I would actually rather play the first game than this one. EA has done a big disservice to the Star Wars name. I hope they learn a lesson from this and realize that if you make a great game, the sales will give you the money you want. The core game is here, we just need EA to help us find it.
Help us EA, you’re my only hope.