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Thoughts on the Star Wars Battlefront II Open Beta

Thoughts on the Star Wars Battlefront II Open Beta

Just over the week, from October 6th to October 11th (or from the 4th to the 11th for those who pre-ordered), the open beta for EA Games’s latest title, Star Wars Battlefront II, hit the virtual shelves in North America. I and many other players were dying to get a look at this thing, so when I heard about it I signed myself right up.

Now, I didn’t sign up out of pure joy. Let’s call it something a little closer to caution and wariness. I was not all too happy with 2015’s Battlefront reboot; a lot of changes were made to the original format that threw me off, and on top of that EA Games handled their content like a bunch of cash-grabbing shit heads, punishing players who bought their game right away by locking their content until more money was paid. Those who waited inevitably reaped the greater reward, receiving the entirety of the game’s content for a fraction of the original price. I know a lot of companies operate on this model, but EA’s example is particularly egregious, since what was originally released barely even qualified as a full game in the first place.

At this point, we’ve all been around the block with EA. We all know what they’re up to, and, well, it doesn’t seem like we’re interested in stopping them any time soon. So let’s see what kind of game they’re about to deliver.

This game looks good. Diving into my first match, I was enveloped by the dynamic lighting, textures, and special effects. In many ways, Battlefront II has made improvements on the graphics of the first Battlefront. Everything looks shiny and highly-polished, not to mention the space battles, which look incredible. However, when it comes to the ground battles, there seems to be a little something missing. That crucial oomph that was present in the first title isn’t really anywhere to be seen. Laser blasts aren’t quite as exciting, explosions don’t really seem to be that stylized, and overall the graphics just feel a little bit flatter in this area. When I played the first Battlefront in 2015, I was absolutely mesmerized by the special effects; they were very clearly done with the original films in mind, down to the fact that explosions and laser blasts were designed to look like those flares of sparks that evoke the homemade special effects present in the original three Star Wars movies. With Battlefront II, that feel simply isn’t there, everything seeming a little bit more streamlined and less passionate.

Let’s bang out the character basics. When 2015’s Battlefront came out, I was dismayed to find that classes had been done away with. Battlefront II, on the other hand, brings classes back, though in a slightly different way. There are four classes: Assault, which handles well in all-around combat; Heavy, which is good for dishing out damage; Officer, good for defending a location and buffing teammates; and, finally, Specialist, for those assholes that just want to snipe people. Each class can be slightly tweaked with cards and weapons that are purchased with in-game currency or crafted with points. In keeping with current trends, points and cards are earned through loot boxes (getting a whiff of that micro-transaction bullshit).

On top of that, there are specialized classes and heroes, which are purchased with points that you earn by doing well in-game. This slight tweak is a great way to discourage those passive players that would wait in the back to nab the pickups, contributing very little to the team otherwise. Now, you can ride in a vehicle or play a cool class because you’ve been contributing to your team in a big way, so this is definitely a good step forward.

Overall, the classes are fine, but I think it would have been cool to see more variety. Even though 2015’s Battlefront didn’t have classes, there were still a million ways you could construct your loadout, resulting in a mind-blowing variety of enemy encounters. With Battlefront II, I can’t help but wonder if there are even enough classes with enough variety to justify implementing this system at all.

So how does it play? Fairly well, actually, but there are still a few hangups. By far my favorite part of the gameplay involves controlling the vehicles, while the traditional ground combat is also pretty good. There are four central game modes offered in the Battlefront II beta, which are Galactic Assault, Starfighter Assault, Strike, as well as an Arcade mode where you fight off hordes of NPCs.

The Galactic Assault map available in the beta takes place during the Clone Wars, pitting an army of droids that are assaulting a Naboo stronghold against the stronghold’s clone defenders. In this mode, the clone troopers race to pick up rocket launchers scattered over the map in order to destroy the droids’ assault tank. If the tank reaches all the way to the clones’ last line of defense, the game switches to a capture-point mode, as the droids engage in a frenzied gambit to take over the building. Overall, this game mode isn’t too bad, and is fairly reminiscent of the Walker Assault mode from the first game, though not quite as good or dynamic.

Before we continue, I have something I need to get off my chest. Rocket launchers, really? You really expect me to believe that clone troopers and droids are going to fight over a handful of rocket launchers? Why can’t the droids just take the rocket launchers when the clones drop them, or even destroy them? This premise is so stupid, and strains credibility to the absolute limit. Why not turrets, which are literally structures that are stuck in place? That makes sense. As it is, the premise of this game mode just feels lazy and it doesn’t make sense.

Now Galactic Assault may have been decent, but I hate, hate, hate the Strike map available in the beta. Taking place after the Clone Wars, Strike pits a team of eight rebels against eight empire soldiers. Essentially, this game mode is a one-way capture-the-flag, as the rebels try to steal some sort of artifact or whatever and carry it to their escape ship. This mode just sucks, and you will die a lot. And I mean a lot. If there is even a single weak link on your team, the enemies will simply run train on you over and over.

The map, itself, is not particularly interesting, either. There’s some foliage here and there, but it’s really hard to tell where the bounds are located and the general lack of special effects makes everything really messy and it’s hard to tell where you’re getting shot from and it just sucks. I’m typically not a fan of capture-the-flag modes, but this one is especially bad. On top of that, why isn’t there an option for the Empire to destroy the rebels’ escape ship? I mean, it’s just sitting there. Whatever. Either way, this game mode doesn’t seem very thought-out either.

Alright, on to Starfighter Assault. And would you believe it? This mode is AWESOME. The space combat available here is in every way an improvement on the space combat present in the 2015 Battlefront. Shooting feels good, flying feels good, and, above all, the dogfights are really freakin’ awesome. Criterion Games, responsible for several games in the Need for Speed series as well as the Burnout series, was commissioned for this game mode, and it really shows. Everything is incredibly polished and just straight up fun.

Rolling and evading is now manually controlled and feels incredibly organic, locking onto enemies with your missiles has a really good, really satisfying feel to it, and blasting some ass with your lasers has never felt better. The effects are amazing, the sound design is amazing, and you really feel like you’re in there, destroying an empirical stronghold or dishing out sweet justice to some rebel scum.

In the first Battlefront, the space battle mode was a straight-up deathmatch with very little going on in terms of scenery. This time around, the Starfighter Assault mode focuses on a series of objectives smack in the middle of several space installations, where the rebels attempt to destroy a series of power generators and other shit in order to take down a star destroyer. On top of that, this game mode feels really well-balanced, whereas in the first Battlefront there was a very serious bias in favor of the rebels. All things considered, I have to give a gigantic kudos to the Starfighter Assault mode.

So these are the three main multiplayer modes that were available in the beta, but the full game will include more game modes, including Blast and Heroes Vs. Villains, as well as more maps for each game mode. I was a huge fan of the MOBA-like gameplay that Heroes Vs. Villains had to offer in the first title, so I was a little bummed that it wasn’t included in the beta. On top of all that, there will even be a campaign mode come full-release, which focuses on a story that happens after the events of Return of the Jedi. Cool beans.

Finally, let’s give a little time to indulge in the age-old debate: Computer, or console? I played the beta on the PlayStation 4 as well as on PC. This game runs pretty well on a PC, with minimal load times or bugs. My graphics looked pretty damn good, and I was only running it on the lowest settings. Most of the controls were fairly intuitive, and controlling a starfighter was simply phenomenal.  On the PlayStation 4, there are fewer buttons, so some of the in-game actions are a little bit harder to perform. The graphics are good, but load times are a little bit more annoying. Controlling a starfighter with the advanced setting on is a lot more difficult with a controller, but damn, there really is something magical to playing a nice shooter from the comfort of your couch or bed.

Okay, so there we have the Star Wars Battlefront II beta in a nutshell. What are the takeaways? First off, I would say that I am impressed by the variety of objective types and scenarios present in the different game modes. The Starfighter Assault and Galactic Assault maps felt really tailored and fine-tuned for an immersive experience, and I would be interested to see what the other maps have in store.  And as much as I would like to never think of it again, I absolutely hate the Strike mode, at least as it is presented in the beta. Perhaps it would be better in other maps or with some fine-tuning, but I’m just not a fan. Aside from that, I wasn’t a super huge fan of the ground combat in general. It feels a little bit more basic than the previous titles, and the special effects are missing that oomph needed to really immerse the player.

At the end of the day, I don’t think there was enough improvement here to justify me purchasing the full game for myself. I was hoping for a lot more out of Star Wars Battlefront II, and I just feel a little let down. Now, if there were some way I could purchase just the Starfighter Assault mode for like ten or twenty bucks, I would do it in a heartbeat, ’cause that shit is the bomb. At the very least, now I know I can shamelessly avoid EA for a little while.

The full release for Star Wars Battlefront II is slated for November 17th, 2017. Since we can’t play it right away, let’s chat. Did you play the beta? Agree with me? Think I’m full of crap? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Add to the discussion below!

Written by Nips


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