Just in time for the Star Wars craze, EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II (SWB2) was released amidst a lot of controversy – much like The Last Jedi itself.
As you might have already heard by now, this is the game that received a lot of flak recently when it introduced purchases of loot boxes containing power-ups to players with real world currency prior to official release. But micro transactions have been put on hold for now.
Here’s a little bit of history – previously, LucasArts developed two Star Wars Battlefront games in 2004 and 2005. Then EA created a reboot of Battlefront 1 in 2015 for purely multiplayer gameplay. And most recently, SWB2 is released – this time with the addition of a single-player campaign.
Causing a Commotion
During the pre-launch beta trials, loot crates containing Star Cards that upgrade the abilities and powers of characters in multiplayer, were available for purchase with real-world money.
This made the game unfair since those who are able and willing to afford it can have super powerful characters in multiplayer that will wipe everyone else out.
After the furore, EA has scrapped the micro transactions portion of the game – for now. They have also reduced the number of in-game credits needed to unlock heroes – it used to be 40,000 credits to unlock Darth Vader, now it is 15,000 credits.
Now that micro transactions are halted, gamers will still need to grind in order to obtain Star Cards for their characters.
Nonetheless, I decided to give this game a go since it is Star Wars season and I was itching to play something from the Star Wars universe after watching The Last Jedi.
Playing the story
The single-player campaign was relatively short but fun, comprising a good mix of shooting, space dogfights, sneaking and lightsaber fights. You play Iden Versio, a commander of the elite Inferno Squad – which is an Imperial special forces unit – and also the daughter of an Imperial admiral.
She was dedicated to fighting the rebels, until she realised that the Imperial forces planned to destroy whole planets, including her home world. Together with her teammate, Del Meeko, they split off from the Imperial faction and joined Leia Organa’s Rebel Alliance.
Iden has a handy ID10 sneaker droid that can help to unlock doors, hack security cameras and even zap foes from a distance and knock them out.
You can also use special crates to change Iden’s abilities – a useful tactic to deal with the different mission scenarios. For example, in a sneaking mission, you will want to scan and mark out enemies, while in a frantic shootout, the droid shield will be more useful.
Apart from playing Iden Versio, you also get to briefly play various familiar characters from the Star Wars universe including Luke Skywalker, Leia Organa, and Han Solo.
As a bonus, additional single player campaign content in the form of the Resurrection chapter was released as part of The Last Jedi DLC, where you play a much older Iden Versio and her daughter who aided the Resistance in stealing the schematics of a First Order dreadnought.
Was that what led to the event that took place in The Last Jedi?
The real highlight of the game is the multiplayer mode, which I feel offers great variety and plenty of fun. For starters, the Arcade Mode, which pits you against the game’s AI, and you can choose to slug it out solo or playing co-op on a split screen with a friend next to you.
This helps you practise the abilities of the different characters and also brush up on your skills before playing with actual human gamers who are infinitely more challenging.
Although the Arcade mode is somewhat limited in terms of maps, it does give you an opportunity to visit various iconic Star Wars locations, and also offer you various challenges to complete and get some loot crates for the coveted cards, credits and parts to upgrade your characters.
What I do wish is for the Arcade mode to include Starfighter Assault type games where one can practise piloting and space dogfighting skills.
The true challenge comes in the form of online multiplayer games. There are a total of five different game types. Some of these are objective based, so you work towards victory for your faction and quell the opponent’s efforts while others feature all on elimination of the opposing team.
Galactic Assault – battles on huge maps with ground troops, vehicles and heroes like Luke Skywalker (if prerequisites are met – see later) to complete objectives with 40 players in two opposing teams.
Starfighter Assault – here’s where you show off your piloting skills in thrilling space dogfights with 24 players. You can choose to pilot fighters, bombers, interceptors as well as hero ships like the Millennium Falcon – terms and conditions apply.
Heroes vs Villains – duke it out 4 vs 4 as a hero or a villain character, using lightsabers or force powers on a specified target from the opposing team or defending the target on your team.
Strike – take part in an objective-based scenario with two opposing factions of 8 vs 8.
Blast – a no brainer – just shoot everything not from your team that moves! Twenty players on each team work to eliminate the other team on huge maps with no objectives apart from just killing 100 members of the other team – inclusive of respawns.
To tie in with the movie, The Last Jedi DLC is available for free, adding unlocked heroes in the form of Finn and Captain Phasma as well as new maps including the spectacular red salted planet of Crait as featured in climactic ending of the movie.
In addition, there was The Last Jedi challenge in December where players started by picking a faction (First Order or New Republic) and tried to complete various weekly challenges to chalk up points for the team. The prize for the winning team were upgrades for the Finn and Captain Phasma hero characters.
Cards and loot crates and credits, oh my!
As you play through the various game modes and hit certain achievements, you will be rewarded with loot crates, which contain random rewards consisting of in-game credits, crafting parts, frivolous things like poses and emotions as well as the much coveted Star Cards.
Star Cards imbue enhanced abilities for a specific character, and are available in four progressively more powerful tiers – common, uncommon, rare, and epic. But there’s a catch – make that a few catches – in order to play a character.
Let’s say you want to play Darth Vader in a multiplayer game. First, you need to unlock Darth Vader by spending 15,000 in-game credits. Credits can be earned by playing through the single player campaign, scoring in multiplayer games and gaining certain Career achievements.
Then, when you join a multiplayer game, you need to gain 8,000 Battle Points by completing objectives, gaining achievements and killing enemies as a lowly trooper before you can spawn as Darth Vader.
But then, in order to be truly powerful, you will need Darth Vader’s Star Cards to imbue him with enhanced abilities, and you will also need his character to be of a certain level before you can unlock the slots for higher level Star Cards.
Otherwise a plain vanilla Darth Vader wouldn’t last long in a fight and you would have wasted your hard earned Battle Points in that round for a short and unsatisfying moment as Darth Vader.
Now that the micro transactions are taken out of the game for the time being, the only way to level up your character is by pure grinding – playing the games and scoring achievements in order to get credits so that you can buy better loot crates in hope of getting a Star Card for the character you want.
Why make it so unnecessarily annoying, tedious and complicated for gamers who simply want to play certain characters?
In a way, this rewards the hardworking player instead of one with cash to blow – for now. But for newcomers, they will face a severe disadvantage when playing against others with maxed-out abilities.
For all my efforts spent in the game, I managed to get enough credits to unlock Darth Vader but I still haven’t gotten any Star Cards for him nor leveled him up enough yet.
Despite all the flak and criticism of the game, if you love being part of the Star Wars universe, are not too hung up about playing hero characters and love the pretty graphics, SWB2 does a really great job in terms of gameplay.
I admit that the grinding and prerequisites for playing a hero character are a huge turn-off, but if you really just want to be part of the whole Star Wars experience, you will enjoy SWB2.
The Standard version of the game retails for S$79.90 for the Xbox One and Playstation 4, and S$69.90 for the PC version. If you take advantage of the current holiday sales, you can get it for way cheaper.
But if you are really against the whole idea of grinding to unlock characters, or if you’re on a budget and don’t mind the dated graphics or missing out on The Last Jedi tie-ins, there are plenty of old Star Wars games to satisfy your craving.
The original Star Wars Battlefront II by LucasArts from 2005 currently retails on Steam at only S$10.50.