‘Star Wars Battlefront II’ beta: The good, the bad and the ugly

Star Wars Battlefront 2 cover. Photo courtesy of LucasArts.

The long awaited beta for Star Wars Battlefront II (2017) is now open to all players on PC, Xbox One and PS4. The game is undoubtedly one of the most anticipated games of the year, and the beta offers gamers a taste of what is to come.

Star Wars Battlefront II is the sequel to the shallow and largely disappointing Star Wars Battlefront (2015). EA Dice acknowledged these criticisms and committed much of their marketing to convincing fans that this is the definitive Battlefront the fans deserve.

So then, what does this beta reveal about the full release of Star Wars Battlefront II?

The beta focuses on three multiplayer game types with one playable map for each. I had the chance to get into the closed beta that opened Oct. 4 and I put in a good few hours in the past two days. I can say for sure that this is a big step in the right direction for the series, and I’ll put in many more hours before the beta closes on Oct. 9. However, I couldn’t help but notice more than a few concerning signs of what is to come. It’s not all bad, but to elaborate, I have broken up my opinions about Star Wars Battlefront II into the good, the bad and the ugly.

The Good:

The look and feel

This game is absolutely gorgeous. They absolutely nail the Star Wars aesthetic, from the elegant royal palace of Naboo down to the brutal clash and hiss of lightsabers. Much like the Battlefront 2015, this game is a spectacular audio-visual treat for Star Wars fans. This creates an immersive environment that most games wish they could achieve. “Starfighter Assault” in particular takes advantage of the impressive graphics and sound design to create beautifully chaotic dogfights that keep you on the edge of your seat. The battles look and feel just as impressive, if not more so, than the movies themselves.

The upside of battle points

The game introduced a new system called battle points (BP). BP are a reward for players who get kills, play the objectives or assist fellow soldiers. This means that players who perform well are able to exchange their hard earned BP for special classes, vehicles and even heroes. This is much better than the essentially random token distribution of the previous game. The first time I saved up enough BP to spawn in as Darth Maul was immensely satisfying. I had earned the right to be an absolute clone-massacring badass. However, the system has some serious issues, but I’ll get back to that.

Classes, vehicles and heroes

The game includes distinctive class based units, which is a welcome improvement. You can spawn in as four base classes, each boasting a unique set of weapons and abilities that encourage very different play styles. As of the beta, each class has two primary weapons and a small selection of Star Cards. Each class has three abilities that offer powerful short term weapons and improvements unique to each class. If you are able to accumulate enough BP, you are given a set of specialized units that you can spawn in as. Each faction has its own set of unique and powerful soldiers, vehicles and heroes that offer you the ability to change the tide of battle when used correctly. These offer a chance for everyone to have the upper hand in battle if only for a short time.

The Bad:

The squad system

Confusingly, unlike many successful battlefield games that EA Dice has made over the past decade, they have decided to completely change their squad mechanics. It’s not for the better, in fact, it’s much, much worse. If you intended to play this beta with some friends, you are going to come to an annoying realization early in your first game: you are not allowed to choose your squad. Instead, when you die, you are put into a queue where you have to wait five to 10 seconds, or until four other players who want to spawn are cobbled together into a haphazard squad.

It then claims that you can earn extra BP by sticking together. But, in my entire time playing, I have yet to actually be in a squad that does that. To make it even more strange, sometimes the queue system puts you with someone who is spawning in, as an air-to-air fighter. How am I supposed to stick with that? Overall I found being forced to wait for others was a nuisance that broke the pacing of the game, rather than foster decent team dynamics.

Unit abilities

As I briefly touched on above, each unit has abilities that you can deploy for temporary powerful abilities or weapons. At first glance I actually really enjoyed these. Then, I slowly came to realize that the base weapons of each class are severely overshadowed by these secondary abilities. The base weapons are decent, but it takes multiple sustained hits to kill another enemy, let alone a hero. The abilities, like the Assault class’ shotgun on the other hand, dominate close quarters combat. It often took only one shot to kill an enemy at full health with one. This breaks the pacing as combat is often decided by who’s ability was charged first, forcing you to focus on recharge times over skill-based combat.

The downside of battle points

The BP system, while being a step forward, is still far from perfect. The biggest issue I have run into so far is that it needs some pretty significant rebalancing. I enjoy the merit-based reward system for players. But, when you are on the losing side, it can get pretty brutal.

The issue is, when a team is winning it’s because their players are doing better. If they are doing better, they earn more BP. So, the losing side will end up fighting a steadily growing and significantly more powerful team since they have more BP and therefore special units to field. This can be especially discouraging if you finally kill Darth Maul only to have yet another Darth Maul appear only a minute later. The other major issue with BP, particularly on Naboo, is that ground vehicles are really difficult to earn. They are a bit expensive and they are only available for the first stage of the battle. By the time you have earned enough, it’s usually too late. I believe that they will fix these issues before the full release. But as of now, the system exposes some seriously annoying shortcomings.

The reload system

While some players may not find grievances with the reload system, I found it endlessly annoying. Unlike so many other games that use similar weapon overheating mechanics, they seem to have gone a different route. In Battlefront II, like most other games, as you fire your weapon it will begin overheating. You can deal with this by “reloading” your weapon and quickly discharging the heat. My problem is that when you have built up heat, it doesn’t slowly cool down over time like in every other game. Instead, you can reload, which forces you to break away from combat and play a stupid reload mini-game. Or, if you haven’t fired for six or so seconds, it then quickly declines. Both are dumb and break immersion by being unnecessary and totally disrupting the pacing of combat.

The really ugly

Star Cards

This is by far the worst decision that EA Dice has made in either of the new Star Wars Battlefront games. Star Cards are an ability and passive character augmentations that have a significant effect on game play. They go so far as to even give heroes entirely different abilities. These Star Cards take many forms and each card has a different “rarity.” Rarer cards are more powerful. This doesn’t seem so bad until you realize how you earn them: “Loot crates.” Players can purchase loot crates with microtransactions. While most popular games today have loot crates in some form, it’s as if Dice purposely ignored the most important lesson about loot crates throughout all of gaming history.

Loot crates should be for cosmetics only.

It gets worse. They not only put game changing equipment in these boxes but in order to actually earn the top tier cards, you’ll just have to keep trying for a good loot box pull to get the best cards in the game. I fear that this will create the ever vilified pay-to-win culture in the game. Traveling down the same ugly path as games like Call of Duty: Black Ops III, Halo 5 and Gears of War 4. I hate this loot crate system so much, and here is a good argument why.

All of this aside, I do highly recommend trying out the beta for yourself. The beta will be open to all players on PC, Xbox One and PS4 from Friday, Oct. 6, to Monday, Oct. 9.Star Wars Battlefront II (2017) releases Nov. 17.

Contact CU Independent Arts Writer Chris Koehler at christopher.j.koehler@colorado.edu.

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