Forget for a minute the talk of loot boxes, pay-to-win, and level-locked heroes, and understand that Star Wars Battlefront II rights so many wrongs created by the first attempt to bring back the storied game series that all of that can easily be overlooked. When it was announced that EA was bringing back the Star Wars Battlefront franchise, fans rejoiced. The original LucasArts series was beloved, as it allowed players to participate in some of the greatest ground battles in Star Wars history, across both the Prequel and Original Trilogy eras. And in the hands of a development studio like DICE, a new, revamped Star Wars Battlefront had all the makings for a success.
The first game hit consoles back in 2015 and immediately the problems began to show. There was no story mode, and the handful of multiplayer modes were quickly played through and grew stale. The promise of new content was dangled over our heads like Damocles’ lightsaber, but only if you paid an additional $50 for the season pass. Very quickly, the entire endeavor soured in the hearts and minds of longtime Star Wars fans, and EA quickly realized that slapping the Star Wars name on any lackluster offering was a big mistake.
Star Wars Battlefront II works to to erase the bad feeling that gamers everywhere had with the first outing. The inclusion of a story campaign is, by far, the most significant addition. And it’s not a simple throw away time killer, either. The story of Iden Versio and her special forces Inferno Squadron dealing with the destruction of the second Death Star and the fall of the Emperor is one of revenge and redemption, and it hits all the right notes throughout the 6-8 hour adventure. The characters are well-written and the performances ring “Star Wars true.” This feels like a real Star Wars story, one that players can participate in, and gives Star Wars Battlefront II something the first game never had: hope.
Throughout the course of the campaign, you’ll visit familiar planets and maps, and be introduced to some of the new locations created especially for Star Wars Battlefront II — and even spots from the new trilogy of films. Motive, who handled the campaign development, added chapters featuring hero characters, and there are plenty of Starfighter dog fights that pop up organically, which keeps the story and action fresh.
In later chapters, players are introduced to Shriv, a Duros fighter, and quite possibly my new favorite Star Wars character. His exchanges with Lando Calrissian are near perfect, and (often) had me laughing out loud. This kind of character development helps the story feel like it belongs in the saga. In fact, it fits nicely between the Original Trilogy and New Trilogy, beginning hours before Return of the Jedi’s Battle of Endor and ending right before the events of The Force Awakens. The campaign is strong, and is considered canon, and instead of a tack-on to the multiplayer offerings, it holds its own as a must-play game mode.
Speaking of which, DICE listened to fans and critics alike when it began developing the multiplayer modes for Star Wars Battlefront II. Classes make their return, both in troops and vehicles, so finding the right trooper or ship for your play style, and the mission at hand, is paramount to success. Couple this with squad-based warfare, and building a solid team of classes that work together to complete the mission makes for some satisfying gameplay. Performing well in a game earns battle points, which can then be used to buy better troops and even classic Star Wars heroes. Camping at hero token spawn points is a thing of the past, and a very welcome change to the franchise.
There are many new game modes to be explored here and three times as many planets/maps, three times the number of heroes and villains, and three times the number of ships and vehicles to control. Modes like Blast (10 v 10, team deathmatch) and Strike (8 v 8 objective-based missions) return, as does Galactic Assault, the massive, 20 v 20 matches that task each side with objectives to fulfill, all during the heat of intense battle. DICE upped the ante by including more Galactic Assault games in different locations and different maps from day one and the results are welcome.
Aerial combat has been overhauled, too, and the new Starfighter Assault mode gives dogfighting its due. These objective based missions across five maps from every Star Wars era are some of the best, most well designed modes in Star Wars Battlefront II. Criterion, who developed the Starfighter game mode, outdid themselves by truly creating a game-within-a-game, and players can participate in Starfighter Assault games exclusively and feel like they’re truly getting their money’s worth.
Like the other Assault modes, you can choose various classes of ships, and are put into squads to carry out missions. Earning battle points allows you to unlock heroic or named ships, like the Millennium Falcon and Slave I and even Kylo Ren’s Silencer. Dogfighting in and around the floating wreckage of the second Death Star, or bobbing and weaving around asteroids adds so much complexity to Starfighter Assault, that matches will last 15-20 minutes and the back and forth between both sides will be as epic as any Star Wars game should be.
Rounding out the multiplayer offerings are Arcade, which is a pressure-free series of online/offline missions that task the player with killing a set number of enemies within a time limit, using heroes and troopers, and Heroes vs. Villains, which is some of the most fun times I’ve had playing Star Wars Battlefront II thus far.
Heroes vs. Villains is a 4 v 4 mode played solely with heroes and villains – if you didn’t pick that up from the name. One hero is the target, the other three have to defend him or her, and players are forced into crazy battles featuring iconic Star Wars characters. Seeing a team of Darths Maul and Vader, with Palpatine and Kylo Ren is formidable. But playing against them with Luke Skywalker, Yoda, Rey, and Lando Calrissian could even the score. And don’t sleep on Lando. He has some pretty awesome skills that makes him one of the best characters in HvV. Try him out and you’ll see; you don’t need a lightsaber to be a badass. Just some class and a lot of luck, two things Lando has in spades. There are 14 characters to play with in this mode in total, with two more coming next month (Finn and Captain Phasma).
The graphics and sound design, meanwhile, are both spot on, and the use of the real actors reprising their roles gives Star Wars Battlefront II a sense of belonging to the greater saga mythos. Billy Dee Williams as Lando, Temuera Morrison as Boba Fett, and even Daisy Ridley as Rey all help to make this feel like a true Star Wars experience. I’ve spent time playing on a PS4 Pro and overall, the sequel looks stunning in every way. No complains there.
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Much has been said about the new Star Cards and the loot boxes that award them. Players can pay real money to buy loot boxes that contain power ups, emotes, and weapons, so anyone with a credit card can instantly unlock most of the game, regardless of level progression. Except that’s not the case. Certain powers and weapons are level locked, so they cannot be equipped unless the player has reached a high enough level, which cannot be paid for. Some hero characters are level locked as well, but this is not a new development in online multiplayer games.
Grinding by actually playing Star Wars Battlefront II and all of its modes will very quickly get you up to the right level to unlock the weapons and heroes you may want. Nobody with a big bank account can be the best player on day one, and to even think so is absurd. You still have to play the game, you still have to earn your rewards, and while you can buy loot boxes to your heart’s content, it won’t matter if you’re trying to equip a level 20 gun to a level 2 character. The game simply won’t allow it.
Update (11/14/2017): In an effort to better explain the game’s microtransactions and leveling systems, we have made minor adjustments to the two paragraphs above.
Star Wars Battlefront II rights most of the wrongs from the first outing, and gives players the best Star Wars game experience in decades. This is what we’ve all been waiting for. A compelling and well-written story campaign adds heart and soul to a franchise that’s already flush with epic multiplayer options, and the use of all three eras of the saga, and the addition of more heroes and vehicles and locations, makes this truly feel like Star Wars.
Players can create dream matchups, and play out epic scenarios that have only existed in fan fiction and on message boards, or they can truly play a part of Star Wars history. I’ve been playing Star Wars Battlefront II for a full week now, and I’m still finding new things that I love about it. There’s always something fresh to discover and the conflict never ends. With each battle I fight in and each level I earn, I get stronger, and the call to climb into the cockpit of my TIE fighter, or to take up my blaster or lightsaber and fight for my side rings loud and true. This is Star Wars through and through, and I love it.
This review is based on the PlayStation 4 version of the game, which was provided to us by Electronic Arts. Part of this review is also based on time spent with the game at an EA-hosted review event. Travel, lodging and food were provided.
With Star Wars Battlefront II, DICE and EA have righted most of the wrongs from the first game, and have created one of the best Star Wars titles ever.