The Star Wars Battlefront 2 beta has given many their first chance to play the game, with it offering a handful of maps and modes for players to try out before the full game's release on November 17th. However, while my experience with the beta has been positive, I can't help but be more than a little put off by the game's proposed microtransactions and their influence upon the main game.
Following in the footsteps of the likes of Overwatch, Star Wars Battlefront 2 introduces paid-for "crates" (a.k.a. loot boxes) that reward players with Star Cards, credits or crafting items for use in the game. These crates can be obtained using credits earned by playing, or by purchasing them using real-world money, a feature that wasn't available in the beta for obvious reasons. While loot boxes are an unfortunate inevitability in modern games, many publishers only pack them with customization options in order to prevent their games from becoming pay-to-win. That isn't the case in Star Wars Battlefront 2.
Star cards in Battlefront 2 alter your in-game abilities. For instance, you can equip an ability that increases the amount of damage you can withstand, or one that reduces the cooldown times of your abilities. The quality of these Star Cards is dependant upon their rarity — they're divided into common, uncommon, rare, epic and legendary — while unlocking duplicate Star Cards will improve the quality of the original card. Crafting parts obtained in loot crates can also be used to upgrade existing Star Cards, making them more powerful.
Though loot crates cost 1,100 in-game credits, making them relatively easy to earn by playing the game, it's inevitable that splashing out real-world cash on them will allow players to obtain them quickly while putting in zero effort. When such systems only rewards players with customization options this isn't so much of an issue, but when the abilities unlocked actually impact the way the game is played? Yeah, that's more concerning.
As is the case with most loot box systems the items inside each crate are randomized, though they're thankfully divided into three categories, ensuring that players who solely want to acquire items for ground-based combat aren't besieged with spacecraft Star Cards. Due to their random nature, in order to upgrade a particular Star Card you're going to need to purchase more than a few crates, meaning that players who fork out real cash to obtain them quicker will inevitably be more likely to get their hands on high-end upgrades.
But does this make Star Wars Battlefront 2 pay-to-win? Unfortunately, it seems likely that this could well be the case, as players who pay out for loot crates will therefore have easier access to Star Cards, equipping a variety of abilities that will make them both more powerful and more resilient. Though it remains to be seen just how much Star Cards can change the tide of a match, if you're confronted by an opponent who has decked themselves out in legendary gear, your chances of besting them in a firefight are significantly reduced. Given that such gear is more easily obtainable by spending real money, it's difficult to argue against Star Wars Battlefront 2 being pay-to-win, with Star Cards designed to give players a tactical advantage.
While Star Wars Battlefront 2 has yet to be released, unless the ability to purchase loot crates with cash is removed from the game, it's difficult to see how EA could change the current system without it being pay-to-win. At this point Battlefront 2's loot crate system is designed to influence its gameplay, and those who don't spend money on loot crates will inevitably be left behind when it comes to unlocking high-tier Star Cards. It's always disappointing to see such a system implemented into a retail release, especially one that hinges upon the success of its multiplayer mode. Hopefully its loot crates aren't as pernicious in the full game as they appear to be in the beta.