Star Wars Battlefront 2 is the sequel to 2015's Star Wars Battlefront and promises to be bigger and better than its predecessor. Of course, these games from EA DICE aren't to be confused with the original Star Wars: Battlefront and Star Wars: Battlefront II (mind the colon) from Pandemic Studios. I always wondered why EA chose to use the same names as the first two games in the series. Ostensibly, it was because EA's entries are a "reboot"–not sure why you need to reboot a series with no overarching story–but I think it's more because the company wants to wipe out the memory of two much better games.
The Semblance of Improvement
Star Wars Battlefront (2015) was a decent multiplayer shooter that somehow managed to avoid including anything that people liked about the previous two games in the series. The vehicles were turned into power-ups scattered across the map. The base game had about four maps that were counted as 12 since they were mocked up differently for each mode of play. The progression system was horrible. There was no single-player campaign. Finally, the season pass split the playerbase, and each DLC pack could only be played via a playlist that only included material from that pack, so good luck finding a game for anything besides the base game content.
All these qualms and more were to be solved by Star Wars Battlefront 2 (2017). Fans rejoiced when EA and DICE announced that there would be no season pass, and all future content updates would be free to everyone. Everyone was happy to learn that progression would be changed, there would be more maps, there would be a single-player campaign with an original story, and vehicle spawning would be more predictable.
I was tickled to death. I love Star Wars, and I love the original two Battlefront games. I figured that EA was getting back to the formula that made those two games great. I was wrong.
The campaign follows Iden Versio, an Imperial Commander in charge of a special forces team called Inferno Squad. I wrote about how the first three missions of Battlefront 2 impressed me in a preview recently, and how I had hope that this could bring back the Star Wars storytelling in video games we've been missing since Disney acquired the license.
Well, I got tricked on that one. The whole thing takes a nosedive in quality as time goes on, and becomes more and more clichéd. Also, you don't actually get to play the full campaign. EA has held back the last missions until the free The Last Jedi content pack releases on December 13. I guess it's to avoid The Last Jedi spoilers, but since the campaign is only about five hours, at launch it's a disappointing offering.
The Duality of Multiplayer
The multiplayer is the big attraction for Star Wars Battlefront 2, and I'm sorry to say that it's broken at a fundamental level. The actual gameplay is great. There are four classes of soldier now, and each of them has a specific function that encourages teamwork. If a team wants to be effective they have to use a mixture of these classes and support each other to get the best out of their abilities. The new Galactic Assault mode takes the place of the previous game's Walker Assault, and pits two teams against each other in asymmetrical gameplay. One army will be attacking and the other will defend against them. It's objective-based like Walker Assault was, but there's stuff to do besides just assaulting walkers.
Fighter Squadron is now Starfighter Assault, and has been expanded to where it could be split into its own game. It feels a lot like if you gave a Star Wars: Rogue Squadron game online multiplayer. The other three modes are mostly a distraction, and it's obvious the big work went into Starfighter Assault and Galactic Assault.
On the single-player side, besides the campaign, there's an arcade mode where you can play custom (or split-screen) matches against AI soldiers, or accomplish specific tasks to earn credits. It's a simple, but fun enough, mode and can be a welcome distraction if you're tired of playing multiplayer or want to play some couch co-op.
We Are All Made of Star Cards
With all that out of the way, we can get to the part you're likely here for: loot crates. Above I said that the multiplayer is fundamentally broken, and the reason is loot crates. The entire progression of multiplayer is tied to these loot boxes, and the Star Cards held within. You use Star Cards to give your heroes, soldiers, and ships stat boosts or different abilities. They come in four different levels, with the highest, Epic, only being available through crafting. How do you craft? Well, you need crafting material that you find in loot boxes.
Star Cards figure into the "Card Level" of each of your units. Each unit has a potential three Star Card slots you can equip cards to, with only one being unlocked at the beginning. Your Card Level is determined by the number of cards you have, and their rarity. So if you have one Epic Star Card for a unit, its Card Level would be 4. Premium currency buyers get another boost here because the more loot boxes you open, the more Star Cards you get and the higher your Card Level will be.
Your Card Level figures into things like card upgrade requirements and unlocking additional slots to equip Star Cards, so it's obvious the more cards you get, the more powerful you'll be. Additionally, there are measures in place to keep you from upgrading your base level cards to more powerful versions until you reach a certain Card Level and Player Level, but there's a way to bypass this.
If you find a more powerful card in a loot crate than you're able to craft at your current status, you can still equip it. These upgrade requirements were put into place after feedback from the Star Wars Battlefront 2 beta, but instead of helping players who don't want to use premium currency, it just ends up making it that much more advantageous to buy loot crates for more powerful cards.
If all that Star Card nonsense above was confusing, rest assured, it's not because I'm explaining it poorly. This whole system is up to you to figure out. Some in-game tutorial boxes give a vague overview when you first enter the Star Card menu. However, given that every hero, soldier, and ship-type have their own Star Cards with their own requirements for upgrade, it's almost impossible to set goals for yourself concerning powering-up your units.
No Credit Where Credit is Due
You can buy loot boxes either with in-game credits, or premium currency called Crystals. The big problem with this, other than making the whole progression system like one of those quarter machines at the supermarket, is that you earn a pitiful amount of credits per match. I averaged about 200 credits for each match I played, and it takes over 2,000 to buy the base level crate. If you want a crate that guarantees Star Cards for your soldiers, it will cost over 3,000 credits.
Also, unlike every other multiplayer shooter on the market, your skill level doesn't mean anything in this game. You don't get extra credits at the end of a match for being an MVP, and there's no steady way to earn loot boxes outside of paying for them with credits.
You can also earn credits by completing missions in Arcade Mode, but don't get too crazy. If you're making too many credits, the game will slap you on the wrist and tell you that you can't earn more credits for 17 hrs. The timer seems to vary from person to person, but the fact that a $60 game has microtransactions and then stops you from earning in-game currency towards them is ludicrous.
All of My Heroes are Dead
Some of the franchise's favorite characters are locked behind a paywall as well. To unlock Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader and a few other of the franchise's best characters you have to cough up credits. This means you get to choose to either unlock heroes or buy loot boxes with your credits. You don't make enough through playing the game to do both, so you have to choose.
The pay-to-win aspect of this situation is that if you're on a map, only one of each hero character can be on the field at a time. So if you get enough Battle Points to spawn as a hero, and the only one left to choose is one that's locked, then you just got screwed. People who buy loot boxes, which have credits in them, gain an edge over you because they can unlock hero characters and have a broader selection to choose from. This whole setup is to frustrate you enough so that you'll buy premium currency so that you can actually be competitive.
Goodnight, Star Wars Video Game License
Even if EA and DICE decided to do an about face and remove or lessen the effect loot boxes have on gameplay, they're too wired into Star Wars Battlefront 2. It would take a full overhaul of the leveling and progression system to straighten up this mess. It's a shame because Battlefront 2 is really a great game underneath the predatory microtransactions.
If EA had gone the route that Blizzard went with Overwatch or Activision went with Call of Duty WW2 and made the loot boxes solely contain cosmetics, people likely wouldn't have had a massive problem with it. Oddly, there's no character customization at all outside of the underwhelming extra skins for the heroes, leaving everyone to look exactly alike. Instead, they decided to build the game from the floor up to put you in positions where you can either be frustrated or buy premium currency. You may be able to get $60 worth of fun out of Star Wars Battlefront 2, but don't expect the fun to last. EA wants this game to be a "Live Service," where they can churn out a little content over the next five years and rake in loot box money. With the way they've gone, though, Battlefront 2 is dead on arrival.