“The Dark Side Triumphant:” Star Wars: Battlefront 2 Review

Posted in Kulturecade by - November 29, 2017
“The Dark Side Triumphant:” Star Wars: Battlefront 2 Review

Playing through Star Wars: Battlefront 2 is an experience not dissimilar from watching an Olympic sprinter trip and faceplant inches from the finish line. Out of the gate, Battlefront 2 makes a great first impression, with accessible gameplay, immaculate attention to detail, and a campaign that promises to deliver a new kind of Star Wars story. The game falters almost immediately, however, and it’s all downhill from there.

The five-hour single-player campaign follows Iden Versio, leader of the elite Stormtrooper team Inferno Squad. In the aftermath of Return of the Jedi, Iden and her squad are tasked with reasserting the Empire’s dominance over the galaxy. To discuss where the campaign truly fails, I will need to divulge a major (but in my opinion, predictable) spoiler, so if you want to go into Battlefront 2 with no idea what happens in the story, skip ahead to the next paragraph. If you’re still reading, here’s the problem: Iden defects to the Rebellion about a quarter of the way through the story. The moment that causes her change of heart is so incredibly rushed that I was left wondering if I had missed some key detail, and her willingness to immediately turn on her former comrades paints her as less of a hero and more of a self-serving jerk. From this point on, the campaign is a mess; Iden’s story is mostly bland, with a few forced attempts at wringing emotion out of the player that falls completely flat. On top of this, the game will regularly put players in the shoes of memorable Star Wars characters who are forced into Iden’s story in oftentimes ridiculous ways. The campaign even lacks a proper conclusion: Iden is not present for the final mission, with the true ending being withheld as free DLC because it apparently contains spoilers for The Last Jedi. The gameplay itself is passable in the campaign, and space battles are a definite highlight, but poor writing, odd pacing, ham-fisted cameos and the lack of a proper  conclusion make Battlefront 2’s campaign a dud.

Multiplayer in Battlefront 2 can be an exercise in frustration. There has been a huge uproar regarding EA’s controversial use of loot boxes in the progression system, and this reaction proves to be justified. Loot boxes in Battlefront 2 contain Star Cards, powerful buffs that grant increased health, damage, and other modifiers. Players will start out with one card slot, but can eventually unlock three. While the gameplay can be fun on a moment-to-moment basis, it feels unfair when a player with more Star Card slots than you stroll in and casually decimates you with improved weapons and better damage resistance. Even after players unlock three card slots, there’s no guarantee that they’ll get useful Star Cards in loot boxes, as it’s possible to unlock useless taunts or victory poses instead of game-changing abilities, an awful design choice that feels like a slap in the face, given how long it takes to earn enough credits to buy a loot box. Certain iconic characters are also locked behind steep credit requirements, yet another baffling choice that makes Battlefront 2 feel like a grind. At the time of writing, EA has temporarily disabled microtransactions in Battlefront 2, meaning that, for the moment, the game is at least not the pay-to-win monstrosity it could have been. Even with that problem resolved, however, the randomness of the progression system here is deeply unsatisfying. This is doubly disappointing because, underneath this massive pile of poor design decisions, the game remains fundamentally solid. Battlefront 2 has satisfying weapons, decent maps and a good selection of modes (mostly holdovers from 2015’s Battlefront, with slight reworks), but the poor balance can quickly put an end to the fun.

Battlefront 2’s saving grace is its Arcade Mode. Here, players can battle against AI in the impressively detailed multiplayer maps using custom rules, or play through pre-set battle scenarios. This mode provides players with the wish-fulfillment of playing as their favorite heroes without having to worry about the Star Card nonsense found in multiplayer, but even here there’s a drawback: the amount of credits players can earn in this mode is capped at a relatively paltry amount that resets daily. Arcade Mode is good fun, but it will do very little to help players progress, and as such players are funneled back toward multiplayer if they want to continue earning credits.

I would be remiss if I didn’t commend Battlefront 2’s presentation. Even if Battlefront 2 often fails to deliver a satisfying gameplay experience, it excels as a piece of virtual tourism. Iconic location from all three trilogies are lovingly recreated here, and the sound design for weapons and vehicles is spot-on. There are some suspect voice actors who sound very little like the characters they’re portraying, but by and large, this is the best-looking, best-sounding Star Wars game ever made. The spectacle of some of the game’s larger battles, in both the campaign and multiplayer, is truly impressive and goes a long way toward recapturing the magic of the movies, however briefly.

Star Wars: Battlefront 2 looks astounding. It sounds amazing. It feels pretty good, most of the time. With only a few modifications, this could have been a Star Wars game for the ages. But it’s not. Instead, Battlefront 2 is a fundamentally flawed experience with hackneyed writing and a truly awful multiplayer progression system. It’s not a total failure; Arcade Mode is good fun, the gameplay is decent all around, and some players will find enjoyment in the non-stop fan service offered by the campaign. Battlefront 2 never rises above its most significant flaws, however, and the end result is a beautiful but incredibly average game that shoots itself in the foot at every opportunity.

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