‘Star Wars: Battlefront II’ dissatisfies by not meeting its potential

"Star Wars: Battlefront II" was released on Nov. 17.

Image By: Image Courtesy of Broken Joysticks

“Star Wars: Battlefront II” is one of the most interesting unintentional tragedies ever put forth in the games medium. Every second spent playing it exudes this melancholic mix of moderate enjoyment and deep hurt over all that it could have been.

The controversy began back during the game’s public beta, wherein subscribers to the publisher’s subscription service, EA Access, got to play the game for about a week before its worldwide public release. Players quickly realized what they had long suspected — the game was built on “loot boxes” that EA has been trying to integrate into all their titles. Loot boxes are an exploitative business model pioneered by popular games like “Overwatch” and “Team Fortress 2,” but EA has taken them to another level here. The basic premise behind the loot box system in “Battlefront II” is that every single character starts with virtually nothing. Random bonus content for the different character types can be unlocked through the purchase of loot “crates,” which can either be bought with in-game credits, gained over hours of grinding gameplay or instantly with real money in a microtransaction. Now, this system is largely benign in games like “Overwatch” because the content locked away behind these loot boxes is largely cosmetic and unimportant, bought simply for the love of the game and its characters. No players in “Overwatch” were ever required or pressured into ponying up extra cash for a game that had already cost them $60 or more. However, in “Battlefront II,” the random loot is often vital to gameplay. Every character, class, vehicle, etc. starts the game with three mediocre abilities called “star cards,” and the only practical way to get better star cards is to either find them in loot boxes or to build them with crafting components found in, guess what, loot boxes. Furthermore, some fan-favorite characters like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader are locked out of the multiplayer game entirely until you earn enough in-game credits to purchase them. The amount of grinding players would’ve had to have done to earn enough credit for buying either of those characters through gameplay alone was, at the beginning of the EA Access beta, 40 hours. Of course, in-game credit boosts can always just be found in loot boxes.

This caused internet outrage. EA’s tone deaf response to the situation, claiming that they simply wanted to provide players with a sense of “pride and accomplishment,” is currently the most downvoted post in the history of the Reddit. EA responded to this backlash the very next day by reducing the in-game credit cost for unlocking most of the characters, turning those 40-hour grinds into still dissatisfying 10-hour ones. After significantly more pressure from social media and possibly from “Star Wars” owner Disney itself, EA caved. A few hours before the game’s public release, with no further modifications to the loot box system or to how players unlock heroes and star cards, microtransactions were temporarily removed from the game entirely for the indefinite future.

Players can no longer pay to win, and with no modified progression system they now must play hundreds to thousands of hours to win, all because somebody thought it would be a good idea to include components of gambling in a big budget “Star Wars” game. It’s a crying shame because there’s some artistry that went into this thing. Especially compared to “Battlefront I,” there’s a lot of different ways to play this game and, at their core, they’re all pretty good. The standard “Galactic Assault” battle mode alone provides many more diverse ways to participate in combat than anything “Battlefront I” did. The star-fighting space battles in this game are simply some of the most fun and accessible battles out there. There’s even the addition of a single player campaign — albeit a half-baked single player campaign with really poor pacing — but one that at least helps teach people the game’s mechanics, with some genuinely touching character moments thrown in. Plus, if you take out all the star cards and just compare every class’s base abilities in every mode, overall the game is well balanced. Even with the option to grind for some advantageous star card loadouts, most random multiplayer matches are nail biting, down to the wire affairs where it feels like individual effort can make a difference. Beneath all the frustration over locked off content and the feeling that you’re never advancing much from match to match, there’s a nice little time kill buried somewhere in “Battlefront II.” Maybe some day it’ll be unlocked, but for now, with progression at a near standstill and the return of microtransactions still looming overhead, such a release seems unlikely.

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