The story of the new Star Wars Battlefront games is really also part of a larger story; the story of Star Wars itself. The franchise has been through it all over the years, with massive ups and abysmal downs. This isn’t unheard of for franchises as big as Star Wars, though. With movies, TV shows, comics and games spanning over several decades, you’re bound to have a few stinkers. If you are even casually a fan of the Star Wars property then you are probably at least somewhat familiar with the franchise’s dual-ability to hit the target just right for fans just as well as totally miss it, and the video games for Star Wars are no different in that regard.
The first Battlefront reboot game was underwhelming for sure, as it lacked content generally and didn’t really delve into the strengths of the original Battlefront games like the massive battle scenes, variety of characters, and compelling single player campaign that made the game such a classic for its time. Instead, it felt like a shallow cash-in. Thankfully, part of the promise of Battlefront 2 was that it would address most of what was missing from the previous game. While it would make some meaningful strides in that direction, it would also cause a monumental calamity for the series, its publisher EA, and gaming as a whole that would go down in history as one of gaming biggest snafus of recent years. Even more interesting, the game would also recover and reshape its image in such a positive way, that it’s now seeing a healthy resurgence in popularity that few games that stumble out of the gate get to experience.
Battlefront 2 was indeed an improvement upon the previous Battlefront reboot. It was a meatier game, a better looking game, and would actually have a decent campaign. More locations, more characters, and more vehicles than the last game was a noticeable nod to the fans who had been giving feedback to EA since the launch of the last game. The promise of Battlefront 2 was a good one, and after many felt like they had a positive experience with the beta, there was all the reason in the world to be excited for Battlefront 2’s impending release. It really seemed like EA had learned their lesson from the last game and were doing their level best to put out a game that was finally worthy of the Star Wars name, or at least the Battlefront name.
The problem was that so much of the content that was teased to players was functionally out of reach for players who didn’t have hundreds of hours to spare for the enormous amount of grinding that would be needed to even have a chance at the things they wanted. The game had an in-game currency that wouldn’t be spent on the things wanted, but chances at those items through a gambling loot box system. Given the loot box mechanics and the insane amount of in-game currency needed to actually get anywhere, it was painfully obvious, right at the get go, that the game was purposefully and thoroughly designed around herding its players into spending actual money – and a lot of it – to get the things they wanted and play the game how they intended. This not only sparked outrage among the dedicated Star Wars fans who felt bamboozled by the bait and switch, but also normalized this practice arguably more than any game before or since, which is a sin that many gamers still don’t forgive EA and DICE for. Perhaps rightly so.
The game would go on to get lambasted by the community at every turn. While the progression system was perhaps its most egregious error, the truth is, that was far from its only problem. Online play was not as reliable as many were led to believe it would be, the campaign was largely ho-hum, and the Clone Wars era was basically entirely missing from the game – with basically no representation with characters or locations.
A couple DLC expansions and re-balancing updates later, it seemed that EA was going in the right direction with the game, but dragging their feet at the same time. Small tweaks to the balancing of certain weapons and abilities were not really helpful in light of the games more foundational issues. Many gamers suspected that EA was milking the loot box progression system for as long as they possibly could, while other publishers were taking note of the practice and implementing their own versions of it. Thankfully, eventually, after months of criticism and legal challenges, a new progression system would be implemented in Battlefront 2 that would resemble the progression in similar, more straightforward games. You could upgrade what you wanted at your own pace and feel consistently rewarded for actually engaging with the game as opposed to grinding and blind luck.
The characters were all unlockable, and more expansions were released for free, including the “Night on Endor” update that would offer a very different flavor of the game that almost felt like a horror game at times. EA and DICE would keep the goods coming though. Soon, they would release new outfits from the classic films, maps, as well as new modes like the classic fan-favorite “extraction” mode and a compelling 2v2 “heroes vs villains” mode, as well as a lot more would come out for free, for all Battlefront 2 players. They would even release Clone Wars content like General Grievous and young Obi-Wan hero characters. Some much-needed improvements to the lightsaber combat making it far more fun to use would also drop. 2019 would be a great year for the game with even more heroes including Darth Maul, and an extremely fun capital supremacy mode. It would amount to quite a lot of content, that, had it been included at launch, probably could have saved the game a lot of its initial criticism, but as it stands, it went a long way towards repairing the damage done by the game’s many initial blunders.
It’s tough to say if Star Wars Battlefront 2 should be regarded as a success at this point. I suppose it is in a monetary sense, and it certainly is a success in terms of redemption, but there is no undoing what was one of the last generation’s biggest missteps. That said, the redemption arc of the game is nothing to shake a stick at. Outside of perhaps, No Man’s Sky, no other game has redeemed itself so thoroughly as Battlefront 2 in recent memory. While EA still certainly has a ways to go to repair its general reputation, which has been contributed to by multiple anti-consumer mistakes over the last many years, the resuscitation of Battlefront 2 should not go unnoticed. With EA also bring back Dead Space and likely working on a better Mass Effect game worth of that moniker, perhaps EA is finally turning over that new leaf that we’ve been hoping they would for so long.
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