After the EA Play keynote that essentially kicks off E3 here in Los Angeles, I was invited to try out the pre-alpha version of the multiplayer mode in Star Wars Battlefront II. On the streets in front of the royal palace on Naboo, I played as a Trade Federation droid tasked with taking the throne room from the Clone Troopers occupying the area. As the fight for the palace raged on, it didn’t take long to realize that DICE’s sequel is just as enjoyable as the the 2015 game, and it even has a few positive changes to gameplay.
Before You Go...
Before you take to the battlefield, you’ll need to pick a "class" to use in combat. In the previous game, you merely picked a weapon, chose three cards for your abilities, and entered play. This time around, you’ll choose from an Assault, Heavy, Officer, or Specialist class. Each class has its own choice of weapons (the demo featured two weapons per class) and a handful of cards — a.k.a. Star Cards — to use during the fight.
Similar to the first game, you can still choose three Star Cards to use in combat, but you’ll also have a fourth card that works as a passive ability (in the first game, the fourth card was an extra ability with limited number of uses). For example, the Heavy class uses a Barrage attack, a portable shield, and its powerful sentry gun as its main abilities. The fourth card can either speed up the cool-down cycle for the other three abilities, or it can reduce the damage you take in combat. We didn’t have too many cards to work with (I could only use a small number of cards to change the third and fourth slot ability), but with the potentially larger number of cards in the final version, you could further specialize your class so that it’s a nearly unstoppable unit when you’re in close combat or sniping enemies from a distance.
Another change in gameplay is the removal of hero and vehicle power-ups on the field. In the past, you had to find a specific icon in the field to use a land or aerial vehicle or to control one of the heroes (or villains) from the franchise. In Star Wars Battlefront II, you can now select vehicles and the main characters from the class selection screen, but each one costs a specific number of Battle Points. You can earn these points automatically when you’re on the battlefield. You earn more points the longer you stay alive.
Some of the vehicle options, such as the Vulture Droid aerial ship, are cheap at 500 points, but if you want to control Boba Fett, Rey, or Darth Maul, you need to accrue 5,000 points, which takes some time, especially if you die frequently. This change in mechanics makes the game seem more like the Battlefield series, another game by DICE, which also lets you choose classes and vehicles before entering combat.
The 20 vs 20-player match meant that the map didn’t have to be as expansive as some of the maps in the first game, but it still needed to be large to fit all the players and leave enough space to move around the map. The Naboo map fit the criteria. There's a massive avenue that leads to the palace, but it's occupied by a friendly troop transport vehicle, which stops at the palace entrance. If the opponents destroy it, it's game over, so my allies and I had to hunt them down by taking the side streets and flanking their position. If the transport successfully made it to the entrance, we then had to take over the lower level of the palace before moving on to the throne room for the final push. In a way, it resembles the Walker Assault mode from Star Wars Battlefront in that the attacking force has to bypass three “checkpoints” in the match in order to complete the objective. In this case, protecting the transport, storming the palace, and taking the throne room were the three main objectives in order for our side to win.
From the first few minutes to the last seconds of the match, the combat was exciting. As we ran down the main avenue towards the palace, laser shots whizzed around us as opponents attempted to take out a few of us in an initial volley. Both sides eventually clashed as explosions, random shots, and the occasional barrage from aerial vehicles tore up the streets of Naboo. Eventually, I was able to garner enough points to bring out the slow, yet powerful Armored Assault Tank. With the help of other players, I pushed through the narrow streets and killed foes with a few well-placed shots. I even managed to get in front of our transport vehicle and take out additional forces so that it could pass safely. When the transport reached the entrance to the palace, it destroyed the barricades blocking the way, and we pressed onward inside the building. Fighting in the small hallways and rooms made the action even more chaotic to the point where it was difficult to see opposing forces. I was just shooting blindly down the hallway in the hopes that I would hit a target.
Slowly, but surely, we made our way to the throne room where we had to hold our position to win. In these last moments, I was able to play as Darth Maul and tear easily through a few foes. However, one opponent entered the room as Rey. It was a match that could never happen in the movie timeline, but it happened in the game as we traded a few blows. However, the epic duel didn’t last long: the “Victory” message flashed on my screen.
Welcome The Changes
For the most part, the multiplayer action closely resembles its predecessor, which is a sigh of relief. The combat in these games has always managed to keep me on my toes whether it was on Endor, Hoth, or even today on Naboo. With DICE working on the Battlefield and Star Wars Battlefront games, it’s no surprise that some mechanics of the former title would eventually make its way to the latter.
In the case of Star Wars Battlefront II, the introduction of classes means more specialization for each player’s loadout of weapons and cards depending on their play style. Adding Battle Points and the ability to use those points to purchase vehicles and special characters before entering combat means that you can now focus even more on the action instead of spending time trying to find an icon on the map to play as Darth Vader or fly the X-wing.
It was also announced at EA Play that all post-launch content would be free to everyone. This is a welcome change from the previous game, which had multiple pieces of content that you had to pay for separately or buy altogether with a Season Pass. It was a shame that people were left out of trying new maps, characters, weapons, and abilities because it wasn’t included in the base game. However, it seems that EA and DICE listened and learned.
With these changes, Star Wars Battlefront II might be the game that can finally satisfy all of its fans. Battlefield 1 is already a major success for DICE, and it’s possible that the studio can have the same result in a galaxy far, far away.