My History with Star Wars Battlefront and My Problem with the New Game

Back in early 2005, a friend of mine sent me a gift of Xbox Live and a copy of Star Wars Battlefront. He knew I loved Star Wars and he wanted me to join in on the fun he was having with this new shooting game. Star Wars games had been so hit and miss on console, I wasn’t really keeping up with the games and I had no idea what to expect. I was surprised to find an amazing multiplayer battlefield filled various classes of shooters that came from both the prequels and original trilogy. It was my first exposure to huge multiplayer shooters and I cannot think of a better game to do it. I got to experience the battlefields from so many major Star Wars battles and I got to do so along one of my best friends. Battlefield instantly became one of my favorite games, despite its lack of single player.

Later that year, I found myself sitting in a chair in the backroom of an EB Games interviewing for a job. The interviewer asked me the title of the game that I was most looking forward to that holiday season. Without hesitation I said Battlefront II. Battlefront II was similar to Battlefront but greatly expanded like all good sequels. The game included playable heroes, the ability to engage in space combat, more classes, and a single player mode. My friend and I went from playing Battlefront nightly to Battlefront II and hours upon hours were logged destroying the Rebels and saving the Empire.

This was before Call of Duty and Battlefield had made an impact on consoles. There just weren’t that many great multiplayer shooting games available, especially not ones with a license this cool. I think we all assumed Lucas Arts would keep pumping out Battlefront titles for the next several years, but that didn’t happen. Developer Free Radical took over from Pandemic and worked on Battlefront III for the next generation of consoles, Xbox 360 and PS3. Free Radical co-founder said that the game was complete in 2008, but Lucas Arts didn’t have the funds to commit to marketing the game. The game was never released.

I waited for a new Battlefront game for years. It was at the top of my list of my most anticipated games. It just seemed like a natural fit given how big shooting games and the communities that supported them had grown since the original release in 2004. Every year E3 went by, and Battlefront was nowhere to be found. We got two decent Star Wars games in the form of The Force Unleashed series, and then the massively successful Lego Star Wars, but this isn’t what I wanted. I wanted to stomp through the snow at Hoth and take down a huge army of Stormtroopers with my teammates. Sadly, that wasn’t on LucasArts agenda who’s parent company Lucas Film was working on something else.

In 2012, a bombshell announcement that Disney had purchased Star Wars came. It was both a blessing and curse in my eyes. Disney immediately announced that they were bringing Star Wars back to theaters and new content and merchandise would be hitting shelves soon. Within a year, Disney awarded EA with the exclusive rights to create Star Wars games and it was announced that DICE, creators of Battlefield, were bringing Battlefront back. I was over the moon. This was the best news I’d heard in a very long time. DICE had a history of creating fantastic games and knew how to handle the shooting genre. DICE was excited about Battlefront and were fans of the original games, so I knew they’d handle it with the care and respect that it deserved.

A year and a half later, we got EA’s Star Wars Battlefront. Personally, I loved the game. I logged in hundreds of hours and I felt the DLC was fairly priced for the content that I got. It wasn’t all home runs. I didn’t care for the Scarif level, but I felt like DICE did a great job with the license. The game felt like Battlefront, looked amazing, and sounded even better. The gameplay was fun and the lack of single player didn’t really bother me. I was happy getting a good multiplayer game in 2015, then waiting till 2016 for a good multiplayer/single player game (if those even exist).

Reviewers and fans were critical of the game though. They felt the DLC was overpriced and the lack of game modes and single player campaign made the game short on content. Another common complaint was that the game was too casual of a shooting game. Again, I disagree with most of those points. I liked that Battlefront wasn’t something I had to sit on the edge of my seat for. I liked being able to casually enjoy the Star Wars universe while still feeling challenged. I understood their complaints regarding content, because the game cost $60, plus another $50 for the season pass and that’s $110 for a game that consists of just a handful of active (or fun) modes. Again, being a huge Star Wars fan and somebody who had waiting ten long years for a new Battlefront game, I was okay with this. I tend to stick to just a couple of different game modes anyway.

If I had any complaint about Battlefront, it was that it excluded the prequels. Once Disney took control of Star Wars they focused all their attention on the original trilogy and while I appreciated this at the time, I actually started missing some of the storytelling from the prequels. Being that the original Battlefronts came out during the prequels, I was shocked to not find any battles/characters from the prequels as being playable in the 2015 Battlefront. It wasn’t a deal breaker, but a minor complaint.

In January 2017, Battlefront II was announced and this time the prequels would be added. Also the game was hyped up to feature a massive single player campaign to help rectify all the complaints from the first game. I anxiously awaited each trailer and pre-ordered the game as soon as I could. I was going all out with the $80 Deluxe Edition of the game, because I wanted to support the franchise that I so love (not that Disney or EA needs any more money.) EA did a great job marketing the game and showing off all the added features, levels, characters, and modes. EA wanted fans to know that this game was much bigger than the original Battlefront. Things were looking incredible and I could not wait until November to get the game.

Then in October, I got access to the Battlefront beta and well… my thoughts and feelings shifted dramatically.

First off, I want to talk about the good. EA did a fantastic job making this the most realistic Star Wars game. The game looks amazing and sounds wonderful. What little the beta showed us was incredible, and it was hard not to be excited for all the other worlds and maps.

I found the gameplay to be a little uneven, but not terrible. It was still in beta, and competitive adjustments are to be expected prior to the launch of a new shooting game.

What bothered me was the new loot crate system. You earn credits, open up loot crates, and assign all sorts of stats and equipment from there. I hate it when developers overcomplicate the classes in shooting games. Shooters are not RPGs and in my eyes that means you don’t need 5000 customizable objects. If you want things to stay balanced, limit the options, and keep things simple. Of course, this is the exact opposite of EA DICE did.

To make things worse, the loot crates offered an unfair advantage to players who spent real life money on them (or in game currency which build ups very slowly.) So, to put it this way, if I pay $60 for the game, and you pay $60 for the game, but invest another $60 to buy loot crates, you’ll be significantly better than me. That’s just not fair.

Loot crates should be handled the way they are in Rocket League or Overwatch, where they offer customizable clothing/decoration that does not affect gameplay. I shouldn’t be able to buy a more powerful gun, or worse, a much more powerful character in any game unless that game is free. To make matters even worse, you aren’t guaranteed to get anything special out of the loot crates, it’s essentially a slot machine.

EA promised to make changes, but it seems like it was just all a PR move. They gave out review copies of the game where heroes only cost 10,000 credits to make it look obtainable for the average player, but then jacked up the price to 60,000 credits in the actual game. One player did the match and determined it would take around 40 hours to unlock the higher priced heroes like Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. That’s 40 hours each.

So in a nutshell, you buy the game, and then if you want to have a chance to actually succeed in it or to play as your favorite characters, you have to start dishing out money for the EA slot machine and hope that you get what you want. It’s terrible way to treat customers and fans and it’s a damn shame that EA seems to be sticking to their guns with using the loot crate system.

Sam Machkovech wrote a fantastic article at Arstechnica regarding the loot crate controversy. His final paragraphs sum up beautifully why I am so against this.

I know some young Star Wars freaks who are bordering on that golden age in which shooting lasers either at AI enemies or other kids on the Internet becomes a parent-approved activity. I think about what it was like to be a Star Wars fan when I was a teen and how much I hungered to hunt down every Jedi Knight secret and every Shadows of the Empire challenge point. There’s no half-assing such a journey when the Rebellion is on the line.

I think it is vile to prey upon young, easily manipulated fandom with virtual loot boxes that are needed to unlock the full potential of, say, Boba Fett or Chewbacca. This isn’t a matter of funny outfits. So long as a game makes any gameplay-impacting content play out like a slot machine, as opposed to an obvious “hard work is your only path to mastery” procession, EA and DICE are officially applying some Dark Side forces—particularly the luster and supposed fun of slot machines and gambling—to children’s Star Wars gaming glee.

Parents share Star Wars with their kids because it’s a virtuous story of good versus evil and morals over the easy, dark path. EA, don’t let your latest foray to a galaxy far, far away take that away.

I cancelled my pre-order. I cannot and will not be taken advantage of like this. It kills me to think that a game in a franchise that I have so much history with and adore is resorting to such shady tactics to make money.

I want to buy Battlefront II. I really, really do. But ethically, I cannot support a company that is doing this. Plus, I know me, I’ll be super pissed off if I’m playing a battle and getting owned by some jackass who is eons above me thanks to him dropping crazy money on loot crates.

I didn’t go into every detail of the loot crate controversy, so I thought I’d paste the Wikipedia entry regarding it. It provides a better time line and more thorough information.

During pre-release beta trials, the game’s publisher EA was criticized by gamers and the gaming press for introducing a loot box monetization scheme that gave players substantial gameplay advantages through items purchased in-game with real money. Although such items could also be purchased with in-game currency, players would on average have to “grind” for around 40 hours to unlock a single player character such as Darth Vader. Responding to the controversy, developers had adjusted the number of in-game items a player receives through playing the game. However, after the game went into pre-release a number of players and journalists who received the pre-release copy of the game reported various controversial gameplay features, such as rewards being unrelated to the player’s performance in the game.

One user later reported on the social media platform Reddit that despite spending $80 USD on the Deluxe edition of the game, Darth Vader remained locked behind 40 hours of game time. In response to the backlash, EA’s Community Team attempted to defend the controversial changes but were criticized by many after saying that the 40 hours of game time needed to unlock characters or “grind” was to give users a sense of “pride and accomplishment”, rather than a game mechanic to incentivize players to purchase said characters with real money. This comment has currently generated over 300 thousand downvotes, making it the most downvoted or unpopular comment in the site’s history.

EA’s response to the controversy suffered further criticism after the EA community manager called those who disagreed with these practices “armchair developers.”

So, as of right now and unless things change dramatically, I will not be picking up EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II. Thankfully, Disney recently patched the original Battlefront II (2005) on PC and there is a very active community playing online. I’ve been playing matches here and there and I guess I’ll dedicate myself to that Star Wars game until a new company comes along and begins developing Star Wars games that aren’t aimed at ripping off the consumer.

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