With recent developments requiring all of us to be forced to stay inside, it’s no surprise that the past month has brought us the cultural re-emergence of tons of beloved video games. Whether you’re playing Minecraft, Animal Crossing or even whipping out Call of Duty and NBA 2K, now is the time to get back into the franchises that made you fall in love with gaming in the first place. Seeing people find joy in their individual games in ways they haven’t in years is a much-needed beam of light right now.
But on the other hand, what happens once you realize that you’re craving something new from a game? It’s a stale feeling that many other avid gamers may know — most recently, I felt it after my 14th consecutive round getting pummeled by another kid on “Fortnite” (2017). While this may be enough to cause some people to put down the joysticks, I’m here to make the case for one more game that should be given a chance. Despite its initial controversy at launch, “Star Wars: Battlefront II” (2017) is a masterpiece of a video game, and through a series of reworks and content updates, it has evolved into what I believe is one of the best action shooter games of our generation.
To be honest, I never thought I’d be defending a game that I originally hated so much. Like countless others, I was outraged when “Battlefront II” originally dropped on Nov. 17, 2017. Despite absolutely breathtaking graphics and a huge display of new Star Wars content, the game was plagued by the obvious corporate greed from its publisher, EA.
On top of the game originally costing $60, the only way to progress through the game was by unlocking a series of purchasable “loot boxes,” essentially giving players an option to pay to win their matches. The added randomness of the loot box system was so concerning that even lawmakers got involved, alleging that the game encouraged minors to gamble. Needless to say, the launch of “Battlefront II” is regarded as one of the most disappointing in video game history, and to many, it seemed like the death of EA’s exclusive gaming bid to Star Wars content.
As a huge fan of the EA’s first “Star Wars: Battlefront” (2015) game, I was heartbroken by the launch in 2017. My PS4 is adorned with a Darth Vader decal; like many other die-hard Star Wars fans, I take the handling of my beloved franchise personally. So when I heard that EA had turned “Battlefront II” into a cash-grabbing machine, I promised myself that I would never buy the game.
In a chat with my friends on the game today, I mentioned how ridiculous it now seemed that we are all falling in love with a game we once swore against. In this conversation, my friend echoed the sentiment that describes the game’s recent achievements and successes:
“This game’s terrible launch was the best thing to ever happen to it,” he said.
It’s true — despite a launch that drew millions of players away, the redemption story of “Battlefront II” is unparalleled in gaming. The game today is polished, enjoyable and fulfills all of our desires from the 2015 installment. Despite having already logged a shocking amount of hours into the game, I still feel like there’s so much I have yet to discover. With over 8 million active players and tons of new promised content in the next few weeks, it seems like the future is bright for this 2-year-old game.
But enough with the talk about the ultimate comeback story of this game; let’s get into what makes “Battlefront II” special. The multiplayer game is set across a whopping 17 planets in the Star Wars galaxy, as well as the second Death Star.
Whether or not you’re an experienced gamer, the first thing you’ll notice about “Battlefront II” is how gorgeous it is. The settings are lifelike; when I dropped into Geonosis for the first time, I immediately felt like I was in the movie “Star Wars Episode II – Attack of the Clones” (2002). I started playing this game on a monitor, but the graphics were so beautiful that I decided it was only right to move to the big screen. After all, the game feels less like a shooter and more like a cinematic experience. There is an epic sensation to the constant exchange of red and blue blaster fire, and “Battlefront II” has a way of constantly giving you these movie-like sequences without ever feeling as though it’s worn out.
What surprised me the most about “Battlefront II” was its surprisingly tactical nature in comparison to other EA shooters. While I loved the first installment, I often felt like it lacked the need for real strategy, and felt catered more toward beginners. This left a huge skill gap in the first “Battlefront” game, and because there were almost no real customizable options, I quickly grew bored.
Putting that in comparison with the complex learning curve and mechanics that present themselves with the newest installment, the original doesn’t even stand close. In “Battlefront II,” players are forced to rely on more than just the infamous combat roll to outmaneuver enemy blaster fire. Whether this is by ducking behind cover, waiting for teammates, choosing the perfectly customized loadout or running in blasters a-blazing, “Battlefront II” allows you to truly choose your playstyle in a way that is rare among modern shooters.
Far, far and away, the best part of this game is the one that the original 2005 “Star Wars: Battlefront II” game became famous for — its heroes. With a lineup including Darth Maul, General Grievous, Anakin Skywalker and more, the game introduces characters that translate perfectly to the fast-paced nature of Star Wars battles.
The “cool” factor alone was enough to attract players to these heroes, but the game developers chose to do so much more with the characters. To date, I’ve spent innumerable hours grinding through the Heroes vs. Villains game mode, and I still feel like I’m just grazing the surface of the 22-hero lineup.
This ties back to the freedom of playstyle — when I want to be a high-damage tank, I can choose to be Darth Vader, and when I want to carelessly mess around, I can happily roll through players as BB-8. Every hero has different skill sets for different situations, and learning how to balance characters with each other almost feels like that of a purely competitive game. As a frame of reference, the only game that I can compare the experience to is “Overwatch” (2015). While I am in no way making the argument that competitive “Battlefront II” needs to be a thing, the potential is there, and I applaud EA DICE for being so careful and thoughtful with the characters that we grew up with.
While I have spent a large portion of my time in the Heroes vs. Villains game mode, it is not the best one. The Supremacy game mode — which pits two 20-player teams against each other in epic intergalactic battles — brings out the core to what Star Wars is all about. When I play Supremacy, I feel like my 5-year-old self again, fighting battles that only my imagination could conjure. Nostalgia aside, the battles in this game mode are great and inspire some of the most rewarding and balanced hour-long comeback matches that I’ve had with my console.
So why should you be playing “Star Wars: Battlefront II” in this quarantine? For starters, it’s available for as little as $19.99 on the Playstation and Xbox Store. Secondly, picture this: you get the whole squad on for a game. You all choose your different classes, and gear up in customized Clone Wars era clone trooper battalion armor. You re-enact classic Star Wars moments, all while mastering the skill set of a game that has no immediate comparisons. “Star Wars: Battlefront II” brings all of that energy and more, and it has been some of the most fun I’ve had from a new game in a long time.
I promised myself in 2017 that I would never purchase the controversial “Star Wars: Battlefront II” game that EA launched. And although I find myself loving what the game has turned into, I’ve held up my end of that promise; the “Battlefront II” that we see today is not the same game that launched in 2017.
EA could have easily given up on the game and left the broken progression system to make them what little earnings they could after such dismal opening success. But they didn’t, and the work, dedication and love that the developers at DICE have put into this game over the span of more than two years have amounted to a comeback that stands out in video game history. At its core, “Battlefront II” is an ode to the developers’ unconditional love for Star Wars. That’s a success story I want to acknowledge and be a part of, and I think you should too.