Star Wars Battlefront II’s Slow Road to Redemption
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Star Wars Battlefront II’s Slow Road to Redemption

Not many games faced a launch as arduous and fraught with controversy as Star Wars Battlefront II. Released in November 2017, the follow-up to 2015’s reboot of the Star Wars Battlefront franchise was met with widespread, all-encompassing fan uproar and utter failure. Little of this condemnation was geared towards the game itself, but rather the predatory microtransactions that forced players to spend more money on top of the £40 price tag if they wanted to use their favourite Star Wars characters.

Before Battlefront II’s release, hopes for the game were incredibly high. The first Battlefront, developed by DICE and published by EA, was a promising, if slightly undercooked, re-imagining of the iconic mid-2000s Battlefront shooters from Pandemic Studios. Released just weeks before the launch of Star Wars: The Force Awakens in 2015, many saw the failure to include content from the prequel and sequel trilogies as a disappointing oversight, and the lack of character progression, weapon variety, and story mode meant the longevity of the original Battlefront was far from ideal. 

Battlefront II looked set to change that. With playable characters from all trilogies, maps spanning everything from Kamino to Tatooine to Starkiller Base, and a detailed story mode to boot, it seemed DICE had used the criticism of 2015’s Battlefront to craft the definitive Star Wars multiplayer shooter. Most surprisingly for a game published by EA, it was announced at 2017’s State of Play conference that all DLC for Battlefront II would be completely free, with new maps, skins, and playable characters bundled into “seasons,” available completely free of charge to all players. It all seemed too good to be true, and once the game was in players’ hands, it appeared that it was.

Murky discussion of Battlefront II’s extensive use of microtransactions first emerged during beta testing. Players calculated it would take around 40 hours of gameplay to unlock a playable character like Darth Vader, whereas he could be unlocked immediately if real-life money was spent on in-game credits. Despite this, EA didn’t tweak the in-game cost of these characters, leaving players to choose between extensive grinding, real-life spending, or the inability to use characters in a game they’ve paid for. Of course, the fanbase wasn’t going to sit back and let this happen, and widespread criticism of EA’s DLC system took place, complaining it favoured pay-to-win tactics and destroyed the nostalgia of the older games, where a variety of Star Wars characters could be used on a whim. In a now-legendary Reddit comment, EA’s Community Team said the high unlock cost of these characters provided a “sense of pride and accomplishment” once players had done it—a response that garnered over 660,000 downvotes, and remains Reddit’s all-time most downvoted comment.

Perhaps it was this fervent fan fury that woke EA up to the scale of discontent, as the day before Battlefront II was due to launch, microtransactions were removed from the game entirely, and the credits required to unlock characters was reduced by 75%. Microtransactions were gradually reintroduced in March 2018 and were far less intrusive, only being used to unlock cosmetic items and no longer giving players the ability to purchase perk-based Star Cards and high-powered characters. In this update, all characters were automatically unlocked regardless of a player’s level, closing the door on a fiasco that brought gaming’s dark relationship with microtransactions to boiling point.

As Star Wars Battlefront II approaches its fourth anniversary, the fan goodwill that EA threw away in late 2017 has more or less returned. Regular updates for the game ended in early 2020 with the release of skins based on the Original Trilogy and a map based on Rogue One’s Scarif, marking the end of a game that had hugely redeemed itself in the years since launch. Over this time, new content ranging from Clone Wars skin packs to maps based on The Last Jedi and Solo: A Star Wars Story have bolstered the variety within the game by dramatic proportions, with a wealth of content available completely free. 

The shooting mechanics were never an issue in Battlefront II’s early days, but the distraction of the microtransaction saga put many off the game and, following their removal, the stunning sheen of DICE’s product was able to shine through. Even now, gameplay is tight, nostalgic, and gripping, with the influence of Battlefield mixed with the original Battlefront making for a multiplayer shooter that truly lets fans live out their Star Wars fantasies. Its fanbase is still staggeringly strong, developing custom skins and inhabiting online servers that are not only remarkably popular, but totally free of hackers. If Battlefront II had launched with even half the content and polish of the 2021 version, it would’ve been a considerably more successful game, and may perhaps have been considered one of the franchise’s best-ever video game entries. 

Sadly, Battlefront II’s launch means it’ll never quite get the credit it deserves for paying tribute to all branches of the saga in such a neatly presented and engrossing package. If there’s any game on the current generation of consoles that deserves a second chance, it’s Battlefront II—the microtransactions are gone, the game’s cheaper than ever, and the fanbase is ready to embrace you with open arms. EA might have learned its lessons from the 2017 fiasco, but it’s a shame that Battlefront II was the sacrificial lamb. If you were put off by the microtransactions, try just one game of Blast, one swing of a lightsaber, and you’ll see why it still deserves another shot. The Force is stronger than ever before with Battlefront II.

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