Battlefield 2142 remains on of my favorite multiplayer games of all times and I would argue, is the best of the Battlefield series. It was the first to feel drastically different (no doubt due to its sci-fi setting) but also because it felt polished and fun. Subsequent Battlefield games, although fun, have been plagued by issues and are so similar to those that have come before. Instead of rolling out a new Battlefield, this year Dice are releasing Star Wars Battlefront. As a multiplayer only game, it presents itself in a similar vein to Battlefield but, after a period of play, is arguably a much simpler game.
In the Beta there two game modes available: Drop Zone and Walker Assault. Drop Zone sees the Rebels and the Imperials protect planetary escape pods as they crash land onto the surface and whomever protects the pods long enough wins a point. Walker Assault is an objective based map where the Imperials must push their AT-AT’s forwards, whilst disabling Rebel communication relays. To fight back the Rebels must hold these relays to call in airstrikes against the AT-AT’s. I would have to say, that despite the spectacle of Walker Assault, both modes are relatively bland. Drop Zone is a rather dull map made up of tight winding pathways, with only limited buildings and Walker Assault is only interesting once you begin to fight inside the outpost turrets. Outside of that, it’s a wide open space of snow covered landscape that offers little in terms of tactical play. You simple take pop-shots at one another as the AT-AT’s lumber forwards.
There’s no doubt that Dice have created a visually faithful game and from the scenery to the sound effects it all accurately recreates the sense that you’re in a Star Wars battle, the problem is that mechanically, it’s all too simple and because of that, both modes feels somewhat soulless. Having players respawn instantly, time after time, makes death inconsequential and you feel no real sense of risk or punishment. You die, respawn, charge back out and repeat the process until you or your opponent is the victor.
I fully understand that this is Battlefront and not Battlefield, and can appreciate the difficulty of needing to install a sense of a war around you, but there’s something too old school about Battlefront for my taste. I’ve reached the point in my gaming life where I want my actions to matter and I want more tactical depth above that of a single simple objective coupled with zerg respawns. Part of the reason why Battlefield 2142 (and Battlefield 2) were so successful wasn’t just because it had a straight foward objective (capture multiple Control Points) but because the map designs and the intricacies of the classes. Coupled a variety of vehicles, it all made for a varied and exciting game that was filled to the brim with tactical depth, at a solo and team level.
Battlefront, by doing away with classes, has instead implemented a “Star Cards” system, somewhat similar to Titanfall. It allows players to unlock specific cards, which they can then equip, that allows them to alter and customise their loadout. It’s a simple premise and some of the cards available during the Beta range from a single shot sniper rifle, to a personal shield or jetpack. I’m assuming the idea behind it is to provide players with a sense that they can create their own class rather than one defined for them. Interestingly, the cards rely on a cooldown timer or set number of charges with players able to replenish them by finishing a token scattered around the battlefield. The problem I have with this is that in a multiplayer team game, it completely removes any need for cooperation and instead, it takes me back to Call of Duty and its lone soldier mentality: people want to play together, but they don’t want to work together. You rely on other players for absolutely nothing and I find that particularly strange, especially when we’re in a time where coordinated teams, and synergy between classes is at the forefront of multiplayer gaming (see Overwatch, DOTA 2 or League of Legends). I’m not suggesting coordinated play isn’t possible with Battlefront but it’s certainly on the back-burner in comparison to similar games in the genre.
As to whether or not Star Cards are a good thing, it’s a little too early to tell. There’s too few options in the Beta to get any real sense of how they’ll eventually play out in the full version. More than anything, I really miss the ability to revive, heal and repair vehicles. The reviving I could probably live without and health replenishing is somewhat welcome, but to see your vehicles take damage and you have absolutely no means of aiding it makes them entirely disposable. Fortunately there’s potential for Dice to implement cards that allow you to repair and I hope they do.
On the subject of vehicles, it’s a weird one for me because I love Star Wars’ and they all look and sound great, but piloting them from third person, combined with the fact they feel incredibly flimsy makes them largely irrelevant. All vehicles and fighter jets are token based, meaning that unlike Battlefield where vehicles were obtained from a forward base, here the tokens are scattered around the map which any player is free to collect. Once you have, you can summon your acquired vehicle and you’ll appear in it. I’m not exactly sure why Dice chose to have players acquire vehicles in this way but I’m assuming it’s attempting to alleviate vehicles being stolen or needlessly wasted. Despite that, my biggest gripe isn’t just the use of third person but also their handling. Ships in particular feel like aerial go-karts instead of maneuverable and skill based fighter jets and they also seem pretty pointless on Walker Assault. You fly too quickly to reliably hit infantry and the dog fighting feels incredibly basic. It’s a far cry from some of the outrageous piloting that you can achieve on Battlefield.
Finally and before I forget, the best thing about Battlefront is undoubtedly the addition of Luke Skywalker and Darth Vadar as playable characters. Obtained as you would a vehicle or fighter jet, the Skywalker and Vadar tokens randomly spawn on the battlefield to ensure players can’t camp the power-up. They are both frightening to fight against and it takes a whole army, at times, to bring them down. The highlight of my weekend was undoubtedly popping my head out of a trench, only to have Darth Vadar appear from nowhere and throw his lightsaber at my face. I jumped out of my skin.
Overall I think Battlefield is largely fine. The shooting feels solid, it looks and runs incredible, even the menus are filled with options PC and console players would want. However, I think it’s clear that Dice are attempting to aim for as wider audience as possible and because of that, the game feels thin on depth. It’s all surface level fun, to the point where I was searching for something more after only a few hours. There’s a part of me that was hoping Dice would have simple taken Battlefield, and coupled it with the Star Wars licence. If necessary, keep the Star Cards but don’t abandon things that makes your existing titles great.
If Dice implement maps that are heavily built up, I think Battlefront could be a lot of fun. As it currently stands however, it needs a handful of maps that are much more entertaining than what we currently have.
Did you play Battlefront this weekend? What were your thoughts?
To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Star Wars Battlefront Game Page.