Disney’s new Star Wars movie Rogue One was an incredible blending of science fantasy and a war movie. I’m excited that Star Wars is trying things like this. All-out battle is something the original trilogy never did, and seeing it now reminds me of one thing: Battlefront. Star Wars Battlefront was one of my favorite games for a long time, part of the golden age of Star Wars games in the early 2000s.
Since I’m feeling in this Star Wars mood anyway, I want to take this time to tackle the differences between the original Battlefront games and the reboots. The Star Wars Battlefront franchise was rebooted in 2015 by DICE and Electronic Arts after ten years. DICE’s reboot of the Star Wars Battlefront franchise was intensely hyped up from the moment it was announced, and I was instantly on-board the bandwagon. I’m a loyal fan of those games since I was a kid, and I poured an unreal amount of hours into Star Wars Battlefront and Battlefront II. I desperately wanted the franchise to make a return. So when I saw the amount of care and dedication was putting into the game to make it a grand Star Wars experience, I figured nothing could go wrong.
I was gullible then.
The game came out, and the public’s opinion on the game was highly controversial. That was honestly predictable, as this game has a mountain of expectations to climb. Current FPS fans loyal to games like DICE’s own Battlefield would want something familiar. Battlefront traditionalists from back in the day would crave the classic, more strategic style. To combine these ideas into a new installment ten years later was a tall order. But this game could have succeeded. The elements of success are there, but they’re all out of order. Speaking as a Battlefront traditionalist, I want to take a good look at what I think EA should’ve done differently and what they should do for a sequel.
So let’s start with the basic layout of what we got on the day of release. The Battlefront reboot…is gorgeous. This is the best visual fidelity and sound design that Star Wars has ever seen short of the movies. From a sensory perspective, playing this game is like being in a Star Wars movie. But I noticed in a lot of teasers for the game that it seemed to trade on visuals alone. Closer to release, we found out that there would only be two factions to play as. We found out that there would be no campaign modes. Then there were no classes. Then there were only six distinct planets in the game.
Check out AngryJoe’s review of the game if you want, because he expresses a lot of the same problems I found.
Basically, DICE’s Battlefront fell down a slippery slope, because possibly the biggest complaint is lack of content. It focused on creating a vivid Star Wars world, and succeeded. But if you strip all that away, the game is repetitive and poorly balanced. The bulk of the game consists of running out into battle, taking down some opponents, dying and taking a tumble, and repeating. It brings back the staples of more powerful hero characters, vehicle combat, and aerial combat. There was one big problem, though: everything was now a battlefield pickup. This leads to a lot of spawn-camping to get these powers instead of earning them.
Compare this to the original Battlefront II, the most popular game in the franchise. I see a lot of flaws with this game, but it had ambition. It brought in space battles, hero characters, and more maps than its predecessor. It wasn’t very balanced or polished, but it took a step forward. The reboot included similar things, but locking them behind timed power-ups made them feel completely inorganic. The fact that the game further removed campaigns, true space battles, and more makes it nothing more than a distraction.
The flaws go deeper because the game totally emphasizes online deathmatch multiplayer. The original teamwork and interesting map layouts of early Battlefront are left behind. It’s very much a Call of Duty type of game more than a Battlefield type of game. There’s so much less depth, and the imbalanced progression system makes it feel completely biased toward mass-appeal, pick-up-and-go skirmishes. This is fundamentally different from classic Battlefront, and while it might sell with a certain crowd, it doesn’t live up to the franchise.
Battlefront 2015 isn’t some kind of broken game. But it’s clear that it’s priorities lie in a different place than the others. This game’s focus on looking nice and on featuring only the era being explored in the movies makes it feel like a cash grab.
And that would be all well and good, since the whole idea of the Battlefront games was to be a treat for fans of the movies. But they had staying power because they were good games full of content that gave players options. Tens of maps, space battles, and four different armies, topped off with online multiplayer, made for a legendary game. The new Battlefront games are making people bored after just a few hours of play.
I think the new formula that DICE has created has a lot of promise, but the sequel reportedly coming in 2017 is going to have to bring a lot more to hear to attain the level of respect given the old 2000s standby. The first game had multiple downloadable content packs, but the game had so little to stick around for early on. Paying the price of practically another whole game to get the rest of the content is an outrage. EA published this game, though, so it’s not surprising. They have a reputation.
For a sequel, since there are more movies to draw from now, we should see more maps from the get-go. There should also be less focus on unlocking weapons, and more resources put into other modes. I hate to just say this, but I think it should be more like the originals. Organic battles. Diverse locations. Actual teamwork. Throw in modes like Capture-the-Flag, campaign missions, and true ground-to-space combat, and you have a game with tons of depth. I’ll gladly sacrifice the delicious graphics and sound design for an engaging Star Wars shooter experience.