When Star Wars: Battlefront was rebooted in 2015, fans of the franchise were delighted. It was the first Star Wars game in years, and it was being developed by one of the most acclaimed first person shooter developers in the industry (DICE).
So it was even more heart breaking when gamers realized it was nothing more than a glorified tech demo. Sure it boasted stunning visuals and impeccably loyal sound design, but this glimmering outer shell was hollow within. No single player campaign, multiplayer only, but not even a robust multiplayer. The repetitive skirmishes lost their charm after just a few matches. There was a noticeable lack of game modes, maps, and playable characters. Most insulting of all was a season pass which included virtually the same amount of content as the base game.
EA seemed to believe that they could charge $60 for a bare bones experience, taking advantage of the nostalgia and hype around a beloved franchise.
After a considerable amount of backlash, both fans and EA hoped 2017’s Battlefront 2 would rectify those issues. A single player campaign written by Walt Williams (Spec Ops: The Line), a more robust multiplayer mode, and a significantly larger amount of content to explore. It was going to be a real Star Wars game.
So I’m genuinely disappointed to say, that they fell short, again.
Star Wars: Battlefront 2 is not the Star Wars game we deserve or want.
I barely need to mention the multiplayer, which has created a global uproar due its scandalous microtransactions and poorly implemented progression system. Even when all the drama is stripped away, it still feels shallow and monotonous.
The arcade mode seems tacked on. Play as classic heroes and by the number soldiers, in maps of minuscule proportion, supported by unbalanced combat. The game will then penalize you for playing split screen, telling you that you can’t earn any more points for 11 hours. This system seems built for a free to play mobile title.
A Great Narrative Driven Star Wars Game.
The games campaign is its only true talking point. Sure it has its issues. The story is not as advertised. This is not a new perspective on the empire. Whether it be EA or Disney, it seems someone was too scared to explore such uncharted territory. Instead it quickly pulls a 180 and transitions into another tale of the rebel alliance.
Yet it does not deserve the criticism it has received. This is the most visually stunning and cinematic gameplay experience you will have in 2017, and one of the most engaging narrative based shooters I’ve played recently. Ignore the critics who show an abysmal amount of interest in Battlefront 2’s campaign. It is well written and well-acted. Sure it isn’t deep or profound, but neither are any of the films. They all boil down to a hero’s journey. With a galactic war here, political struggles over there, and a little bit of romance sprinkled on top. We don’t love Star Wars for its narrative intricacies. We love it because of the grand universe George Lucas crafted around a relatively by the books story. Battlefront 2’s campaign feels just as genuinely Star Wars as any of the movies.
Familiar faces like Han Solo, Kylo Ren and Luke Skywalker aren’t shoehorned in. Their involvement makes sense within the story of the Inferno Squad and helps diversify the gameplay.
I don’t mind short single player games, but if this had been stretched out into a 10 – 12 hour standalone experience, unconnected from the loot box controversy, this could have been a marvellous and well received Star Wars game.
The Death of Visceral Games and What Their Project Tells Us About The Future.
However Battlefront 2 can’t get a free pass for its issues just by having an admirable amount of polish. Despite a satisfying single player experience, this sequel opted for more instead of better. It’s close to being a game, and arguably calling it a tech demo could be viewed as harsh and unreasonable, but it is safe to say that it is not what fans wanted from EA or this beloved franchise.
Yet there is still a silver lining that can be gleamed from Battlefront 2. It shows us the potential of what a Star Wars game could look like on current gen hardware. Battlefront 2 is a shallow overall experience, its visible lack of depth evoking a feeling of tedium relatively quickly. However it looks and feels exactly how it should. It shows us that with a larger focus on story or a more complex gameplay loop, a Star Wars game could be tremendously successful. By looking into which other studios are tinkering away on this franchise, I know there is still hope. So let’s explore the possibilities.
Let us first take a look at Visceral. Both to summarize their demise, but to also examine how their work in progress may lead to other exciting titles.
Many were judgmental and grief stricken upon hearing of Visceral games closure. The team behind Dead Space and the writer behind Uncharted had been working on a narrative driven action game set in the Star Wars universe – that is until EA unexpectedly shut the studio down on October 17th 2017. However, it is not as clear cut as the masses would believe. Whispers of the games rocky development had been swirling for months, with Visceral quietly bleeding employees for some time.
The projects vision pivoted several times. Originally Visceral was approached to continue development on the Boba Fett focused Star Wars: 1313. After declining that offer they set to work creating an open world title focused on a group of unruly pirates who plundered other ships within the Star Wars universe. When Amy Hennig joined the studio things changed once again. What is commonly now known as project Ragtag, told the story of a squad of Han Solo-like criminals within an Uncharted inspired linear action game. With ambitious hooks such as 5 playable squad members. Each character had their own traits and abilities, and a “sabotage” style approach to combat. They could hack aspects of the environment to distract, kill, and toy with the emotions of enemy A.I. These were all concepts that proved too ambitious for this small studio.
There is blame on both ends of the spectrum. According to several ex Visceral employees, EA asked too much of the studio. EA demanded they make a game that outsold and was critically received better than Uncharted 4, but lacked belief in Hennig’s vision, and constantly questioned why familiar characters and force related tropes weren’t being included in the game. They also diverted just under half of Ragtag’s staff to Battlefront 2’s single player campaign.
But Visceral also had its own short comings. Many of the staff were not adept at using the game engine, Frostbite, Hennig seemed to lack trust in her team and clashed with them frequently, and the studio itself was situated in San Francisco. San Francisco is one of the most expensive cities to live in in the world. For a full account I recommend you read Jason Schreier’s breakdown of events.
A Destiny Style Star Wars Game Has Real Potential.
However, it isn’t all doom and gloom. EA Vancouver is taking over the project, although admittedly starting from scratch. They are instead choosing to create an open world action game. Perhaps they will implement elements of the story or gameplay Visceral envisioned. Perhaps a fresh pair of eyes can make their concepts work, although it will doubtfully be exactly what Hennig planned. I share Visceral’s story because there could be hints at what EA Vancouver’s eventual Star Wars title might include.
There are also rumors that EA Vancouver’s game will feature similar elements to Destiny and other shared world shooters. Before you get up in arms about EA trying to shoehorn in micro transactions and multiplayer over single player, think about it. You may start as a rebel or a storm trooper or a smuggler. Choosing the faction of the war you want to side with. Like in Destiny, you explore various environments across several planets. You take part in public events like bringing down a Rancor or AT-AT. Instead of the Warlock, Titan and Hunter classes, you could eventually choose a Jedi, Sith or Bounty Hunter Class. You would level up your abilities, whether they be force powers or bounty hunter sabotage techniques, like those planned for Ragtag. You could even rework Hennig’s script to fit the campaign of this shared world action game.
That doesn’t sound half bad to me. In fact that sounds like a truly intriguing Star Wars experience, enjoyable for the player and profitable for EA.
Star Wars: 1313 and Force Unleashed Live On.
EA also recently acquired Titanfall developer Respawn, who have been working on a Star Wars title for some time. Now Visceral may have declined to work on Star Wars: 1313, but Respawn could offer a spiritual successor to the unreleased title. Respawn have demonstrated that they know how to create a gripping single player campaign and robust multiplayer, within the Titanfall franchise. If you really think about it, Titanfall’s jet pack and wall running traversal, futuristic weaponry, and Titan combat, would fit well into a Boba Fett game. Just switch out the Titan for Slave-1. So with the success of their own I.P. and the obvious hype that surrounded 1313, EA may have trusted Respawn to take this direction.
With the confirmation that the Titanfall franchise will continue (in the probable form of Titanfall 3), it may be simple minded to think Respawn would make two very similar games. One of them their own I.P, the other connected to the Star Wars license. God of War 3’s director Stig Asmussen is leading the charge on Respawn’s Star Wars project. EA has also announced that the game will be a third-person action-adventure game. Perhaps Respawn were looking to make a title similar to Visceral’s Ragtag and EA had more faith in Respawn’s vision than Visceral’s, or considering Asmussen’s God of War heritage, could we receive a modern Force Unleashed styled game. At this point, with so little information, it’s hard to tell.
Hope is What Keeps the Rebellion Alive.
Despite the shaky year Star Wars and EA have collectively endured, there is still hope for this franchises place within the games industry. Star Wars: Battlefront 2 like its predecessor is not the Star Wars experience we deserve. Some like myself may even refer to it as a glorified tech demo, but the limited amount that is there, and the pedigree of studios that also have an opportunity to create something with this license, gives me hope for the future. The hope that sometime soon, I will experience a truly amazing Star Wars game.