It’s a bit early to say for sure, but EA’s making all the right moves so far with the announcement of Star Wars: Battlefront II at this year’s Star Wars Celebration. While a TV spot leaked earlier in the week to spoil the “surprise,” the official announcement came at EA’s panel at Celebration and thankfully, there was a good deal of substance in both the panel and the coverage that followed. Personally, I expected little more than a trailer and some vague statements, but many of the biggest questions about the game have been answered already, with those answers creating positive waves among fans.
The announcement trailer did most of the heavy lifting. The trailer introduced us to Iden Versio, the hero of the game’s single player campaign, which kicks off right after the destruction of the second Death Star at the Battle of Endor and spans the 30 year gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. The story is indeed part of the official Star Wars canon and would be intriguing simply for where it falls in the timeline of events, but things get even more interesting, For the first time in a canon Star Wars game, we’ll be playing as the bad guys.
In Battlefront II, Iden Versio is the commander of Inferno Squad, an Imperial special operations unit made up of members with diverse skill sets. These guys are as deadly in the cockpit of a TIE as they are with an E-11 blaster rifle in their hands. It’s an opportunity to tell a story from the perspective of the Empire’s heroes. We’ve had plenty of stories about the heroes of the Rebellion. But what “heroic” acts do Imperial loyalists and soldiers look up to? That’s what’s on offer here and it’s a compelling premise for sure. If you can’t wait to learn more about Inferno Squad, you’ll want to pick up the Inferno Squad novel releasing in July. It’s also got some gorgeous cover art.
One of the biggest crowd pleasers in the trailer was the confirmation that Battlefront II’s multiplayer will span the entire Star Wars saga from the prequels through to the sequel trilogy. That’s right, the clones and droid army are back! Personally, my favorite era has always been the original trilogy, but I’m impressed we’ll be able to play through it all. This particular era of Star Wars doesn’t get a whole lot of love from film fans, but it’s near and dear to the hearts of most fans of the original Battlefront games. The crowd went pretty wild when EA showed off concept art of the Kamino map during the panel.
The most exciting reveal at Celebration (at least for me) was the return of classes. This time around we’ll be choosing from four different classes (Officer, Heavy, Specialist, and Assault) instead of mixing and matching Star Cards and weapons in a largely classless system. Visually, classes will appear as whatever is appropriate for the era and map you’re fighting on, but the goal is to support class play this time around. I was not at all a huge fan of the classless system, so I’m incredibly encouraged to see the series return to its class-based roots. Another interesting tidbit is that the class-based progression extends to both heroes and vehicles this time around. We’re not likely looking at the same depth as you’d find with class progression, but you’ll be able to do something more with your vehicles too.
Speaking of vehicles, EA has heard fans of the original Battlefront games loud and clear and space battles are back in Battlefront II. Space battles were added post-launch to EA’s Battlefront in the Death Star DLC, but this time around they will be ready to go (for up to 24 players) at launch. There aren’t a whole lot of details yet, but one bit of vehicle related information we learned recently is that EA’s got Burnout series developer Criterion lending a hand on the game’s vehicles, so the ships and vehicles will hopefully handle a lot better in the sequel. I spent more time wrestling with the controls than anything else when attempting to pilot anything in Battlefront (2015).
Another thing fans should do is pay attention to comments made by Battlefront II creative director Bernd Diemer. Mashable reported that Diemer addressed concerns over a new Season Pass, stating, “When we looked at the way Battlefront had evolved over its lifetime, with the DLC and everything, we decided, ‘You know what? For this type of game, season passes are not the best thing. We need to [take it apart] and come up with something better.”
Map-based DLC has been a long running issue for multiplayer shooters. Locking maps behind a paywall ends up fragmenting the community, which is tough to reconcile for game developers, especially publicly owned companies like EA and Activision, for which selling map-based DLC has been a lucrative business. What often happens is server administrators put the new maps in their rotations for a couple of weeks after they are first released, but eventually revert to vanilla map rotations, since many players don’t own all the DLC. This ruins things for everyone. Players who purchase the DLC can no longer find populated servers and those who don’t purchase the DLC maps are often left out if a particular set does end up being popular. It’s a lose-lose for everyone except the shareholders.
Thankfully, EA seems to have finally recognized this with a commitment to free maps in Titanfall 2, but if EA takes the same approach for a high profile release such as Battlefront II, it will be a big win for gamers all around. What could replace the revenue lost? We’re not sure just yet, but loot boxes are definitely a possibility. Either way, EA appears to be mum on the subject for now, though it did release a statement somewhat walking back the comments made by Diemer. My take? It’s possible we may see a “Season Pass,” but it’s very unlikely to include maps, which is fine by me.
There are still plenty of questions to be answered about Star Wars Battlefront 2, but for now, things are looking pretty damn good.
Star Wars: Battlefront II will be available worldwide on November 17, 2017 for Windows, PlayStation 4, and XBOX One. Pre-orders are now live.