Simple, Shallow, Flawed Fun – Star Wars Battlefront Beta Impressions
*Based on the PC version of the Beta played on Max setting across a three day period. Screenshots are from official sources/PC User taken , and not ouroriginal in-game screenshots taken by the poster*
In all fairness, Battlefront could be utter drivel and it would still bring in the hype on band name alone. Battlefront feels like the accumulation of Battlefield’s slightly tarnished name needing a break, and EA identifying the rebirth of Star Wars fever. It’s natural to approach Battlefront with a cautious look, even more so given DICE’s recent track record of broken promises and broken games.
As per usual, Battlefront’s release has been set-up with a multiplayer Beta. Boasting two multiplayer maps, and a single player/co-op map, there’s a fair amount to play through. It’s clear that much like past Battlefront titles, each map has a unique feel. AT-AT assault is staged on the snow ridden planet of Hoth, which is an expensive map filled with trenches, turrets and heartbreak. Hoth’s overall tone becomes instantly apparent as soon as player’s eyes upon the sheer chaos playing out before them. Firefights galore, dogfights in the sky, struggles over certain points across the map, it’s sheer madness.
If AT-AT Assault provides the large scale warfare DICE is infamous for, Drop Zone on Sullust is a much smaller affair more akin to other shooters in the market. It’s objective isn’t as grand as halting advancing a couple of AT-AT, instead it’s a variation on King of the Hill with Escape Pod providing the objective to capture. It’s a non-stop firefight that, while renaming fun, does end up feeling rather limited in terms of approach.
Between the two maps, AT-AT Assault is by far the most enjoyable. If there’s one thing DICE always nail, it’s the feeling of chaos, that same chaos creates some truly wonderful moments. A single match can see Luke Skywalker battling Vader while X-Wings and Tie Fighters dual in the sky, all while Rebels do their best to hold the lines against AT-STs and waves of infantry. Viewing the battlefield from the ground is a truly wonderful vision to behold, even more so when the battle is in full flow. The spectacle is impressive, but the annoyances soon begin to appear throughout the experience.
The AT-AT Assault showcases the best and worst of what the Beta had to offer. Intense action, full of genuine ‘Star Wars moments’ as well as a genuine feeling of struggle placed on the Rebels side. Battlefront’s sheer pace of battle is relentless with both sides pushing and defending with quick succession. Rebel objectives are pretty simple, capture uplink stations in order to call in Y-Wing to lower the advancing AT-AT’s shields. Respectively, Empire forces concern, much like the scene from Empire Strikes Back, is to defend the AT-ATs and take out the Rebel base. The way in which both sides clash highlights the tightness of the core gameplay, the issues become apparent when delving into all the features sprinkled around it.
Empire forces have a much more enjoyable experience, mainly due to the distinct advantage they hold. The way Battlefront handles it’s power ups, utilities and vehicles allows Empire troops to have access to much more than their Rebel counterparts. Spread across the map are tokens, which upon collection grant the player either a utility (turrets, orbital strikes etc), a vehicle or even the ability to play as either Darth Vader or Luke Skywalker.
It feels more akin to Mario Kart than it does to a team based on-line shooter, even more so when the Revel tokens are far harder to obtain in the face of advancing Imperial forces. The Rebels hardship is further enhanced by the fact Empire troops gain access to tokens that grant them the use of the towering AT-AT turrets, or a controllable AT-ST. Both of these tokens can easily shatter Rebel defences.
After 3-4 hours of exclusively playing AT-AT Assault, the Rebels had won a grand total of two times. The victories were only achieved by a strong pre-made group being present on the Rebel team. For the most part, at least until the last day of the Beta, most Rebel players did not have a single clue what they were doing. Many players decided that firefights were more important than capturing and defending Uplinks, and it’s hard to blame them. There’s a distinct lack of reward when playing the objectives, sure there’s a better chance of victory but only at the cost of the player missing out on flying an X-wing or controlling Skywalker.
The lack of reward or satisfaction, if not addressed, will surely taint any map which requires teamwork. Who would honestly pass over the chance to control an iconic vehicle or hero just so they could look at an objective and hold a button/key? Dice have clearly tried to craft a free flowing combat experience that oozes Star Wars at every turn, the problem is they’ve also tried to craft engaging maps that require teamwork. The token system undermines the whole notion of working together, encouraging players to run off and grab a token, often leaving the objective vulnerable. Other issues, such as a lack of in-game voice chat (or even useful voice commands), make Battlefront a difficult game to play as a cohesive unit.
Accessibility slowly morphs into a long standing issue as the Beta ticked on. The core gameplay is slick, but the sheer mindlessness of it often leads to most battles becoming mass cases of run-and-gun. From the land to the sky, Battlefront refuses to anything but caring to the player. Dogfights may look, and sound, nice but are far too simple to feel even remotely satisfying. In what should be a battle of skill in instead a case of looking at the target long enough to lock on and let the game aim for you.
There’s literally no skill or input needed when it comes to shooting down enemy ships. A number of players had started to become creative in their movement towards the end of the Beta, but even then it was purely a case of looking at an enemy long enough to down them.
Star Wars: Battlefront, as a franchise, was always known for its ability to create sheer chaotic fun, mostly thanks to the class system. The various amounts of playable classes, from across all the film’s famous factions, result in a truly expansive multiplayer experience. The decision to remove classes from the new Battlefront (as well as only having Empire Vs Rebels) allows a small but growing, sense of loss after each play through. the Beta only had a hand full of weapons available, with most of them feeling too much alike, depriving the player of identity. The firearms may all sound fantastic, but the character and charm of the Star Wars universe becomes lost when the majority of people are using the exact same weapons.
Dice have a promising title on their hands, but the Beta, and announcement of a Season Pass, has created more concerns rather than reassure. There’s plenty of time to address pretty much all of the issues. Dice have already come out to state their intention to balance things on AT-AT Assault, which is a positive sign. The token system still feels like a huge thorn in the side of the core game.
The concept makes no sense, even more so the Hero tokens. Surely these opportunities should be rewards for players performing well within the game e.g. completing objectives? The vehicle tokens are equally as odd. Everyone should stand a fair chance of trying their hand at piloting/controlling the various vehicles, but dotting them around the map in token form feels utterly alien from the game.
The simplicity of Battlefront, from the infantry combat to aerial dogfights, is potentially where things could fall apart in the long term. Accessibility will bring in the masses initial, but depth keeps players around for the long term. The Beta suggests that Dice may have crafted a beautiful and enjoyable experience, but not a truly engaging game. Controlling Both Vader and Luke was a fun novelty feature, but this doesn’t change the overall feeling towards my time with the Beta being a little underwhelming. Fun, fast but lacking a real identity or focus. Battlefront could quite easily end up becoming another flash in the pan shooter, much like Titanfall before it.
With the new films hitting cinemas, and all of the surrounding Star Wars hype that goes with it, Battlefront will no doubt be a finical success regardless of its quality. The Beta has flashes of brilliance but is bogged down by odd design decisions and shallow, but sharp, gameplay. The real challenge set before Dice was creating a game that didn’t serve to exist in past Battlefront’s shadows, but to become the best Battlefront it could be.
After hours upon hours piled into the Beta, Dice has seemingly crafted an adequate experience that supplies plenty of nostalgia and cheap thrills, but fails are supplying anything truly memorable. Battlefront, for all intents and purposes, isn’t quite sure what it wants to be.