2015: Star Wars: Battlefront was one of those games that blew our minds on its release, its beautiful graphics, immersive maps and jaw-dropping audio causing many a geek to shed tears of joy. But much of that magic faded fast, once we got to playing it.
Bugs, loading times and plenty of in-game purchases and barriers prevented this gorgeous game from being the perfect escapism tool. Anyone unwilling to pay for its brutal season passes was essentially pushed out of competing. And with weak single-player modes, its initial charm and popularity quickly faded.
2017: with Star Wars: Battlefront II slated for a 17 November launch, much of the hype has been rekindled. Like everyone else, we hope it's going to be brilliant. But to be that, it first has to meet expectations. These are ours.
Solid single-player mode
Battlefront suffered from a massive omission: it had no story mode. It wasn't alone - this was a time when many games big on multiplayer seemingly got lazy and decided they would just produce titles with solely multiplayer modes. Titanfall, Rainbow Six: Siege and Evolve did this; sadly, Battlefront followed suit.
This was overlooked at the beginning as we were distracted by the sheer awesomeness of the visuals and gameplay. But as more people were driven onto the season-pass bandwagon, those unwilling to fork out S$60 for better maps and weapons fell away. Multiplayer lost its appeal and with no single-player mode, Battlefront became harder to enjoy.
Thankfully, Battlefront II does have a story mode that’s set before the events of Star Wars VII: the Force Awakens. It puts you in the armour of Iden Versio of the Imperial Special Forces, an antagonist who should draw out some interesting plot lines and vicious gameplay. Promising - and did we mention you get to play as Luke Skywalker and Kylo Ren?
New controls for Jedi
Luke Skywalker was a playable character in the reboot. But after the novelty wore off, players concerned about their points and contribution cheered louder when they got Han Solo, or even Princess Leia.
The truth is, as awesome as it is to be a Jedi master, they’re not a lot of fun due to the controls. Governing lightsabre-wielding characters with FPS controls and aiming a sabre at an enemy through crosshairs just doesn't make sense. It's unintuitive and inelegant.
But there is hope. While the controls stay similar, the new gameplay footage showcases a greater distance between the camera and your character. This should offer better situation awareness for players as they rush around hacking troops down with their lightsabres. Movement should also be less restrictive. Overall, we’re getting closer to that feeling of superiority that we assume all Jedi knights cart around.
Enough of that Season Pass nonsense
This was probably the biggest flaw of Star Wars: Battlefront. There used to be a time where paying for a game meant you had the full game – all its modes, maps, weapons and characters at your disposal. It was merely a matter of accomplishing enough to unlock them.
Season passes and “pay-to-win” schemes ruined all of that. Just call them mercenary moves by the gaming industry to capitalise on players’ devotion to franchises and characters to make even more money. These days, paying S$80 won’t get you the full game any more - you would need to top up another S$60 or so to unlock the whole thing. It’s a ridiculous situation that many loyalists just put up with.
It doesn’t do the game any favours, either. Players who have paid the additional S$60 get better characters and weapons that aid their rise to the top of the leaderboards. The community is broken; others who haven’t paid or can't afford to pay find themselves trailing behind as their selection is limited. It’s a tragic place to find yourself, especially when you love Star Wars.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like EA is changing its ways. Money talks. Loyalists are still paying for “full-er” versions of games.
Battlefront II cleverly stays clear of season passes and has even announced free seasonal DLC for players, which is great news. But players can still pump money in to boost in-game currency and unlock things at a faster pace.
"When you want to progress and get stuff, you can either play the game and when you play you earn the in-game currency, and with that you can spend towards whatever you want," says Niklas Fegraeus, Battlefront II’s game designer. "If you want to accelerate that, if you can't play for a week, you can purchase that.”
Sounds more democratic, but only time will tell how well this takes off and the effect it has on multiplayer.