Game Preview: Star Wars Battlefront
Beta testing for Star Wars Battlefront closed earlier this week, giving players an idea of what the full game will be like when it drops in November. As it was a beta version of the game, there were only select parts of the game that were open for players to test and experience, but between three different game modes, there was plenty to keep interested players busy.
I’ll be honest with you, going into this beta I was very skeptical. I love the original Battlefront games. I think Battlefront II has some of the most satisfying and fun gameplay in an FPS (first person shooter) video game. For me, the new Battlefront game is one that I desperately want to enjoy, but that I am terrified will be bad. After spending a few hours in the beta, some of my fears were alleviated, some stayed the same, and some went unanswered. In case you were unable to play the beta for yourself, I’ve listed some of my thoughts on the game(so far) below.
Please note that all of these points are based exclusively on my gameplay experience and that some or all of my dislikes may be addressed or fixed when the full game releases.
THE LIGHT SIDE (PROS):
- Immersion is top notch: If you’ve ever wanted to feel like you’re in a Star Wars movie, this is about as close as you are going to get at the moment. The environments are gorgeous, character design is detailed (with the ability for character customization in the full game), and the musical score is, of course, amazing. I did not notice any new musical scores added specific to the game, but the classic John Williams score was implemented beautifully. The scenary and environments really feel like the movies, which is unsurprising since the design team for Battlefront spent time actually traveling to the filming locations of the movies and taking their own footage for the game. From the design aspect, if nothing else, this is quite obviously a labor of love.
- Servers held up: For the most part, I did not experience connectivity issues/lagging. Given that there were 9 million individuals that played during the beta, this is very promising. I did experience an issue connecting to play with a friend at one point, but this appeared to be a temporary issue as she was able to connect with other friends on a different day. Considering that I play and put up with the connection issues in Destiny all the time, if the final game is anything like the beta with regards to connectivity, they’ve done an excellent job.
- Both small and large scale battles/game modes: Playing a 20 v 20 battle is so much fun. Even with the balancing issues in the Walker Assault I had so much fun. It feels like a very full game. There’s always something to do. There’s a larger emphasis on team play. And if these large-scale battles aren’t really your speed, don’t worry: the 8 v 8 Drop Zone game mode was just as fun. They did a really great job of map design on these two levels (as well as the third map in the survival mode) with regards to giving people space to run, but not making maps so huge that you spend more time running to the action than you do actually in the action.
- Character hands: In the game you can buy what are basically power up cards. You can hold up to three. These give you things like grenades, an alternate type of weapon temporarily, or even a jump pack. The reason I really like this, even over other FPS games with load-out options is that it doesn’t lock you into specific categories. If you really like grenades, you can tweak your loadout so that you have both thermal detonators and ion grenades. If you prefer to play a scout role, you can equip the jet pack (to reach those high ground locations) and the cycle rife. I am excited to see the other different options for cards that will be available in the full game.
- FLYING WAS AWESOME: I was in the smaller group of people that really, really enjoyed the space battles in Battlefront II. And not just because you could land in the enemies ship and destroy things with your grenades. I loved zooming around in the different ships and playing around with what worked in different scenarios. The only taste of air battling I got to experience in the Battlefront beta was during the Walker Assault game mode but wow it was stunning. The controls were a little odd at first but not difficult to grasp. After getting the controls down, flying around and shooting Tie Fighters or X-Wings out of the air was probably my favorite part of the beta testing.
THE DARK SIDE (CONS):
- Lack of balanced multiplayer: This is specific to the Walker Assault game mode. It isn’t that a Stormtrooper is automatically more overpowered in comparison to a Rebel Soldier, but rather the additional support and tools given to the Imperials outweighs those allotted for the Rebel forces. During the game mode, Rebel forces are required to capture and hold specific points in order to do damage to AT-AT walkers (those really big, elephant looking machines if you’re not familiar); however, these areas are mostly shallow trenches, not exceptionally great for defensive play. In addition to this, the Imperial forces get a handful of AT-ST walkers (the smaller ones that have two-legs) to help bolster the ground assault. Even with the existence of aerial support from X-Wings and Snowspeeders, the practical application of these vehicles in assisting the Rebel troops on the ground is pretty low. Trying to aim at small targets on the ground when you’re in an air vehicle is easier said than done, and helping to destroy an AT-ST can take several overhead passes and a bit of luck (or maybe the Force) in order to succeed. I expect that the balancing issues will be tweaked and resolved before the game releases, however it is definitely something to keep an eye on. No one wants to go into a game lobby, get sorted to a specific faction and automatically know they are going to lose.
- Power ups: I am not sold on certain abilities/power ups being spawned pick ups rather than achievement based. Yes, it does provide casual and/or weaker members of a team to have a chance at playing as Darth Vader or zooming around in an X-Wing. But at the same time, those elements can be crucial to success. In the hands of an experienced player they can lead to victory. In the hands of a less experienced player the advantage is reduced. It also diminishes the players’ motivation during a run. There is no benefit in game of getting a kill streak or having a high K/D (kill/death) ratio. It doesn’t matter if you die once or die ten times during a match, because you’re not really losing out on anything. I like to be rewarded for doing well, but Battlefront does not deliver any rewards. Again, I don’t really have an issue with inexperienced players being given those opportunities because I think everyone should have fun. More my complaint lies in the drops/opportunities being global (limited number of drops for everyone) rather than individual (my success in game produces drops and/or opportunities).
- I am still concerned about servers: But then again, I am always concerned about servers. In any game where multiplayer gameplay is going to be a large part of the selling point of the game, I always recommend to wait at least a week after the release to see how the launch of the game was handled. Most launches will have some difficulties in the very beginning because there is a sudden saturation of players in the game, and that’s totally fine. But if it’s still having issues a week or two later, and the developers haven’t addressed how exactly they plan to fix the issue, then you might want to hold off for a bit.
Overall I remain cautiously optimistic about Battlefront. I will not be pre-ordering it and I probably won’t buy the game on day one either because I am paranoid about servers and want to read full reviews post-release. That being said, I would be surprised if I make it to the new year without a copy of my own.
Star Wars Battlefront releases in North America on November 17th for Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC. The trailer is below.
Have you played the beta?