GameTech: May the force be with you in Battlefront II

“Witness the power of this fully operational battle station!” the Emperor cackled, as Luke Skywalker’s face fell in anguish. The Death Star was in perfect working order after all, ready to blow up Luke’s friends.

You can almost hear EA cackling in the background as Star Wars Battlefront II nears its launch. The first Battlefront was well received, but quickly gained a reputation for shipping with the bare minimum of features. Some called it unfinished. That’s not likely to be the case with the sequel, which comes fully loaded from the start. Witness the power of our fully operational video game!

This time around, Star Wars Battlefront doesn’t ship with a barebones multiplayer mode and future content locked behind downloadable carbonite. Not only does Battlefront II have a wide variety of multiplayer options from the get-go, it even has a single-player campaign.

The question is, will fans be willing to take the plunge a second time? The multiplayer beta ended today, with thousands of players trying out the new features ahead of the game’s launch on November 17. There were four modes on offer: Galactic Assault, Starfighter Assault, Strike and Arcade mode. These four modes covered the large-scale battles the series is famous for, on both land and in the air, freshened up the smaller-scale shootouts in the 8-on-8 Strike mode, and continued the fun ‘wave defence’ mode in Arcade.

The beta was well received by most people who played the game, which augurs well for the multiplayer longevity of Battlefront II. There are some small changes, however, that are likely to create ripples going forward. For one, players no longer spawn beside the teammate of their choice after death. There is a ten-second window in which to spawn with others, otherwise you’ll be on your own. Secondly, and perhaps more significantly, EA have introduced a ‘loot crate’ system to reward players and offer new gear. This system works well in Overwatch for purely cosmetic items, but in Battlefront the items will include equipment and abilities that affect the gameplay and your ability to win.

Even if those multiplayer changes turn out to be a hindrance, plenty of people will buy Battlefront II for the single-player campaign alone — if it proves to be any good. So far, we haven’t seen enough to know for sure. What we do know is that you play as Commander Iden Versio, leader of the Empire’s “extraordinary special operations team that completes the missions no one else can”. This team are equally skilled as fighters and pilots, desperately battling to save the Empire after the events of Return of the Jedi. It’s nothing new to play as the bad guy in Star Wars games, but it will be interesting to see if Versio stays evil throughout.

Either way, Battlefront II is certainly a fully operational battle station. Whether it blows up or not remains to be seen.

LORD OF THE RINGS

Not many franchises rival Star Wars, but Lord of the Rings comes close. Nobody expected much from Shadow of Mordor when it was released a few years back, but it turned out to be a sleeper hit, with a clever ‘nemesis’ system the star feature. The nemesis feature returns in the sequel, Shadow of War, and it remains the best part of the game. In short, every time you let an enemy get away (or he kills you) that enemy changes in some way, evolving to meet your next challenge — or in some cases devolving.

The personalities and humour of the orc captains are a real selling point of Shadow of War. Some are poets, some are singers, some are just bastards. Recruiting them to your personal army, or putting them away for good, continues to be really satisfying in the sequel and gives players an opportunity to tell their own story within the game. Which orcs become your personal nemesis or favourite — and how — is a lovely procedural narrative that more games should adopt.

On the other hand, the complex system of skill trees and upgrades only drag the game down if you prefer to avoid that sort of progress management, while the plot doesn’t do much to keep players interested either. In that sense, the game doesn’t need a nemesis — it’s its own worst enemy. Still, fans of the first game will find plenty to enjoy in this limited, but enjoyable sequel.


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