“Your eyes can deceive you. Don’t trust them.” –Obi-Wan Kenobi, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope
Five years earlier, DICE had opened their beta for Battlefront: EA had acquired the rights to develop Star Wars games after LucasArts shut down in 2013, and two years later, Battlefront had been intended to be DICE’s interpretation of what a Star Wars game should feel like. The resulting Battlefront game would be a multiplayer-only experience that saw players return to iconic Star Wars locations and participate in major battles within the Star Wars universe. By October 2015, a beta was ready: it lined up with the Thanksgiving long weekend and was intended to allow players to test for functionality and performance. I was in my final year of graduate school at the time, and therefore, was able to request an extra day off so that I could spend the Friday exploring the beta. Over the course of the long weekend, when I was not writing for GochiUsa‘s second season or helping with Thanksgiving Dinner, I spent a total of eight hours in the beta, running around on Hoth to either help the Rebels stop the Imperial walkers from reaching the shield generator, or else blasting Rebels to ensure the Imperial walkers hit their destination. While Battlefront had been a fun experience, and I greatly enjoyed just how immersive the game was with its visuals and sound engineering, the actual product proved to be lackluster: Battlefront had no campaign and was limited to only a few iconic locations. Two years later, DICE would release Battlefront II. Battlefront II was intended to be a proper successor to Battlefront, featuring more content and replay value. The open beta ran during October 2017’s Thanksgiving long weekend, and after spending several hours with the Galactic Conquest game mode, as well as Starfighter Assault, I found the game to be a direct upgrade over its successor: things handled more smoothly, and there was supposed to be a campaign mode, as well. However, in the aftermath of the loot-box controversy, I decided to hold off on Battlefront II: the idea of purchasing progression was quite frankly, an insult to gamers, and I expect to be able to unlock game-related materials simply through playing the game. DICE and EA took a major hit with their decisions in Battlefront II: in response, DICE ultimately reworked the entire progression system such that all game-relevant upgrades could be earned with experience, and loot-boxes would only provide cosmetics.
As DICE continued work on Battlefront II, the game would improve beyond recognition, and by the time DICE announced their last update back in April, Battlefront II has become a proper Star Wars title. While multiplayer is a core component of Battlefront II, for me, the inclusion of the “Instant Action” mode transformed Battlefront II from a curiosity into a game that was absolutely worth picking up: the whole point of a Star Wars game is to immerse oneself in the highly unique and enjoyable aesthetics of the Star Wars universe. This is not possible in the multiplayer, since one’s mindset is on whatever objective they are playing. Conversely, in a single-player experience, one can truly enjoy the amount of attention paid to details in both visual and aural elements. Blaster bolts impact surfaces with a shower of sparks, just like the movies, and hearing the distinct snap-hiss of a lightsabre being ignited means one must now be mindful of an enemy Hero’s presence on the battlefield. In Instant Action, players are able to play a variation of conquest or breakthrough against AI bots: not quite as demanding from a skill perspective, the game mode provides a sandbox environment for players to really appreciate and explore iconic Star Wars locations, as varied as Hoth, Yavin, Tatooine and Endor, to name a few. Reinforcements are available to players, as well as Heroes, giving players a full spectrum of things to try out in penalty-free space: death and defeat don’t count against players, allowing one to experiment with different loadouts, familiarise themselves with the different Heroes, or even just wander the map and appreciate just how faithful the locations are to their movie counterparts. While Instant Action lacks the same scale and demands of multiplayer proper, it retains enough features to be a full-fledged experience, great for folks who are looking to experiment or have fun at their own pace; I’ve especially enjoyed Instant Action for being able to provide me with a quick Star Wars experience on days where I feel an inclination to fire blasters in a galaxy far, far away rather than contemporary firearms in more familiar settings.
Screenshots and Commentary
- I still vividly recall the long weekend of five years earlier: I had spent most of the Thanksgiving break on Hoth and had been superbly impressed with how DICE had captured the Star Wars feel in Battlefront. After getting out my GochiUsa post done as quickly as was possible, I jumped right back into Battlefront‘s beta. In fact, Battlefront would rekindle my love for the Star Wars universe: I’d been a fan of Star Wars since Attack of the Clones came out, and after getting the DVD for Christmas, I remember borrowing the DVDs to the classic Trilogy to get caught up.
- While simplistic from a thematic and story perspective, Star Wars biggest draw are the special effects and combat sequences: I don’t watch Star Wars to change my worldviews or understand symolism, I watch it purely for the fantastical worlds and engaging cinematography the films are known for. After watching (and yes, enjoying) Revenge of the Sith in the theatres, my interest in Star Wars jumped: the extended universe novels and games were quite enjoyable, providing plenty of lore to explore and new means of experiencing the franchise. Of the novels, I most enjoyed Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy and David Farland’s The Courtship of Princess Leia.
- As for my favourite Star Wars game of all time, Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader occupies that coveted spot, allowing players to fly in some of Star Wars‘ most iconic battles (such as the attacks on both Death Stars and at Hoth) along with lesser known battles to highlight Rogue Squadron’s legendary combat missions. However, as time wore on, my interest in Star Wars began fading. Battlefront brought back those memories of an older time, and Battlefront II represents a more polished experience.
- Since I am rocking what is more or less a private server through Instant Action, I have the choice of playing whichever Hero I’d like as soon as I’ve accumulated enough points. To reproduce the classic Battlefront experience, I’ve chosen to run with Luke Skywalker, during which I would go on a 15-streak. Luke is immensely fun to play with and has a host of abilities that make him a versatile melee-based Hero: under the snowy skies of Hoth, I had a fantastic time using the Force to capture control points and go exploring.
- On the topic of exploring, after I published the GochiUsa: BLOOM post yesterday, the skies ended up clearing up enough for me to go for a bit of a walk. I ended up choosing a more familiar trail this year, which led me to a small aspen grove that had miraculously survived the windstorms during the past week: the leaves were of a deep golden hue and, together with the blue skies, it made for a stunning autumn sight. This particular grove is lesser-known and more out of the way than a larger wood a few hundred metres away, and I practically had the place to myself during the time I was here; there’s even a small wooden tipi here, as well, giving the spot a very unique feeling. The weather’s been unexpectedly pleasant, and today, I woke up to clear skies. It has been a bit windy, though, so I’m glad to have done the walk yesterday.
- Traditionally, the Sunday of the Thanksgiving long weekend is when I have the turkey dinner: this year’s menu includes a roast turkey with homemade stuffing, ham with Dijon-honey sauce, Maggi-sauce shrimps and mixed vegetables. Turkey is counted as being a difficult bird to prepare for its long cook-times, which causes the meat to dry out and usually requires frequent basting to avert. However, we’ve been rocking a special recipe that makes things far easier: carrots, celery, onion, rosemary and parsley are placed into the centre of the turkey, and this is placed in a foil tray with about an inch of water. As the turkey bakes, the water becomes steam, moistening the exterior. Meanwhile, rising temperatures will cook the vegetables and herbs inside, causing them to release steam into the meat: altogether, this results in a very moist, tender and flavourful turkey.
- Unsurprisingly, Thanksgiving Dinner turned out delicious: the recipe we have ensures that both the dark and light meat on our bird remains juicy. While we do have a pumpkin pie, I actually don’t bother with desert for the most part: if I’m out with the extended family, desert is typically served, but otherwise, I prefer just maxing out on turkey and the main course. I’d run a poll earlier this week to see what people do during large dinners, and it would seem that folks like myself, who prefer the main course over desert, are in the minority. I will remark that the folks in the majority might just change their minds after trying turkey the way we make it.
- Even as a bog-standard infantry unit, one can still deal quite a bit of damage to enemy forces. My favourite class is the assault, since it is the most versatile: the blasters available to assault players have a decent range and accuracy, as well as hitting reasonably hard. In conjunction with a thermal detonator and shotgun for CQC, the assault is best suited for acting as shock troopers, pushing forwards onto enemy positions to capture them.
- Here, I spent some of my points to run a rocket trooper: capable of jetting around the map with a jet pack, or doing shorter dashes to evade enemies, rocket troopers can be quite fun to wield. The update last September also added the Republic Commandos to Battlefront II, and this was among one of the most welcomed addition: the Republic Commandos were elite, special forces clones given the toughest of assignments to handle. They were featured in a 2005 FPS game that follows Delta Squad and their actions during the Clone Wars.
- Thanks to a special promotion last year, I was able to play through Star Wars: Republic Commando and experience what has been counted as one of the best Star Wars games ever made. When I completed the campaign, I understood where the praise came from; Republic Commando has exceptional gameplay and a solid story, being rather sophisticated for its time. I do have plans on writing about that as time allows, and a glance at my schedule suggests that I should have time to do a post about Republic Commando come December.
- Like Battlefront, Battlefront II features the DF.9 anti-infantry turrets: at the start of a match, I hopped into one and went on a short kill-streak with it before continuing on to help my team with a push. The game mode available in Instant Action is a smaller version of Battlefield‘s conquest, using the same scoring mechanism (capture a majority of the control points to score, and hold the points the longest to win): once enough points are captured, I’m free to go wander the map and look for enemies to light up.
- Here, the planetary ion cannot (I believe the precise model is v-150) used at Hoth is visible: I’ve now shifted over to the Imperial faction to play as a stormtrooper. While the purist in me would prefer to run with the snowtrooper armour, I don’t think I’ve unlocked that particular cosmetic for the game just yet. Battlefront II offers a sizeable cosmetics collection, although owing to how little I’ve played the game, I’ve not spent too much in unlocking them for use. With this being said, DICE has been kind to the Battlefront player-base, and a legendary Rey skin was made free to all players following the release of Skywalker Rises.
- Second to the assault class is the support class, which uses a repeating blaster and can be outfitted with ion rockets for anti-vehicle combat. While their blasters don’t hit as hard as a standard blaster on a per-shot basis, they are great for laying down suppressive fire, and the high RPM on the repeating blasters mean that they can melt through enemies in close quarters. In Battlefront, my game changed completely once I unlocked a repeating blaster; the lower damage was offset by the high RPM, and it was really from there that I began enjoying the beta to the extent that I did.
- Battlefront II was released a mere two years after Battlefront, and in many places, the game has not seen too dramatic of an increase in visual fidelity. However, particle effects have been increased in Battlefront II: whereas Hoth in Battlefront was clear of any blowing snow, Battlefront II presents Hoth as featuring more snow effects. Skyboxes are also more detailed: both Imperial and Rebel vessels can be seen in the atmosphere. The particle systems must’ve been optimised to a good standard, since I’m still rocking a very reasonable 70-80 FPS with everything turned to the ultra preset at 1080p.
- It is not lost on me that Hoth resembles Battlefield V‘s Fjell 652 in terms of aesthetics: with bright blue skies and snowy mountains: Fjell 652 was the first map I ever played in Battlefield V, but owing to poor visibility and bad map design, I would come to quit out of any match if the map was Fjell 652. By comparison, Hoth has a much better design, and Battlefront II has superior player visibility: even the white armour and fatigues that Imperials and Rebels alike sport on the map don’t render them invisible, whereas in Battlefield V, even players lacking camouflage gear could hide in the open owing to how the palette was chosen, making for a frustrating experience.
- As a sniper, players have access to a slower-firing rifle with high-magnification optics that are suited for longer range combat. These rifles can drop distant enemy foes in as few as three shots without leaving one vulnerable to return fire from conventional blasters; while conventional blasters have a reasonable range, they cannot deal damage consistently at ranges for the sniper rifles. Fortunately, sniper rifles can be wielded at close ranges, as well, to get one out of a quick pinch if needed.
- I admit that for me, one of the main appeals of Instant Action is the absence of other players one-shotting me from across the map owing to their superior star cards. This is one of the drawbacks about multiplayer games with intricate progression systems: players who spend more time in the game will inevitably unlock more items to use, but players who do not invest as much time have a much narrower range of options. While I’ve been able to sink a nontrivial amount of time into something like Battlefield, in general, one can really only focus on one game at a time, and in my case, I’ve simply not put in the same amount of time for Battlefront II.
- During one chaotic firefight, I managed to down Lando: the CPU team is permitted Heroes, as well, and they can be quite devastating. I died at the hands of the CPU Lando at least three times before finally taking him out: on standard difficulty, AI bots are nowhere nearly as deadly as human players and can be handled with ease, although in large numbers, they can still deal some damage.
- In the final moments of this post, I’ll showcase some of the kills I got while using Darth Vader. Unlike Luke, Vader is a bit trickier to control, and I was not quite as effective with him as I was with Luke. With this being said, Vader’s abilities are quite fun to use; sabre throw offers Vader a longer-range attack for handling distant foes, and Force choke can temporarily stop multiple opponents in their tracks. Over time, I acclimatised to Vader’s powers, I was able to going on a few kill-streaks.
- I’d been running around and dealing enough damage as Vader during my final match to completely shut out the CPU. This brings my Thanksgiving post to an end, and as the evening sets in, it’s time to take things easy: unlike 2015, there’s no Battlefront beta going on this time around, so rather than trying to get the maximum experience from the beta as possible, I can direct my time towards other things.
At this time last year, I had just wrapped up Battlefront II‘s campaign: the September update that added Instant Action to the game also accompanied a massive sale, during which the game went for a song, and it became a no-brainer to pick it up. I recall that the campaign was reasonably enjoyable, although I’ve never really given the multiplayer or other modes a go. However, the presence of Instant Action means that I have the ability to spin up my own lobby and immerse myself in Star Wars whenever the inclination to arises. This past weekend, with the release of GochiUsa: BLOOM‘s first episode, I found myself feeling a bit nostalgic for an older time, and having picked up Battlefront II last year, it meant that I was, in effect, able to return to Hoth and fire Star Wars blasters the same way I did five years ago, when GochiUsa‘s second season began airing. The difference here is that, since Battlefront II is a fully-fledged game and not a beta, coupled with the fact that an update meant that I can run with any loadout of my choosing in Instant Action, there is no particular rush to have another go at things; this makes for a rather more relaxing weekend. Looking back, it would appear that it’s been consecutive Thanksgiving long weekends where I’ve written about Battlefront to some capacity. It would definitely seem that this time of year, with its autumn leaves, cooler weather, and shortening days, are the perfect time to go grab a blaster or lightsabre and either help the Rebel Alliance topple the Empire, or smash the Rebel scum in the name of the Empire after a warm and delicious turkey dinner, which, in conjunction with health and family, are the most important things that I give thanks for during Thanksgiving.