“That armour’s too strong for blasters!” —Luke Skywalker, The Empire Strikes Back
To fight on Hoth alongside the Rebels, or leading the rush against the Hoth base in an AT-AT has long been the stuff of every Star Wars fan’s dream. With the announcement of Star Wars Battlefront (the third installment), this dream has become a reality, and the title has garnered much excitement ever since trailers and gameplay of the Battle of Hoth were shown during E3 2015, along with images of Endor, Tatooine and Sullust. Thus, when the open beta began on October 8, I decided to drop in and give Star Wars Battlefront a try, playing through Survival on Tatooine before dropping into Drop Zone on Sullust, a gametype quite similar to Halo’s crazy king, where Rebels and Imperials fight to control drop pods over a ten-minute match. Playing on Sullust had been admittedly a frustrating experience owing to the terrain: at the time, I did not have the jump-pack and encountered difficulty in navigating, leading to frequent deaths. However, I persisted, and I reached rank four after around an hour-and-a-half of Drop Zone, unlocking the A280C for the Imperials and the ion shot powerup, which wrecks havoc with vehicles and machinery. Thus, I dropped into Walker Assault, and found myself fighting for the Rebels, trying to stop the Imperial AT-ATs from reaching the power generators. Walker Assault feels like Battlefield’s Rush gametype, with the intent of activating uplink stations to call in as many Y-Wings as possible to bomb the AT-ATs, weakening them and opening them to damage. I’ve heard grievances that Walker Assault is horribly unbalanced, and thus, it was not surprising that I lost my first Walker Assault match. However, around six hours later, I’ve been performing much more consistently, making use of power-ups, vehicles and even the heroes to aid my team.
With eight hours under my belt over the past four days, I’ve begun noticing some of the issues that’ve crept up, starting with the spawns. There have been times where I spawned in and died instantly from enemy fire, or else, was running around, encountered an entire group of opponents and cleaned them out with a combination of thermal detonators and DLT-19 fire. This is the beta, but hopefully, DICE will fix this before the game officially launches. In addition, the control schemes for vehicles feel extremely stiff even when the sensitivity is set to maximum, making it difficult to fly an X-Wing or TIE fighter smoothly. Controlling an AT-ST or a stationary turret is also difficult. Moreover, team balancing can sometimes be frustrating, with one team absolutely decimating the other without any teams being mixed around to improve the distribution of skill. With this being said, I find Star Wars Battlefront to be an incredibly fun experience after beginning Walker Assault. The shooting mechanics feel solid, capturing what it would feel like to shoot a Star Wars blaster in terms of both visuals and audio: it is incredibly rewarding to fire the same guns that were used on the original movies. The bolts don’t travel instantaneously, so one must lead their aim for distant targets. When every shot does land, it is immensely satisfying. The combination of cards that confer special abilities (like the aforementioned thermal detonator and ion shot, but also encompassing a jetpack, personal shield and single-shot slug-thrower) allow for players to customise their play-style: I’ve used all three cards in conjunction with power-ups to go on kill streaks and capture objectives, and the presence of power-ups provides players with mini-objectives to compete for. All of this, coupled with phenomenal graphics, means that players feel like they’re a part of the Star Wars universe, fighting for the Rebel or Imperial cause.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Between all of the Thanksgiving festivities, I’m surprised I was able to fit in eight hours of game time. While this pales in comparison to what a lot of YouTube channels have put in (such as TheRadBrad, LevelCap and Matimi0), eight hours was plenty of time to experience every game mode, which encompasses all of the frustrations and joys associated with the beta. The first mode I tried was survival, and that proved to be ridiculously easy.
- The survival game mode in the beta ends with an AT-ST attacking with a squad of Stormtroopers. To quickly beat the AT-ST, I used the grenades, and then finished it off with my blaster. It is possible to inflict some damage on vehicles with a blaster, although explosives and ion weapons will damage them much more quickly.
- I spent a fair bit of time playing drop zone to farm enough experience to reach rank five and accumulate enough credits to unlock the equipment to help my team out on walker assault. Set on Sullust, drop zone has awesome volcanic terrain, including bubbling mud pools that can cause damage if the players stand in it for too long. In my first hour of the multiplayer, a lack of familiarity with the map, and no equipment meant I was averaging a 0.4 KD ratio. Still, I tried to help my team with the objectives where I could.
- The first thing I needed to get used to was the fact that blaster rounds travel more slowly than do the bullets of Battlefield, necessitating that one lead their shots. Fortunately, being directed energy weapons, blasters have no bullet drop, and so, learning to lead a target and take them out at distance was not too difficult to learn at all. I personally favour the A280C (Rebel’s starting rifle) over the DH-17, as it feels slightly more consistent than the DH-17 at range.
- It’s quite amusing that my act of trampling Luke Skywalker with the AT-ST killed him, yielding enough points for me to reach the level cap of rank five. Killing a hero yields massive points, a reminder that heroes are incredibly tough and can solo even the most skillful of players. The AT-ST is quite difficult to wield, as the main blasters don’t seem to fire where the crosshairs are trained.
- I definitely make it a point to play the objectives, activating uplinks and damaging the AT-ATs if I’m on the Rebellion’s side, and shutting uplinks down and defending the AT-AT from the Rebellion if I’m aligned with the Empire. Games tend to be more fun when players are concentrating on the objective, and in the matches I was playing for the objectives, I tended to perform quite well.
- My first experience with the hero power-up was Darth Vader, but the match ended with a victory seconds after I activated it. I next found a power-up for Luke, and went on a short killstreak with him before my timer expired. The heroes are rare, but extremely fun to play as; intended for supporting the objectives, heroes automatically deflect blaster fire from enemies in front of them and have access to Force powers.
- On the whole, Luke is a lot more agile than Darth Vader, making him fantastic for clearing out uplink areas. While I’ve not tried either for myself, I’ve heard that Luke can deal massive damage to the AT-AT if he’s in the right spot (and the AT-AT is crippled from a bombing run), as well as use his Force powers to combat Vader. After this point, the Imperials realise that a hero is massacring their teammates, ending my five kill-streak with Luke.
- I love the design in the Rebel’s Hoth base: it’s remarkably faithful to the movies, and while I’m defending the uplink station here from the Imperials, I did have a chance to provide covering fire for Darth Vader as he entered the base to personally shut down an uplink. As soon as the opportunity allowed for it, I bought the A280C for the Imperial side: it handles better than the DH-17, and here, enabled me to perform reasonably well during the course of a match.
- While I know my teammates have done the heavy lifting with an orbital strike on the vulnerable AT-AT, I fired a few rounds into it to finish it off, leaving one more AT-AT left. Walker assault focuses on stopping two AT-ATs by doing enough damage to them, first opening them up to attack through calling in Y-Wings to bomb it. Some have said that the Rebels are at a distinct disadvantage here, but I’ve won numerous games, with a positive KD ratio to boot, as a Rebel.
- The turrets scattered around the map aren’t just for show, and can be used to take out unsuspecting infantry, as well as vehicles (after a bit of sustained fire). For one reason or another, Imperials can make use of these turrets, giving a nasty surprise for the Rebels, and here, I go on a kill-streak with such the DF.9 turret, which were used in The Empire Strikes Back as an anti-infantry weapon. In Star Wars Battlefront, they’re much easier to control and have a good rate of fire.
- All of the power-ups are useful to some extent, but besides the squad shield, one of my favourites has to be the thermal imploder, which has a massive blast radius that can take out multiple infantry units. The device also has one of the coolest, most-lethal sounding explosion of any weapon I’ve seen in a game, warning of an impending detonation with a blast of bass reminiscent of a Zaku’s monoeye flash.
- I miss playing Star Wars: Rogue Leader so much on sixth-generation consoles. While the graphics are dated, the gameplay was superb, and I absolutely loved the combination of classic missions like the Battle of Endor and the Battle of Yavin in conjunction with separate missions. Here, I pilot an X-Wing and shoot down a TIE fighter. The controls mean that the X-Wing (and even A-Wing) has the maneuverability of a refrigerator, but one cool feature was the ability to lock onto enemy vehicles, and again, I love how the laser cannons of this X-Wing sound identical to those of A New Hope.
- The scenery on Hoth is fantastic, and in the distance, the massive planetary ion cannon can be seen. Here, I’m operating a 1.4FD P-tower, the infamous dish turrets that were effortlessly blown away during The Empire Strikes Back. In Star Wars, they were intended as artillery pieces but were stymied by rising costs and obsolescence, and in Battlefront, they’re a bloody nightmare to control. However, they’re powerful against infantry: I landed a beautiful shot against an opponent standing on the hill where my crosshair is aimed and downed him immediately despite his being roughly 150-200 meters out.
- After I unlocked it, the DLT-19 heavy blaster rifle became my favourite weapon. Despite dealing less damage per shot than either the A280C or DH-17, it makes up for it with an incredibly high rate of fire. In fact, it handles like an LMG from Battlefield, and around here, I suddenly realised that my improving performance was because I now had a weapon that performs like the LMGs of Battlefield. With that being said, I have gotten some kills at a distance, too, by leading my targets and firing in bursts.
- I pilot a T-47 Airspeeder (aka. the snowspeeder) into battle here in a scene that could’ve come straight out of the movies. While I would crash and burn on my flight on account of the controls, this scene felt so immersive and perfectly captures the atmosphere during the Hoth battle. A glance at the HUD shows that the AT-ATs are still in reasonable shape, and while I (think) that this match was lost, there have been cases where some teammates successfully used the tow cable to bring down the AT-ATs at the last moment to give the Rebels a win.
- There is honestly so much to talk about for Star Wars Battlefront, and I’m definitely glad to have tried it. I originally had some other posts planned out for the Thanksgiving long weekend, but that schedule did not account for the Star Wars Battlefront beta being available for play. Fortunately, I was able to make some headway with my thesis paper yesterday. Today, I spent a bit of today finalising my grading for an iOS assignment and also did some literature search to figure out which aspect of my simulation I should implement next.
- Here, I make use of a TIE fighter to go on an 8-kill steak, shooting down a pair of X-Wings and strafing ground targets with the TIE’s laser cannons. This weekend’s been amazing for food: yesterday, I went out with the family for dinner that included, amongst other things, golden-sand lobster (金沙龍蝦), a highly savoury and delicious incarnation of my favourite dish. Today, with the leftover turkey, we used the bones for congee and spent a bit of time eating turkey straight off the bones: for Thanksgiving Dinner proper, the bones are usually packed away, and only the meats are served.
- The third time’s the charm: the first time I found the hero pickup for Darth Vader, the game ended. The second time, image capture failed, and despite getting a handful of kills, I have no screenshots. During the games I played today, I won six of my seven matches, and had an overall KD ratio of 1.97. Compared to Battlefield, the game handles very similarly, but is also more friendly towards casual players. I’ve found that against more dedicated players with mics, I’ll get wasted, but against the average player, I seem to perform just fine. I know there’s a third-person mode, but I prefer first person in general.
- Here, I use Darth Vader’s lightsabre to casually deflect blaster fire before employing Force-choke on the Rebel victim. While he floated helplessly, I slashed him with the lightsabre to finish him, then took out two more Rebel soldiers before walking down to an AT-AT and using the force sabre throw to finish one more guy. Thus ends this post, and while I’ve only posted 20 images here, I have a collection of 280 screenshots. Whittling that down to 20 was no small feat, and I’ve only been able to showcase a small sample of what the game’s been like. Regular programming will resume, although posting will be somewhat erratic: the next post coming out for sure will deal with GochiUsa season two after three episodes, coming out in 12 days.
The question thus becomes: will I pick up Star Wars Battlefront on launch day (or shortly after)? The beta’s been amazing, and if Walker Assault alone offered this much replay value, one could only imagine the spectacle and enjoyment coming from the other game modes (assuming they’re as well-designed). I definitely enjoyed Star Wars Battlefront‘s beta for its beautiful depictions of the worlds in Star Wars, the faithful sound effects and lighting effects; in fact, I spent practically the entire Thanksgiving long weekend playing it. However, I probably won’t be getting it shortly after launch. Granted, the game’s been incredible, handling smoothly with respect to both gameplay and connectivity (I never once died due to lag), but I’m curious to see how the other game modes play out first, such that I might make a more informed decision. Being able to fight the Battle of Hoth for myself, and watching the Rebellion take out the AT-ATs before they could smash the generator was quite an experience: the vehicle, weapon and map design are completely faithful to the scenes from The Empire Strikes Back, giving the sense that one’s really part of the movie. While I’m likely to wait for a bit more information before deciding whether to buy shortly after launch, Star Wars Battlefront has definitely ignited my anticipation for the upcoming Star Wars movie, which is set to premier on December 18.