“We’ve been fighting for our whole lives. It’s taken us too long to realise that we were fighting for the wrong side. This war is far from over. We would like to help you, if you’ll let us.” –Iden Versio
After she allows herself to be captured by the Rebel Alliance, Iden Versio escapes from captivity and erases a coded transmission the Rebels had acquired concerning the Emperor’s plan for Endor. While on an assignment to neutralise the Rebel forces that landed at Endor, the second Death Star is destroyed. Iden and Inferno Squad (Del and Gideon) comply with orders to retreat and secures TIE fighters, rejoining the Imperial Forces and meets with her father, Admiral Versio. With the Emperor’s death confirmed, the Empire begins to enact Operation Cinder, a contingency plan that would have seen the destruction of Imperial worlds. After Del encounters Luke Skywalker on Pillio during a mission to destroy the Emperor’s storehouse, Meeko and Iden are sent to Vardos to extract Protectorate Gleb. Witnessing the Empire’s disregard for its own people, Meeko and Iden defect to the Rebel Alliance. They meet Lando Calrissian, who gives Iden and Del a chance to prove themselves as being trustworthy by having them participate in the liberation of Naboo alongside Princess Leia. Iden and Del are then sent to Takodana to find Han Solo, who was locating an Imperial defector holding the key to freeing Kashyyyk. Iden learns that Gideon is on Bespin and commences an operation to capture him alongside Admiral Versio, but the two manage to escape. Lando, meanwhile, heads to Sullust to secure an Imperial weapons cache, but ends up destroying the munitions factory there. The Empire is pushed into a corner, and the Rebel Alliance launches one final attack on the weakened Imperial fleet at Jakku. Iden boards Admiral Versio’s Star Destroyer and attempts to rescue him, but he resolves to die with the Empire, asking Iden to live a full life. In the aftermath of the Battle of Jakku, Iden and Del share a kiss. Decades later, Del is captured and interrogated by Kylo Ren, who is searching for a map that will lead to Luke Skywalker. Kylo Ren turns Del over to Gideon, who executes him after expressing his disgust at the choices Del had made. This is Star Wars Battlefront II‘s campaign, a short but vivid experience that marks the first time I’ve played a Star Wars campaign since the days of Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader.
Battlefront II‘s campaign ultimately acts as a highly cinematic tutorial for players looking to get into the multiplayer, providing nonstop fanservice in allowing players to experience the story from the perspective of heroes like Luke Skywalker, Princess Leia, Han Solo and Lando Calrissian. Iden’s own story is a compelling, if generic one, exploring how the Empire’s atrocities and determination to hold onto power in accordance to Palpatine’s wishes was something that even some of the Imperials did not agree with. The campaign thus shows that Palpatine’s preferred approach in ruling by fear meant that in his absence, the Empire was only loosely held together and disintegrated within a year of his death, which stands in contrast with the extended universe, which saw the Empire continuing to wage war against the New Republic. The divergence of the story between what is official and what is now part of the legends means that some of the latter’s greatest stories will never be brought to life, and while the story of Battlefront II might have been familiar in its presentation and themes (compared to the more complex themes the extended universe deals with), DICE’s implementation of the campaign means that in addition to being a good entry point into Battlefront II, it also provides an authentic and rather enjoyable Star Wars experience: famous planets and weapons are reproduced faithfully, as are the characters and starfighters. Overall, while perhaps nothing remarkable from a thematic or narrative perspective, the technical excellence of Battlefront II‘s campaign, in the visuals and sound engineering, shows that the technology and resources definitely exist to make a Star Wars game of the same enjoyment as something like 2001’s Rogue Leader.
Screenshots and Commentary
- Battlefront II starts with Iden on board a Rebel Mon Calamari cruiser. After she uses her droid to hack her way out, Iden retrieves the intel surrounding Palpatine’s plans at Endor and then escapes. The last time I played Battlefront II was two years ago during the open beta, and the game today is said to be nearly unrecognisable from its state back then, showing what can happen when market forces compel developers and publishers to re-evaluate core mechanics to a game’s progression system.
- Because Battlefront II now features a conventional progression system rather than the luck-based micro-transactions systems the title first launched with, I will periodically be playing the multiplayer aspects. My primary interest in Battlefront II actually lay in the campaign, arcade and instant action modes, which allow me to experience blowing stuff up Star Wars-style and relive combat within the universe. With this being said, I would very much like to give Galactic Conquest a go, since these would allow me to fight in iconic locations throughout the Star Wars universe.
- As Iden, a member of the Empire’s elite Inferno Squad, players will initially fight for the Empire. Seeing the second Death Star destroyed from another perspective was a sobering experience that also served to show that at Endor, there were winners and losers. The films and stories predominantly tell of the Rebel Alliances success here, although some also have depicted the chaos and confusion on the Imperial side after the Death Star was destroyed. On Endor, this does not stop Iden and Inferno Squad, who fight their way through the victorious Rebel soldiers and secure TIE fighters.
- The Empire’s TIE fighters have long been described as being inexpensive, expendable fighters that possessed superior speed and manoeuvrability because of their light weight. Lacking any sort of life support system, shielding and hyper-drive, the TIE fighters were essentially engines bolted onto a cockpit and a pair of fast-firing laser cannons. However, for gameplay reasons, Battlefront II‘s TIE fighters are more durable and act as a good all-around vehicle for space combat.
- The flight controls in Battlefront II are actually somewhat cumbersome and cannot be fully customised, forcing players to acclimatise to the strange combination of mouse and keyboarding flying. When I reached the first space mission, I actually stopped playing and spent several rounds in the arcade mode to get a better feel for the controls. Once I got used to them, I was able to keep up in at least the single-player mission and accomplish my tasks with efficiency. Muscle memory led me to try and fly like I did in Ace Combat 7, with disastrous (and hilarious) results.
- Iden is next sent to secure an Imperial dockyard from Rebel forces so that delivery of a secret weapon system can be completed. However, when ion cannons from a Mon Calamari cruiser threaten the operation, Iden is sent to board the cruiser and disable the guns. Battlefront II does not have its 2005 incarnation’s seamless transition between flight and infantry combat, instead relying on transitions in the campaign to achieve the same thing, but its implementation is likely in part owing to the increased complexity of the assets.
- The first hero players will control is Luke Skywalker, who’s visiting Pillio in search of Jedi artefacts. As Luke, players have access to a Force push, heavy attack and sabre rush that lets Luke close the distance with enemies very quickly. Heroes in Battlefront II seem more vulnerable than their Battlefront counterparts: against the Stormtroopers on Pillio, I had to be cautious and engage them smartly, since Luke’s health can be quickly decimated by enemy fire.
- After Luke meets Del, he helps Del fend off attack from the native wildlife. Heroes in Battlefront II have stamina for their attacks, and this is drained on a lightsaber strike, or when a block is used. Thus, one cannot swing wildly for risk of running out of stamina mid-battle, which renders Force-users less effective. Once the onslaught ends and Del unlocks the door to the storehouse, he and Luke part ways after Luke finds something noteworthy in the chamber, with Luke hoping to meet again under different circumstances.
- Iden’s abilities vary and depend on the mission. For the most part, I utilise them to give myself a boost in a given situation, and here, I fight through Vardos after Iden and Del decide to defect from the Empire. Most people considered this to be a highly predictable, sanctimonious turn of events that reinforces the idea that the Empire is irredeemably evil, rather than the multi-faceted enemy that the extended universe (especially Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy) explored, and ever since Disney took the rights to Star Wars, I admit that the storytelling has been less nuanced than it was previously.
- From a gameplay perspective, Iden’s defection means that one now has the chance to fight Imperial Stormtroopers and implements of the Imperial forces again: I ended up destroying an AT-ST walker en route to my objective using nothing more than a blaster during this mission. While enemy vehicles are powerful forces to contend with in the campaign, even the absence of dedicated anti-armour doesn’t really mean much, since one could stay out of its attack range and chip away at its health.
- Of course, having anti-armour weapons like a grenade launcher or rocket launcher will help expedite things considerably. The mission on Vardos also gives players a chance to take the gunner’s seat in an AT-AT and use the famous walker’s arsenal to destroy everything standing between Iden and the Corvus. Despite its power, the AT-AT actually feels a little weak, taking at least two hits to down infantry with its main weapon. This was probably done to balance the reinforcement’s power.
- After escaping Vardos and surrendering to the Rebel Alliance, Iden and Del decide to help them when Lando presents them with a choice. Flying an X-Wing for the first time, Iden thus disables the Cinder satellites before helping the Rebels take down a Star Destroyer in a mission that would not seem out of place in Rogue Leader. The X-Wing is the Rebel Alliance’s trademark fighter, being a powerful and versatile starfighter that balances manoeuvrability with durability. The interceptors are lighter weight, faster and more manoeuvrable in exchange for reduced durability and firepower, while bombers possess more firepower at the expense of mobility.
- Once Iden clears the Operation Cinder satellites, gameplay switches over to Leia on the ground. She’s armed with a blaster pistol, can summon a defensive shield, use a flash grenade to disorient enemies and can pull out a confiscated Imperial blaster rifle for increased firepower. It felt great to return to Naboo two years after my first visit in Battlefront II during the open beta.
- Playing as Leia meant switching out my usual E-11 blaster, the Imperial standard-issue rifle that is versatile and reliable, for a Defender Sporting rifle. I believe Leia used such a weapon at the very beginning of A New Hope, and this weapon is capable of downing a Stormtrooper in one shot during the campaign. It also has the unique ability to be charged for a more powerful shot, making it effective over longer ranges.
- Leia’s mission is to provide covering fire for Del and Rebel soldiers looking to reactivate an ion pulse to disable all Imperial weapons. The mission takes players through the same parts of Theed that the open beta’s mission covered, right up to the palace doors. From here, the pulse is activated and that’s it for the mission: it looks like to explore the hangar where Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon squared off against Darth Maul, plus the interior of the palace, I’ll need to get into a multiplayer match.
- The campaign takes players to Takodana (not to be mistaken with SSSS.Gridman‘s Rikka Takorada), a planet seen in The Force Awakens. Players assume the role of Han Solo, who’s there speaking to an Imperial informant who intends to provide intel on the Wookies and Kashyyyk. As Han, players have access to his legendary DL-44 heavy blaster pistol, a highly reliable weapon that can one-shot Stormtroopers.
- Beyond a reliable blaster, Han also has access to a remote-detonated grenade similar to the sticky grenades of The Division and can charge into a crowd of enemies to knock the first enemy over. On top of this, the DL-44 can have its rate of fire increased. All around, he’s a fun character to play, and there was immense satisfaction in using the DL-44 to blow Stormtroopers away: in most games, pistols are considered to be secondary weapons to be counted in during a pinch, but the blaster pistols of Star Wars are equally as effective at range, handling similarly to the M6C Magnum of Halo.
- After digging through crates the Imperial informant points out to find the intel, Han fights his way through squads of Stormtroopers to reach Chewbacca. Fighting what felt like an entire legion of Stormtroopers here proved tricky, and while the DL-44 is great for dealing with smaller groups, it’s decided less suited for situations where enemies are coming from all sides. It took use of each of Han’s abilities to get through this stage.
- Once Chewbacca finishes repairing the Millennium Falcon, it’s time to take to the skies and drive off the Imperial forces that appear. Being a Hero ship, the Millennium Falcon’s large size belies its solid performance. Armed with an afterburner, concussion missiles and an automatic quad turret, the Millennium Falcon is considered to be the best Hero ship in Battlefront II, with Boba Fett’s Slave I being the best vessel for the Villains. Maz will berate Han for bringing the Imperial forces in, but with the Millennium Falcon, they are easily dealt with.
- Iden and Del find themselves on Bespin once they learn that Admiral Versio and Gideon are here. They disguise themselves as Stormtroopers and infiltrate the Imperial facility, but fail to find either Admiral Versio or Gideon. The flight into the facility has players passing by Beldon, voluminous creatures that produced Tibanna gas (utilised as a hyperdrive coolant and for bolstering turbolaser firepower) as a part of their metabolic processes.
- After the mission goes awry, Iden and Del just barely get away. The amount of firepower brought to bear on the two is incredible, and I ended up fighting an AT-ST walker as well as legions of Stormtroopers. A mounted turret made it much easier to deal with enemies: while stationary weapons generally turn a player into an easy target for snipers in multiplayer settings, in campaigns, most of the AI aren’t capable of sharpshooting and therefore, with their unlimited ammunition and ability to lay down sustained fire, stationary turrets are excellent.
- Unlike Rogue Leader, which had players participate in a raid on Bespin to secure Cloud City and the Tibanna gas facilities, Battlefront II has Iden and Del turn their attention towards destroying the docking station for three Imperial Star Destroyers. Iden takes control of a Cloud Car, which were originally intended as private transports but, with the inclusion of blasters, becomes a makeshift light fighter. They are not powerful or durable, but their blasters are sufficient in igniting the Tibanna gas platforms the Star Destroyers are docked to.
- Iden’s raid on Bespin turns out to be much shorter than the one seen in Rogue Leader: once she’s done destroying the platforms, they will explode and destroy the remaining Star Destroyers. Seeing the different visuals and settings in Battlefront II makes me long for a full remake of Rouge Squardon III: Rebel Strike, which was a sequel to Rogue Leader that added on-foot missions. With the assets of Battlefront II already in place, a remake of Rebel Strike with flight missions from Rogue Leader would truly bring iconic missions to life in the latest and greatest game engine.
- Such a campaign-based Star Wars game would be very unlikely: the games of old were developed and published back in a time when games had a larger single-player focus, when micro-transactions and DLC were not part of a publisher’s business model and when one would get their full money’s worth for a title. These days, games have a larger multiplayer piece, so it is already something that Battlefront II has a campaign.
- While I entered Lando’s mission to Sullest with some apprehension, it turned out that Lando’s abilities to deploy smoke, track enemies and automatically lock onto enemies with his blaster were superbly useful: Lando was most fun to play, enhanced by his banter with Shriv. Towards the end of the mission, players get to take control of an AT-ST and use its loadout to melt the Imperial soldiers below. While Lando winds up destroying the facility, to Iden’s disappointment that the Rebels won’t get any additional weapons, the strike at Sullest also sets in motion the final mission of Battlefront II.
- Players actually have a chance to see the Battle of Jakku now: this is Rey’s homeworld, and by the events of The Force Awakens, the desert planet is best known for the wreckage of old Imperial Star Destroyers embedded in the sand dunes. Being able to participate in the mop-up operation that sees the end of Palpatine’s Empire was a thrilling experience, and it was fun to fly in what is the largest battle in Battlefront II‘s campaign.
- That the Battle of Jakku is set during a sunset is meant to be symbolic: sunsets mark the end of something, and contrary to the officers’ belief otherwise, the Imperials are fighting a losing battle here. After clearing the skies somewhat, Iden descends to a fallen Star Destroyer and plants explosive devices on TIE bombers to take them out of the equation. She then flies towards the battlefront where the Empire has deployed AT-ATs that have begun firing on a Rebel position.
- While the AT-AT walkers were originally portrayed as terrifying enemies in The Empire Strikes Back, decades of watching the rebels use Attack Pattern Delta on them, followed by the fact that they actually numerous weaknesses, meant that by the time Iden is asked to tag the AT-ATs for bombardment, I thought nothing of them. I long have wondered why X-Wings were never brought to bear against AT-ATs at Hoth, and the answer for this is simple enough. Except for Luke’s X-Wing, all available X-Wings were scrambled to escort the transport craft, and the second is that while an X-Wing could trivially destroy AT-ATs with strafing runs. This would, however, lessen their impact on the Hoth evacuation.
- The penultimate segment to the Battle of Jakku sees Iden engage Gideon in single combat in an intense dogfight. While a tough opponent, Gideon is no Mihaly A. Shilage, and I ended up defeating him. With Gideon gone for the present, Iden then lands on the Star Destroyer that Admiral Versio is commanding, clears off the deck of opponents and heads off to rescue her father. He declines to go with her, but admits that the Empire was flawed. Wishing her to make the most of her life, he dies as his Star Destroyer crashes onto Jakku’s surface. Iden escapes and passionately kisses Del in the aftermath, bringing the main campaign to an end.
- There’s actually an epilogue where players get to step into the shoes of Kylo Ren as he is interrogating an older Del for information on Luke Skywalker, as well. With this post finished, I have one more coming out for today, where I write about GochiUsa: ~Sing For You~. Like that Saturday when GochiUsa‘s second season aired four years ago, it’s a beautiful, sunny morning, and I’ll be sitting down to write about this long-awaited addition to GochiUsa later in the day.
With the first campaign now in the books, I still have yet to go through Battlefront II‘s Resurrection campaign, which is set between the events of the first campaign and The Force Awakens. There is a surprising amount of depth to Battlefront II, and having given the multiplayer a short test drive, I am genuinely impressed with how far the game has come since its initial launch in 2017, where its microtransaction and progression system create a controversy so large, it impacted policy change surrounding how microtransactions could be implemented in a game. Since then, DICE tirelessly worked to improve Battlefront II, and players going into the game today will not see any of the elements that caused said controversy two years previously. Progression is simply accomplished by using a class, reinforcement or hero. Battlefront II has seen three seasons’ worth of updates that added new maps, game modes and heroes free of charge: the game now has Clone Wars content and more options for solo play. Seeing all of the development effort and care that went into Battlefront II is, in conjunction with a well-timed sale, why I picked the game up: good Star War games are rare these days simply because there aren’t very many of them, and Battlefront II comes the closest to being a modern incarnation of Rogue Leader, which remains my favourite classic Star Wars game of all time for giving players a chance to re-enact classic Star Wars experiences. Battlefront II may not allow players to fly down the trench of the first Death Star or fight the Battle of Endor the same way that Rogue Leader did, but by expanding on the universe and placing players at key moments after the second Death Star was destroyed, the game does succeed in bringing back the mechanics and atmosphere that makes Star Wars so enjoyable.