My first memory of Star Wars was when ‘Empire’ was shown at Christmas on TV purely because it has snow in it. It took my mind to a place of adventure and imagination like nothing had before. The influence the cinematic space opera had on a generation still resonates to this day. After the horrific prequels many became disenchanted with the franchise. Numerous fans now expect nothing to live up to our fond childhood memories. New entries to the franchise are treated with more scrutiny and harsher than normal criticism because these emotions run deep. The Battlefront Beta is no exception to this as it was lambasted by knee jerk reactions on day one of access. I applied my Jedi training and exercised patience and I’m glad I did, this game has far more depth than your average shooter. It’s really easy to pick up and play but it will take time to become truly accomplished.
The first thing I’m going to cover is the elephant in the room, the Walker Assault mission. Many complained that it was ‘unbalanced’ and this is simply is not true. However, I do understand where it came from, as on first impressions it seems that way. I think this was entirely intentional to give you that feeling the Rebels get when dealing with the Imperials. Likewise, you felt like, there’s no way you could possibly lose as the Imperials. A game that actually gives you the psychology of the characters in the movies is a bit of a masterstroke in itself. It’s all just an illusion though. As people level up and learn how the mode works the game dynamically changes. I actually found the Rebels had all the real advantages it was just a matter of using abilities effectively.
The Walker Assault scales as the battles goes on. Objectives are of paramount importance as the longer you hold them the more time you get attacking the Walkers. You can get up to 3 Y-wing attacks for each uplink giving you a total of 6. Each Y-wing strike gives a 10 second window with a bonus of 40 additional seconds for getting all 6 Y-wings. You can then pile on the firepower, even on foot if you use the Ion shot perk. Again we hit a learning curve. Follow this simple mantra, don’t overheat your blaster, it will cool down faster, once you were but a learner, now you are the master.
Another key strategic element is aerial superiority and again the rebels have the advantage. Keeping within Star Wars lore A-wings and X-wings both have shields. Though contrary to the lore you only have shields for a brief period of time so use it wisely. When used effectively this can cover you from spawn camping. The shield ability can be cleverly used when a pesky TIE fighter is tailgating you. Slow your acceleration and they will slam into the back of you and die with no damage to yourself. That’s because TIE fighters and interceptors in line with the lore are focused more on speed and maneuverability so they have no shields. So if you’re in a TIE fighter it’s probably best to keep a healthy distance. To balance this there’s roughly a higher ratio of Imperial to Rebel fighters. It’s advisable to keep the ‘L2’ targeting button permanently held. Not only is it used for locking proton torpedoes but for locking standard laser fire. The power of this laser fire is determined by your speed as you use the left stick to priorities power to either your weapons or engines. In the last stage of this mode Snow Speeders become available. The Ratio changes up as you get unlimited speeders for the final push. Although they are comparatively slower they have a turbo boost and a personal jammer that stops people from locking on or even registering you. Yeah, that’s what the ‘R2’ ability did for those unaware. They can also kill ATAT’s, even at full health, with the movie famous tow cable around the legs maneuver. All you have to do is wait for the ATAT’s shields to be down then get close and hit ‘L1’ and ‘R1’ then complete a mini game that requires you to keep a vehicle icon in the center of a decreasing area by using the right analog stick. Nothing quite beats the feeling of accomplishment after downing and ATAT in this way.
You even have the chance to play as iconic hero characters Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. The problem people have with these is they play with them like their invincible gods. The reality is contrary to this as you are going to need a squad to back you up and prevent you from being surrounded and overwhelmed by enemy firepower.
This isn’t to say the mode isn’t without it’s fair share of real issues. Re-spawn camping became a serious issue and I’m not entirely sure how it can be fixed. Many multiplayers have had this issue and simply reallocating the spawn positions wouldn’t really change anything. Though, much of this was down to people just marching ahead instead of observing their surroundings and finding an alternate route to flank. There’s also the buddy system that rewards good play by allowing spawning directly on them. Though, as with Battlefield, communication is key to not dying on this re-spawn. There were also rare cases of glitching into the ground and emptying an entire clip into an enemy and they take no damage. The font size really needs sorting out too. It’s tiny and hard to see making it unclear when you get a kill among other things. Though these are things that can be easily fixed and are arguably the point of the beta.
There’s also conflicts with Star Wars lore, such as the shield generator that would prevent orbital strikes and TIE fighters even coming into the area. Hence why in the movie Vader orders a ground assault. Only after the generator is destroyed does he then travel to the surface. Also Jedi Luke seems out of place on Hoth. I’d rather have had Snow Speeder pilot Luke with the ability to grapple up the walker and take it out. However, if you can forgive these oversights it actually makes for a very fun game.
The first mode I stepped in to was survival. This mode pits you against waves of AI enemy troops on your own or with a friend. It was pretty useful as a tutorial as normal was the only level of difficulty and it was easy even without help. It helped you figure out the importance of Star Cards and gave us a taste of the grenade launcher ability unique to this mode in the beta. One thing I noticed was the animations of AI characters was radically different to human opponents. So it felt like a unique experience separate to PVP modes and one that was a lot of fun to play.
I then went to Drop Zone, which is a single objective mode. In this you capture escape pods as they land on the surface of Sullust, a previously unseen world set to appear in the upcoming Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens. To win the match you either claim 5 pods or have the most captured pods at the end of 10 minutes. Each capture pod rewards you with items that can be used to give you an advantage to get the next. Again this is another mode that’s tones of fun as the map itself is well designed with multi-tiered flanking pathways throughout.
Gone are the linear classes. Instead you customize to your own playing style. I consider this a refreshing and progressive game design element. You now have Star Cards that allow customization to play style. Your loadout has 2 slots for equipment cards, 1 slot for an ability card with and a trait card that works as a passive buff. Many of these cards with the exception of the trait card are based around risk and reward. For example, jump packs will give you greater maneuverability on the field and allow access to hard to reach place on the map. However, you are basically walking around with a bomb strapped to your back, one direct shot on it and boom! Looking at the greyed out sections not in the beta you will also be able to customize your appearance in the full game.
People seem to forget this is DICE and EA’s version of Battlefront. Without a doubt this is a reboot of the franchise. It borrows elements from the original Battlefront and then has a nice blend of DICE game design we have seen in Battlefield. That’s not to say this is, ‘Battlefield with a Star Wars skin’ as that would be heinously inaccurate. It’s nowhere near as complicated to get to grips with as Battlefield. Though, there’s still an element of learning the various intricacies that are in each mode. DICE has hit a really nice sweet spot allowing the game to be far more accessible to a wider audience. For those complaining about the lack of story mode, well, the Missions section kind of covers this. Also, I seriously doubt we would have such a good multiplayer if they had to make a campaign most would only really play once or twice. I actually respect the decision to focus purely on making the best multiplayer they can. This game is visually gorgeous, plays like an absolute dream and the sound effects really add authenticity to the game. I have to admit, I had my doubts at first but this beta really sold me. This is only a beta and the full game has some really tantalizing modes I’m looking forward to learning the mechanics of. I can’t wait until November 17th when I can revisit the Galaxy far, far away….
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