Star Wars Battlefront Beta: I’ve got a bad feeling about this

Battlefront Beta Screenshot 1

Since the Battlefront Beta went live its social media presence exploded, clips of crazy killing sprees as Vader, Luke getting trampled by an ATST, fantastic dogfights and thrilling lightsabre duels have only now started to peter out of the spotlight. Yes, these moments are hugely exciting to watch and play, but there’s an underlying problem with the game that I felt all the way back in June when I played the technical alpha, everything is surface level.

Battlefront doesn’t appear to be a bad game, its core mechanics are sublime, and there’s no denying that it looks, sounds and feels incredible to play, but that’s it. Speaking purely for myself, I don’t  want Battlefront to be a “not bad” game, I want it to be incredible, which it just isn’t. To start with the perhaps the biggest misstep by DICE, the decision to use pickups as the means of getting heroes and vehicles. I’m entirely behind DICE doing some experimentation but it just doesn’t work as well as the alternative, by taking control out of the player’s hands you’re subtly discouraging co-ordination and teamwork, because the vehicle power up are used out of impulse rather than planning. Of course this would require some balancing, the ATAT power up was incredibly overpowered in the beta, I racked up a 30+ kill streak in one 45 second session, but wouldn’t it be cooler to give someone FULL control of an ATAT rather than just the turret? When it comes to heroes it’s not so clear cut, but I still think the game having an algorithm which rewards players doing well with the opportunity to play as a hero would be a better way of handling who plays as Luke and Vader, that way you don’t distract the players from their objective and avoid having the frustration of watching someone “steal” your token from under your nose.

Battlefront Beta Screenshot 4

The token system contributes to the general problem Battlefront faces, it feels horribly dumbed down to appeal to as much of the mass market as possible. I’m entirely behind keeping the game accessible and not shutting the door to anyone who wants to play the game, however when there’s so much sacrificed for accessibility it leaves the game feeling shallow. One of the huge contributing factors to this is the loadout system, where instead of a class with different abilities and weapons, everyone picks from the same pool of weapons and abilities. What this means that
abilities don’t do a great deal to affect the game, having a jump pack or a sniper rifle won’t help you win the round and a team with no variety of loadouts has just as much chance of winning as a varied team. It also eliminates any sort of team roles, forcing every player into a free for all for who can get the most kills, whereas if there were different classes, someone who played an engineer would know to prioritise vehicle repair and objective capturing, leaving killing to soldiers and snipers. I’d speculate that is part of the reason people found the beta difficult to win as the rebels, killing imperials wasn’t enough to win the round. On top of this recently it was announced that the game wouldn’t feature in game voice chat on PC, given the threadbare “partner” system, this seems like an active attempt to suppress a more co-operative relationship among your team.

Battlefront Beta Screenshot 3

Lastly let’s talk about what’s not in the game; a campaign, a galactic conquest mode, space battles and clone wars era. Battlefront 2’s campaign wasn’t complex, but it was satisfying, you played a series of AI matches with cutscenes playing in between missions, which is all I would want of a Battlefront campaign, DICE haven’t made a good singleplayer mode in a good long while so I’d be highly skeptical of a linear, separate campaign a la Battlefield. Galactic conquest is a very similar story, it’s not a particularly complicated game mode, but it gives the player a great deal of agency over their session of play, the idea of managing to win a war across the galaxy is incredibly compelling. Space battles are an interesting discussion, given the early looks at the pre-alpha “Battlefront 3” from many, many years ago featured space to ground maps, it seems like a huge step back and unnecessary omission from the game that is hopefully going to spearhead a return of Star Wars to the video game scene. The clone wars era is met with a great deal of hostility by many fans because of the pretty crappy prequel trilogy, but anyone who watched the Clone Wars TV shows knows there are many great stories to tell there, the events of the prequels don’t even have to be done directly, the full scale conflict of the Clone Wars would be perfect for Battlefront.

Ultimately Battlefront has me very worried. The barebones nature of its features scream that it could do with another six months in development, but with the release of Episode 7 just around the corner, it wouldn’t surprise me if EA would cut a great many things to hit the November release date. Whilst the core gameplay is solid, I’m very afraid Battlefront will pull a Titanfall and have an enormous user drop off after a month, because of its shallow game design, only time will tell, but I’ve got a bad feeling about this.

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