While Star Wars Battlefront II doesn’t release until November 17th, about a month before The Last Jedi is unleashed in theaters, this week EA held an open beta for players to get a taste of the multiplayer experience.
To start, the beta opened with a lengthy video narrated by John Boyega (who plays Finn) explaining how much content is included with Battlefront II. Compared to the thin offerings of Battlefront, released in 2015, it’s a lot. By far, the biggest addition that is driving the hype train is that Battlefront II will span across all three eras of Star Wars. Players step into the shoes of the Rebellion and Empire from Episodes IV – VI, the Resistance and First Order from Episodes VII-IX, and the Clone and Separatist armies from Episodes I – III.
These differences in army composition are purely aesthetic, with players picking between four classes, regardless of what side they are on. Assault Troopers have abilities that mirror a typical first person shooter experience, with Thermal Detonators replacing Frag Grenades. Heavy Troopers use laser miniguns and have a small personal shield to protect them. Officers carry deployable turrets and can buff nearby units, and the Specialists Trooper brings the Sniping experience to a galaxy far, far away.
As players complete various minor objectives throughout their matches, like playing as a team, killing opponents, or defending an objective, they start building a small cache of Command points. When a player respawns, if they have enough Command points, they can come back as powerful units like Rocket Troopers, spawn vehicles like the Naboo Starfighter, or even play as powerful heroes like Darth Maul and Rey. Like any good power-up, these temporary buffs are a great way to tip the scales if your team is in a tough spot. In the hands of a good player who rarely dies, they do make the game feel a bit unfair.
The beta only had four modes to try: Galactic Assault, Starfighter Assault, Strike Team and an Arcade mode. I found myself spending most of my time in the Galactic Assault mode, which is a giant 20v20 experience on consoles. The only map available during the beta was an assault on Theed, in which one team would spawn as Clone Troopers, trying to prevent Battle Droids from taking over Naboo Palace. This mode is fast and hectic. The first phase of the three-phase map incorporates everything from Troopers on the ground, to tanks and gunships in the air. This is the biggest and best experience Battlefront II has to offer.
Starfighter Assault is a purely space battle 12v12 mode, where players get to fly around as A-Wings, TIE Fighters and more. This mode shows a lot of promise, but the difficulty in controlling the fighters means it will have an incredibly high skill ceiling. The only map in the beta focused on the rebel assault of a Star Destroyer facility orbiting a planet. While it was cool getting to fly inside this massive superstructure, I hope the full game brings more classic Starfighter experiences, like assaulting the Death Star or dog fighting in an asteroid field.
Strike Team was the most basic experience in the beta, with players fighting over an artifact in Maz Kanata’s cantina on Takodana. The First Order is trying to steal the artifact, while the Resistance is aiming to keep it away from them. This mode is the most streamlined, but because of that, the least inspiring. Command Points can only be used on Rocket Troopers or Wookies, leaving the hero characters out of this mode completely. Aside from lasers flying everywhere, this mode could be dropped into Battlefield or Call of Duty without much fuss.
One of the biggest issues with Battlefront II stems directly from how the game is designed, though. Powerful abilities are locked behind loot boxes and a complicated crafting system. Passive Bonuses such as recovering health from melee kills and remaining invisible from radar are not for everyone to unlock, but left up to the roll of the dice. Further complicating matters, each ability locked behind a loot chest has one of four grades, with the highest grade version of that ability having stronger effects. There are some cosmetics thrown into the mix, but this power creep inside a chance box will most likely lead to balance problems for players not purchasing the game on release day.
While some betas are used for strictly balance options, this beta felt more like a strict server test than anything else. Some of my matches completely disappeared from my career panel, but my level gain remained. These errors should be easy to fix in the month before the full release, and the full game will also boast more modes and way more maps, not to mention a robust in-canon campaign mode following Empire Special Forces leader Iden Versio. On top of all of that, there will not be any paid DLC to further segment player bases, so expect Battlefront II to stay around for a long while.
Star Wars Battlefront II releases on November 17th for Xbox One, Playstation 4 and PC. If you pre-order the game between now and then you will receive Episode VIII skins for Kylo Ren and Rey.