The new paid Death Star expansion for Star Wars Battlefront won't significantly alter the game's reputation as a fairly casual shooter designed for quick, chaotic fun. But it does add an interesting three-stage mode that culminates with the possible destruction of the Death Star. That new mode at least makes a session with the game feel more substantial. We tried a few rounds of the DLC's new Battle Station mode today and had a good if slightly confusing time with it.
In the first phase, you play as Rebels or Imperials, attacking or defending a Star Destroyer.
The Star Destroyer sequence plays like rounds of Battlefront's popular Walker Assault mode. When you're on the Rebel side, you're killing enough enemies to trigger a Y-Wing bombing run. As long as the Y-Wings are bombing, the Star Destroyer is vulnerable. You're hoping to take out three vulnerable spots on the huge ship, then blow up the bridge. If you play as the Imperials, you're on defence and trying to slow the Rebels' progress.
I'm not sure what happens if both sides fail at their shot to blow up the Star Destroyer, but in the match in which my Rebel team succeeded, we then flew into the Death Star's hangar.
Once inside, the Rebels have to rescue R2-D2 and get him to an extraction point. The player who reaches R2 plays as the droid. Note: It's bad news if Darth Vader shows up!
The third phase of Battle Station is another star-fighter battle. It features the iconic Death Star trench run. The game picks three Rebel players to try to make the run while the rest of the Rebel pilots fly over the Death Star's surface to run interference. The chosen pilots fly through a series of checkpoints while Imperial players hunt them down.
If the three chosen Rebel pilots in the trench fail, and if there is time left, the game will select three more pilots to try again. Eventually, if one of them gets it right, the Death Star is history.
The three-phase design is a good idea. Stitching a few of the game's maps and modes into a slightly larger adventure makes a session with the game more satisfying, though it is confusing on day one just how each phase affects the next. In one of the three matches we played, the Rebels won the second phase but the game didn't then load the Death Star trench run and instead went back to the first Star Destroyer phase. It also isn't clear just how much impact a team's performance in one phase has on the next. We'll need to play more to sort this out. Regardless of some of that confusion, Battle Station is an advance for the game's overall design.
Speaking of confusion, the Death Star DLC is only out for season pass owners today but will be available for a $US15 ($20) a la carte purchase in the coming weeks. So if you don't see the expansion as available to purchase yet, that's why.
EA's official site has more details on some of the new characters, weapons and other bullet-point-worthy stuff being added via the Death Star DLC. We also livestreamed an attempted play-through today, though, fair warning, this was the match that didn't make it to phase three. Instead, we ended the stream with a standalone Fighter Squadron battle above the Death Star's surface. It's similar to the trench run, but without the opportunity to blow the whole thing up and go home.