Star Wars: Battlefront 2 Is An Uneven Playing Field

Four years ago, the biggest problem facing the year's blockbuster AAA releases was that too many of them, for too long, didn't work. Performance issues, server problems, game-breaking bugs, broken matchmaking. People were paying top dollar for a bargain basement experience.

Today, there's fewer launch disasters and technical issues. And the Battlefront reboot was one of the first blockbusters where the beta and launch week ran, for the most part, without a hitch. But Battlefront 2 has a much deeper problem - deliberate choices hampering an otherwise competent, enjoyable game behind monotonous, grind-centric design.

On the surface, Battlefront 2 is grander, more ambitious attempt at rebooting the Battlefront name than DICE's first attempt at a reboot. EA even rolled out some charts to prove it.

But none of that explained how much work players would have to do to unlock all the content.

In the original Battlefront, star cards and weapons were gated behind levels. Once you'd played enough to unlock the weapon you then had to hope you hadn't burnt your in-game coins buying something else.

That's pretty standard.

Battlefront 2 is different. If you want new star cards, or enough scrap to unlock more guns, you'll need loot crates. Your performance in-game will help you level up faster, but you don't get any more credits as a result.

Credits are only useful for buying more loot crates, but what you get in those crates is completely random. There's no guarantee that you'll get crafting materials in those crates, although you might get a small bonus if you get duplicate cards or gear.

By the way, have a guess how many crafting materials you do get every time you open a crate?

Usually, 10 or 20.

Have a guess how much it costs to unlock new weapons, in the beta at least?

600. Plus another 100 if you want attachments.

Battlefront 2 isn't the only game to be called out of late. Forza 7 had to do a U-turn on its VIP microtransactions system, which charged players $29.95 for a small amount of disposable "mod cards". Mod cards let you do things like race at night or turning off driver assists, which lets you earn more credits that can then be used to unlock and purchase new cars.

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But while loot boxes are increasingly on the nose, especially in games that don't engender a great deal of excitement for the characters or customisation, Battlefront 2 has a deeper problem afoot.

One of Battlefront 1's annoyances was that you could only get a lightsaber, X-Wing, or something special by finding a power-up in the in-game world. Beyond that, what you spawned with was what you got.

Battlefront 2, however, constantly reminds you that you could be playing something better.

Rather than leaving power-ups in the wild for people to find, you have the option of spawning as a stronger character (like a Battle Droid), the Millenium Falcon (in Starfighter Assault), and so on. All you need is the requisite in-game points, and you're good to go.

The time to kill for most ground characters is pretty low, so you'll want a stronger character to improve your survivability if nothing else. And that's kind of the kicker with the whole gameplay loop: it constantly feels like you're just grinding out points so you can play something better than the class you currently have.

Why, for instance, would you want to fly around in a squishy, shitty Interceptor when you can nip about in Slave One instead? You might as well farm AI bots for cheap points until you can come into the fray with something that will pelt the living snot out of the competition. That's especially true in the space battles, where escaping an enemy combatant to regain health and shields is a trickier proposition.

But that doesn't get around the main problem: that what you're playing isn't good enough, and if you did just a little better, played for just a little longer, you could be Han Solo. Or Boba Fett. Or anything more powerful, more fun, than one of the four main classes.

It's hard because Battlefront 2 has the foundations of a really solid, grand scale shooter. It's a technical marvel, and DICE are one of the best (probably only bettered by id's efforts with Vulkan) of the major developers when it comes to optimisation. The sound is, much like the previous Battlefront, completely on point, and the basic guns have a good amount of weight.

But as good as those mechanics are, you still have to deal with the raw truth: someone who drops tons of money on loot crates is going to get more crafting parts, more star cards, and more in-game benefits than you are. Someone who has played for 100 hours will get more shots in a second than you will. They'll regenerate noticeably faster. They'll do more damage.

And that's not to mention the frustration of getting to the respawn screen and having enough credits, only to find out that there's too many heroes on the battlefield and you have to go back to your regular class. It's a huge letdown.

By design, it's an uneven playing field.

That's too much for some. Part of the fun when you jumped into a Battlefield or Battlefront game was that you could affect the course of the match just as anyone else. But now players are implicitly told that what you've got from the outset isn't good enough. And if all you're doing is constantly playing to get something better, you're not going to play for very long.

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Comments

    Shit like this is why I don't play multiplayer games.

      Unfortunately shit like this is now finding it's way into single player games.

      I'm pretty much settling on the rule that if the loot boxes affect gameplay, then it's out. Also grinding in shooters. Fuck grinding in shooters, and requiring a certain level of gun for your bullets to work on an enemy.

      So games like say Overwatch, PUBG are all good. Skill, teamwork are the primary attributes there.

    Anything with micro-transactions and loot crates in it, I generally stay away from unless its a game like Warthunder which is free and survives off premium content.

    In the original Battlefront, star cards and weapons were gated behind levels

    No it wasn't. In the original Battlefront you could select any class and use any vehicle if you approached it.

      I think they mean the one released in 2015, not the first one ever.

        Pretty sure it was a jab at EA about how the Battlefront reboot is poor company for the originals.

          Yeah, I'm talking about the Battlefront reboot, not the 2005 original. Figured there was enough context given the opening paragraph, but apologies for the confusion.

            FYI, it made perfect sense to me. Some people have 0 comprehension skills.

      Brutal.....

      I'd give you a high five, but I can't reach you atop your glorious Griffin.

        Except the author is clearly talking about the 2015 reboot game, which makes not only you, but the person who you are responding to, wrong.

          We know buddy.....

          It's always funnier when somebody misses it and points it out.....

    I get the point of the article, and everyone seems to be in agreement that Battlefront 2 has made a mess of it based on what we have experienced in the beta. It had come across as pay to win.

    However, you have made several inaccurate points. A progression system exists in most games, it's part of what keeps us interested. You have made it seem as though Battlefield is fully open from the start of the game. This couldn't be further from the truth, you have always unlocked weapons and add ons as you progress. Some with specific requirements some randomly.

    Progression systems are good, it's nice to awarded for your effort. Systems that allow for Pay to Win are not good and can be hugely damaging to a game.

    Aside from that, this game PS4 has shite controls. After a couple of games in each mode it was uninstall time.

    I get and agree with star cards being bullshit and I didn't even see anything about how you can level up star cards to make them stronger. One I remember is a 5% boost to something, then 10%, then 20% and finally 40% which is patently ridiculous.

    Where this article loses me is the "why am I a shitty default trooper when I could be a Hero unit?" If nothing else isn't that true back in the OG battlefront 2? And the Slave one example doesn't work in practice because it paints a MASSIVE target on your back and people are gonna make it their personal mission to take you out. Poe's X-Wing is kinda shit but it looks like a normal X-Wing and I find you survive the longest when people don't realize you're in a hero ship. Millennium Falcon has a truck-ton of health but it's common to have at least 3 ships chasing the Falcon to take it out. Maul's Scimitar is the only ship that has real staying power, but that's because the invisibility is downright OP (and twice the health of Poe's X-Wing).
    I'm off-topic but I really, REALLY like starfighter assault. I've basically stopped playing Strike and Galactic Assault

    Progression and a sense of doing so in games is a good thing.

    But the people that keep designing loot crates into games need to be shot with a rocket straight into the sun.

    I am fine with the idea of loot crates, as long as their contents is purely cosmetic. But what Battlefront II has is as parasitic as what some mobile games deem is a good design; by promoting whales.
    As much as I wanted to play this game I will not buy a game that is pay-2-win.

    Not trying to bust chops, but does buying advertising space on Kotaku really get you a free pass on loot boxes while other games get a more critical analysis? Microtransactions that give players an edge in multiplayer games is cancer, don't get me wrong; but I am pretty sure you just excused a super predatory single player game because it bought ad space on your site.

    Nowhere during the (oddly long) Shadow of War article did you mention that in the coming days you would have advertisements for said game and how that may have affected your judgement.

      I'm excited for Shadow of War

      I've read a stack of reviews and microtransactions sound like they are just bolted on not a requirement at all.
      Not just on kotaku but almost every review.

      so is everyone being unethical, or is it just not really an issue in that game, i will find out when i have a go.

      FYI: i hate microtransactions and what it is doing to gaming as much/more than the next gamer.

        No, I get that and honestly all it would take for me to feel like it was less shift would be for them to update the article to say that there are advertisements on the site at the time of publication to balance out how this seems.

        At the very least it would seem like they were aware of how it could look, rather than it seeming like too much of a coincidence.

      FYI, the Shadow of War review and coverage came from Patricia in the US, who isn't a member of the local team. On top of that, she wrote a lengthy article this week explaining how the loot crate system works in Shadow of War, and Jason already did a piece which touched on Shadow of War, Forza, Battlefront and NBA 2K18. I've referenced it in the article above, and it's well worth the read if you haven't seen it. (I also didn't want to just rewrite arguments that others already made; you can just read their articles in full.)

        I read the Shadow of War loot box one, thats why it seems shifty when an advert pops up for it days after a post pretty much gives it a free pass; while other articles are much more in line with what I would otherwise expect from decent people when dealing with gambling mechanics.

        I get that it could honestly all just be a coincidence, but Patricia's article did not make SoW's loot boxes seem less predatory, the article just seemed like an attempt to justify a system very clearly means to prey upon people that are suseptible to gambling systems.

          I think with Shadow of War is a heavy dose of unclear messaging from the off, which led to people getting really confused and, later, angry. That happened with the DLC for the producer who passed away too. That should have been a great piece of PR, a feel good story, but that's not how it played out.

          Again, Patricia put together her coverage a literal world away from what's happening here. We've had this on the about page ever since the site launched, but each of the different Kotaku branches are separate companies from each other. And within each of those, the editorial teams are separate from sales. I can't do much about the timing (articles take time to write, especially longer ones), but hopefully being open helps.

            I can appreciate you guys being open, it was merely a case of it seeming too good for coincidence.

        thats not at all what I got from it... it was devoid of gamer hysteria, devoid of the bitter Jim Sterling levels of contempt (I love and respect what he does but in cases like this he has lost the ability to to objectly look at them in context). It just read like a person saying "look I know all those arguments blah blah, but lets just put aside all that (justified?) hot air, this is how I found them in game.

        after playing for eight hours today I agreed with a lot of what she wrote and I thoroughly hated all the ads everywhere on menus for the stuff.

    Isn't this the same as every shooter of this type? I'm a battlefield 4 noob. I know if I log in right now with my default set up, I'm going to get destroyed by every single experienced player there is with their vastly superior set up.

    Not saying it's good, just saying that this isn't a problem just for Battlefront 2.

      BF4 was actually really good for newb to veteran balance. The starting guns are among the best all rounder weapons in the game, the later ones you unlock are more specialized rather than straight up better generally.
      And the starting weapons and vehicles come with basic attachments even. Much better than it was in BF3.

      One of the big differences is that if I start a new BF4 account tonight I could have all 10 of the base game assault rifles unlocked in less than 10 hours, in Battlefront 2 10 hours would get you maybe one gun if you are very lucky.

    Damnit, I was going to buy this too.
    I'm done with frigging loot boxes, and I'm not handing money to any developers that make them an integral part of the game.

      My thoughts exactly; I was also keen for this on day 1... oh well, more time for other games, might get it when it's super-cheap, but then by the sound of this article, I'd be at even more of a disadvantage than if I'd got it on day 1 and starting grinding away...

        Yep, bf4 has been the standard for a whiles now. Whilst BF1 is enjoyable the class based weapons make gameplay limited, bad mistake carried on from hardline. Battlefront 2 star assault is good but the loot boxes are a killer for me. That and the the fact that the fps modes just feel like every gun is the same and unless you camp back or get the points for an upgraded character it has no interest in rewarding expanding ganeplay for fans of shooters. Grinding games like this have no interest to me, gameplay is where its at and I'd rather jump back on bf4 before they get my money again. Im for microtransactions as a means to unlock guns quicker but not at the expense of people that bought the base game. New maps should be available to all.

        Hopefully bf5 goes back to its roots. No more dlc maps too.

    The value the of bonuses on the star cards are ridiculously high too. The bomber health upgrades start at 5%, but level up to a whopping 40% increase to base health. Plus they scale exponentially as the cards level up rather than logarithmically like they would in most other games.

    Last edited 11/10/17 4:10 pm

    Die respawn die respawn die respawn. Everything becomes so inconsequential, you're just a cog in a machine. Thank goodness for the emergence of the Battle Royale genre.

      Wat? How is the battle royale genre better if you dont like "die, respawn, die" as you put it, the only difference is ' die, respawn, spend 30 minutes finding shit, die'. Not to say i dont like it (im about to play some PUBG right now actually) but that just makes no sense as a complaint to me.

      Also for a more memey answer, Git Gud. then you wont have so much of the Die part of your story.

        It's not a complaint, the FPS genre is what it is. I've just grown tired of the play style. Because dying has such little consequence (other than a five second respawn) to me it seems like there's a lack of tension and nobody really plays very strategically. For me it's fun for a while but just can't compare to the more edge of the seat nature of B.R. Maybe it's just the lack of time i have that adds to the tension - dying after 30 mins of looting etc because i did something stupid (regular occurrence ) then having to pack it in and do other stuff really ramps it up.

        For me, playing last years Battlefront i just never realy felt like i was doing much. Still a great childhood dream simulator though. Hoping the single player in this one is good.

          You're right. I started playing FPSs back in the CS: Source and DOD days. Back then, especially day of defeat, there was a tension in the game. People used to crawl around for fear of being killed. These days, it's all run and gun....die....sprint back to that same spot to see who gets their first and gets the next kill.

          That said, I think battefield 1's Ops mode where each side has a finite amount of lives is a good way of making a death important again too.

          Maybe respawning occurs too quickly?

          I do get what you mean, but to me its not much different, i try to get as many kills as i can in a life whether its FPS or PUBG, only difference is an extra 30 minutes of slowly creeping around finding stuff. But for me in PUBG its less i did something wrong and more i got sniped from 40 miles away, just makes the game annoying, whereas the FPS ones are more like what you describe where its my fault i died. But i do get what you are saying.

          I dont know, i definitely get that feeling in some game modes of FPS games, like last years battlefront when trying to destroy the walkers on hoth, if you did a good play you could turn the tide of securing the beacon things that called in the airstrikes which could seal the victory.

    I played the SW:BF 2 beta, didn't mind their version of loot boxes or whatever.

    Game play was fun, graphics dazzling, didn't experience any connection issues - although the Fondor map seemed to be easier for the Empire.

    All in all i found it quite enjoyable and plan on picking it up on release.

    If there are any Aussies that want a team member (PC or PS4) hit me up :)

    I feel you focused on the part of the loot boxes that isnt the problem, the grind. Its barely a grind, "you have to spend 600 scrap to build this gun", or you could just spend 10 minutes as the assault class and get it in the starting assault loot box. and for all the other cards you get a decent amount just from playing normally. very normal multiplayer progression just randomised instead of set unlocks at set levels.

    The problem is that they can be bought, but you barely mention that. its still to be seen how much of a difference they make (didnt see many that really change how well you'll do in the beta but they will likely have more cards in the full game). But i think i'll take it if it means we get all the DLC for free.

    I was over the moon to hear they got rid of floating, immersion killing spectral vehicle coins.

    I imagined the series rising from the ashes like a Phoenix.
    So imagine my surprise when a syphilitic Dodo rolled from a pile of turds.

    This sort of things really grinds my gears. Recently my experience goes like this. I'm at home playing a game and the game is telling me I need to pay more money to play a certain level, or use a certain gun....I just paid 80 bucks for the game! Battlefront 2015 was very disappointing in the number of levels included. I think there were only 5 walker assault maps which got boring very quickly. If you compare that to the original Battlefield 1942, there were over 20 maps that could run 64 player games!
    I can't see myself trusting the Battlefront series again in the short term. It doesn't look like buying this game will be different, and will be constantly reminding me that I need to give EA more money before I can enjoy the game that I just paid for.

    Its Star Wars and it looks pretty, but once I stopped being dazzled I cant say the beta did anything for me. Not sure if it is a me thing or something about the game itself but I was underwhelmed, couldnt see myself wanting to grind enough to unlock stuff or spend money to do the same.

    I don't spend extra cash on p2w games, but I do like killing whales with my f2p characters. If you're good enough you'll still win. I just hope there are more active Australian players on PC so I can actually get a game in the evening as that's the only thing I didn't like about the 2015 version.

    So each of the four classes in the beta had and extra weapon to unlock but it was guaranteed if you did the challenges for each class. I'm pretty sure it was kill 'X' amount of troops to unlock 'X' gun, not real hard.
    But hey totally agree with the mods being a bit on the expensive side but most games make you put in the time for attachments etc.
    Pretty sure I randomly got a gun out of a crate before I could finish the challenge, so not a real issue. Pay to win c'mon guys...........a shit player will still be a shit shot regardless of how much money he/she pours into the game, seen all of this kind of stuff in other games ala 'For Honor' regardless of high gear/rep levels it doesn't represent the skill of the player.

    Better off having a go before kyboshing a game without trying it out, atleast buy it from Eb games and if you don't like it return the game within 7 days and get your full refund.

      A shit player might be a shit shot, but how about you are playing someone who is a worse shot than you, but you die more often because he paid more, has better armor and a better gun? When you shot him 10 times and he only shoots you 7 times, but you died first, that's not a matter of saying "you need to get better at the game". It's saying "You need to pay more money".
      Then next season they release newer weapons and ask you to pay even more....

    Oh well, just bought tickets to the Last Jedi, so that will have to be my Star Wars fix this year. Even though I'm not usually into these kinds of games, I've loved the gameplay I've seen and it looks really fun...but I'm pretty average at these games and don't have the time to spend hours and hours grinding for new weaponry. Maybe it's single player mode will save it. Fingers crossed.

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