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.
Few things in video games are as addictive as the dopamine rush of randomised loot. And, when it's tied to real money, few things make people as angry. As we enter the year's busiest game season, it's fair to wonder. Do we have a loot box epidemic?
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.