Star Wars Battlefront II stirred up controversy at launch with grindy progression systems and questionable loot boxes. Over the last six months, the game has added new modes and done its best to win back players. Here's where things stand today.
The lead up to Star Wars Battlefront II's release is its own saga following the decision to allow players to purchase loot boxes containing skill boosting "star cards."
The fervour that followed was met with last minute unlock requirement adjustments, death threats, and a midnight hour decision to disable all microtransactions the night before release. Here's what's happened since then:
- On November 11th, Battlefront II releases to mixed reviews. In our review, we note that while the game can be fun from time to time, the dishonest progression system and a disjointed story mode hold the game back.
- On November 15th, Executive producer John Wasilczyk, design director Dennis Brannvall and multiplayer producer Paul Keslin hold a disastrous AMA on Reddit. It is full of non-answers from the designers and overrun by angry players frustrated with the game's progression. While some developers and community managers show up on Reddit from time to time, the team has yet to hold another AMA.
- On November 21st, Rep. Chris Lee (D) from Hawaii announces a desire to fight the "predatory behaviour" of loot boxes, making specific reference to Battlefront II.
- Slightly over a week after launch, multiplayer matches are packed with idle players looking to farm in-game credits. Players are told by community managers that a fix to the problem is coming but they are not given specifics.
- Meanwhile, players notice that the post game awards screen is messed up. As a result of how many achievements overlap, most end of round screens show one single player. EA quickly changes it to list the players with the top scores instead.
- On November 28th, Speaking at the the Credit Suisse 21st Annual Technology, Media & Telecom Conference, EA CFO Blake Jorgensen explains that Battlefront II did not have cosmetic microtransactions because they'd violate canon. "Not to mention you probably don't want Darth Vader in pink," he added.
- On the same same as Jorgensen's comments, modders uncover a hidden character customisation menu in the game's code hinting at the possibility of more cosmetic skins and options. However, it will be some time before the game officially releases these customisations.
- At the start of December 2017, Multiplayer rewards get a significant boost. The number of credits earned after a match increases and players are allowed to earn more credits in the offline arcade mode before hitting a daily hard cap. Additionally, loot crates are adjusted to grant more crafting materials. The change doesn't eliminate the grind but does cut down on a major player concern. It does, however, cut down slightly on AFK credit farmers by granting extra credits to players based upon performance.
- On December 5th, faction challenges start. Players are asked to choose to declare allegiance to the Resistance and First Order and complete a variety of challenges in exchange for rewards. These challenges change every week during The Last Jedi seasonal event and are almost always won by the First Order faction.
- 'Resurrection' releases as part of The Last Jedi DLC. It adds additional story missions detailing Iden Versio's time with the Resistance alongside her daughter Zay. While it wraps up the game's incomplete story, the execution is a bit rushed and ends Iden's tale with more whimper than bang.
- At the same time, the game's multiplayer expands with The Last Jedi content including a new Galactic Assault map on the planet Crait and Starfighter Assault battle above D'qar. It also adds two new heroes: Finn and Captain Phasma. Finn's the more exciting of the two, with gadgets and buffs that help his teammates, whereas Phasma's slow gameplay is somewhat disappointing.
- Boba Fett is nerfed in this patch as well. A tweak to his missile barrage damage ends his reign of terror as one of the game's most powerful heroes and bring him closer to being the chump he was in the movies.
- At the start of January, PC modders start adding their own creations to the game including a Matt The Technician skin for Kylo Ren and the infamous Pink Darth Vader. Canon is broken and the world descends into chaos.
- Patch 1.2 brings major major hero changes in February. Emperor Palpatine gets a much needed nerf that stops his Force abilities from attacking enemies through walls. He's still a strong hero but the nerf is received well by the community, who were annoyed by cheap deaths. Jetpack Cargo mode is added to the game, toss players in matches where everyone has a jetpack and rocket launcher. It runs for a limited time only.
- Wookie warriors are nerfed, reducing the damage of their deadly bowcaster guns. The once proud race of deadly hairballs, adding a little more variety to matches and cutting down on sightings of wild wookie armies.
- EA announces that microtransactions will return to the game, but only for cosmetic items. At the same time, they state that the game's progression system will fundamentally change on March 21st, over four months after launch. Loot boxes will no longer drop star cards and players earn rewards linearly as they level up individual characters.
- The Cloud City of Bespin is added as a map for Blast Mode and Heroes vs. Villains near the end of March. It's a gorgeous map but I'm not sure I know anyone who plays either of those two game modes. That sky box sure is great though!
- A surprise patch on March 21st unlocks every hero and ship in the game, completely removing the controversial grind that players loathed. "... we don't want to limit anyone's chance to progress as we change the way you interact with these characters," community manager Mat "Sledgehammer70" Everett said in an official post.
- This week, Microtransactions return to the game and while they're an improvement over loot boxes, it still costs a lot of credits to buy high quality skins, adding another grind to the game that's mostly meant to encourage purchasing crystals instead.
- A limited time Ewok Hunt event is added. The mode pits a team of stormtroopers against scurrying ewoks for a silly game mode that actually manages to make ewoks scary.
And that's where things are at. Perception surrounding Battlefront II was irreparably damaged by the loot crate controversy and while the game's made some strong strides - unlocking heroes, implementing fun events, and adding free updates - it's not been enough to completely right the ship.
EA's worked to eliminate major concerns but a lack of communication about things such as new heroes or a second season of faction challenges has left players frustrated. Things are getting better but there's a still more work to be done.