Rarely has a game launched with such controversy attached as Star Wars: Battlefront 2. During the open beta, it became apparent to the players that this game was heavily hampered by micro-transactions (MTX’s) and pay to win mechanics that felt more at home in a free to play game for mobile phones.
The uproar spread quickly to the media and it was rightly classified as child gambling by many critics. This was negative PR that the Star Wars brand didn’t need, especially with the release of The Last Jedi just around the corner. After all, the game and movie are supposed to promote sales in one another.
Parent company EA and game developers DICE then removed the ability to purchase loot crates through MTX purchases before the game actually launched. DICE always said that these MTX loot crates would be coming back eventually, though they have not really told us in what form this will take. Most players and fans of the game seem to think these will be cosmetic only customization skins. Leaving the purchasable content as cosmetic only certainly takes away much of the bad taste players have in their mouths, many other games employ cosmetic loot crates to good effect. SW BF2 was designed around providing players with free content updates and financed by MTX sales instead of fragmenting the player base by producing paid for DLC packages after all.
Our own Joseph Jammer Medina covered the news story about the return of the dreaded MTX Here.
So what’s next?
The problem I think many players are having right now is that the progress requirements for ranking up and earning new gear is slow, it’s really, really slow. It’s slow because it’s still designed around enticing you to spend money. This leveling up and loot-earning rate needs to be doubled at this point. Though I am no daily avid player of the game, I did purchase the game digitally prior to the MTX controversy, and was almost about to ask for a refund before the news broke of them pulling the ability to purchase loot crates. Personally, I am all about the Starfighter Assault mode which I do find incredibly good fun, which makes sense given the first video game to ever truly capture my attention was the old Star Wars Coin-Op arcade game from the early 80’s. The progress is slow though, and someone like me who perhaps plays only 1-2 games a night will find it very time-consuming to rank up classes and characters.
DICE has promised they will change this progression system, but as yet they have given us no details as to exactly how it is going to be changed. If I’m honest, it almost feels like they have left it too long now, and a change of system could be tricky to manage when so many people are working their way through the current progression system as is.
I would assume we will soon be seeing some fancy cosmetic customization options for sale, and I imagine that DICE is working at full steam ahead to create these assets. After all, if they cannot sell any MTX then the financial outlook for the game is going to take a nose dive. But what this also means is that it appears not enough people at DICE is working on the changes the game itself needs to propel it forward.
What do the players want to see?
Whilst my own desires for this game are centered around the flying game modes, as always, the fans of the game have not been short in coming up with many good ideas that could take the gamer experience further.
One of the most requested additions to the game along with the usual more maps, more characters, more game modes, is far more offline options. I totally support this idea myself and if introduced properly would probably get some of my friends to take a punt on the game as well. Battlefront 2 is almost totally designed for PvP (Player vs. Player) gameplay. There is an offline arcade mode, but it feels hollow and lifeless in its current state. Not everyone loves playing against real-world players, especially when you want to just relax and have some fun, because that’s not always guaranteed in PvP. Especially when you go up against a squad of adolescent kids who put in 5-10 hours a day on the game (I would have in my youth), or professional YouTube streamers that play the game as a working job. Personally, I am getting old and slow, and sometimes I’d just like to relax with friends in an offline environment.
At this point the fix is a relatively simple one, though it could be expanded in time. DICE should at minumum open up all their game modes in a PvE environment. If 4-5 friends want to team up together and take on hordes of AI controlled ships and troops, then let them go for it. My friends and I would love to be able to team up to take on Starfighter Assault maps against AI-controlled enemies. There could even be difficulty levels and increased rewards that scale up with difficulty. This would also allow players to hone their skills and still rank up whilst playing offline, putting them in a better position to finally want to make that jump online to try your hand against real players. All of the current PvP game modes would support this type of game, although the Heroes Vs. Villains mode might be a little trickier to balance without human opponents.
In time if the game modes prove popular DICE could start to create content designed and balanced specifically for more offline co-op play. It also opens the game up to children more, whom EA restrict from playing online anyway, and I guess the old and slow to react players like me. I know I would certainly play the game far more and try different modes more than I do now, and like I said previously, if we can rank up and customize our classes through offline play, it allows players to dip their toes into the PvP arena with a bit more of a fighting chance.
Below you can see a gameplay video highlighting some of the different maps available for Starfighter Assault mode, and I think you can see that these would be pretty fun to run even if there were no human players on the enemy team.
If I were to truly let my imagination run wild, how great would it be to have game modes designed specifically for offline co-op? Imagine a game mode that had half of your squad trying to destroy something in starfighters whilst your other teammates went inside a ship or facility in ground-based combat to take down the shields for your attack team to progress towards the objective. They could even have boss characters appear in both sides of the game mode which have to be defeated to progress. I guess I am describing some sort of PvE Raid mode not normally found in a game like this, and I am under no illusions this would have to be created from scratch and released at a later date. But a writer can dream!
DICE still has a lot of time left to really save this game and get people talking positively about it, introducing co-op PvE content would go a long way to rectifying this along with planned changes to the progression system. The game still feels like it wants to force you online, so that you do get beat up by more experienced players and then want to purchase loot crates to catch up. Though you can currently earn credits doing arcade mode, it is pitifully slow, to the point where playing half an hour of offline arcade will not even earn you anywhere near what half a game online would.
The original model for this game is already dead, the question remains whether DICE can turn things around by creating a genuinely fun and multi-layered experience for all Star Wars fans, even those that don’t always want to compete online. I know 3-5 guys who have stayed well away from this game so far, that would probably buy the game right away if the correct kind of changes are made. They need to start getting positive PR for doing the right things and encourage players to have faith in them again after the disaster at launch.
There are loads of other great additions and balance changes being discussed by fans all the time. But so far DICE has been very quiet and kept their plans close to their chest. In this day and age that simply won’t work, and it does not instill confidence in the consumer. So open up DICE and tell us what plans you have for this game going forward because you are running out of time.
Do you play Star Wars Battlefront 2 and would you like to see more offline gameplay options, or have you got any other ideas for improving this game? As always let us know in the usual place.