Tech by VICE

I’m Still Playing ‘Star Wars: Battlefront II’ for Some Reason

I went to extraordinary lengths to make it fun, but it’s so much fun.

by Matthew Gault
Jan 12 2018, 1:00pm

Image: Electronic Arts

I can’t seem to stop playing Star Wars: Battlefront II and I hate myself for it. I thought I was done with the critically maligned game. Its single player story is bad and its multiplayer a thinly veiled excuse to sell loot boxes. The backlash against those randomized boxes of cards and gear was so strong that it dropped EA’s stock price and pushed some American legislators to look at regulating the practice.

Despite all this, I've played it for more than 40 hours so far, and I don't think I'm going to stop anytime soon. It gets worse: I also purchased the Elite Trooper Deluxe upgrade. I hate writing this, but it was worth the money. The $20 upgrade contains an assortment of character upgrades and weapons that make Battlefront II much better.

In an ideal world, the upgrade would have been included in every version of Battlefront II, and I know that paying for it makes me part of the problem, but I don't regret it. Judging by the Battlefront II subreddit, I’m not the only one.

Those dedicated players—of which I am one—have eased off the epic anger that marked the community's feeling in the days after its release. We want to know when the next patch hits and why the game's developer DICE hasn’t said anything in a month. We’re speculating about which heroes will come out next and begging for Obi Wan. We’re complaining about overpowered Wookies and arguing about whether the game still has AFK farmers. The bile has receded to normal levels for video game fandom.

This next sentence is going to sound bad: The Elite Trooper Deluxe edition is Star Wars Battlefront II as it’s meant to be played. After unlocking the extra weapons and star cards I learned that there’s a wonderful game buried underneath this mess of loot boxes and complicated progression systems.

Every character class uses tiered star cards to upgrade its abilities and change the way they play. Purchasing the upgraded edition of the game gives each class a few fully upgraded star cards and weapons that make a big difference in combat. For example, the assault trooper—a basic grunt class—gains an increased radius to its grenade that is much better than the normal grenade. But it’s the guns that really change the way the game players.

In the baseline Battlefront II, players start with terrible weapons and have to earn hundreds of kills to get decent ones. The Elite Trooper Deluxe edition bypasses that and gives players the decent guns they should just start the game with. I can’t stress how much of a difference this single change makes. The assault class, for example, starts with a garbage DC-15A, but gets the CR-2 with a stock modification in the upgraded edition.

The range, rate of fire, and cooldown rate of the CR-2 is so much better than the DC-15A that it’s weird the baseline gun is even in the game. The CR-2 is a fast-paced gun for a fast-paced game. Using the DC-15A feels like bringing a spear into a Counter-Strike match. Players who don’t buy the Elite Trooper Deluxe edition need to earn 200 kills to unlock the CR-2. That’s going to take a long time with the terrible weapon.

Armed with better weapons and star cards, the game starts to open up. Battlefield games and Battlefront II specifically tend to feel like meat grinders, where players spawn, die within a few seconds, respawn, and repeat. With the improved gear I survived longer, learned the maps, and began to understand its progression systems. I learned which star cards to use and which to discard. I learned that, though each class has three slots for cards, they really only have two.

Let me explain. Each class can use a card called the bounty hunter which increases the rate at which they earn points in game. Players spend those points to unlock the heroes such as Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker during a match. At its max level, bounty hunter gives a player an extra 20 percent on all battle points earned. That’s huge. That means you get to play with cool heroes 20 percent faster. There’s literally no reason to never not have the bounty hunter card equipped.

Armed with better weapons, a decent bounty hunter card, and a better understanding of the game, I went from dying repeatedly in a hale of blaster fire to tearing through Rebel scum as Darth Maul on the regular.

Again, all this stuff is buried. Developer DICE did a terrible job explaining its systems to players and it’s obvious that its progression system was created solely to push loot crates. There’s no reason to take away what feels like baseline weapons and store them in an upgraded edition save for pure greed. There’s no reason to tie the rate at which a player earns in-game points to the game’s confusing upgrade and progression system.

All of these things make me mad, yet I keep playing. That’s because, underneath all that slime, the game is really fun. It looks and feels like Star Wars should. It plays like an arcadey Battlefield. May of the hackers, AFK farmers, and other assorted asshole players are gone. Most of the players who stuck around to this point are dedicated.

We play, we wait for DICE to make updates, and we never buy loot crates for cash because you literally can’t. DICE never turned the microtransactions back on and I hope it never does. The game is hard enough to make fun without the added aggravation of whales paying to win. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ve got a Death Star to blow up.