One of the more annoying trends in gaming these days is the tendency by large publishers to slice off a chunk of content and repackage it as a bonus to incentivize pre-orders, turning what should have been in the game in the first place into a timed exclusive.
Star Wars: Battlefront's Battle of Jakku, which was released yesterday, is the latest example of that trend. A package of DLC consisting of a new mode and two new maps, it was developed with the intention of promoting the upcoming film while serving as an exclusive pre-order bonus. It will be free for everyone starting December 8, but only those who plunked down money early and assumed some of the initial risk get to play it now.
Broadly speaking, it's more annoying than harmful. Yes, it would have been nice to have had it from the start; and yes, it's weird to be getting a substantial chunk of DLC just two weeks after the initial game's release. But in the end, it exists, and it's free. It's just one of the many nuisances that come as a result of the exhorbitant cost of developing in the triple-A space these days.
So let's talk about the content itself. The Battle of Jakku brings with it two new modes and a new map featuring the new desert planet from The Force Awakens. The Graveyard of Giants is the setting for Walker Assault, Supremacy, and the new Turning Point mode, featuring a wide expanse littered with destroyed AT-ATs and Star Destroyers. Goazan Badlands is a smaller map designed for play on the remaining modes like Blast and Heroes vs. Villains, featuring a long canyon that inevitably becomes a shooting gallery while one side or the other tries to outflank the others .
As with the other settings, The Battle of Jakku is stunning in its detail. One of the first things you're likely to do is stare up the sky to find a massive space battle raging between the Empire and the Rebels. On the ground, a Star Destroyer can be seen still burning in the distance while you huddle under a fallen Correllian Corvette. If there's one thing that Battlefront does really well, it's spectacle. Unfortunately, because it's set on a desert planet, it also has a way of blending together with Tatooine - unfortunate given that the environmental archetypes are comparatively limited to begin with.
The Battle of Jakku's main contribution to Battlefront is its new mode, Turning Point, which serves as a kind of counterpoint to Walker Assault. In this mode, the Rebels are the ones on the offensive rather the Imperials, their main goal being to capture all of the available checkpoints before time runs out. Where it differs from Supremacy is in the Empire's inability to recapture checkpoints that have already fallen, making the battles an extended holding action with repeated mass charges by the Rebels.
Will it replace any of the other modes? Not really. As it stands, Battlefront is kind of a buffet in which you cycle from mode to mode depending on what you're in the mood for. The Battle of Jakku adds a bit more variety and yet one more option, which is probably the best you can expect from a piece of free DLC launching a mere two weeks after the core game.
For the most part, my issues with Battlefront remain the same - it's a fairly shallow shooter that needs still more maps and options. It will likely be getting an extensive suite of (paid) DLC sooner rather than later, but the core game as it stands remains a tad underwhelming. In that light, The Battle of Jakku is little more than a snack designed to whet your appetite for the main course down the line.
But it did its job in one respect - it's got me more hyped than ever for The Force Awakens. Those crashed Star Destroyers are even more amazing when viewed up and close and personal.