2015's Star Wars: Battlefront was a fun game... while it lasted. EA Dice did develop a shooter that played well on a moment-to-moment basis and captured the feeling of Star Wars. The problem was Battlefront didn't last all that long. There was no single-player campaign, the mutliplayer was only a handful of modes across the same maps, and once you had a solid card loadout, there was no real reason to change things up. This year marks EA Dice's chance to learn from the mistakes of the first game.
With that disappointing first showing in mind, I sat down to play Star Wars: Battlefront II's massive Galactic Assault. This mode is similar to Battlefront's Walker Assault, in that a total of 40 players are fighting in a grand war. Walker Assault had the attacking Empire side escorting a massive AT-AT, while the defending Rebellion attempted to slow the oncoming charge. Galactic Assault is the same, this time with the droids of the Trade Federation escorting a massive Multi-Troop Transport (MTT) into the streets of Theed, as Clone Troopers seek to keep them out of the throne room.
One of the more disappointing sides of the first Battlefront was the balance on Walker Assault. Most of the time, players on the attacking side had an easy win, as it was much harder to stop the walker than it was to escort it to the objective. Dice is cognizant of the complaint and hopes to address it in some fashion for the sequel.
"We did see it, absolutely," Star Wars: Battlefront II multiplayer producer Craig Mcleod told USgamer. "We actually saw it more in the beginning than as we progressed, not necessarily because we balanced it--though of course we did--but a lot of people when they first started playing didn't exactly know what the best way to counter the walkers was. When we move into [Battlefront 2], we're very aware of this and we want to make sure that it's as balanced as possible."
That said, balance isn't coming at the expense of the feeling behind these massive vehicles.
"Of course these are boss vehicles. Think about the AT-AT from Battlefront and the vehicle from Theed, these are big intimidating vehicles with a lot of power. So it does take a lot of teamwork to take them down," added Mcleod.
In Galactic Assault, Dice has finally allowed players a bit more flexibility in the way they play. With Battlefront II, classes make a big return. At the beginning of my Galactic Assault runs, I was able to choose between four classes on the Trade Federation side: Assault, the basic all-round attack class with a basic pistol; Heavy, the master of the push with a huge rapid-fire blaster; Officer, a class with an accurate pistol and the ability to drop turrets; and Specialist, the default Sniper class. On top of that, the card system from the first Battlefront returns here, giving you a few customization options for your favorite class.
I picked the Officer for my first shot, with my spindly droid being dropped into the streets of Theed behind our MTT. Battlefront played well in the first place and that strong FPS play carries forward into the sequel. Battlefront II just feels good and Dice has addressed another issue of the first game, with blasters finally having a solid kick to them, instead of feeling somewhat ephemeral.
Every kill and objective completion gives you battle points. These battle points are currency during the match, allowing you to buy into alternate classes in vehicles. 500 battle points lets you unlock the Vulture Droid, letting you fly high above Theed. There's some definite pop in and the city has clear boundaries, but otherwise, the experience of dogfighting Clone Trooper ships and doing shooting runs on soldiers in the city streets is amazing. And 500 battle points is an easy benchmark to hit.
At 1,000 battle points, you have the choice to take control of the laser on the MTT. For 2,000, you'll get to jump into cockpit of the ATT tank or take control of the monster Super Battle Droid. Finally, at 5,000, you have the chance play either of the heroes available to your side. The heroes don't seem to be tied to the era, allowing for some interesting combinations. On the Trade Federation side, there was Darth Maul and Boba Feet, while the Clone Troopers were backed up by Rey and Han Solo.
Within a match, there's far more variety now. The four classes give you a solid core, but if you have some good runs, you can vastly expand your capabilities. It's not as amazing as simply getting into a ship in the older Battlefront games, but flying or playing one of the heroes isn't as annoying as hunting down icons on the map, as you had to do in the first Battlefront.
It also allows you to respond to what's happening in a battle. The end of the Theed map takes place in the Throne Room, with the Trade Federation trying to take the room. We were falling to a contigent of Clone Troopers led by Rey, who was flying around the room and destroying us with her lightsaber us left and right. One player answered by spending battle points on Darth Maul and I backed them up with a Super Battle Droid. While Rey focused on Maul, I gunned her down with my arm mounted automatic blaster. Thus we clenched the win.
I admit, it still feels like the attacking side has the biggest advantage in Galactic Assault. I didn't see the Clone Troopers side win once in the four games I played or witnessed. But Battlefront II does offer a deeper experience this time around. The core game is better, there's a full single-player campaign, and hopefully there will be enough additional maps and modes to give Battlefront II the longevity the first game lacked. I'm feeling good about it so far.
Star Wars: Battlefront II will be launching on PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4 on November 17, 2017.