After Two Days With the Final Review Version, Star Wars Battlefront 2's Loot Boxes Are... Tolerable

They don't wholly ruin the multiplayer, but that doesn't mean they should be in Battlefront 2.

Analysis by Kat Bailey, .

Greetings from the underworld, where I've spent the past two days playing lots and lots of multiplayer in the final version of Star Wars Battlefront 2.

I have plenty of thoughts on the multiplayer, which I'll share in the my final review (spoiler: I think it's pretty fun, actually), but let's talk about the loot box-driven progression—the controversy that has dogged Battlefront 2 since the beta.

There was justifiable anger around EA's decision to tie character progression to loot boxes. As Mike laid out in his piece from the beta, players are concerned that EA is making their shooter "pay-to-win" by making it easy to quickly level up your character by shelling out lots of money.

Loot, loot, loot.

EA has responded by putting up a bunch of gates to make it harder for players to spend their way to the most epic of loot—the modifiers that can up your damage output by up to 40 percent (!). In my conversation with DICE during the event, they called the controversy a "healthy conversation" about how fans really feel about loot boxes, and promised to respond to fan feedback through launch and beyond.

The review event was my first chance to get a feel for the progression in something approximating the final release. It wasn't perfect, of course, since everyone was starting together at zero and playing for the same length of time. But it still gave me an idea of how fast I was able to obtain items without spending money.

The short answer: About as quickly as in any other shooter. In the course of about 15 hours, I was able to unlock all three Star Card slots for my preferred class and a handful of solid upgrades and abilities, including a thermal detonator with improved damage. The 2000 to 3000 credits I earned per match was enough to get me a loot box every other game, which in turn contained a random mix of items, some useful and some not (hooray for victory poses, I guess).

Bear in mind that there's a lot to unlock in this game. Every single class, hero, vehicle, and starfighter has their own set of Star Cards with specialized buffs. And I never once unlocked a rare quality card. So it's gonna take some grinding to build up my portfolio—par for the course in shooters these days.

It's important to note, of course, that progression isn't completely tied to loot boxes. For instance, weapons can only be crafted when you hit certain milestones, like earning 50 kills with a certain class. Epic quality Star Cards, where you receive the juiciest bonuses, are likewise unavailable in loot crates.

More importantly, you have to be level 20 to be able to equip epic Star Cards, which will take the average player upwards of 25 to 30 hours to hit. I'm not the greatest Battlefront 2 player by any means, but I consistently ranked in the top half of every leaderboard, and I was still only around level 11 by the end of Day 2. So levels aren't something you can grind overnight.

DICE's final line of defense between the whales and the average gamer is the matchmaking algorithm, which will be tuned to group players with roughly the same gear together. That way new players won't suddenly get thrown together with high-level players sporting epic gear.

All of this serves to keep the big spenders in check, but that doesn't keep it from feeling a bit messy. With cards coming in piecemeal, my characters felt like a confusing patchwork of abilities, and I was never sure what class had access to what slots. I figured out how to craft certain items, but I was unsure on how to craft rare cards. It felt like the kind of system I would see in a free-to-play mobile game—loaded with various kinds of currency and confusing menus designed to make me say "screw it" and drop a hundred bucks on loot cates.

Certainly, DICE and EA have no one to blame but themselves for that. But at the end of the day, it wasn't enough to break my enjoyment of the multiplayer, which feels far sharper and more refined than the original Battlefront. Taken together, my overall impression is that I can probably make a decent dent in Battlefront 2's multiplayer without having to spend money. As I said, my preferred classes and starfighters had some solid gear by the end of Day 2; and while I played more than usual, I wasn't too far off the usual pace for a solid weekend of play.

In that, it seems like DICE has done just enough to make the loot boxes tolerable. But I still have plenty of problems with the system as a whole.

Overwatch's loot boxes are actually fun.

Loot Box Progression is Always Going to be a Problem

The problem with the loot boxes in Battlefront 2 is that they don't have any practical reason for existing outside of the fact that they're a useful revenue stream for EA.

It's easy to forgive Overwatch's loot boxes—annoying as they can be at times—because they are completely optional. They are fun to open, and getting a legendary skin is thrilling, but otherwise they have no bearing on the gameplay. You can safely ignore them.

But like I said, they're fun. That's what makes them a worthwhile addition to the game (they also happen to make Blizzard a ton of money because people just have to have the latest and greatest skin, but that's not my problem). Earning and opening a loot box in Overwatch is extremely satisfying because it's reflective of the time you've put into the game.

Battlefront 2's loot boxes aren't fun—they're a chore. They're part of the grind toward whatever optimal build you're trying to achieve. DICE could have just as easily made it possible to buy every upgrade with in-game currency, but instead they decided to tie it to monetization.

That's the real drag behind Battlefront 2's loot crates—the fact that they're wholly unnecessary. DICE may be putting in safeguards to protect non-monetizers from whales, but they're secretly hoping that you're going to get fed up and drop some cash on loot boxes. It's something I feel every time I crack open another crate for more Star Cards.

So when I say that I'm enjoying Battlefront 2's multiplayer, it's in spite of the loot boxes, not because of them. Like I said: they're tolerable. They aren't there to add to the enjoyment of the game, but to line EA's pockets.

I'll have additional thoughts on the multiplayer (and the single-player campaign) for next week's review. In the meantime, check out our guide to everything we know so far about Star Wars Battlefront 2.

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Comments 7

  • Avatar for dr134 #1 dr134 4 months ago
    As a general concept, I have no issue with loot boxes. Games cost way more to make, yet sell for roughly the same price as I have paid for the last 30 years, so I understand the need to bring in more money.

    I have no problem with purely cosmetic loot boxes (e.g. Overwatch). If you are willing to pay for a chance to get some new pose or skin, be my guest. I can easily live without and we are still playing on an even playing field.

    Tying anything in monetized loot boxes to character progression tilts the playing field (despite any attempts to gate off the tilting until later in the progression). Ok, so you can't get the Epic Cards from loot crates, but you do get the lower quality cards that you use to craft the Epic Cards from loot crates, yes? What is the real difference? Now it is harder for people not buying crates to get Epic Cards (no random Epic drop for you!) and makes it more enticing to pay real money for more loot crates to get the required ingredients for crafting.

    To me, nothing has really changed. All they did was make sure you have to level up before you can use the gear. When are they going to start selling instant level 20 upgrades?
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  • Avatar for Zebetite #2 Zebetite 4 months ago
    @dr134 Quite a few issues here. First off, games stopped costing 60 dollars years ago. Star Wars Battlefront was 110 dollars factoring in the season pass that is, you know, the rest of the game which is a fine example of this. 60 dollars is the shell price now, what you're paying to just get in the door for the baseline experience. Actually receiving the "full" game from big-name developers can be hundreds of dollars now.

    Next, cosmetics are just as much of a problem as game-changing lootboxes even if the reasons are less apparent. First off, manufactured envy - it creates a have/have not situation when players see someone else running around with the rare skin and doodads and such, and want that stuff for themselves. It's only a few dozen loot boxes away!

    Even with that aside, wholesale embracing of "just cosmetic" loot boxes led DIRECTLY to games like Shadow of War and Forza 7 and Battlefront 2, because publishers figured out that if people will buy into one, maybe they'll buy into another. Give them an inch and they'll take all your money.Edited November 2017 by Zebetite
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  • Avatar for dr134 #3 dr134 4 months ago

    Fair point about the cost of games today. I seldom buy games at launch, so my buying price is often equal or less than what I have paid over the years, but your point remains valid.

    I still have no issue with cosmetic loot boxes (although I would prefer the cosmetics were sold directly, instead of randomly in boxes). I don't buy them, but I have no issue with people who do or companies attempting to make more money (legally) selling them. As long as it does not tilt the playing field. I wouldn't want someone to tell me how much money I should make and be happy with, so I will not tell companies how much money they should attempt to make themselves and their shareholders.

    Additionally, the slippery slope argument does not really sway me. We consumers ultimately hold all of the power over these practices. If we have a problem with them, we can just not buy the games and/or microtransactions. I think game makers have just proven there are a lot of people willing to buy extras (dlc, cosmetics, loot boxes, etc.).

    Don't misunderstand me, I don't like the monetizing of loot boxes. I have never bought any (with real world money). I only see 2 things that could stop the loot box madness: 1. Consumers stop buying the games with them (not likely) or 2. Governments regulating them as gambling (more likely). If they get regulated as gambling, then I could see game companies selling the items directly, instead of in loot boxes. Not sure if that is a lot better.
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  • Avatar for Roto13 #4 Roto13 4 months ago
    @Zebetite Even the manufactured envy wouldn't be a problem if cosmetic stuff wasn't only available temporarily. If you could play Overwatch forever and eventually get the skin you're after, that'd be fine, but the way it actually works, you're likely to just run out of time to get the skin you really want. But oh, maybe if you spend $10 or $20 on lootboxes, you'll get it! No? Try again! It's predatory and gross and everyone overlooks it.
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  • Avatar for VotesForCows #5 VotesForCows 4 months ago
    Interesting comments above. For me, tying any items or perks to blind boxes is just out of the question. People criticise Street Fighter (rightly so sometimes) but at least you always know exactly how much the ridiculous DLC costs, and can make an informed decision about it.

    I welcome the concept of increasing the lifetime revenue of a game - this feels important for the AAA part of the industry to thrive. But I won't line their pockets by gambling with my money, ever.
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  • Avatar for docexe #6 docexe 4 months ago
    @dr134 Frankly, I dread more the possibility of legislation being passed on loot boxes and the like. Based on track records when it comes to these kind of things, I just expect the government to make an even bigger mess.
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  • Avatar for GeoX #7 GeoX 4 months ago
    I would never even momentarily consider buying a game with loot boxes of any kind. I'm not trying to act all superior here, but the inarguable fact is that barring government intervention, they aren't going away until such time as a critical mass of consumers think like this.
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