A long time ago, in a galaxy not very far away at all, good Star Wars games were a thing. Only 10 years ago, we were playing the incredible Star Wars: Battlefront II and Lego: Star Wars. Series like Jedi Knight, Rogue Squadron and Knights of the Old Republic were fresh in our mind, and whenever a new Star Wars video game was announced, people were excited. LucasArts, the developer and publisher of Star Wars video game outings, were a force to be reckoned with.
Something happened, though, and I’m not sure what. Star Wars video games became a mediocre affair, with admirable attempts like The Force Unleashed, or The Old Republic not really wowing audiences. The former being a fairly repetitive jaunt that succeeded based on the Star Wars license alone, and the latter being a free-to-play MMORPG, which is cool if you’re into that kind of thing…
The much beloved Battlefront series was awaiting a third installment, which floated around development hell for years before eventually disappearing into nothing. Many remnants of what was meant to be are available on the internet if you go looking for them, and it looked brilliant, but unfortunately, it was not meant to be.
Being a fan of Star Wars and video games seemed to be a punishing ordeal. All hope seemed to be lost.
Until E3 2012. A trailer was released for Star Wars 1313, and oh man, the internet caught fire. It looked like a true return to form for the Star Wars video game division. The trailer for the third-person action shooter had an interesting premise and stunning set pieces, much like the Uncharted series, and it blew fans away. The story was rumoured to be centred around fan favourite Boba Fett at the beginning of his bounty hunting career. It was what fans had been waiting for.
Then, disaster struck. As if millions of voices screaming with approval were suddenly silenced. In 2013, The Walt Disney Company acquired the Star Wars license, and in turn LucasArts. Development of the game was put on hold indefinitely. All development of future Star Wars games was handed over to Electronic Arts.
EA then announced a reboot of Star Wars Battlefront, with development being handled by DICE, who seemed like the perfect pick, considering their history with the Battlefield series. It was a match made in heaven. Who better to handle a massive scale multiplayer shooter than the kings of massive scale multiplayer shooters? But, being fans of Star Wars and video games, we have learned not to let our expectations get ahead of us. Let’s wait and see if this is what we want it to be.
Last week, the Star Wars Battlefront beta was released to the masses, free for anyone that wanted to see what it was all about, and it did not disappoint. It impressed me as a shooter, and more importantly, as a Star Wars game.
The two modes available were just a taste of what is to come. The fast paced, running and gunning Drop Zone on Sullust, and the strategic Walker Assault on Hoth, which emulates the iconic battle from the beginning of The Empire Strikes Back, were a blast to play. Particularly Walker Assualt. I’ve experienced more great moments in that mode alone than I have in most multiplayer shooters. There is nothing more terrifying than running through trenches, pushing back the Empire’s front line, and sprinting right into the sites of Darth Vader, or more thrilling than getting that decisive shot on an AT-ST before it’s able to gun down you and your squad. The beta was a blast.
There seemed to be some balancing issues here and there, particularly on the side of the Rebels on Hoth, but it didn’t bother me that much. It’s a beta, that’s what betas are for. Also, in the movies the Empire won that battle. It’s canon. Stop crying.
There were some design choices that fell under criticism, like the lack of classes or having vehicles or Heroes be pick-ups scattered throughout the map instead of the vehicles being actual physical things the player can climb into, or the Heroes being acquired through kill streaks, but it makes the game more accessible for those who aren’t heavy into shooters. The game has a very casual feel, and has obviously been designed that way to appeal to the legion of Star Wars fans that may not be hardcore shooter fans. I’m okay with that. The bigger the audience this appeals to, the better. The original Battlefront series was a casual affair, and this new installment feels like that.
Star Wars Battlefront is gearing up to be the first great Star Wars game in almost a decade. The beta has convinced me to buy this game. It has given me hope that Star Wars games can be great again. However, I’m trying not to get ahead of myself. The jury is still out. The game isn’t out for another month, but what I’ve played so far has hit all the right notes.
Help us, Star Wars Battlefront. You’re our only hope.