Over the course of the past few days I’ve played the Star Wars Battlefront beta on PC, Playstation 4 and Xbox One. During that time I went from super-excited to huge disappointment and finally to completely conflicted. Here’s why.
The beta offered 3 modes of play: Survival, Drop Zone and Walker Assault. Let’s go through each briefly.
Survival is the only solo/co-op mode in the beta. It’s a pretty simple game where six waves of enemies spawn and attack and you have to kill them. I played it solo and it was pretty easy and not something that would hold my attention for very long. That said, it’s worth noting that the beta had only 6 waves and the full game will have 12, and the beta had only “Normal” difficulty and the full game will have higher difficulty levels. Maybe if the challenge level was higher it’ll be more fun, but I’m not sure. Survival might also be more fun played with someone else; it’s basically “horde mode” which seems popular in other games.
There are two other single player/co-op modes in the final game, Training and Battles. I assume Training is all about Tutorials, but I’m not sure what Battles will offer that Survival didn’t. Hopefully a more in-depth experience.
With the single player content quickly exhausted I headed to the multiplayer mode. The full game will have 7 multiplayer modes but for the demo we had Drop Zone and Walker Assault.
Drop Zone is 8v8 PVP that plays very much like any other FPS’s competitive mode. It’s fast-paced, short sight distances, cramped and definitely favors quick players that can snap-off headshots regularly. I hated it. I mean, I REALLY hated it. (I also hate this kind of mode in every other FPS in the world.) If you want Stars Wars flavored Call of Duty MP, I guess Drop Zone is for you.
And to be clear, I’m not saying it was bad; my distaste for this kind of gameplay means I can’t even judge a good game from bad in this genre. I’m just saying for me it was terrible and it dashed all my hopes for Star Wars Battlefront. In fact I deleted the beta after playing a few rounds and coming away frustrated and angry.
A friend convinced me to try Walker Assualt. EA does itself a disservice here. If you try to jump right into Walker Assault you’re told you should earn a few levels in Drop Zone first, and that’s what I’d done. For my second attempt at Battlefront I jumped right in Walker Assault at level 1.
And wow, what a difference. I found Walker Assault to be super fun. It is based on the classic “Empire assault on the rebel base on Hoth” scenario. It’s a 20v20 mode with lots of terrain to cover, lots of power-ups, and many many epic moments. Each player spawns as a generic Storm Trooper or Rebel (you can customize your weapon loadout as you gain levels and credits) but via the power-ups strewn across the battlefield you can take control of an AT-ST, the guns in an AT-AT, a Tie Fighter, X-Wing, A-Wing and more. You can also become a hero (Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader depending on your side) and there are more subtle power-ups like Smart Rockets, mini Shield Generators and so on.
The Rebels need to activate a couple of uplinks so that Y-Wings will spawn and bomb a couple of AT-AT’s that are lumbering across the battlefield. Once the Y-Wings hit the AT-ATs they’ll become vulnerable for a few moments, at which time the Rebels have to unload on them. If you’re really good you can pilot a snow speeder and do the harpoon/tow cable “trip-the-walker” move from the movies. The Empire basically just has to prevent the Rebels from destroying the AT-ATs. Eventually they’ll get in range of the shield generator, destroy it and win. The Rebels win if both AT-ATs are destroyed.
There’s a lot to do in this mission even for old guys like me who don’t have the reflexes to compete in games like Drop Zone. I spent a lot of time Activating or De-Activating Uplinks (depending on which side I was on, teams switch sides after every round) or sneaking behind enemy lines to snipe soldiers from unexpected directions.
The scenario has taken some flack for being unbalanced and it is, but it seemed less so on Sunday than it did on Friday, as by Sunday Rebel players had learned what to do. If everyone spawns in and walks away from their gaming consoles the Empire will win, so the burden is really on the Rebels to put up a good fight.
The thing is I never cared if I won or lost. I was IN the Battle For Hoth! That was amazing. Watching X-Wings and Tie Fighters duke it out, seeing walkers stumble and fall, the sky full of blaster fire. It was awesome. You die constantly but there’s no real penalty for doing so, again replicating the ‘cannon fodder’ style of combat we see in the movies. There are hundreds of troops involved in the battle and the game reflects that by giving us immediate respawns with no penalties.
Anyway, so Walker Assault almost sold me on the game except…. it’s not something I played for hours. I’d generally play 2-3 matches and have my fill and go do something else. A few hours later I’d get the itch and come back to play more.
It worries me a little that “Walker Assault” is the name of a “Mode” since it makes me think this might be the only large scale 20v20 battle in the game.
The multiplayer modes not in the beta are still a mystery. “Fighter Squadron” is space combat, I’m fairly sure. But “Supremacy,” “Blast,” “Cargo,” and “Droid Run” all sound pretty vague. If each of them is a single map in the same way “Walker Assault” is then there’s not a ton of content in the game.
And if they are all 8v8 games played on small maps then I have no interest in them. They could have 100 8v8 frenetic headshot-fests and it’d mean nothing to me.
If Star Wars Battlefront had half a dozen missions with the scope and scale of Walker Assault I’d be all over it. But having 3 modes to sample and finding 2 of them are throw-aways makes me nervous. I don’t want to pay $60 to just play Walker Assault over and over and over.
Also, anyone could play the beta for free and there were only 2 MP modes to choose from. Every time I played Walker Assault I got into a game almost instantly. But when the game is $60 (so presumably, there are fewer people playing) and there’re 7 MP modes to choose from, I wonder how long it’ll take to get a 40-person match together. We won’t know that until after launch. Also the beta was limited to level 5. I don’t know what the cap in the final game will be but hopefully level 1 people won’t get tossed in with 39 level 20s.
Basically the beta weekend left me with a bunch of new questions. I want to know if there’s anything more interesting than fighting waves of enemies to do solo. And I want to know if there are more large scale MP maps to play on. So for me, the game is in the “wait and see” category. Once it’s out and we get reports on the other modes and how well MP is working, I might buy.
Here’re a couple of short clips I captured over the weekend. The first 2 are from the PS4 version, the others from Xbox One