Earlier this year, I rented Star Wars: Battlefront II – mostly just to play through the single-player campaign since they actually did one this time. In the process, I tried out the game’s “Starfighter Assault” multiplayer mode, and had way more fun than I expected flying around and getting shot down by other players. So… when it showed up in a sale at 60% off, I went ahead and bought it. I am weak.
For the last few days, it’s been my go-to game for the couple of hours between getting off work and going to bed, and my “playing” to “respawning” ratio has improved considerably – as long as we are clear that we’re talking only about the Starfighter Assault mode, as opposed to any of the other multiplayer modes in which I spend more time waiting to respawn then actually playing. I really don’t have the reflexes for the ground-based combat play modes, but Starfighter Assault is a much more casually-paced affair and has objectives that you can contribute towards even if you aren’t very good at one-on-one dogfighting. It’s a lot like Splatoon or Titanfall in that way.
And, in that time, I have come to admire the utter bastard efficiency in which the card-based progression system was designed to point out to you how your frequent and unavoidable deaths are the result of having Worse Cards than the guy who just killed you, and (by the way) you could probably get some Better Cards if you just opened a few loot boxes. This REALLY comes out in the game’s “Heroes Vs. Villains” multiplayer mode, where you not only have to deal with the other players having Better Cards but also with the problem that half of the characters on either side are locked and must be unlocked with currency earned at a glacial rate through repeated play sessions. Want to play as Luke? That will be 5000 credits. (A typical 15-20 minute multiplayer session nets 350 credits on a good run. If you’re feeling short of credits, well, those are in the loot boxes too.)
Put simply, this is a heck of a greedy game, but today’s patch is going a long way to turn that “is” into a “was”.
For starters, you no longer get abilities or upgrades out of card packs. Rather, if you spend a lot of time in the cockpit of an X-Wing, you will get more levels in X-Wing, letting you unlock the specific upgrades and abilities you want. Now, if you get slaughtered by a guy with a purple-quality level 4 weapons upgrade card, you can just look at it as something you will eventually be able to get. The other effect is that you can’t pick a particular game mode or unit that you’re good at and use that to grind upgrades for a different unit.
In addition, all of the hero and villain characters are unlocked. Rather than having to choose between the four “free” characters offered to you at the start of a Heroes vs. Villains match, you now have a full complement.
These are some pretty good changes, and the end result is that this is now a game, rather than a thinly-disguised advertisement for loot boxes. Honestly I think they’re wishing they’d released it like this instead of in a state that not only cost them sales and consumer goodwill, but which has inspired legislatures to start asking whether the industry is really capable of self-regulating itself.
One thing I will recommend, if you decide to pick this up now, is to make sure that it’s installed to an SSD. I had it running off a traditional hard drive, and load times between maps were in the 50-60 second range. On an SSD, they’re much less frustrating – and, as a side bonus, having this on an SSD means that I load into the hero selection screens faster than people using hard drives, meaning that I have a good 30 seconds to lock down Darth Vader before anyone else can try to choose him.
On second thought, maybe it’s best if you stick to a hard drive. You probably don’t want to bother with that. Yeah. 🙂