For all intents and purposes, what you saw in Star Wars Battlefront 2’s beta is what you’re going to get when the game releases on November 17. In some regards, this is a great thing, as the game’s Starfighter Assault mode offers an incredible experience for Star Wars fans while the return to a more traditional class based system and vehicle-spawning mechanics is a drastic improvement over what existed in the prequel. There are some relatively minor problems with the game to be sure, but for the most part, Battlefront 2 feels like the game that the first Battlefront should have been. Unfortunately, Battlefront 2 also features a microtransaction system that lets you buy loot boxes, giving you a chance to buy in-game items that are decidedly not cosmetic in nature.
Unlike almost every other modern game that features some kind of loot box system, Star Wars Battlefront 2’s loot boxes contain passive perks for your characters in the game, collectively dubbed Star Cards. These aren’t perks that provide niche benefits or severe tradeoffs in exchange for minor buffs either, these are perks that anyone would equip without a second thought because they give you an indisputable advantage over someone who doesn’t have these perks. For example, some perks reduce the cooldowns on your class abilities while others give certain hero characters more damage resistance while using certain abilities and whatnot. A couple of the starfighter perks blatantly give your starfighter increased damage or armor, and as you collect more and more copies of a perk out of a loot box, you get to upgrade said perk for larger benefits. You can earn these loot boxes over time with in-game currency, Credits, but to say that it would be a slow grind to obtain Credits is an understatement. It should be noted that there are around three different currencies or resources in the game as well, with at least one of these aforementioned slow-to-obtain resources being used to craft new weapons and things of that nature. If you were thinking of buying loot boxes to try and get specific Star Cards though, you can forget about it because each loot box has a random assortment of Star Cards.
In any case, Star Wars Battlefront 2’s loot box and perk system is bound to raise some eyebrows, especially since most people don’t really trust EA to not get greedy and create some truly game-breaking Star Card microtransactions in the future. If we are to be fair, none of the perks that we know of are powerful enough so that one person will always prevail in a one on one duel, but over the course of an entire match, the effects will inevitably snowball. Even if we are to assume that DICE will change the magnitude of every perk’s effect by launch so that they are less pronounced than they are now, the fact that there is no inherent disadvantage to any of these passive perks means that there is no reason not to buy loot crates and equip them. On top of that, it appears as though class progression is tied to the number of Star Cards that you have for that class, which is a bizarre and stupidly counterintuitive way for any game to handle character progression (rather ironic considering how straightforward the leveling mechanics are in Battlefield games). In theory, you could thus spend an atrocious amount of real money within an hour of release to have a character that can use their abilities faster than anyone else in the lobby and heals themselves upon getting a kill, in addition to having some relatively amazing gun that’s bristling with attachments and who knows what else while other players are trying to get by with the standard gear and no perks whatsoever.
At best, DICE could tweak the perks so that they have negative side effects (frankly, this should happen anyways so that there is a greater degree of variation within classes and so that you actually have to think before you equip some of these perks). Some of the equipment Star Cards already function in such a manner, whereby you could get a more powerful sentry gun ability that renders you character completely immobile for example, so it’s not as if there is no precedent for such a mechanic to exist in the game. Want to be able to deal more damage per shot in an X-Wing? Well you also have to deal with slower ability cooldowns. Faster ability cooldowns? Less powerful abilities. Heal on kill? You spawn with less health or much slower health recovery. To encourage people to experiment with Star Card effects, DICE could then increase the amount of Credits you get from every source, and to keep EA happy, DICE could also lock cosmetic items behind premium loot boxes that sell at drastically inflated prices.
On the other hand, DICE can do nothing and leave the Star Card system as it is. While not a great decision, it would be mildly tolerable if you got a daily influx of Credits or loot boxes for logging in, or some other unconditional incentive. As it stands now, Star Cards are merely two steps away from legitimate pay to win mechanics that you find in mobile games, and by drastically increasing the supply and sources of loot boxes that you can get without putting any effort into it, at the very least EA can claim that no one is paying to win if everyone is paying to win, it’s just that that guy is paying harder than you. The absolute worst thing that DICE can do that would almost assuredly kill Star Wars Battlefront 2 within a month would be if they decided to make it so that there are premium lootboxes that contain absolute top-tier Star Cards that can only be purchased with real money, in addition to slowing down the current rate that people get Credits. Heck, if EA really wanted to torpedo the Battlefront name, they could sell exclusive access to powerful and or popular heroes, though there are undoubtedly some people who would throw money at their TV or monitor to be able to play as Grand Admiral Thrawn, Porkins, or Jar-Jar Binks.
Either way, the floodgates have been opened and the goalposts have been pushed just a bit further; if you thought Destiny 2’s microtransactions were bad enough for normalizing the practice of selling single-use premium customization items, then Star Wars Battlefront 2 just gave other AAA developers the green light to start testing the waters with their own borderline pay to win loot boxes. The only silver lining of the whole debacle is that EA is the publisher of Star Wars Battlefront 2, so people are virtually ready at a moment’s notice to form an angry mob against this new form of microtransactions, but it may not be enough to prevent Star Wars Battlefront 3 or whatever the next popular game may be from letting you outright buy weapons or armor or whatever the case may be. Don’t think that it’ll happen because developers are good at heart and will put a stop to this practice before it gets too far? Search your feelings, you know it to be true.