When I hear the question "What is the best sequel in a video game franchise?", my mind immediately goes to Star Wars: Battlefront II. Star Wars: Battlefront II was originally released in 2005 on the PlayStation 2 as a sequel to the 2004 Star Wars: Battlefront and has since been re-released across multiple platforms ranging from the Xbox and Xbox 360 to the PlayStation Portable to Steam. Many would argue that Star Wars: Battlefront II hasn't aged very well, but the improvements it made to its predecessor title are immediately noticeable and a part of why many fans hoped to see a Star Wars: Battlefront III from Pandemic Studios.
Star Wars: Battlefront II has players engage in conquest-styled gameplay across a multitude of planets and settings from the Star Wars film franchise. There are two eras to play in: the Clone Wars, which pits the Jedi Order and the Clone Troopers against the Sith and the CIS; and the Galactic Civil War, in which the Rebel Alliance takes on the Galactic Empire. Each faction shares four basic classes—Infantry, Sniper, Engineer, and Heavy Weapon—with an additional two units unique to each faction, which are unlockable after a scoring a predetermined number of points. Each faction also has a number of special "Hero" units, based on major plot-important characters from across the Star Wars film franchise such as the Jedi, the Sith, and various non-Force sensitive organisms. Instead of taking damage to their health, these Hero units have a set amount of time they can be on the battlefield; taking damage reduces that amount of time, while killing enemy units increases it.
The game's primary mode of play is "Conquest," which pits large numbers of both factions against each other. A game in Conquest mode is won when either all the command posts on the map belong to your faction (preventing enemy units from spawning), or all of the enemy faction's units are destroyed. Additional modes of gameplay exist, such as Capture the Flag, Galactic Conquest (a Risk-esque turn-based strategy game), Hero Assault (team deathmatch between Hero units), and Space Assault (battles fought in space with starcraft). Players can choose which maps and which eras they want to play in using the Instant Action feature.
So, what makes Star Wars: Battlefront II the "Best Gaming Sequel"? There are a number of things that make it qualify for that title, but I want to focus on the four things that really set it apart from the original Star Wars: Battlefront: the changes to the Campaign mode, the addition of more Heroes, the addition of more types of gameplay, and the addition of more maps.
Star Wars: Battlefront II's Campaign mode puts you in the role of a member of the legendary 501st Legion, an elite group of Clone Troopers. The game loosely follows the events of the film franchise beginning with an attack on the planet Mygeeto, taking part in the fall of the Jedi Order during Operation Knightfall and the Great Jedi Purge, and ending with the routing of the Rebel Alliance from Hoth as Stormtroopers in the Galactic Empire. The Campaign mode is very narrative heavy, capturing perfectly the weariness of the elite squad as they move from upholding the peace of the galaxy to hunting down the very people they fought alongside. Campaign mode is also quite challenging; successfully completing each chapter of the Campaign requires finishing several objectives with limited amounts of reinforcements, many times at a disadvantage compared to the enemy faction. These elements weren't present in the original Star Wars: Battlefront, which jumped around from perspective to perspective and didn't have much in the way of challenging gameplay. Additionally, as Star Wars: Battlefront II came out after Episode III: Revenge of the Sith, the Campaign obviously has a much more cohesive feel to it than its predecessor did, and explores the events of the Republic's fall in more depth.
As mentioned above, each faction in Star Wars: Battlefront II has several unique Hero units that become available during matches, but the original Star Wars: Battlefront only had four, one for each faction: Luke Skywalker for the Rebel Alliance, Darth Vader for the Galactic Empire, Count Dooku for the Sith, and Mace Windu for the Republic/Jedi Order. Star Wars: Battlefront II adds upwards of twenty additional Hero characters, drawing mainly from the Jedi and the Sith, but also from other major non-Force sensitive characters such as Han Solo, Princess Leia, Chewbacca, General Grievous, and Jango and Boba Fett. The addition of more Hero units adds much more diversity to the Campaign and keeps it from overly focusing on just a few major characters. Additionally, the original Star Wars: Battlefront was horribly imbalanced in favor of the Hero units; Hero units were unkillable aside of knocking them outside of the map or literally dropping vehicles on top of them. While Hero units still don't take damage the way that normal units do, they're no longer an instant-win once they're on the field and can be dispatched quite easily depending on what Hero unit it is and the skill of those playing against them. Star Wars: Battlefront II also adds the team deathmatch game mode of "Hero Assault" on Mos Eisley (as well as Kashyyyk, thanks to an Xbox Live update), pitting hero against villain and allowing for crazy cross-era fights.
While Star Wars: Battlefront had Instant Action, Conquest and Galactic Conquest, many of the game modes found in Star Wars: Battlefront II are completely brand new. In addition to Capture the Flag, Space Assault and Hero Assault, Star Wars: Battlefront II adds Hunt (factions are replaced with the indigenous populations of a planet, such as Jawas and Tusken Raiders) and the Windows-only XL game mode (increased faction sizes on certain maps, allowing for large-scale warfare). The multitude of different options of game play means that Star Wars: Battlefront II has much more replayability than its predecessor did, and that the game appeals to every time of Star Wars fan - ranging from those who want to recreate the feel of the massive, important battles from their favorite era, or just want to see which of their favorite characters is the strongest.
And of course, Star Wars: Battlefront II adds many more maps (twelve in total), while retaining many of the original maps from Star Wars: Battlefront. Not everyone was happy about this, as some of the maps that weren't included were fan favorites, but the quality of the new maps (such as Polis Massa: Medical Facility, Death Star: Interior and Kamino: Cloning Facility) more than makes up for that.
While neither Star Wars: Battlefront or Star Wars: Battlefront II can be said to have aged particularly well, the advancements Star Wars: Battlefront II adds to the series over its predecessor make it a much more enjoyable and complete title. From the improvement of the Campaign mode, to the addition of more game modes, to the quality of the new maps, Star Wars: Battlefront II can truly be said to be the "Best Gaming Sequel."
Stay tuned to TechRaptor for more thoughts on what we think deserves the title of "Best Gaming Sequel."
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