I was not a huge fan of DICE's first attempt at reviving Star Wars Battlefront. That game was both limited in scope and overcomplicated, a jumble of different modes that never came together despite its incredible visuals. That being said, I have high hopes for the sequel that is releasing this November. While DICE is refining the multiplayer in Star Wars Battlefront 2 and Criterion is working the Burnout magic on the game's vehicles, Jade Raymond and the team at Motive Studios is crafting a full campaign that should serve to round out the package and reveal aspects of the Star Wars story that have never been delved into before.
Game Director Mark Thompson was on hand to speak about the inspiration for Star Wars Battlefront 2's campaign. It started with a moment that you're familiar with, the explosion of the Death Star II above Endor's forest moon at the end of Return of the Jedi. From the film's perspective, this is a victory, and we see parties happening across the galaxy. However, for the loyal soldiers of the Empire, this is a stunning defeat, and the end of the Death Star is not the end of the Empire. Iden is one such soldier, a special ops agent and a member of Inferno Squadron who grew up on an Imperial world and fought in the battle of Endor. Battlefront 2 tells her story as she vows revenge for the death of her Emperor.
Players will be taking up arms on land and air with Inferno Squadron in a tale that casts the Imperials in a heroic light. Mark stated that he was always interested in the many different perspectives of the battles in the Star Wars Universe and that the team at Motive delved into the worldview where the Empire stood for order and created a peace that was threatened by the terrorists of the Rebel Alliance. As someone who's been slowly playing through the Imperial campaigns of The Old Republic over the last few months, I have to agree that there is a lot of potential for great storytelling here.
From the brief glimpses I received, the campaign doesn't seem to take any great departures from the third person shooting you saw in the original Battlefront. Iden does have a few tricks up her sleeves, including a hovering droid companion that seems to be a sleek combination of the scouting droid Han blasted on Hoth and Vader's interrogation droid from A New Hope. The droid was shown to be useful in both unlocking doors and getting behind enemies for shocking stealth moves using its electrified appendages. It was also mentioned that Iden wasn't the only playable character in the campaign. There will be heroes just like in the multiplayer, with at least one featured mission where you take control of Luke Skywalker.
Speaking of, there was also plenty to talk as far as multiplayer was concerned. DICE developer Bernd Diemer stated that there was never any question that Battlefront 2's multiplayer would expand out to all eras of Star Wars, satisfying fans both young and old. The system seems to work similarly to Pandemic's Battlefront II, with each era having a representative for each class in the game. So, if you want to be a Dark Side trooper, you may go from a run of the mill stormtrooper to a battle droid depending on what map you find yourself on. Each class will have a separate progression that will span across eras, unlocking your standard array of shooter abilities and gadgets in a slow drip as you play.
A deeper progression system seems to be a focus for the game, as hero characters such as Darth Maul and Kylo Ren and starfighters ranging from the Falcon to Slave 1 will also have their own list of unlocks to gain access to over time. This is a great improvement over the first game, which had a confusing card system in place of the more traditional shooter trappings. Another improvement will come with the way that heroes and vehicles are unlocked on the battlefield. Instead of just finding tokens randomly strewn about (or memorizing spawn points and hogging all the cool abilities), heroes and vehicles will be perks you earn over the course of a match. The way it was described reminds me of earning your Titan in Titanfall 2, and anything similar to that would be an improvement to the past system. Of course, it won't be finding vehicles on the battlefield and climbing into them like the original games, but some improvement is better than nothing.
I'm left cautiously optimistic about Battlefront 2 after today's presentation. This game just feels more fully realized than the first, and the inclusion of a campaign with an intriguing story gives the game lasting value beyond the mindless deathmatch fun. If the developers can focus in on one or two key multiplayer modes, create systems that mimic modern shooters, and tighten up the gameplay just a bit when it comes to vehicles, then Battlefront 2 could turn me around on the whole enterprise. Who knows, we may even reach the heights that Pandemic climbed to a long time ago on an Xbox far far away....