Monday, 26 October 2015

Star Wars Battlefront EA Beta Impressions [Gaming]

Slight exaggeration as it might be, the whole of the Star Wars community has been begging for a proper new Battlefront since the last one ten years ago. It's no wonder that Star Wars Battlefront 2 is one of the highest selling Star Wars games, considering that it let players live out fantasies far and wide within the Star Wars universe. So when EA got their hands on the license, the first thing they did with it was announce they were working on a new Battlefront.

Now, it's no secret that another Battlefront has been doing the rounds, and has been since it was cancelled in 2008-9, but many people - even me - expected that a new Battlefront would expand on what we already had. All the footage from that Battlefront has given us what we'd hoped for. Of course, EA surprised us all and took a new direction. And some still aren't happy about that. No prequel trilogy content, small amount of planets, and nearly everything locked behind power-up tokens scattered throughout the maps.

I'm not saying that's bad, but no matter what, people will compare this new one to the old one [and by some extension the canned sequel] and see the differences. Yes, the differences are there, but it makes for an overall polished and focused experience. Vehicles are power-ups, so you won't see them until they're called for. This makes friendly camping near non-existent as they aren't waiting by a vehicle spawn point to wreck havoc when they finally get in it, and also enemy camping non-existent as they wreck havoc when no-one is in it. The random power-ups also add a layer of surprise, hoping for something good but instead you might get something not worth it. Power-up items will stay with you even after you get killed as well, which is a bonus. The random nature of it also makes one think "Is it worth it" when they see one that might be tricky to get to. And of course, hero power-ups allow anyone to become a fearsome hero. While you one-hit kill with heroes, and have more health, you don't feel all that powerful. You jump just like an ordinary trooper, and the run speed feels the same as a regular trooper too.

The modes themselves are interesting enough, though Walker Assault is definitely a favourite. The Rebels activate and defend uplinks, the Empire stops the uplinks from being active. Once the two AT-AT on field reach a certain point - roughly in line with the uplinks - Y-Wing bombers swoop in and disable the AT-AT shields. The downtime on those shields depends on how long the uplinks remained active. Anything can damage the AT-AT at this point, so the Rebels had better concentrate fire on them. Of course, the Empire's not going to make that easy. Once the AT-AT shields reengage, the next uplinks become active. There are three uplink sections, and if one AT-AT is still operational at the end, the Rebels have lost. If the Empire are good enough, they can make sure the uplinks remain unactive, meaning the AT-AT are safe from Y-Wing bombardment.

I had the most fun here, as it felt like an active battle. Enemy fire could come from anywhere, whether ground or sky. X-Wings and TIE Fighters would join the ground battle, covering the ground in lasers and even torpedoes to try an remove hotspots of activity. Getting to and defending the uplinks was a challenge depending on the skill and teamwork of the opposing team. Those on the Empire would sometimes be at the uplinks and already defending them before they came online. Sometimes the Rebels would be defending them before they activated as well. It also makes for interesting times when the AT-AT get closer to the uplinks and are able to bring their full power to mow down the defending Rebels. AT-AT can call in orbital strikes, though unless you manage to hold on to the AT-AT for long enough, you'll only be firing one of them. An orbital strike is one of the power-ups scattered around the maps as well, which is good for the Rebels if they actually use them on the AT-AT. Of course, being a tiny solider stood up against that massive thing, you wouldn't want to stand in front of it while lining up the call. You need to be able to survive for a few seconds after calling one in for it to actually activate, which also adds a risk-reward factor into it.

Enough about orbital bombardments though, as the mode is fun. I had a blast rushing to the uplinks, fighting to claim them in some cases, and giving the team I was on a major advantage. Whenever I became a hero, I didn't survive long enough to get the hang of them. I did get used to the aerial control enough to put up a good enough fight within the last day, though. AT-ST are also easy to use [most of my issues with controls come from still not being fully used to keyboard-mouse control sets, but putting star card usage on the extra mouse buttons and wheel seemed to help], and when you manage to get in one you can put a dent in the Rebel defence. Aiming of all things - whether AT-ST, aerial, or turrets - did feel loose, but not enough to seriously hinder enjoyment.

Drop Zone tasked players with capturing and protecting escape pods that fell down. First to five wins. Drop Zone is a smaller map mode, and with that comes some things. Since it is only a maximum of 8 vs 8 [Walker Assault is 20 vs 20], power-ups can only be claimed from captured pods. No hero power-ups or vehicle power-ups can be found within them, keeping the action very much focused on the ground. This mode feels more focused than Walker Assault, as the action will always center on where the pod is. This just makes it more fun to play though, so long as you get to the action. Keeping up the defence can be tricky, but being able to defend away from the pod comes in handy. Bunched up together makes for an easy target, so it pays to only have one or two near the pod while others spot for incoming trouble. The mode does hold up, and it's focus helps it, but it does make one wonder how many other modes will involve capture-defend game mechanics. While there's nothing wrong with that, there's the feeling that both modes could be made somewhat different.

Which leads to Survival. One of the single player modes, which can be played with a friend, it tasks you with defeating waves of troopers and surviving through them all. Between the occasional waves, an escape pod will drop allowing you access to power-ups [you have to capture-defend it before you claim them], which will make the fight easier. Within the beta there were only six waves, though the full mode has access to fifteen. On easy mode, it is easy if you know what you are doing, and can also be easy on harder difficulties depending on whether you know the environment you are playing on. AT-ST will show up on certain waves, and can be difficult to take down head on. The key is to chop a bit of their health at a time if you have nothing effective that will work on them.

I could comment on the look and sound of the beta, but the trailers have really shown off that so well. Both really immerse you into the world, and if it wasn't for the power-up icons on screen, it would really feel as though you are in the battle. That's the one thing that feels fully right about the beta. Everything else has some small fault or issue that puts a bit of a strain on playing, but doesn't take you out of the experience too much. Come the full game, I'm sure at least some of these issues will be fixed or patched up later. I'm hoping for all, though. It needs it. But that's not to say it isn't fun.

Links to videos
Rebellion Edition -
Imperial Edition -