It’s clear that EA wanted to hit two key talking points when it came to the reveal event for Star Wars Battlefront II
at Star Wars Celebration over the weekend. The first was that there will be a single-player campaign. The second: there will be more content, which is easily facilitated by the revelation that, unlike Battlefront 2015, Battlefront II will span all cinematic eras – prequel trilogy, original trilogy, and the newer Disney-funded sequels.
“One of the things that was clear from the start is that when you ask our fans they said, ‘Hey can you give us more?’ recalls Creative Director Bernd Diemer. “So that was a simple one. Not easy, but simple. So, we decided, ‘Hey, what can we put into the game to make it a rounder, more satisfying package?’ The answer was simple: we wanted to include more eras, to be able to have more touchpoints for people.”
The main issue caused by the lack of original trilogy content to pull from and the accessibility mandate for the last Battlefront was a lack of depth in multiplayer. DICE is hoping to address this in a number of ways. The first is through the introduction of a class system.
“Teamwork is very important; in all DICE games it has been very much present,” says Diemer. “Either it’s supported by features or just in the feeling you have when you play the game. So, squads, uh, classes was our way to give you an easy entry point into how good it can be to play together, especially as troopers. Because as a hero, you’re kind of on your own, because what it means to be one of those iconic heroes, they stand alone. They have their own moments. But as a trooper, you rely on your buddies, your family, your friends, to achieve what you want.”
Again, DICE was only willing to cover the tip of the iceberg when it came to classes in Battlefront II, but if you read between the lines of what Diemer had to say next, it starts to paint a clearer picture. “It’s more about boosting up the troopers than it is about bringing down the heroes [in terms of power],” says Diemer. “[We] give you more options to play together as a team. One [class], perhaps, can take more damage than you can, but you can deal more damage, or maybe at a longer range. So, by combining both of your abilities at the right moment, you can take out Darth Maul [for example] if the timing is right and the moment is perfect.
“We don’t want it that it’s always a counter, but we want it that it gives you that glimmer of hope – another Star Wars thing – that there is a possibility that if I play my cards right and if I’m lucky and if I do the right things at the right times, then I might become the hero of the match. Maybe not always, but maybe sometimes.”
Let’s dissect that for a moment because it’s important. First, there’s the possibility that a squad can take down a hero, and that hero isn’t less powerful, but a squad of troopers is more powerful than in the last game. Within this, there’s also the implication that the restrictive two-player Partner system from Battlefront 2015 has been expanded into a squad system with a higher player count.
There was also zero talk of Star Cards – the gadget/weapon/abilities feature in Battlefront 2015 – but Diemer confirmed they’ve been “changed”. “It’s not a new system,” explains Diemer. “I would say it’s an evolution. Something that still feels familiar but gives you a little bit more freedom and a little bit more personality of how to evolve your trooper, your ship, and your hero.”
The second point for dissection in Diemer’s response about classes is the types of classes that can be expected. When I asked whether classes in Battlefront II would feel more like Battlefront of old (in the Pandemic days) or familiar in a Battlefield sense, here’s what Diemer said. “It’s familiar in the way that most classes work in most games,” says Diemer. “We have our own individual take a little bit, but it’s more Battlefront than Battlefield, I would say.”
Diemer’s specific mention of a class that takes more damage, a class that does more damage, and one that does damage at range seems to identify three possible classes, out of the gate. The first is a tank, the second is a damage-dealer, and the third is ranged. This is interesting because it follows more of an RPG logic to class design than it does to, say, Battlefield. It also has the potential to tie in closely with Pandemic’s class system from the older Battlefront games, too.
The tank could be DICE’s take on Heavy Troopers from Battlefront of old, the damage-dealer could be Engineers, and ranged could translate to Snipers. If DICE is borrowing all six classes from the older Battlefront games, that leaves Regular Troopers, Commanders, and Special Classes (which would likely translate to heroes, anyway).
One of the images used both during the live stream and press panel (below) appeared when the devs were talking about classes in Battlefront II. If we take this shot as indicative of four different classes in Battlefront II, there’s further speculation to be made. Moving from left to right, the first female Rebel soldier looks like a sniper. Next to her is a Stormtooper First Order Heavy Gunner
, which slots nicely into the Heavy Trooper class.
Third in line from the left is what appears to be an Imperial officer, which could easily fit into a Commander role. Finally, on the far right is a basic battle droid, which would fit the Regular Troopers mould for prequel-era Trade Federation / Separatist players. On top of this, there’s also the reality that Battlefront II will include a resource-based system. This system replaces the hero/vehicle pick-ups of the last Battlefront game, and allows players to score points that add up towards hero and vehicle unlocks.
Hopefully this means that heroes and vehicles are rated on a scale of power, which will add a level of tactical depth for players who have to choose between getting a less-powered vehicle/hero on the battlefield or save up for a more powerful one. This would also hopefully mean that players will be able to switch gadgets and abilities mid-map, to counter infantry, vehicles, and heroes, as the need arises. The restrictive Star Card system from Battlefront 2015 was frustrating because you had to predict what the enemy team might be dominating with, and had no way to adjust your loadout mid-match if you predicted incorrectly.
To add to the depth potentiality, Battlefront II will also feature a progression system and a range of unlocks, but Diemer wasn’t ready to talk about whether those unlocks are more cosmetic than gameplay-impacting. It’ll likely be a mixture of both, but if DICE wants to add depth to Battlefront II’s multiplayer, there needs to be ways to modify the performance of your blasters, especially if they’re similarly restricted to specific era-appropriate options (something that was mentioned in the presentation).
At this early stage, it’s clear that DICE has addressed the core concerns of Battlefront 2015. Space battles are in. There’s a campaign. Multiplayer is set to have a depth and breadth that wasn’t seen in the last game. We likely won’t hear more about this depth and breadth until June at EA Play 2017, but if DICE can deliver on what it’s teasing, there’s a real chance that Star Wars Battlefront II’s multiplayer can coax once-burnt fans back to the galaxy far, far away.
AusGamers had flights, accommodation and food provided by EA for Star Wars Celebration