Star Wars Battlefront Beta Impressions!

by on October 16, 2015

                Even if
this concept is part of a marketing scheme, EA DICE Open Beta tests are a good
sneak peek into what a game has to offer and what the expectations from that
game could be. Having the opportunity to play a “demo” of an online game just
before its launch is great, especially if we take in consideration the fact
that most of the singleplayer games don’t have a demo even after their release.
But Beta tests can be misleading and one has to be careful in selecting the information
(good or bad) based on the Beta experience as not everything is relevant.
                I’ve
given Star Wars Battlefront Beta a fair share of my time and I’ve analyzed it gathering
enough information so I can give a detailed impression about the game. But keep
in mind that this impression is still based on a Beta test and (some) things
are subject to change.
                Star
Wars Battlefront should be the 3rd installment in the well known
series inspired by DICE’s Battlefield and set into the Star Wars universe, but
it’s not. LucasArts was acquired by Disney in 2012 and the in-house development
was halted and a multi-year Star Wars license for PC and consoles games
development was given to EA leading us to this moment. The 2015 Battlefront is
not a new iteration in the series but a reboot envisioned by EA DICE.
The new game’s action is set to take place in locations from
the original trilogy and through DLCs in locations from the upcoming movie Star
Wars: The Force Awakens. This is a bold decision by DICE to ignore half of the
current existing cannon and movies which were part of the content in the previous
Battlefront games.
                At its
core 2015’s Star Wars Battlefront is still a shooter involving large scale
battles with a higher than usual number of players fighting for the Rebel
Alliance or the Empire, but things are much more different now than they look
in the summary of the game.
The Beta had the players choosing between two PvP multiplayer
game modes: Walker Assault and Drop Zone, each with its own map and the Survival
mode which serves as a singleplayer or cooperative PvE experience. Each mode
was radically different, but the basic game mechanics remain the same and they
are somewhat different from what the fans of the series are used to.
                The
Walker Assault mode had the biggest map in the Beta. In this 20vs20 game mode the
Empire was pushing the Rebels with the power of two AT-AT Walkers which
represent the main objective for both factions. The Empire has to defend the
two Walkers by stopping the Rebel Alliance from controlling some radar dishes that
allow them to call AI controlled Y-Wing ships as support to damage the Walkers
shields making them vulnerable to the players attacks. This map and game mode
had the closest design to what the older Battlefront games used to be, the
players can take control of ground vehicles, static weapons and ships in a
decently scaled battle.
The twist of this mode were the heroes. The players can take
control of Luke Skywalker or Darth Vader through pickups, a mechanic that I
will talk later about. The heroes are extremely powerful and quite resilient
and can one shot any player with their lightsabers. Their presence on the field
provides a huge advantage for each team and using them properly can slightly change
the course of the round.
                Overall,
this sounds like a tactical objective based map that combines some of the elements
from Conquest and Rush modes into one, but in reality is a chaotic and not
cleverly balanced winter battlefield where the Empire seems to have the upper
hand because playing as part of the Rebel Alliance requires a lot more skill
and coordination in order to take the objectives down in time.
Powering through!
Are you freezing?
Die big chunk of metal, die!
                The
Drop Zone mode is an 8v8 objective based skirmish that takes place on a smaller
and rather labyrinthine map on which Drop Pods spawn and have to be captured
while stopping the enemy team from doing the same thing. The instantaneous
respawns, the smaller map and closely placed objectives make the Drop Zone a
much faster game mode which at times seemed more like a Team Deathmatch than
anything else.
I was trying something!
                Last
but not least is the Survival mode, which seems to be DICE’s response to the
overall displease towards the singleplayer campaigns seen in their latest
games. In Beta the mode took place on a small rocky region on Tatooine and
could be played solo and coop but only on the lowest difficulty level. Those
expecting something innovative out of this game mode are out of luck, because
the Survival is a standard Co-op mode which has the players hunted by various
AI units that spawn in waves from randomized locations which do a rather decent
job for a lower difficulty in keeping the players engaged. I imagine that on
increased difficulties Survival can get quite insane and this could make it
more interesting, especially for those who are more completist by nature.
Cutscenes!
                The
other content available in the Beta aside of the three maps and game modes was
the unlocking system which nowadays is customary for almost every online
shooter. There wasn’t much to see through unlocks as DICE probably didn’t want
to spoil the fun of finding out what cool weapons and gadgets the game has in
hold for the players, but there was enough to make an idea of what can be
expected. The unlocking system is general and applies to both factions as the
game doesn’t have any classes and it’s separated in two distinct categories:
weapons and Star Cards.
The weapons are all too familiar for the Star Wars universe
fans including various blasters and laser pistols seen in the movies that can’t
have their stock stats modified. The Star Cards on the other hand are where the
unlocking system gets more interesting. Based on their nature these cards can
be equipped in hand as a sort of mini-decks that has useable weapons and
gadgets. In addition to those equipped in the hand, there are also Star Cards
that grant passive bonuses and are categorized as Traits. The weapons and
gadgets provided through the Star Cards work on cooldown and/or charges, while
the Trait cards grant passive bonuses according to the player’s performance
during a round. As part of the mini-deck various things could be unlocked
including multiple types of grenades, a blaster immunity shield, a sniper rifle
with kinetic rounds that could pierce through shields and most importantly a
jet pack!
There was also a character customization panel, but it
wasn’t available for testing. This will probably provide various appearance customizations
through skins, which wouldn’t be so bad, since the standard outfit for Rebel
soldiers makes them look like hobos.
Unlocking new weapons and gadgets
should provide enough variety fitting for each player’s style in such a way
that not everyone runs around with identical loadouts (or at least that’s the
hope). Time will tell how many more items are there waiting to be unlocked.
My killer loadout!
Remember this is a Beta.
                With
the Beta content detailed I’ll now dive deeper and talk about the game
mechanics because this is where DICE changed the game the most compared with
the Battlefield series and the previous Battlefront titles.
For starters, the new Battlefront is still a 1st
or 3rd person shooter. The two extremely different cameras provide
certain advantages and disadvantages based on the situation. The 1st
person camera is playing an important role in aiming, allowing for a better
zooming and a correct gun to crosshair synchronization which facilitates a much
more accurate aiming. The 3rd person camera is way better at seeing
the surroundings and spotting the enemies sometimes before they spot you
(especially if they play first person) as you can see over small obstacles, but
doesn’t work that well at shooting stuff (at least not in the beginning). While
a combination of the two cameras will make for an exploitable way of playing
the slow switching between the two does prevent this from occurring straight in
the middle of the battle.
Both cameras have their strengths, but there is always a problem
in games that have such a system (ARMA 3, DayZ), the advantages that a 3rd
person view provides usually outweigh what you can do through aiming.
Considering the fact that Battlefront is a fast paced shooter with no recoil,
quite accurate guns and just a slight “bullet” spread the 3rd person
becomes insane at some point. After I unlocked the DLT-19 weapon, I’ve rarely
found myself switching to first person and I mostly did it for long distance
shots that were more of a caprice of mine than efficient playing.
You can’t escape first person aiming and the upper ground advantage!
                For
those used with the Battlefield series accommodating to Battlefront’s play style
might take some time because as I mentioned before the game plays at a much
faster pace and it’s extremely action centric with a smaller emphasize on group
tactics. But the time lost getting used to the actiony style it’s won back through
the simpler shooting, which should be easily mastered by any player of a more
complex FPS game. The shooting is a spam of lasers from the recoilless blasters
that are easy to aim with and don’t require reloading and the only truly
controllable effect they have is their overheating.
The movement system is in a complete accord with the
shooting, there is no leaning left or right to surprise the enemies and check
the areas or any complex combat positions. The game resumes to a crouch and
jump combination which works better with the frenetic gameplay and the 3rd
person camera.
This gameplay bodes well with the
Star Wars movies, which was never keen on masterful strategies and the battles
were won through numbers, technological power, courage and of course the help
of the Force.
I don’t mind this shooting style a bit, but the way the maps
are designed and the game modes work make me think that Battlefront was
oversimplified just to make it more “fun” which can be translated in
accessible. Yes, tactics can created even with such gameplay, but they aren’t
as important as they should be in a team versus team game and things get worse.
Overheating danger.
                The
newest gameplay mechanic and probably the most controversial is the pickups
system, which for those who played the old school shooters is exactly what you
think it is. There are some holographic icons spawning all over the map which
when picked up (hence the name!) provide various new things to use in combat.
Through pickups the players get access to secondary weapons,
gadgets, ground vehicles, ships and even the heroes that were playable in the
Walker Assault mode. It’s a system that stops the vehicle spawn camping by
randomization, while also giving access to other cool new toys that could be
overpowered if they were part of the Star Cards.
I found the way this mechanic is represented
in the game completely arcade and somewhat out of the series’ and universe’s
context. The pickups system is clearly an attempt to make Battlefront look less
like a Battlefield game at something that should have remained the same as in
DICE’s main series. Taking control of vehicles through map loot is an annoying
decision that takes away even more of the strategically decision making, but
worse than that it lures the players into running for icons on the map in the
hope of getting a better secondary item or jumping into a vehicle.
Loot from floating stuff!
This feels more like Battelfront!
Die rebel scum!
                The
Battlefield series has been accused in the recent past of being a slightly better
reskin with each new title and this makes me believe that DICE’s changes to
Battlefront were prompted by this. The Battlefield skeleton is still there,
mostly because of the Frostbite engine, but layers of changes have been added over it in order to hide it resulting in a much different game and
not exactly for the better. The original Battlefront games were appealing to
both Star Wars and Battlefields fans because they had enough of both to make
them interesting. DICE’s Battlefront is more impressive through the technical
parts than the gameplay changes.
On the technical part Battlefront
doesn’t seem to disappoint, the Frostbite 3 engine does its job as good as ever
providing amazing looking landscapes showered with immersive lighting and
shadows while running as smoothly as possible. The particle effects from
explosions and weapon shots are amazingly detailed and I couldn’t get enough of
them.
To top off the graphics, which are some of the best I’ve
seen this year, the game has an extraordinary sound design that is hard to
describe using words. The racket and vibration sounds caused by grenades are so
refined that I could feel them with my whole body, while the sounds of blasters
and shields colliding was transcending.
                Despite
its greatness I do have a few complaints related to the technical part. On the
graphics side of things there seems to be a lack of fluidity on the flying animation
of ships which I’m not sure if it is caused by server lag or the way the ships
fly. Also the hero’s animations are skimpy and sluggish and cannot even be
compared to the standard characters.
On the audio part there is no technical complaint, the one
thing that bothered me was the lack of audio settings other then the master
volume, but this might be a Beta only issue.
                For a
Beta, even if the game’s launch is only one month away, Battlefront’s graphics
and sound were almost flawless and I’m excitingly looking forward to see the
vegetation maps.
Weeeeeeeeee!!!
For me, the Star Wars Battlefront
Open Beta didn’t have the initial impact that Siege’s Beta had. It took me a
while to come back to the game and give it another try but it grew on me. Might
have been the unlocks that made the game more interesting (jet pack!) or the
fact that I got to play it with more friends or is purely superficial and I
came back just for the sound design and graphics, but I came back and played
much more than I thought I will. The game is fun in its own way, but I’m not
sure how much is there to keep this gameplay entertaining for a longer period
of time. We shall see at release how much of the beta impressions were accurate
and relevant to the entirety of the game and if the content that comes with the
release is going to keep this title alive for more than just until the upcoming
Battlefield release. As I’ve seen it the game might be a hit or miss for either
of the Battlefront or Battlefield fans, but surely is going to resonate well
with the starved fans of the Star Wars universe. 
Nodrim