Star Wars Battlefront II makes a huge step forward from DICE’s 2015 game, but a few points stuck in the craw for fans, and EA and DICE found themselves caught up in a wave of anti-microtransaction sentiment, alongside Warner Bros., 2K and a bunch of other major publishers.
In particular, the beta was criticised for putting all of your character progression behind loot boxes and randomised drops, and some of these could improve health, damage and other character stats quite remarkably. Thankfully, DICE have been able to take all of this feedback on board, making the necessary changes to mean that, while there are still microtransactions and loot boxes in the game, they are no longer the path to the highest tier rewards and that it’s playing the game and crafting Star Cards that will result in earning the best gear. The fundamental system remains, but it’s been tweaked so that loot crates don’t feel as
We’ve gone hands on with the game the last couple of days ahead of its release into EA Access and Origin Access Play First Trial and explored the changes. and while it’s not perfect and is still a bit too confusing and messy, we feel it is a positive step forward and one that could change further as DICE receive both critic and fan feedback after release.
First things first, what are Star Cards? They’re character modifiers that can be broken down into two kinds: boosts which affect things like damage dealt, health and cooldown times, and abilities which can modify or replace a particular character’s abilities. So your Officer’s turret could be made stronger, it could be swapped out with a shield, you can switch out your grenades, and so on.
There’s four main classes – Assault, Heavy, Officer and Specialist – three classes of starfighter – Fighter, Interceptor and Bomber – and then dozens of heroes and special units. All of these have got their own array of Star Cards, and you can eventually equip three Star Cards at once for each character or class. It’s so broad that it’s a bit confusing how it all fits together and how the system works, and speaking to some of the developers, they know that it can be improved further and are open to feedback.
Loot boxes are one way of earning Star Cards, with three loot box types that will spit out Star Cards, emotes, credits, crafting parts and more, based around the Troopers, Starfighters and Heroes categories. The interesting thing here is that the Trooper boxes costs the most, at 4400 credits, which is nearly double that of the Hero or Starfighter boxes. This, it seems, is down to the much wider variety and range of Star Cards you can get for the regular and special troopers, but there’s a degree of crossover between them all.
To start with, you’ll be able to afford crates fairly easily, as you have challenges and milestones to pass, many of which reward you with credits and crafting parts themselves. The returns from opening crates are a bit underwhelming, however. There’s no way to spend more to guarantee particular card rarities, for example, so it’s luck of the draw in maybe getting one or two uncommon or rare cards, and even then a 10% or 20% damage boost for your turret might be useful, but it’s not exactly exciting. Furthermore, you have the breadth of possible cards you can get, meaning the odds of getting a card for a particular class you want to focus on are relatively low, even with the three loot crate types.
Much, much more important to your long term progression are the crafting parts you earn, whether as a milestone reward or from a loot crate. Instead of crossing your fingers, simple spending 40 crafting parts can unlock any Star Card at its common value. Crafting can then improve that card to uncommon, rare and eventually epic, once you hit the requisite player rank and card level for that character. It’s rank 10 and card level 5 for uncommon, with this first upgrade costing 80 crafting parts.
And this is something where I and a number of others reviewing and playing the game got muddled up. Player rank is obvious, as you simply earn experience and rank up, but character card levels do not work like that, the number is a simple indicator of how many of those cards you have unlocked. Opening the second star card slot on your character needs you to simply unlock five cards, whether through loot boxes or through crafting. It’s as simple as that, but I hadn’t twigged this and was scratching my head as to why my Officer class wasn’t levelling up. Hopefully this point can cleared up and made more obvious by DICE in future.
With microtransactions and stat boosting cards that have no drawbacks, DICE have had to make one key decision with the matchmaking. It will take both your player level and ability into account as well as the Star Cards you’ve unlocked. If you’re a newbie starting out with just a few cards, you won’t face off against someone that’s dropped £30 on boxes and luckily got a bunch of rare cards. Similarly, you can’t just buy your way to the top, as one of the key changes since the beta, and you’ll need to have hit rank 20 to be able to craft epic cards. Once you’re there, you’ll be matched against similarly well equipped players.
In another change since the beta, weapons are now unlocked in a much more traditional way. To get the second, third, fourth weapon for a particular class, you simply need to play as them and get a certain number of kills or pass another milestone to earn them as a reward. You’ll then be using those particular weapons and unlocking a handful of attachments that might add a toggle-able scope on sniper rifles or add an Ion blast to your gun for dealing more vehicle damage.
What this all means is that instead of having a relatively randomised progression as was previously expected after the beta, you actually have a lot of control over how you unlock things, and can really invest in one particular class, if you so wish. There’s also a good degree of variety to the Star Cards and how they’ll swap in abilities or boost your stats in different ways, and you’ll really be able to tailor your characters to your play style or the enemy you’re facing on a particular map.
What’s still up in the air is how this will pan out in the long run. We found you can earn roughly 400 credits per match, which feels like it could be a bit low once the rate of other rewards slows. There’s a lot of kit to unlock and even a large number of hero characters and ships, which are 9000 credits a pop and includes huge characters like Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.
Needless to say, the rate at which you can earn things will be firmly in view as we progress to review the game, but the changes that DICE have made do seem to work and be a good step forward. There’s an awful lot more it than that, and the way that Galactic Assault and Starfighter Assault bring more dynamic and varied battles to the table, even as they revisit classic locations and moments that we’ve seen time and again, is just great.
This hands on time was at an event hosted at DICE for which EA paid for travel and accommodation.