Naboom Goes the Dynamite: Hands-on With Battlefront II’s Multiplayer [Preview]
Whatever your opinion of 2015's Star Wars Battlefront, DICE crafted a multiplayer experience that truly made you feel as if you were part of the Galactic Civil War. The scope may have been limited, but the battle between the Imperial army and the Rebel forces gave us the impression we were the unseen heroes of the Galactic Civil War. With Star Wars Battlefront II, that feeling once again returns. After going hands-on with Battlefront II's multiplayer at E3 this week, it's clear DICE has crafted a deeper experience that gives actual weight to the battles beyond a kill count.
As enjoyable as it was to see DICE capture all the glory of classic Star Wars in the Frostbite engine in 2015, the last Battlefront game was sorely lacking. We had fun zipping around in X-Wings and TIE Fighters, battling it out on Hoth against Snowtroopers, and eliminating the Rebel menace on Endor from the safety of an AT-AT. In spite of all that, Star Wars Battlefront was a very one-dimensional experience. Even the customization options, such as they were, didn't offer much in the way of variation to the action on the ground. The good news is, the feedback DICE got on the original game was heard, and the multiplayer content has been basically retooled.
Our time with Battlefront II was spent in the new Galactic Assault mode. Similarly to Walker Assault, this new objective-based game mode tasks one side with guarding a heavy assault on a specific location, while the other team must defend at all costs. We played as the Separatist Army taking on the clone troopers in Naboo's capital city, Theed. As the droid contingent, we had to first protect an armored assault tank as it weakened clone deployments in the heart of the city. If we fended them off well enough, the tank would blast the core defenses on the Royal House of Naboo's palace, enabling us to then storm inside to take the building. If we failed, the clones would hold us out of the palace until our troop count wound down to nothing.
By giving players on both sides objectives, there's more of a personal investment in the matches progress. Where before the stakes were merely killing enough of the enemy to win, now you also have to contend with other factors that provide purpose to the fighting. What's more, players aren't just rewarded for kills and assists. Like DICE's other big shooter franchise, Battlefield, now players earn points for a variety of things during a given match.
If you're an officer (one of the four new classes), staying with a squad offers you and them a bonus for every action. As a heavy trooper, providing defensive shielding for other troops on your side gives you additional points. There are a number of ways to contribute, thus giving players not as skilled with sniper rifles the ability to feel like they're more than canon fodder.
All these points are used in-match to unlock stronger soldiers, vehicles, and Heroes as you progress. That means people will no longer be able to camp the same Token spawn points from the first game to get their hands on an X-Wing or Darth Vader before anyone truly has a chance to do anything. We're just as guilty as anyone else in hunting those down, but by evening the odds on how those unique items are obtained, Battlefront II has already done more to balance the game than we expected. Plus the values of each of the upgrades, like a Vulture Droid or Rey, makes players think about how they can best contribute.
Everything but playing as a Hero gives you a chance to earn more points, so you may spend 2,000 points on a Battle Droid early on, rack up another 4,000, die, and then snap up Darth Maul for 5,000. By not enabling Heroes to earn points, the time with them still feels limited and special, and it means you can get in on the rotation easier if you've been saving up for a late-game push.
That said, Darth Maul and Rey are total bosses, and you should purchase them as soon as you can. You can sway the tide of battle rather easily with a Hero, which is exactly the vibe overpowered special characters like that should bring to the table. Plus, it's just fun to run around on Naboo slicing up droids with Rey since that would never happen in the actual canon universe.
There's still a lot more to learn about Star Wars Battlefront II and its multiplayer options, but Galactic Assault had us feeling optimistic that DICE was going to deliver this time around. It feels more balanced, it feels more engaging, and it feels more like a Battlefield game than ever before. That's not a bad thing, as Battlefield has a lot of great multiplayer mechanics. Battlefront learning a thing or two from its big brother could go a long way in making Star Wars Battlefront II one of the year's most memorable multiplayer experiences.
Star Wars Battlefront II will be available on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on November 17.