Horrible on Hoth, Subpar on Sullust: My Life in Star Wars Battlefront
I've often thought about what it would be like to actually take part in the Battle of Hoth. In The Empire Strikes Back, we saw only a glimpse of the chaos that ensued once the Imperial Army found the Rebel base on the icy planet, and didn't truly get an idea of the conflict that broke out. It makes sense considering the films follow such a small cast of characters, and can't just spend hours on showing the ins and outs of one space battle. That's why I was excited to dive head first the galactic civil war with Star Wars Battlefront later this year. At least, until I played a little bit of the beta this week at New York Comic Con.
Now, don't take that to mean that I've lost all my interest. Quite the opposite, in fact. I'm just not all that interested in living out the Battle of Hoth from the Rebel perspective anymore. While the films and comics and books have always talked about the strength and power of the Imperial side of the conflict, you don't truly grasp how daunting a task it must have been for the Rebel Alliance to pull out such tremendous victories until you're planted firmly in their boots. It's impressive that any of the ships escaping Hoth made it out of there alive, especially if any of those Rebel troopers fought as poorly as I did.
Since my time with Star Wars Battlefront was limited, I did want to try and make some sort of impression on the massive Hoth map. Unfortunately, the Empire had other ideas. No sooner did I make it out of the tunnels leading to the core of Echo Base than I was blasted repeatedly to my doom. After about four deaths in five minutes, I tried a different tactic; I was going to look for the special ship icons around the map. Though most of the Hoth battle happens on the ground, you can find special tokens that allow you to jump into a Snow Speeder or X-Wing to help fend off the Snowtroopers while the rest of the Rebels activate the defenses against the AT-ATs bearing down on the base. I actually happened to find the tokens about a half-dozen times during the rest of the match. I never got to activate a single ship though.
Just because you find the token, it doesn't mean you're automatically thrown into a cockpit. Instead, you've got to find some cover to activate the ability (by holding the shoulder buttons) before you can be launched into combat. Every single time I found a token, I found myself under extreme duress from all angles. I'll never know the glory that is hooking my tow cable around a Walker's legs. Not immediately anyway. Eventually the law of averages will see to it that I get behind the stick in one of those magnificent vehicles. I hope.
I also spent a few matches on Sullust, which is the home of smuggler and sometimes Millennium Falcon co-pilot, Nien Nunb. Star Wars Battlefront marks the first time we ever get to see the planet in any medium, and the desolate surface is quite unwelcoming. There are acidic pools all over the place, huge rock formations jutting out everywhere, and those pesky Imperials seemingly behind every corner. On Sullust, the game mode (Drop Zone) was a bit more personal, as the match was a more intimate affair than the massive arena of Hoth. Instead of fighting off some of the Empire's most devastating machinery, both factions were vying for control of cargo pods, each of which contained boosts for the match. It's a bit like King of the Hill, except the rotating zones happen to deliver resources to your team if you can hold them long enough.
My team didn't fare much better here, but it definitely felt like we had more control over our destiny than the Hoth battle. With fewer combatants on both sides, you could really get a feel for the combat and strategy. Often on the larger-scaled battle, the tide was so insurmountable, it was hard to grasp whether or not you were even performing well enough to help. With Drop Zone, you can definitely feel your personal impact, for better or worse. For me, it was definitely worse. Perhaps that's because I spent almost just as much time taking in the wild surroundings as I did actively trying to shoot my way to victory. I'll admit, with such limited time with Battlefront, I wanted to do more than just run around and shoot things, especially on Sullust. It's one thing to be brought back to Hoth again in a video game (it does look spectacular though), but it's another to visit a fresh alien world you'd only heard about in stories.
When the final game arrives this November, I'll have more time to hone my shooting skills. For now, Star Wars Battlefront appears to be everything EA and DICE are billing it to be--a fast-paced shooter that transports you to a galaxy far, far away. I only hope the game is as fun to play for hours at a time as it was for one brief afternoon in New York.
Star Wars Battlefront will be out on Nov. 17 for the PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.