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Michael Bitton: Star Wars Falls Flat at Gamescom 2015

By Michael Bitton on August 06, 2015 | Columns | Comments

Star Wars Falls Flat at Gamescom 2015

With only day one of Gamescom 2015 now in the books, there’s still quite a bit to go before all is said and done. Still, two of the industry’s biggest heavyweights in EA and Blizzard have now shown their hand. This week, we’ll be digging through EA’s presentation.

Aside from the much welcomed Mirror’s Edge demo, the rest of EA’s presentation left me with more questions than answers. I was worried that EA would show up with nothing more than a pair of trailers for the double whammy of Star Wars games releasing this year and my feelings turned out to be mostly justified.

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Star Wars Battlefront

For Star Wars Battlefront, EA unveiled the game’s Fighter Squadron mode, which is a 10 vs. 10 airpower only affair featuring the already confirmed X-Wings and TIE Fighters along with newly added A-Wings and TIE Interceptors. Additionally, the Hero/Villain powerups will also be available in Fighter Squadron, with Rebel players able to take command of the Millennium Falcon and Imperials getting to live out the ultimate fantasy of piloting the Slave I.

As you may know, my interest in Battlefront has been waning over the last few months. The more I learn about the game, the more disappointed I find myself feeling about it. Coming into Gamescom, I could best describe my feelings towards the imminent Fighter Squadron unveiling as indifferent. I figured it couldn’t possibly disappoint me more than the ground game details have, since flying around in an X-Wing or TIE Fighter and shooting other players just doesn’t involve as many variables to screw up. But unfortunately, I was wrong.

Fighter Squadron’s single most disappointing feature is the inclusion of bots. Yes, you’ll be taking to the skies against 10 other players, but both sides will also have bots on their side. Sure, bots will make it feel like the crazy Star Wars space fights you’ve seen in the films by the simple virtue of putting more dudes on the screen, but there’s nothing satisfying about killing a bot in a PvP mode. This is especially true when those kills count towards your team’s success. Some of you won’t care, but I really have no interest in blowing up AI. I want to pit my skills up against other players and other players alone. What better way to ruin a nailbiter of a dogfight than to have a bot take you out or steal your kill? Blech! Titanfall tried this sort of thing and we all know how that worked out.

To make matters worse, DICE just couldn’t resist utilizing powerups in Fighter Squadron. The mode will feature powerups that repair your ship or lower missile cooldowns and will also use the powerup system to determine who gets to control the hero or villain characters at any given time, just like the ground based modes. The difference in Fighter Squadron is that it sounds like these powerups will be in fixed locations instead of being randomized. This is less of an issue for regular powerups, but I can see players ignoring objectives to try and snag some time in the Falcon or Slave I.

Finally, and this is more speculative at this point, but there are concerns that standard laser fire will have a lock-on aim assist. While the evidence is convincing, we don’t know if this is the case for sure just yet. However, if this is true, it would significantly remove the skill involved in dogfighting, which would be disappointing to say the least. All in all, I’m not really sold on Fighter Squadron and now find myself even less enthused about this Star Wars game that is unfortunately shaping up to be as shallow as it is beautiful.

SWTOR: Knights of the Fallen Empire

We’re only going to briefly talk about Star Wars: The Old Republic today, as BioWare quite literally came to the show with a short “gameplay” trailer and a couple of screenshots. The trailer did feature better animations than we’re used to seeing in SWTOR’s cutscenes and much more highly detailed character models and armor. Unfortunately, while the updates here are greatly appreciated, they’re also a bit jarring. When comparing the player character in the trailer to everyone else it’s easy to see how dated he looks. I don’t know about you, but the PC should be the best looking character in a scene, so I hope BioWare has plans to improve the faces available to players, even if this may be a ways out from the expansion’s release.

Aside from the obvious visual improvements, I’m finding myself a bit more apprehensive about the one-size-fits-all “Outlander” role in the expansion. The trailer featured a Jedi Knight who proclaims that being the “Outlander” is the “only title that matters now”. Really? The Jedi and Sith are dogmatic religions with a ton of tradition and history. Our Jedi Knight character is going to so easily let go of that and simply declare himself an “Outlander”? I’m not sold on that just yet. I feel like the new dynamic will work better for the non-Force user classes than it would for a Jedi Knight, so BioWare’s decision to feature a Jedi Knight PC in the trailer is a bit odd.

What did you think of EA’s presentation this year? Share your thoughts with us in the comments below
Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site''s Community Manager.