Star Wars: Battlefront II is sure to be overshadowed by the controversy surrounding its microtransactions, but beneath the fury lies a game truly worthy of the Star Wars IP.
Star Wars: Battlefront (2015) was criticized for many things, from its overly streamlined gameplay, to its dearth of content at launch and more, but DICE has really stepped things up with the sequel. SWBF2 features an original (and canon) campaign set after the events of Return of the Jedi, tons of multiplayer maps across all Star Wars eras, an expertly executed starfighter game mode, and lots of smaller bits that appear to have been included or changed due to the feedback received from players of its predecessor. But is it all worth it? Read on for our full review.
Let’s first talk about the campaign. I should warn you that I will be discussing a fairly significant spoiler here, as I feel it’s necessary to warn players who may have certain expectations about the campaign.
I loved the campaign in SWBF2, but I feel misled by all the marketing. If you read the associated novel, Inferno Squad, the characterization of Iden Versio hints that she’s a bit softer of a character than you’d expect from all the marketing around the game. Naturally, this got me thinking that that Iden Versio might turn on The Empire at some point in the story. Perhaps somewhere towards the end with the realization that The First Order didn’t embody the ideals of The Empire that she loved and believed in? Nope. Roughly five missions into the game, Iden and another squad member, Del Meeko, end up defecting to the New Republic. From here on, Battlefront II’s campaign is no longer a campaign from the perspective of The Empire, but the sort of Republic (or Rebellion) focused campaign you would normally expect to find in any Star Wars game. I don’t have a problem with playing through a Republic campaign, but EA definitely played up the whole Imperial perspective of this storyline and it is abandoned quite early on. The transition happens so quickly, you could almost forget that Iden and Del were ever members of The Empire.
All that aside, this is definitely not a throwaway campaign you might find in a Battlefield game. It is somewhat short, however. The campaign consists of 13 missions, clocking in at roughly seven hours of play. You may finish it even faster than I did, though, as I tend to take my time and scrounge around for collectibles. The story does a great job at filling in the juicy space in between the original trilogy and the sequel trilogy and there are references to the new books and comics scattered all throughout. The performances are excellent across the board, too. Janina Gavankar, in particular, is absolutely wonderful as Iden Versio. One problem with the story, however, is that it works a lot better if you’ve read Inferno Squad. The game doesn’t really do much at all to explain the differences in character between the three Inferno Squad members, it essentially just assumes you've read the novel. Inferno Squad does well at humanizing squad members Iden Versio and Del Meeko while also giving readers a warning about the extreme views of Gideon Hask. Having read the novel, I wasn't surprised when this all went down, but I feel anyone who hasn't read the book will find it a bit jarring.
Even if you don’t care too much for story, the campaign is enjoyable for its variety of gameplay alone. Levels can start out flying and only to end up with you boarding a ship and continuing the rest of the level on foot. You’ll even play entire levels as a number of different heroes. I particularly enjoyed the Luke Skywalker mission. It’s interesting to see where he is as a character in between trilogies and it helps you understand how he ends up where he does. There are also some other potentially significant story hints in the campaign, so it’s definitely a story worth playing through if you want to have a fuller understanding of the Star Wars universe and it’s also just a lot of fun. Heck, I’ll probably even end up replaying it.
Arcade is also back for SWBF2 and it’s not too shabby. I wasn’t able to test out the split-screen co-op being that I play on PC (it’s a console only feature), but as far as single-player goes, you’ll have a number of scenarios you can play through on both the Light and Dark side of things. But what surprised me was the custom mode, which lets you set things up with all sorts of modifiers and play things out how you like. Want to have tons of aggressive, HP stacked enemies to fight against? No problem. Want everything to die in one hit and have fast recharges on all your abilities? You can do that, too. It’s fun to mess around in and particularly useful for testing out new characters or builds.
Multiplayer is really what these games have always been about and Star Wars: Battlefront II delivers. You can play the game across five different modes: Galactic Assault, Blast, Strike, Heroes vs. Villains, and Starfighter Assault. SWBF2 is a lot more focused, with fewer overall modes to play through, but they’re more fleshed out, and it should be easier to find matches without the community split across ten different queues. For me, the three standout modes were Galactic Assault, Heroes vs. Villains, and Starfighter Assault.