‘Star Wars Battlefront II’ Three Years Later: A Troubled but Rewarding Journey
It’s been three years since EA and DICE’s Star Wars Battlefront II debuted to solid reviews and lootbox-related backlash. Since then, the game has grown, found a devoted community, and finished its development. This tale is about redemption.
What 2015’s Battlefront reboot lacked in sheer scale and ambition, Battlefront II delivered: its selection of battles was no longer limited to the Galactic Civil War era, and Motive collaborated with DICE to craft a cinematic experience for those who wanted a post-Return story mode. EA’s message was clear: we rushed the previous entry’s development and stuck to Empire vs. Rebellion because that’s what Disney wanted to sell back in 2015 during the lead-up to The Force Awakens.
While the groundwork was extremely solid, Battlefront II instantly crashed into a wall: its progression system, which was tied to lootboxes and crafting with resources. A lot was written about this subject; some pieces were right, other were wrong, and a few were downright lying. The reality was that EA’s reputation when it came to the Star Wars franchise was tarnished after Battlefront‘s so-so debut and post-launch run, and a good number of fans and game journalists were out for blood. In November 2017, the folks at DICE found themselves facing an onslaught of inflammatory articles and comments that threatened to destroy their hard work and solid post-launch roadmap. The storm was so bad that it forced EA to drop the (optional) paid-for lootboxes immediately after launch.
Beyond its first free content season, which focused on The Last Jedi and included two new maps, two new ground-based heroes (Finn and Phasma), one aerial hero (Tallie Lintra), and an “epilogue” to the game’s campaign, Battlefront II didn’t see much in the way of content until well into spring 2018. DICE quickly went back to the drawing board in order to rework their corporate-designed progression system. They basically spent a good chunk of their post-launch development time fixing someone else’s short-sighted mess.
Back in the battlefront, a solid selection of maps, troops, and heroes across different eras kept players busy. But some key elements were also missing: Where was the cosmetic customization? What about a non-linear big scale mode akin to OG Battlefronts‘ Conquest? How do we experience big battles but offline? Well, it was being held back by the limited amount of resources and manpower DICE had. The studio was already hard at work on Battlefield V and next-gen tech, while also offering support to other EA studios that used their Frostbite engine. The Star Wars team wasn’t big at all, and the situation was shaky, as stated before. This led to some improvised bits of content such as Iden Versio (the campaign’s main protagonist) in Starfighter Assault.
THE DARK TIMES
February 2018 opened the gates of content with an extremely shy drop of skins for heroes. DICE was basically saying: “Hey, wait a bit longer, here’s some candy.” Apparently, the original plan was for a Clone Wars-themed Season 2 to commence around February and March. Of course, the lootbox fiasco and many urgent QoL improvements players demanded threw all that out the window.
March 2018 brought a much-need rework of the progression system, which no longer relied on luck and crafting your way through skills and abilities. The new system was linear and tied to levels. You play, you unlock stuff, the stuff you actually want. The game’s creative director, Dennis Brännvall, never stated the “star card system” was forced upon them, but he publicly expressed later down the line that it was a terrible mistake and a convoluted mess.
April 2018 finally put some meat on the table with the (surprising) “Night on Endor” update, which added a new online game mode: Ewok Hunt. This was a throwback to the old games’ Hunt modes, but DICE went a step further and made it scary. With limited visibility and weaponry, stormtroopers are supposed to survive an Ewok-infested forest until a Lambda-class shuttle picks them up. Whenever a stormtrooper dies, the Ewoks’ numbers grow. Let’s just say it’s intense. Additionally, more hero appearances and troop customization for the Empire, Rebellion, First Order, and Resistance (finally) arrived.
THOUGHT WE WERE IN TROUBLE THERE FOR A SECOND…
May and June 2018 were all about Solo: A Star Wars Story. These two months packed a punch: new modes, two new maps (Jabba’s Palace and Kessel), a third Millennium Falcon (piloted by L3-37 and Lando), hero skins from the movie, and offline starfighter battles. Die-hard players were, however, disappointed by the lack of new big scale content. And literally everyone wanted more Clone Wars. But EA and DICE had to market Lucasfilm’s newest first, you know.
“Hello there” was the phrase that brought us hope. At EA’s E3 2018 showing, Dennis Brännvall came out and announced what everyone was anticipating: the Clone Wars were about to begin… on Geonosis. Obi-Wan, Grievous, Anakin, and Dooku were part of the deal too. It finally seemed like DICE was working on content they actually wanted to work on. We had to wait until October though. Ouch!
AROUND THE SURVIVORS A PERIMETER CREATE!
The following months were all about player retention. DICE had a plan, and content was trickling down every month. It was time for QoL changes and improvements, as the game had to be ready for a relaunch of sorts in the fall.
Hero Starfighters offered a much-needed way to quickly level up hero ships. This game mode never became too popular though. The community was more excited about the clone trooper skins that started arriving in August; this went on for quite a while, and the process included some lore-friendly reworks because us Star Wars fans really care about the little details.
In September, one of the game’s biggest multiplayer issues was resolved: players finally gained the ability to respawn next to teammates. For some reason, this was something that wasn’t brought over from Battlefield. Of course, this drastically altered the bigger matches’ pacing, since the maps had been built around a more traditional respawn system. Nothing was really broken by this change, but some balancing happened.
A NEW HOPE
A bombastic cover of “Battle of the Heroes” accompanied the trailer that told the world this game had changed. The October-December period finally turned the game around with an excellent adaptation of the (second) Battle of Geonosis, General Grievous, and Obi-Wan Kenobi. Skins and QoL changes also kept arriving along with new players that made the game feel much livelier. The season-based roadmap had been dropped too, and the game would now do monthly updates.
With renewed hopes and interest in the game, 2019 started with a bang and brought us Count Dooku, Anakin Skywalker himself, and Capital Supremacy, a non-linear big scale game mode in the vein of Conquest. The dream of the ultimate Battlefront experience was becoming real. ARC troopers and droid commandos lifted straight from The Clone Wars came to the game in March too.
And as if that wasn’t enough, both the Republic and CIS received new vehicles such as the TX-130 tank and speeders. DICE’s community team also conducted a few online surveys that made them aware of the huge demand for more Clone Wars content. And so, 2019 essentially became a Clone Wars year for Star Wars Battlefront II.
BEGUN, THE CLONE WAR HAS
The April-September 2019 period turned Battlefront II into a beast of a Star Wars game. With everything in place, players coming back for more, and the hype machine working again, the folks at DICE focused on refining already existing mechanics, improving the HUD, and fixing long-standing bugs. All while adapting Galactic Assault maps to Capital Supremacy, reworking Heroes vs. Villains, and introducing new reinforcements: droidekas and Republic commandos (the latter blew every fan’s mind). DICE also kept stacking up skins for the clonebois and (later) the CIS’ droids.
Fan-favorite planet Felucia was introduced in September’s “Co-op Update”, which kickstarted the game’s offering of co-op missions, a new way to play Battlefront II that no one anticipated. At this point, a Rise of Skywalker update had been announced for December, and many of the original maps had made their way into new game modes. The possibility of playing Supremacy offline also became a reality over this period, bringing much joy to fanatics of the original games’ Instant Action mode.
CELEBRATION AND FINALE
October’s “Another Night on Endor Update” was mostly filler: skins, new twists on already existing maps, and QoL changes. It probably was Star Wars Battlefront II‘s inevitable low point in 2019 before the Episode IX update, which paid homage to the game’s amazing journey of redemption with an emotional trailer:
No Exegol for us. That hurt. We should blame Lucasfilm’s secrecy, I guess. Not even EA and DICE had access to The Rise of Skywalker‘s meatier parts, and the new world we received was Ajan Kloss, the jungle planet that houses the Resistance’s base in the movie. Yes, another jungle/forest planet. The new reinforcements were awesome though: Sith troopers, First Order jet troopers, Ovissian gunners, and Caphex spies really spiced up the most average era of the game. Of course, we also got new skins for the main IX characters.
The introduction of capital ships for this era’s Supremacy mode surprised most players, as we expected it to be OG Conquest but shinier. But it received as much as love as its Clone Wars counterpart. Something much harder to believe was the announcement of BB-8 and BB-9E as the new heroes of the Age of Resistance era. We didn’t expect any new heroes to begin with. And you know what? I’ll never stop thanking DICE for moving forward with that choice; the BB droids play and feel completely different to the rest of heroes. They turned out to be a much welcome breath of fresh air.
A “Celebration Edition” of the game was released along with the Episode IX update, offering new players the chance to jump into the game with all the previously released skins, free of grind. Crystals (used to buy cosmetics) were still a thing, but EA dropped them shortly afterwards. I’ll never understand this decision, as some players actually wanted to support the post-launch development in any way they could.
Beyond the deployment of the BB units, February 2020 also marked a return to the Galactic Civil War era; Supremacy (without capital ships this time around) and Co-op came to many of its maps, and surprising new reinforcements (ISB agent and Ewok hunter) brought some variety to the battlefront. Long-promised new weapons, class reworks, a fair amount of skins, QoL changes, and substantial fixes also dropped around this time.
With the game now reaching its full potential and feeling truly exceptional and complete, many fans wondered if a 2020 roadmap was going to be a thing. Maybe it was time for Ahsoka and Ventress to join the party? From this point onwards, DICE could go crazy. Sadly, Battlefield V‘s disappointing post-launch development, the proximity of a new Battlefield game which started to require all hands on deck, and the COVID-19 pandemic conjured up a perfect storm that washed away Battlefront II.
DICE’s Star Wars team went out with a bang though: Scarif made a return along with Rogue One skins for troopers, more maps joined the latest modes’ rotations, and some insane (and spoilery) The Rise of Skywalker appearances plus “robot legs” Maul arrived.
After all was said and done, Battlefront II ended up in a pretty good position. A release on Steam later in 2020 also helped boost its player numbers, as many gamers refuse to use EA’s Origin platform. It has also been part of Sony’s PS Plus offerings, and the overall sentiment nowadays is that DICE saved the game and turned it into the biggest movie-centered Star Wars title (if you don’t count the LEGO games).
I personally cherish every minute I’ve spent with it since its Alpha stage (yes, I got invited to the earliest tests). Even at this point, it’s not a perfect game, and some of its bigger underlying problems needed a completely new game to be fixed, but it’s as big and varied as Star Wars games can get. We don’t know for sure if DICE will get another shot at this franchise, but I really appreciate the passion and work this ragtag team of developers put into the game against all odds. Dennis Brännvall, Star Wars Battlefront II‘s creative director, is ready to move on from DICE as a whole, and I wish him the best of luck in future endeavors. We’ll have to wait and see if other big Battlefront veterans stick around for a hypothetical third entry in the rebooted series.
If you feel like trying out the game for the first time or giving it a second chance, don’t be shy. There’s a passionate and welcoming Star Wars community waiting for you.
Francisco J. Ruiz is that guy who has watched Jurassic Park a thousand times and loves Star Wars. His hunger for movies is only matched by his love for video games. He graduated in English Studies from the University of Malaga, in Spain. As he continues to write about what he enjoys (and doesn’t), he’s studying for a master’s degree and working on becoming a teacher.