I miss the Star Wars Battlefront beta... but it could have been better
More than just a means of testing out a game before launch, the recent Star Wars Battlefront beta became an absolute gaming event that brought together north of nine million people. We learned a lot about what will (and won't) be happening in this re-launch of the Battlefront line from the beta, and most importantly we discovered that the fast paced gameplay actually feels like Star Wars.
There's a nostalgia to rushing out of a frozen rebel base on Hoth and seeing a couple of Imperial Walkers headed your way that will ensure Battlefront sells a whole lot of copies next month, but love of the franchise alone won't keep this game going. Because there's no single player campaign, DICE has really got to knock the multiplayer combat out of the park to make the game sustainable and expect there to still be a thriving community a year from now.
Although the Battlefront beta was loads of fun in massive 40 vs 40 Walker Assault battles, the more intimate 8 vs 8 Drop Zone and non-stop Survival mode are in need of serious improvement before this game actually launches.
Changes From Previous Games
Considering it's been 10 years since the release of Battlefront II, it should be expected there would be quite a few changes, but some of those have left long time fans feeling left out. Most notably are that command posts aren't really around anymore, although you do get something somewhat similar in Drop Zone mode, with each side frantically trying to control a pod as soon as it lands, take the goodies inside, and then scramble on to the next one.
Also, gone is the ability to roll or dodge from side to side like in previous Battlefront games, giving fewer options for getting out of the line of fire. However, the star card system does let you choose a jet pack or force field for evading damage. Those force fields in particular will be a boon to some but infuriating to others; these feel like they should be retooled, because some interactions become exhaustively prolonged periods of dodging behind rocks while waiting for their shield cooldown to end.
As a beta release that's being tested with a large number of players for the first time, you can't expect the experience to be completely smooth, but there were an odd number of glitches in the various game modes. You'd see weird instances where characters suddenly froze or floated in the air – bringing to mind that awful dancing alien glitch from Colonial Marines, and that's something that needs to be fixed before launch.
Other odd events would also occur on screen, mostly with the major franchise characters interacting, like light sabers clashing strangely or Vader's cloak trying to escape his body. The death of major story characters was quite odd as well, as they kneel rather than lying prone, so everybody ends up firing at someone who was already dead.
Frankly, it may have been a mistake to put major franchise characters into the chaotic frenzy of multiplayer combat to begin with. The only person from the movies we want to see get crushed to death by an AT-AT walker is Jar Jar Binks, and that's not an option. Sadly.
First and foremost, spawning needs to be tweaked before Battlefront goes live for everyone, with better-placed spawn points. There have been plenty of times where several people will spawn at the same point simultaneously, leading to cheap multiple kills. It might be nice when you get to do it, but frankly it lowers the fun, and is actively infuriating when it happens to you and your partner spawning while an enemy is spawn camping and already firing.
Although a completely iconic experience that everyone played like crazy, Walker Assault mode is heavily slated in favor of the Empire, which makes sense thematically but is less fun in terms of game balance. Taking down those AT-ATs is maddeningly difficult, and keeping control of your uplink station long enough to call in bombers to destroy their shields takes too long.
It's intensely frustrating to play as the rebels at all, although on the flip side of that if you work with your team well and manage the impossible it is really satisfying to send the Imperial scum packing off Hoth.
While there are elements that clearly need to be tweaked, Battlefront's beta was an enjoyable shooter experience, although only time will tell if the fun can be maintained long term. On November 17th, 2015 we'll find out just how much changed between beta and launch and if any of these issues were properly addressed. For those still on the fence, a new launch trailer just came online and can be seen below, and if you haven't decided how you are going to play yet, don't forget to check out our guide on which platform is the best for buying Battlefront.
Regardless of how Battlefront performs in the coming months, with all the buzz around the game and the impending release of Episode 7: The Force Awakens, hopefully developers and publishers take note and we finally see some revived interest in a new Knights Of The Old Republic title or a return to the heart-breakingly canceled Star Wars: 1313.