Combining a purported "casual" gameplay experience with a simplified progression system, Star Wars: Battlefront seems to be raking up to be a pretty polarizing experience.

Is Star Wars: Battlefront just a dumbed-down Battlefield?

Combining a purported "casual" gameplay experience with a simplified progression system, Star Wars: Battlefront seems to be raking up to be a pretty polarizing experience.

The initial impressions of EA’s new blockbuster entrant into its equally block-busting Battlefront series have been quite mixed across the net. The comments haven’t been as simple as “this game is sh*t” or “this game is awesomesauce”. Some interesting discussion has come up about whether or not it’s dumbed down some well-known online multiplayer tropes. Pair that up with some directionless multiplayer objectives, and Star Wars: Battlefront is shaping up to be a pretty polarizing experience.

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I played a fair amount of the beta last week, so what does a self-entitled gaming guru have to say about it?

For starters, it’s not quite as casual as some have put it, but that notion does have some merit.

Both abilities and equipment come into play through “card hands”. These are much like a deck of cards, and you have a max of 3 slots. Throw in your primary blaster weapon – which has its own slot – and that’s pretty much your full loadout.

You don’t start with much. Charge in with whatever your team’s default blaster is and do your worst. You’ll have to level up and purchase a grenade card, then toss it in your hand before you toss it at an enemy. Cards do seem to come slow at times, but once you reach rank 5 (the max level in the beta), you’ll have some variety in both weapons and card abilities.

Cards that you are eligible to buy include grenades, a sniper rifle (which only equips as a one shot ability with a cooldown) and an awesome jet pack that lets you leap across Hoth. But the way that these card abilities are presented (and the limited options) do give the game’s progression system a bit of a casual feel.

A very similar system is used for vehicle and hero power-ups, as well. But how do you hop in those vehicles or channel the powers of Lord Vader?

Simple. Along with other equipment, such as emplacement/auto turrets, rocket launchers, and orbital strikes, these goodies are randomly found and picked up across the battlefield. Hero and vehicle power-ups have to be activated quickly after they are picked up, or else they’ll disappear. Thankfully, the rest of the usable equipment can be carried over through multiple respawns.

“We looked at what Star Wars stands for, rather than asking how can we tweak Battlefield to be something else.” – DICE’s Patrick Bach, via Gamespot

The inherent “casualness” of this power-up system seemed fine to me when I started out.

Vehicle powerups seemed to be in similar areas each round, and some were literally next to the parked vehicles they represented. Throughout my time playing, I still couldn’t quite pin down a pattern with the power-ups and their locations. Due to this, my experience in the vehicle combat sections was a very limited and frustrating experience. I eventually had some success in the A-Wing, so I’ll chalk up most of my vehicle difficulties to the lack of a beta tutorial. Despite my personal (and the Internet’s) lukewarm reception to the powerup system, I feel it really could work if it were adjusted.

What those adjustments could be, I’m not exactly sure. EA needs to make sure that those who both want to and can benefit their team by using a vehicle should be able to go get one if it is available, just like in Battlefield. 

And speaking of Battlefield, is this a “Star Wars re-skin of Battlefield”? Of course it is.

The Battlefront series was conceived as a Battlefield Star Wars, and that isn’t a bad thing. It’s worked well in the past. But will it work in this new reboot? We’ll have to see how the other modes supplement the overall progression system and gameplay before we can really say.

Everything previously mentioned aside, the core gameplay is seriously fun. Even with a few deep sighs directed towards some of DICE’s odd game design decisions, it has been a long time since I’ve truly had some mindless multiplayer fun in such a graphically beautiful and rich setting.

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Ciaran Brennan
Spent 2008-2012 working on nooses for the financial sector. I am currently a self employed videogamesman. I've always wanted a pen-name.