With the latest expansion, Battlefront is finally a full game.
It may sound cynical to say that Star Wars Battlefront has been playing catch-up with its expectations for almost a year now, but for many fans this sentiment is very real. Simultaneously praised for its accuracy and polish, yet critiqued for its lack of substantial gameplay, the quality of Battlefront has been in debate since its launch. With the latest expansion, The Death Star, the once-sparse game has added a wealth of new options and modes, but is it too little, too late?
First, the new features. Death Star includes five new maps, designed around the ominous space station. Each one is gorgeously rendered to match the original design of the films, maintaining the game’s devotion to high quality graphics. Two new heroes hit the scene, the heroic Chewbacca and the crafty Bossk. A new mode, built around the attack and destruction of the Death Star by the Rebels, adds an interesting, multi-level campaign to the game. Finally, an offline skirmish mode allows for a true (though still limited) single player experience. With all of these new additions, it’s easy to see why the Death Star expansion is being hailed as a revitalizing shot to the game. Fortunately, it lives up to most of that reputation, but still falls short in a few areas.
First the good: the Death Star levels are accurate to a bolt representations of the massive space station, from its craggy exterior to the polished black metal inside. With a swelling musical score and tense close quarters combat, the interior provides for a lot of run and gun gameplay. The exterior, obviously used for space battles, is fun and massive, though a little bare for obstacles (except for brave pilots daring a trench run, described below). Even the subtraction of the ‘no-helmet’ option for Stormtroopers helps give the game a true-to-the-movies feel…up until Bossk and The Emperor must stop R2D2 from escaping the Death Star with plans for…the Death Star? Admittedly, the game still eventually feels more like a child smashing action figures together than a narrative, but at least at this point it’s expected.
Besides the design, the new mode, Battle Station, is a fantastic three-part battle consisting of both space and soldier fights. It also introduces Battlefront’s first ever space battle map…which now that we’re talking about it, has been a nonsensically missing part of the game for a year now. In Battle Station, the Rebels must attempt to take down a Star Destroyer, rescue R2D2 from the Death Star detention ward, and finally blow up the space station itself. The Imperials, true to form, just have to throw as many bodies at them as possible until time runs out. Though the middle section, the rescue, usually devolves into random grenade hurling, the first and third section are fantastic. Actually having to navigate the twists and turns of the Death Star trench is something most players haven’t really encountered, and there’s an awesome sense of satisfaction in taking down a Star Destroyer as a squad of Rebel pilots. It’s a shame this is the only multi-part mode available, because it shows how great they could have been.
Also worth noting is that both Chewbacca and Bossk seem to be fairly well balanced, and neither throws the gameplay off so far as to become an ‘always picked’ option. The offline skirmish mode is a nice addition, though at this point I don’t know how many players are still hoping for a couch co-op out of this title. Finally, the new Partner system rewards bonuses for acting as a team, though good luck getting anyone in a space battle to do much more than fly randomly into the side of a wall.
Onto space battles, and the lacking parts of the expansion. Sure, the addition of both Red 5 (Luke’s X Wing) and Vader’s Advance Tie are nice for space warfare, and in fact, their ability to spawn ‘wingmen’ is a nice touch and can lead to some really fun skirmishes. However, the clamor to add more than two piloted ships per side has gone completely ignored by EA. What’s worse, there are now powerups that spawn AI controlled versions of the Y-Wing, B-Wing, Tie Defender, and Tie Bombers. Which means that these models are in the game, fully developed, and simply will never be played by actual players. With a new set of heroes every expansion, it’s almost inexcusable that the space battles, arguably one of the most important parts of Star Wars, go without any real improvements. In fact, changes to the loadouts of the current ships do little to upset the lack of balance Rebel pilots still have over the flimsy TIE fighters.
Despite lacking updates where it needs them, The Death Star expansion delivers enough content to bring the entire game back into the ‘good to own’ category. As soon as a ‘complete edition’ is released, Battlefront can go back to being a well-recommended title. It’s just a shame that EA had to play the long game so far out that it’s taken a year to get there.