Video Games

Mining the Hidden Depth of the Star Wars Battlefront Metagame

Star Wars Battlefront Stormtrooper

A while back, I wrote a piece about how Star Wars Battlefront (EA’s 2015 version of it, anyway) had more depth than it got credit for. This led me down the strange little rabbit hole of trying to define a term like “depth” in the context of EA’s Battlefront.

My initial argument was that the game’s depth was considered in quantifiable terms — things such as number of weapons, number of maps, number of character customization options, and so on — and very few people were able to think about the game’s value in more abstract terms. A chess set, for example, is simply 32 pieces on a board with 64 squares, but I doubt anyone would claim it lacked depth. The real depth comes from the way players approach it.

And I think this statement holds true for Star Wars Battlefront as well; a player’s approach is going to radically alter their experience with the game. If your strategy is simply “pick a gun and start shooting at people,” well, that’s an experience you can easily get elsewhere. But when you start tooling around with various weapons and Star Cards, you can come up with some pretty creative loadouts. Anyone who followed Battlefront‘s evolving metagame would probably agree.

Star Wars Battlefront

One of the earliest examples of this is the loadout that was lovingly dubbed the “Jumpcaster.” Players would arm themselves with the Bowcaster and Jump Pack Star Cards with the Bounty Hunter trait. The Jump Pack allows you to hit a little jetpack boost that allows you to leap enormous distances, while the Bowcaster is Chewbacca’s classic weapon, which deals quite a bit of damage. Pair this with the Explosive Shot and your damage output becomes devastating. The downsides to the Bowcaster are that, as a Star Card, it has a cooldown between uses, and it also has a charge time for max damage output.

However, with the original version of the Bounty Hunter trait, getting a kill would reset all your Star Card cooldowns. So you could activate your Jump Pack, charge your Bowcaster while still in the air, land feet away from an enemy, blast them with your fully charged Bowcaster, then have your cooldowns reset so you could leap and fire again immediately.

The “Jumpcaster” took a bit of practice to pull off, but a player who mastered the rhythm of this was practically unstoppable on the battlefield.

If that’s at all confusing, here’s a great video that shows this loadout in action:

Obviously, this was extremely overpowered, so EA/DICE retooled both the Bowcaster and the Bounty Hunter trait. When that patch hit, the “Jumpcaster” players had to rethink their approach to the game.

Another great example is the Scatter Gun, which can fire through shields. When that Star Card entered the game (with the Outer Rim expansion), all of a sudden anyone who overused their shields was at a huge disadvantage, so this changed the entire flow of the battlefield.

To take this further, the Outer Rim also introduced the Bacta Bomb, a grenade that releases a blue healing mist. It can bring your allies above 100% health, which could initially be disorienting for skilled players who knew exactly how much damage their favorite weapon dealt. Of course, then we all grew used to it.

Star Wars Battlefront Stormtrooper

So, at least in its first year, Star Wars Battlefront was an organic, ever-shifting thing that developed through its growing pains. And I always felt there was something charming about that. You can argue that this evolving metagame emerged out of EA/DICE’s sloppiness, and I’m not going to deny that. However, it also led to the joy and frustration of an ever-shifting battlefield — one that took persistence and skill to stay on top of.

Even though Star Wars Battlefront never forsook its pick-up-and-playability, there was a deeply satisfying metagame that only long-term players like myself ever got to experience. Anyone who played for a week and put it down for good, or who jumped in late in the game’s lifespan, simply missed out. And I think the conversation about the game’s “lack of depth” grew out of those experiences, not the experience of those with 200+ hours of game time under their belts.

Star Wars Battlefront

There’s nothing wrong with playing Battlefront for a couple hours and deciding it’s not for you, but I can’t help but feel that a vast majority of this game’s player base missed out on something special.

Josh Wirtanen owns this place and has opinions about pretty much everything. Follow him on Twitter: @joshuajwirtanen.