Video Games

How EA Games Can Fix Star Wars Battlefront II

Star Wars Battlefront 2 Darth Maul

For a good while there, Star Wars Battlefront II was seemingly on the right track.

Publisher EA Games was working very hard to assure fans that this game would make up for some of the previous game’s failures, and with Battlefront II, they were offering things that were noticeably missing from 2015’s  Star Wars Battlefront. The sequel would include a single-player campaign, cover all three eras of Star Wars films (the Prequel Trilogy, the Original Trilogy, and Disney’s new Sequel Trilogy), and offer several more iconic locations and heroes. They removed the much-maligned power-up system and added a class system, which was a popular feature in the original Battlefront games by Pandemic Studios.

But disaster struck in the weeks leading up to release.

First came the release of the game’s open beta period beginning October 4, 2017. It became very clear from this beta that Star Wars Battlefront II would be creating an in-game economy where players could purchase digital loot crates, which would unlock mystery items in a slot-machine-style gamble. Progression in the game would be tied to these random items, called Star Cards, and the loot crates could be purchased for real-world money.

Battlefront 2 Loot Crate

Essentially, in a full-priced $60 video game, players were asked to fork over more cash in order to progress their characters and classes in the game. Sure, these loot crates could be purchased with in-game currency called Credits earned by playing, but the rate at which these Credits were doled out was insultingly slow. Players who paid money would progress at a reasonable rate while those who didn’t pay would barely see any progress at all.

EA released a statement after the beta had ended that they were looking into changes to this progression system, so the fury died down a little bit.

But then the real bantha poodoo hit the fan when EA raised the price of these loot crates substantially from the beta version and locked its most iconic hero characters, such as Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, behind an unreasonable amount of in-game Credits. Unlocking Luke Skywalker could take as much as 40 hours, by some estimates. (While greatly exaggerated, the “40 hours” figure was reported on by major mainstream media outlets.) Fans were furious, and any goodwill Battlefront II may have had was pretty much completely gone.

On top of this, many countries — including France and Belgium — began investigating these loot crates, suspicious about how much this felt like gambling in a product otherwise considered appropriate for minors. (The game’s “T for Teen” rating means it is appropriate for players aged 13 and up.) With major media coverage of this “scandal” overshadowing the game’s release, things were looking dire for Star Wars Battlefront II.

Battlefront 2 Hoth

EA announced that they were reducing the cost of hero characters, and then, just hours before the game’s release, disabled real-world currency purchases. They also claimed that they were going to completely rework the game’s progression system. While this was a proverbial dab of ointment on a third-degree burn, it wasn’t enough to numb the pain (also proverbial).

And, ever since launch, EA Games has been frustratingly silent about its plans for the game’s future. The game’s economy and progression system are in shambles, and the whole thing is a mess on an almost unprecedented scale.

But what you may have missed in all this controversy is that, without the horrible progression system or scammy in-game economy, Star Wars Battlefront II is actually an incredible game. Movement is smooth as butter, the gunplay is fantastic, the visuals are almost impossibly good, and the soundtrack is spot-on. There’s a perfectly salvageable game here as long as EA can take the right steps toward fixing the game’s biggest issue.

And they can. Just consider games like Diablo III, Final Fantasy XIV, and No Man’s Sky. All of those launched to abysmal receptions, and all three of them were able to completely turn that around. Look, if No Man’s Sky can be redeemed, then so can Star Wars Battlefront II.

Battlefront 2 Luke Vs Vader

So here are my suggestions for how to fix this beautiful mess of a game.

First and foremost, EA needs to communicate with its fans. Players need to know what’s going on. Sure, it’s going to take a while to figure this all out, so communication at this level seems like a tall order. But consider that this has become one of the biggest PR kerfuffles in video game history. EA screwed up badly enough that they owe their fans more than just “business as usual.” They need to bend over completely backward to make things right.

As soon as they possibly can, they need to remove loot boxes from the game entirely. Instead, players should earn Scrap from every match. Scrap, because I failed to mention it sooner, is a resource that lets players craft and upgrade their Star Cards.

(The biggest problem with Scrap currently is that it can only be earned through loot boxes and through very specific challenges, which are fairly limited. Players earn no Scrap for simply playing the game, and they should.)

With this simple change, the progression becomes a matter of earning Scrap and then spending it on whatever upgrades the player wants. This puts progression back into the hands of the player, and it removes the random, casino-like element that fans are upset about. This fix should happen pretty much immediately.

Star Wars Battlefront 2

Next, there needs to be an absurd amount of fresh content coming out. There should be new costumes for hero characters and hundreds of options for customizing infantry units. These customization options could be sold for Credits, which players can still earn in the game, and also with Crystals, the game’s for-real-money currency.

There’s a lot of low-effort content that could be added in small batches over time, such as new maps that reuse old assets — the planets Sullest, Bespin, Vardos, and Pillio are all present in the single-player campaign, so using those assets to create new multiplayer maps would be far easier than creating new assets from scratch. Heck, they could reuse some of the fantastic maps from the first game’s DLC pool, like Jabba’s Palace or Carbonite Freezing Chamber.

They could also add the game’s popular Shriv as a hero and balance it out with Greedo, who was a hero in the previous game, and they could add Rogue One‘s Jyn Erso and Orson Krennic, who also appeared in the 2015 game.

EA should also add some of the obvious characters who are missing, like Obi-Wan Kenobi, Anakin Skywalker, and General Grievous.

This content should come out regularly, and every single update needs to also include vast amounts of customization options to keep players feeling overwhelmed by how much cool stuff there is for them to unlock. You don’t need to keep customization options locked behind massive paywalls if there’s more customization to unlock than anyone could ever hope to acquire.

But all of this is simply to keep the current audience happy. It might be a small audience for a while, but keep them playing and keep them happy while the game continues to grow, because this is only setup for the next phase of this plan — and this is where things get really, really cool.

Clone Wars Ahsoka

Right before the 2018 holiday season, release the game’s first major expansion. And I’m talking major major. This would be Star Wars Battlefront II: The Clone Wars, and it would add at least five new Galactic Assault maps, two new Starfighter Assault maps, and five hero characters and five villain characters. These heroes and villains would include characters such as Ahsoka Tano, Asajj Ventress, Cad Bane, Mace Windu, and more. Maps would be locations from the Prequel Trilogy and the Clone Wars cartoon.

For anyone who purchased Star Wars Battlefront II in the past, this upgrade would be completely free. For everyone else, it would be a budget-priced physical and digital release, perhaps at $40. This release would include all of Battlefront II‘s maps and heroes to date, along with those from the Clone Wars expansion. It could be marketed as the most complete Battlefront game to date — which it would be by then. It could be treated as a brand new game, with a full marketing campaign and a fresh round of reviews.

Think of this as the Battlefront version of Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn or Diablo III: Ultimate Evil Edition.

The plan here is to steadily build to this massive new version of the game with a brand new lease on life and another shot at making a positive first impression — an impression powerful enough to wipe clean the painful memories of 2017’s disastrous launch.

This is a dream scenario, of course, and would certainly require enormous amounts of labor, but it’s something that could absolutely redeem Star Wars Battlefront II.

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