Don’t give me any grief about the title… it’s late, there’s a crying baby, my main computer just died and I just downed the better half of an M&M Meats “Game Day Party Pack”… So, yeah, I’m living the dream.
While we’re on the topic of dreams, let’s talk about Star Wars games. More to the point, there’s a big one coming up. Should you Star Wars fans buy it? Let’s discuss.
A couple weeks ago EA held an open beta for Star Wars Battlefront, the spiritual successor to… Star Wars: Battlefront? Wait, what? That can’t be right, lemme check…
Granted, there was a Star Wars Battlefront II in 2005, and they ARE following official Star Wars naming conventions. As we all know, the third Star Wars movie was going to be called Revenge of the Jedi, but instead they just called it Star Wars.
But I digress…
A couple weeks ago Electronic Arts had an open beta for Star Wars Battlefront (2015) and, low and behold, it was completely ignored and they’re scrapping the game. Just kidding. NINE MILLION people played it. As EA noted, it was the single largest beta in the history of the company. Really, though, that’s not praise at all. It SHOULD have been the biggest beta in the history of open betas. There was no reason for it not to be.
First off, it’s Star Wars. In case you might have forgotten, there’s a big new movie coming out in a few months that should obliterate every box office record in existence and maybe a few that I’m going to make up. Like, for example, did you know that Star Wars 7 broke the box office record for number of parrots watching? It hasn’t happened yet, but of course it will. That movie is going to be ubiquitous on a global scale. They’re gonna project that flick off the motherf#@king moon and we’re going to hand them all of our money to do it. Remember the fever before The Phantom Menace came out? Imagine that, but now with an actual movie to back it up!
Second, when the beta was released, there was literally NOTHING else out. I mean that. It has been such a barren wasteland on next generation consoles that I found myself playing Tomb Raider, GTA V, Pinball FX2 and Borderlands 2… which sounds like a rich cavalcade of content until you realize that these are all ports of last generation console games that have been around for ages. They were great and all, but they’re literally just the same games with a new skin. (If you’re screaming about Destiny: The Taken King, keep reading…)
So, yes, the FREE demo of a brand new Star Wars themed game is going to attract a lot of attention. And I was first in line. I love Star Wars. Who doesn’t love Star Wars? Write in the comments if you don’t love Star Wars.
I was especially looking forward to playing the Battle of Hoth, a fictitious event that is so substantial in the Star Wars universe that you may have noticed I capitalized it.
The Battle of Hoth, as immortalized in the Empire Strikes Back, was an epic fight on a snow planet with these giant camel shaped thingies shooting everyone and the only way to blow them up was to trip them with a two-man space scooter and a really long string with a suction cup on the end.
Get your own blog if you want to tell it any other way.
The Battle of Hoth was also the subject of the first Star Wars video game. I fondly remember going over to a friend’s house and seeing that he had received the game for Christmas. I asked if we could play it and he said, “no, it’s not very good”.
I persisted, of course, as I had seen the commercial. The commercial that proudly said “the movie which challenged your imagination… now a video game where the challenge never ends.”
No foolin’. That is a challenge to the imagination alright.
The best part about playing this for the first time as a kid was turning to my friend and saying “how do I trip the AT-AT’s with the tow cables on my snowspeeder… you know… as per the classic, iconic way of destroying an AT-AT in the Battle of Hoth as depicted in the Empire Strikes Back?”
And he said… “You can’t. You just shoot them until they blow up.”
And I said… “Ah… like that classic line from the movie. ‘That armor’s too strong for blasters… just keep shooting at them until they blow up, George Lucas.” We had a good laugh, but we were also eight years old, so all we did was laugh back then. Laugh and daydream about the late 80’s and the wonders we would find…
That’s it. That was how Star Wars video games started. A not-so-good game that could have easily been anything else had it not been for the signature soundtrack and the general appearance of Star Wars themed blocks. When you get right down to it, it was basically a half-assed Defender rip-off. Worse, it’s a Defender on the Atari rip-off…
Don’t take my word for it. In Video Review magazine, Harlan Ellison wrote that the game had the “potential to emerge as the most virulent electronic botulism of all”. And that’s Harlan Ellison… he got fired from Disney in a matter of hours, so you know that he knows what he’s talking about.
Sure, there have been some great Star Wars themed games out there… Knights of the Old Republic is one of the finest RPG’s ever made. The Super Star Wars trilogy were really fun action side-scrollers that let the movies be playable for the first time. Dark Forces dropped my jaw the first time I played it back in 1996. I specifically remember walking around the bodies of stormtroopers and noticing how they were rendered in 3D even when dead. A game changer. Doom didn’t have that.
But for every Rogue Squadron there is a Masters of Teras Kasi, the Star Wars fighting game.
I got a bad feeling about this…
This is David Followes’ favourite game by the way.
Here we are, in the dying twillight of 2015 and THAT was the last Star Wars game to come out. At least, that was the last Star Wars game to come out on consoles. There were a bunch of generic, craptastic mobile games and Steam re-released the X-Wing games, which hold up pretty good.
And don’t talk to me about the Lego Star Wars themed games. Lego games, with their whole “smash the environment and collect the coins” gameplay are just OCD simulators. Go ahead and give them to your kids and tell yourself that you’re teaching them problem solving. You’re not. You’re teaching them to manically collect arbitrary coins. Leave a comment if you think I’m wrong, but yes, in this one instance, Lego sucks.
So let’s dig into this new Battlefront. Should you spend your hard earned dollars on it?
Let’s start with the obvious… Is it any good? The answer to that is, of course, who knows? The Beta was flawed in a number of critical areas. The sides were unbalanced in one mode so badly that it was almost impossible for the rebel side to win. The vehicles felt awkward to control so there was no fun to have there. I found that when I died I was re-spawning directly in the line of fire of my enemy on so many occasions, I was DOA half the time.
There was also a disturbing lack of clear objectives and no voice chat, something that can be a double edged sword in multiplayer shooters.
But… the game LOOKED like Star Wars (and no doubt about it, it’s a gorgeous game) and it SOUNDED like Star Wars. It had the music and the vip-vip of the blasters and the brrrraaaarrrr of the tie-fighters. Very cozy and familiar sounds.
There was also a really cool moment when everyone just stopped fighting just so we could watch two people who were playing as Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker have a lightsaber fight in the middle of the battlefield. This actually happened, and it was amazing. It was kinda like how the British and the Germans stopped fighting to exchange Christmas gifts in WWI.
The thing is, being a beta, we won’t REALLY know what the game is like until it comes out. They’re still working on balancing it and all the game modes weren’t playable. If I’m being really honest, I found it bland and boring. It felt like nothing was so much of a challenge as it was a frustration. The Star Wars flavour was window dressing masquerading as cannon fodder.
But here is the biggest reason why, despite being such a huge fan Star Wars fan, I’m not going to waste my time with it.
The retail price for Star Wars Battlefront is about $60. That gets you the basic game. What ships on day it’s released, that’s what you get. Pop it in. Enjoy.
By the way, the game is online multiplayer only, so you need an internet connection and a relatively okay one at that. And there’s no story mode. Just online. And there’s only 8 maps… so… yeah… enjoy your really small game.
OR you can buy the Deluxe Edition for an extra $10. That comes with Han Solo’s gun, a grenade and a torpedo that you WILL unlock by playing the game after a few hours anyway, but this way you can have it right away. This is important, because if you start playing the MINUTE the game comes out, only the other people who got suckered into paying $10 will also have that gear for about an hour. You will be a god among men. For an hour.
It also comes with two “emotes” so that when you win you can make your stormtrooper dance.
Seriously… what is it with making these guys dance…
BUT THAT’S NOT ALL!!! For the low, low price of $119.99, which is DOUBLE the cost of the game, you can have ALL of the above plus all the maps that’ll be released in the future which is WHO KNOWS WHAT!!! We don’t know! No one knows! NO ONE EVEN KNOWS WHEN THEY’LL BE OUT!!!
We do know there will be four of them, for what it’s worth.
For all of the skins that Star Wars Battlefront could have worn, I never thought it would be in the form of the money grubbing DLC grab.
The fact of the matter is this, this game is online multiplayer only, and it’s anybody’s guess if it’s going to be successful enough to warrant playing… if that makes sense. You see, it’s being released a week after Call of Duty: Black Ops III and Fallout 4, so the competition to lure active players is astronomical. I don’t wanna tell you the odds, but…
Call of Duty: Black Ops II sold 7.5 million units on their first day, so odds are that III will be more than that. It certainly looks fantastic, and these are the games that FPS junkies fawn over. 7.5 million on the first day? I heard some people estimate that that would be the total sales for Battlefront over it’s life cycle.
Then there’s Fallout 4, which SO MANY nerds will be playing. Fallout 4 has no end. I mean that. There is supposed to be no end to the game. No level cap and no hard finish. Basically, people will play that until they stop going to work, have their power shut off for non-payment and freeze to death. They probably won’t be jumping over to play the Star Wars game that often because they’ll be dead or in a coma or playing Fallout 4.
The players you’re left with are those that got the game for Christmas, die-hard Star Wars fans and those who are getting back into gaming just because this is a Star Wars game. In fact, EA is counting on this because one of the benefits of pre-ordering your game is that you get the Jakku map, a planet that is featured heavily in the Force Awakens trailer. In other words, in a game that can rise or fall based on the actions, performance and attendance of your fellow players, don’t expect a dazzling recreation of your favourite battles.
The real tragedy is that this is not a re-imagining of the original Battlefront game. In a twist worthy of the franchise, I would call this more of a spiritual successor to Destiny.
How so? Let’s compare.
They released a vaguely working open beta/demo to drum up interest and put the naysayers at bay, just like Destiny. They have overpriced pre-order options with cosmetic and arbitrary gameplay enhancements, just like Destiny. It seems they’ve ripped out content and are selling it back as DLC (Developer DICE has denied this), but show me a triple A game that doesn’t. Destiny is notorious for this. The only thing that they learned from Destiny is that they’re just not going to have a single player story mode. It seems it’s easier to field complaints that one isn’t there than to pretend that your half-ass one is worth any attention.
Cripes, I hate Destiny. Destiny played great but it was, and still is, a grind and a cash-grab. I honestly don’t care if The Taken King expansion “fixed” a lot of the issues. The damage is done for me. I have better things to do with my time AND my money. I can’t invest any faith into a game that lied to me and stole my cash. It’s too bad, too, because the shooting was amazing.
So, for about $120, which is the price for the FULL experience, is this Star Wars game going to be worth it for you? Is it Star Wars enough for you casual gamers who are dyed in the robe Jedi?
Lemme put it this way… The big centerpiece of the demo was a mode called Walker Assault which featured… you guessed it… the Battle of Hoth.
In it, you CAN get into a snowspeeder and try and trip an AT-AT… It’s not impossible. It’s highly unlikely, and a million to one, but you can do it.
But mostly… sigh… you just shoot at the AT-ATs until they blow up.
Welcome back to 1982. We’ve come a long way, George Lucas.
Jeremy Schultz is a gamer with a chip on his shoulder. He’s also one half of DrinkAlong, and is currently enjoying the heck out of Netflix on the Xbox One.