Star Wars: Battlefront I and II are games loved almost as much as the original trilogy of Star Wars films, and with good reason – at the time, they blended the concept of the Star Wars universe with the action of a Battlefield game superbly.
Now that DICE is trying its hand at an instalment in the legendary franchise, we’re presented with an incredibly large difference in opinions on the new title, which, if we look closely, was always going to be the case.
What made the original Battlefront games so great?
Developed by Pandemic Studios, Star Wars: Battlefront released in 2004, during the peak of LucasArts’ Golden Age of Star Wars titles, thrown in between Knights of the Old Republic (2003) and Republic Commando (2005).
At the time, fans were stunned by the amount of freedom it offered – class-based combat in large-scale battles, where players were free to play how they see fit (infantry, vehicle, or air); and all in the Star Wars universe.
The gameplay was also simple enough, with each class generally having a primary weapon, a secondary weapon, and a grenade. Although the balancing between a few of the classes/factions left a lot to be desired (in some maps, you just know from the outset which team will win), it worked incredibly well, for one key reason – it was fun.
Star Wars: Battlefront II released in 2005, alongside Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith, and sought to improve on the elements the first instalment captured so well. For a lot of fans of the original, the game improved in some areas (space battles are a big example), and lacked in others (the AI remained only marginally improved from the original.
Overall, however, the Star Wars: Battlefront titles are arguably two of the most loved video games of all time – and definitely two of the most loved Star Wars titles.
What has changed since then?
In order to look at DICE’s Battlefront, we have to look at how the gaming industry has changed in the 11 years since the first game in the series.
The hardware we game on, from PC to console, has drastically improved, bringing with it advancements in technology and experiences that we couldn’t even think of. Even in just the last few years, we’ve played technical masterpieces like Grand Theft Auto V, experienced masterful storytelling in The Last of Us, and played countless more games leaps and bounds over Star Wars: Battlefront in every way.
Not only that, but the way we play games has changed – we’ve come to expect more out of our games straight out of the box to justify our purchase. A lot of the time, we also expect there to be certain game modes included, such as a single-player mode (just look at all the flak Titanfall and Battlefront have received).
Both the industry and consumer expectations of the industry have shifted dramatically since 2004, which brings us to DICE’s Battlfront.
What’s wrong with DICE’s Battlefront, and why is it doomed?
To put it simply, it’s quite fun.
DICE’s Battlefront is a modern take on a classic game and a classic cinematic universe. And, to be honest, it’s a lot of fun. The weapon options are simple, the sound design is incredible, the environments are stunning, and it’s a whole lot of fun to play.
People have problems with it that seem to range from ‘It’s too much like Battlefield’ (which DICE develops) to ‘It’s not enough like Battlefield’. The most confusing argument I’ve read after the public Beta is that there just simply isn’t enough depth. Let’s analyse that.
The original Star Wars: Battlefront had class-based combat, and each class had two weapons. Both sides, either in the Clone Wars or Galactic Civil War era, fought in a game of Conquest (control the bases across the map). That was about as deep as the game got.
DICE’s Battlefront has more weapons available for selection (even in spite of no class-based gameplay), a whole lot more game modes and gameplay options, a levelling system that rewards players with items to equip in-game, far better gameplay balancing (even though there’s still plenty more work to do), and so on.
For everything it’s criticised for, it still gets a lot right. The reason Battlefront is doomed to fail is because times have changed.
If the team at DICE had have made Battlefront as simplistic and easily-accessible as the previous Battlefront titles, they would be (and is being) criticized for dumbing the game down; if, instead, they had have made it more complicated and intricate – even like Battlefield and its unlocking system, for example – then they would be criticized for straying too far from the series’ roots.
Ultimately, when they took on Battlefront as a project, they were damned-if-they-do, damned-if-they-don’t. With a franchise this loved, one that’s been stagnant for this long, there’s no way it could have gone off without a hitch.
After what I played in the beta, I’m looking forward to Battlefront based on what it’s trying to be, rather than comparing it to the previous entries in the series (especially given this game is more of a reboot than a sequel). Whether that will make the game better or worse; we’ll just have to wait and see.