Pew pew pew. Vwooom vwooom. Sounds near and dear to my heart. For those who didn’t immediately understand, those were the sounds of a laser rifle going off and a lightsaber being activated. Obviously.
Recently Star Wars Battlefront II was released for free for Playstation Plus subscribers, of which I am one. I’d always had a vague interest in the series – I’m interested in shooters but none of them really offered the aesthetic or world that I cared about. After all, I’ve always been much more concerned about being told stories, being engrossed in a world and characters than I have been about simply playing a game for the game’s sake. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, simply a difference of preference. So a game like Tetris, for example, was never really my thing, fun though it may be for many.
So here I was, presented with a game that offered me the shooting mechanics I had always wanted to try out and the narrative hooks and visual appeal of a fleshed out world – and one that I grew up with, no less. Bingo.
I was in for the universe, I stayed for the mechanics. In my admittedly very minimal experience, Star Wars Battlefront II is a solid game. The shooting feels good and there are enough classes, plus elite unlockable classes for each faction, PLUS hero characters that the list of available options goes on and on. Most of them maintain the same basic core mechanics but provide enough variance that they all feel distinct. The only issue I tend to have is with the hero classes. It can feel great to roll in there with Rey and send a bunch of First Order soldiers flying, but the transition seems clunky and the battle mechanics of a lightsaber-wielding warrior don’t feel well suited to an otherwise blaster-centric game. And then there’s Palpatine. Scoot into the middle of the frey with our little gremlin of an emperor and you’re sure to get bonked almost immediately, seeing as how his mechanics are even more awkward. Or maybe I just suck. Do I suck? Don’t answer that.
There’s also a good variety of unlockable customizability for each class. As you level each class up you earn skill points and unlock access to perks. You can equip three per class and I found they were different enough to give me a little edge but not so great as to give me a huge advantage over someone who may not have earned any said perks.
And damn is it fun to scramble around like chickens with our heads cut off with a few friends, likely equally as bad as me if not worse. Y’know, there’s something freeing about being bad at a game and knowing it. You know there’s a high probability you’re gonna go down as soon as you come face to face with an enemy. So on those rare occasions where you DO take someone out (or on those very rare occasions, take TWO PEOPLE OUT IN ONE ROUND!!) it feels great!
There is a single-player campaign to go through if you’d like, but I wouldn’t bring it home to meet mom. It’s fun and it gives you a good example of the different classes as well as giving you an opportunity to try out some hero classes. And I actually think the core of the story they are trying to tell makes an intriguing little Star Wars side story, with some good voice acting to help it along. But the pieces just don’t quite come together, the story and game play beats are just kinda off. At the end of the day, the campaign mode isn’t the big draw here. All that being said I did play it full through (not a long experience) and I can honestly say I had fun with it.
Now I know much of what I’ve been describing can be said about many modern shooters, but this being my first, it’s all new to me. The other draw, as I mentioned before, is the setting. You can argue that a game focused on shooting need not rely on a fleshed-out universe, but for someone like me it helps. I don’t have a lot of love for the prequels and my appreciation of the new trilogy is… wavering. But through a total of nine movies along with several games I’ve played over the years, I’ve gained a fondness for the star wars universe. It’s become one of the most full and expansive fictional worlds in modern culture and any opportunity to play around in it is a welcome one. Maybe one of these days I’ll get to play some Star Wars Legion with the other folks at Pawn & Pixel…. Who knows?