While many popular games have been released this year, very few can claim as much attention as Star Wars Battlefront 2. But even with so much media coverage, I found myself confused about the game people thought was controversial. I understood it was something about lootboxes and being pay-to-win, but I didn’t know the details. So, on the eve of the game’s official release, I’ve made a recap of the rocky road to Battlefront 2.
Episode I: A New Battlefront
Our story begins not so long ago in a city far, but not as far as it could be, at E3 2017, when EA finally presented gameplay footage and a playable demo of the highly anticipated sequel to the original Battlefront. EA enticed gamers by announcing that, in place of their traditional season pass system, future DLC would be offered for free to anyone who purchased the game. People were also excited by the introduction of a single player campaign, which follows the story of Iden Versio, the commander of the Empire’s elite Inferno Squad. However, even at E3, some game critics pointed out unbalanced game mechanics, like not putting time limits on hero characters. Since heroes can regenerate health out of battle, it seemed like expert players an unfair advantage over the newbies. Perhaps it’s appropriate that EA decided to showcase the Battle of Naboo in their E3 demo, foreshadowing the dark times coming in the game’s Beta test.
Episode II: The Lootbox Menace
Alright, so now we get into the part that set the internet on edge: lootboxes. As the beta revealed, lootboxes tie in closely to the game’s mechanics. For example, in the original Battlefront, players became hero characters by finding tokens hidden around the map. In Battlefront 2, players became hero characters by spending battlepoints. Taking objectives, downing opponents, and making progress across the map earn players battlepoints. These can be used to summon special vehicles and characters to help you push your way across the map. However, the real trouble came with the introduction of Star cards. These cards upgrade heroes, vehicles, and weapons to give them more powerful abilities. Where did Star cards come from? Why, lootboxes, of course! And while it’s true that players could spend hours grinding levels, earning achievements, and saving the in-game money called credits to earn these ‘crates’, it’s much easier to spend real world cash on the game’s premium currency, crystals, to buy the lootboxes directly. Considering how very obviously pay-to-win this made the game, the internet revolted.
Episode III: The Internet Awakens
To be fair, the internet was already brimming with indignation over the steady increase in microtransactions in AAA games. Between Destiny 2‘s bright engrams to Shadow of War‘s legendary war chests, the online gaming community was a anti-lootbox powder keg, and Battlefront 2 was the flashpoint. EA attempted to soothe the concerns of the beta by explaining the full system hadn’t been implemented, and while Common, Uncommon, and Rare Star cards were found in lootboxes, high level Epic Star cards, which increased an item/hero’s abilities to max level, were not contained in lootboxes, but had to be crafted using a third type of currency, crafting parts, which was obtained by opening lootboxes. Further changes implemented by EA following the lootbox backlash and beta test can be found in this blog post from the EA news page.
Now, you may be asking yourself, “Wait, didn’t I also hear something about an EA post that was the most downvoted post in Reddit history?” What does that have to do, with lootboxes? Well, it doesn’t really doesn’t, but since we’re already here, it would feel amiss to not explain that situation too.
Basically, some of Star Wars’ most recognizable faces, including Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader, were locked behind a wall requiring a ridiculous amount of in-game currency (60,000 credits), which would take an extraordinary amount of time to earn. After one Reddit user commented on how silly it was that major characters would require an insane time investment to unlock, EA responded with a not-so-well received post saying that the price was intended to make players feel a sense of ‘pride and accomplishment’ when they finally unlock the characters. They have since reduced the price of the heroes by 75% after a flood of negative feedback.
Still, the difficulties facing Battlefront 2 have kept it in the public eye. For better or worse, the game is still expected to have a huge launch, bringing Star Wars fans together for an experience spanning nearly 70 years of Star Wars lore, from The Phantom Menace to The Last Jedi. Whatever happens, it is certainly a saga for gaming history.