To say Star Wars: Battlefront II has had a rough launch would be putting it unfathomably mildly. But other games have managed to turn things around even after launches marred by PR disasters or straight up broken game design. Can Battlefront II manage to pull off the same?
One of the higher profile examples of a game’s redemption that comes to mind is Final Fantasy XIV, which launched to such extreme criticism that it prompted the replacement of the development team, a formal apology from Square Enix, and a thorough redesign and re-launch of the game. Now, Final Fantasy XIV is widely regarded as one of the best MMORPG’s currently available and is running strong in its fourth year.
Battlefront II, by most accounts, doesn’t have the same ‘redesign from the ground up’ gameplay problems like Final Fantasy XIV did. In fact some variation of the sentiment; “Battlefront II is a good game underneath all the horrible progression loot crate junk layered on top” appears in almost every major review. It’s not uncommon to see comments saying that DICE, the game’s developers, did a good job overall but probably had little influence when it came to the pay-to-win progression system that EA’s executives were so intent on implementing. That being the case, it feels like it should be possible to redeem the game by redesigning key aspects that have rightfully earned such derision, namely the Star Card and Progression system’s clear intent to drive players to purchasing loot crates. Maybe in time it could even come to be seen as a truly great game with a troubled past that is just that, past.
I’ve seen ideas floating around the net as to how this might be done. Obviously, most players would rather the very notion of Loot Crates be done away with entirely. Unfortunately I think this is the least realistic thing that could happen, even if it would be the best course for their public relations. So I’ve compiled three possible redesigns that EA could pursue that I feel have a chance of realistically being considered. If you’re listening EA, feel free to take em.
Flattening + Cosmetics
Down this road, all gameplay affecting items would be unlocked from the get-go. That means Star Cards, Heroes, even weapons if we want true flattening here. (I suppose weapon attachments could still be behind an achievement if they really wanted.) Furthermore, Star Cards would no longer have Tiers, instead only offering the same bonus that everyone else’s copy of the card does. Crates would only reward cosmetic items; Skins, Emotes, etc. This would essentially transform the games Loot Crate system into something akin to Overwatch. They could even still have credits, just they would only be used for purchasing cosmetics. This system ensures that everyone, whether they buy the game now or six months from now, is in no way at a significant disadvantage to the rest of the player base. They just look a bit plainer than the rest.
This would require that the amount of different appearances available for heroes be increased quite substantially, something EA rather densely suggested goes against ‘canon’. (In a game where Rey, a young Leia and Darth Maul can all be present at once.) But it’s not hard to imagine a variety of canonical appearances for much of the game’s roster, especially if they intend to keep adding to it as the forthcoming Finn and Phasma update indicate. Why not a Jango Fett skin for Boba? Luke with his blue lightsaber? Leia, Luke and Han all wore different outfits when they were on Hoth, Endor, Bespin and so on. Vader could have various Anakin skins, Leia could have an older appearance, and you can’t tell me you wouldn’t want to see Yoda flipping around hitting people with his Dagobah cane.
That’s without even mentioning the many possibilities that exist for plain old trooper classes. Sure Battle Droids and Stormtroopers all kind of look the same, but plenty of more varied designs and markings have existed throughout the sources Disney has declared canon. Heck, technically the old Republic Commando squad qualify for canon for appearing in the Clone Wars TV show, and those would be some excellent Clone Trooper skins. No one is asking for pink Darth Vader when they ask for customization as EA seems to believe.
There’s even already evidence that DICE either was considering, or is currently considering adding trooper customization to the game with the discovery of a menu that would serve just that, which only lends credence to the idea of a cosmetic only loot crate system being simple to implement.
Personally, I feel this path offers a good chance of successfully turning things around, which could be maximized if they were willing to go through a sort of soft re-launch of the game by offering something up (new content, a good chunk of the new cosmetics) as an apology to anyone who either bought the game already or gives it a chance in the re-launch window. The re-launch itself would need to not reset anyone’s progress of course, but it would afford them the opportunity to promote the game’s redesign, perhaps even highlighting their mistakes and how they’ve tried to fix them like they did for the first Battlefront. Realistically, EA should be satisfied with this method even with their appetite for profit. Overwatch has brought in over a billion dollars in a year with a cosmetics only system, which is nothing for EA’s shareholders to sneeze at.
Stacking replaces Tiers
This method is sort of a half flattening. Star Cards would lose their Tiers, but you could equip more than one of the same card to increase it’s effect. Of course, you’re sacrificing your ability to equip something else in that slot by doing this. So maybe you equip a starfighter with three of the same attack boosting card to deal tremendous damage, but you won’t be getting any of those ability, maneuverability, or defense boosts another card might offer. The ability to equip 3 cards would need to be unlocked from the start, and maybe a base level of each card as well. For obtaining duplicates, you could either keep the crafting system but give out crafting parts more generously (say, a set amount with each level) or have some kind of system where you would be given more of a card if you used it enough, not too dissimilar to how weapon attachment unlocks work currently. I’d still say keeping heroes available from the beginning would be the best call for this system, but if you really wanted a progression system, you could keep some of their star cards behind clearly defined and attainable milestones. Ideally loot crates in this system would again be cosmetic only, as if they offered crafting parts or cards we’d be back where we started with pay-to-win.
This method isn’t quite as palatable as the first I feel, as new players would still be disadvantaged than veterans as the months passed, but it wouldn’t be quite as severe and it would be clear and hopefully simple for players to prioritize getting copies of cards they really preferred. The Star Card system would essentially become more about tactical selection of your hand based on the situation rather than just pitting someone with no cards against someone with ultra rare boosted cards. Plus it would allow for a sort of progression system that EA seems intent on keeping.
Crafting from Credits
This idea changes the Star Card and progression system the least, and thus, might be the most appealing from EA’s perspective, though likely not the player base. Again, loot crates would be cosmetic only.
The Star Card system, Tier leveling and all, would be unchanged. Tiers would still be crafted, and probably still be locked behind progression milestones. The big difference would be removing crafting parts from the equation. Instead, Star Card crafting would be done via buying them outright with credits. Credit rewards would need to be increased for this to be effective (no more of that Arcade credit cut off), perhaps by offering a bulk credit reward for every level up or simply increasing the end of match rewards (A step they’ve already taken, though for this idea probably not far enough), in addition to the rewards offered by milestones now.
Credits could still be used to buy loot crates, but you would be deciding between spending credits to make game progress or getting a box of random cosmetics. It’s unlikely most people would opt for the crates more than the cards, which should actually make EA happy since anyone who wanted the cosmetic items badly would likely pay up rather than waste credits.
This method is my least favorite of the three, I imagine it would still be a bit of a grind and discouraging to new players as time passes, but it also seems like the kind of thing that EA would be most likely to do, preserving as much of the existing systems as possible while still removing the pay-to-win aspect. It is at the very least, still superior to the current system.
Of course, these are just ideas from someone who is not a game designer, with no insight into how difficult the implementation of these changes might be. And whatever changes are made to the game itself, it’ll still be an uphill battle to restore any goodwill towards Battlefront II. Nevertheless, I do hope something is done. After all it feels a shame that the hard work of so many developers who, by all appearances from playing the game, seem to have put serious effort into making something worthwhile, may end up having their efforts forgotten and buried beneath a mountain of deserved anger at the decisions of greedy executives. Hopefully EA has enough sense (or fear of losing any more stock value) to at least try to turn things around.
What do you think? Would you make changes I’ve not mentioned here?