“I feel the good in you…the conflict.”
By: Alex Russo
Today at E3, Dice finally showed us some gameplay of the upcoming Star Wars: Battlefront. We had seen an “in-engine trailer” a few months back during the Star Wars Celebration, but we had yet to see any real gameplay. Here is what we were ultimately presented with:
That looks awesome. Really, really awesome. So awesome, in fact, that it has me thinking it’s too good to be true. I’ve been let down by video games before, and at this point I take everything with a grain of salt.
Or some other kind of…space sodium.
Before you get your hopes up about this game, just keep in mind a few things.
That Footage is Staged
No, it’s not fake. That is genuinely gameplay footage, sure. But that is gameplay footage that has been painstakingly recorded and edited for hours on end. Any hiccups or clunky controls were covered up by simply shifting the camera to some other footage that was taken. It’s a highlight reel, in short.
Footage like this glosses over many of the big complaints that players are going to find themselves in a few short months. We already know that you can’t actually control AT-ATs or aim down your rifle’s sights, both things that you’d think would be integral to a Battlefront game (since, you know, that’s what the old ones did). So it begs the question…what else are we going to stumble upon on our own? What other missteps have been swept under the rug as a result of good editing and cool lightsabers?
It’s important to remember that we are not seeing a normal experience. This is not a typical round of gameplay. After all, are you going to stop and stare at your teammate in anticipation of Darth Vader’s force-choke entrance? Are you going to know to look up at the Ion Cannon as it fires rounds into the air? It’s exciting footage, of course, but it’s important to taper our expectations. Not every round will be, essentially, a mini Star Wars film. It’s actually unlike a film in many ways, it turns out, because…
There is no Single-Player Campaign
Nope, there are just group battles from here on out. I must point out, of course, that the prior games did not have much of campaign either. However, Pandemic managed to string together enough clips and soundbites to make for a serviceable series of battles. They introduced a variety of different options besides: “Hey, you! Go fight!” There was a respectable chronology that made for a fun mode of gameplay to try on a rainy afternoon.
Or, if you were feeling particularly strategic, you could always go for a round of Galactic Conquest…an intergalactic chess game that forced you to consider which battles were worth the trouble and which ones should be avoided. There was turnplay, a series of power-ups, and an extra level of creativity to the game. But what it looks like we are getting here is, again, a glorified way for Dice to say: “Hey, you! Go fight!”
I’m not being obtuse, by the way. I recognize that at the end of the day, Battlefront has always been about the battles. It’s the core component of the game. However, it looks like our ability to take that core and build a story around it is gone. We can’t imagine we are conquering a galaxy or leading an army. We can’t take on a friend in a battle of wits. We can’t take a basic set of ingredients and make it into a larger narrative. It’s just…a fight.
A Fight on Four Planets
Oh yeah. Can’t stress this one enough. In Battlefront II, you could feasibly string together a logical series of battles in Instant Action to make your own ideal experience. You could play them in chronological order to follow the movies. You play the right sized maps to suit your style of combat. You could only play levels from the Prequels to fuel your criminal insanity.
Not anymore. Now you have four planets to choose from. Three iconic planets and one that has never actually been seen in the Star Wars universe…ever. I should point out, though, that Dice has promised twelve maps, which is annoying on an entirely different level. So we really need three maps of just snow? Then three more of just desert? And, God help us, three forest maps…with Ewoks?
The amount of dedication that went into this game is admirable. It’s clear that the developers are fans. But come on…do fans not also enjoy Cloud City, Kashyyyk, Yavin IV, Coruscant, Mustafar, or the Death Star? Due to George Lucas’s baffling ability to assign each planet a solitary ecosystem, there are enough planets in the galaxy to give us variety. Snow, lava, deserts, cities…it could be a visual feast. Instead, we are given multiple levels for each planet, wearing those same environments thin. How often do you want to retread the same ground? And emphasis really falls on the word “ground,” because…
There are no Space Battles
We have X-Wings, TIE fighters, and the Millennium Falcon at our disposal…but we’re grounded. Players will not be able to take advantage of one of the most iconic facets of the mythology…the engrossing space battles.
When I was a kid, lightsabers and the Force were cool and all, but the thought of flying an X-Wing was the most magical part of the movies. It gave the series a sense of freedom and wonder that few films have been able to recreate. Playing Battlefront II and Rogue Squadron vivified that freedom and made it all seem real.
Space battles possess a certain magic that is uniquely Star Wars. Stripping space from the game so we can have another Endor level creates an experience that is unbalanced and unfocused. It squanders an asset that makes the series so wonderful in the first place. After all, can you really call it Star Wars if there are no stars?
Well, maybe you can download the stars, since…
There is More to Come…via DLC
And thus begins the debate surrounding more games than just this one. Is DLC cheating? Are we getting a watered down game so that developers can charge more money down the road on afterthought installments? This is a complex issue (and one that we’ve discussed at length). I’m not going to take sides on such a multifaceted topic right now. But I will make one statement on why we are going to have to download Jakku (and other planets, I’m sure), down the line.
Dice just wasn’t focused on the right things. They were focused; remarkably so. But at the end of the day, did we ask the developers to visit the actual locations where the movies were made so we can get a more accurate depiction of the desert? Or did we ask for new maps, better mechanics, and more of what we love. It’s crazy to me that the developers can take an insanely popular game and think: “Did people like it because of the breadth of options available to them? Or did they like it because of how real the desert looked? Probably the second one.”
Developers have a habit on making assumptions about what people want, rather than doing the field research required to find out what we really want. That’s how we end up with only four planets. That’s how we end up with Wii Remotes. That’s how we end up with whatever the hell Konami is going to churn out next. It begs the question: how to gamers get what they want out of a series? How do we voice our discontent with a game, when we ultimately have to buy the game to experience it? How do we respond?
We could tweet. We could write articles like this. We could organize (unsuccessful) boycotts. We could do all of those things; but at the end of the day, would that be effective? Is that the right course of action? How do we all find a way to stop shouting at the same time and learn to speak together? It’s an intricate question, and one that I am completely unqualified to answer, so I’ll just leave you one final thought…
It Might be Really Good
I am a Star Wars fan. Big time. Heck, I love Star Wars more than I love members of my own family (here’s looking at you, Aunt Beth!). And with love comes this strange sense of misplaced ownership. I feel like Star Wars is part of me, and the developers owe it to me to give me a very specific game tailored to my very specific tastes.
But they don’t. They don’t have to do that at all. They are under no obligation to service my specific requests, especially because my request are my own. I want a Star Wars game that is X. You may want a Star Wars game that is Y. Aunt Beth may want a Star Wars game that…well, actually, her ideas are probably stupid. We can ignore her.
But my point is this: getting a game that doesn’t line up with your specific wants does not ruin Star Wars. I may have rambled for paragraphs on end listing my fears and desires with this game, but going in with a laundry list of complaints will ultimately ruin the game for me and only me. I want to like the game—I really do! I want to have another way to love a franchise that is so near and dear to my heart.
We can have our complaints, but they need to form organically, not from a desire to bang our fists and stomp our feet. We need to be open-minded. We need to be fair. We need to be objective. It’s the Jedi way.
Alex Russo likes to talk about movies. You can read more of his insane ramblings on Twitter.