Despite stellar gameplay and unbelievable attention to even the smallest details, Electronic Arts managed to completely botch the launch of Battlefront II back in November thanks to a baffling progression system driven by absurd microtransactions.
How did no one speak up in the prelaunch meetings and say “Uh, guys, I think we are going to royally piss some people off. Actually, I think we are going to piss everyone off.” Because that’s exactly what happened. The game launched to mostly mediocre reviews and horrendous word of mouth from die-hard Star Wars fans thanks to the 4,000 hours or $2,100 required to unlock all the in-game content.
Jump to hyperspace six months later and EA has finally addressed the microtransaction fueled progression problem. But does it fix the broken system and bring peace to the Galaxy? 5 in 5 host Connor Christiansen and Toy Editor David Hildebrand jumped back in their X-Wings to let you know.
The most important question; is the progression nightmare fixed?
Connor: For the most part, yes. There’s weight to my actions on the battlefield for the first time since the game’s tumultuous launch. I always found the game a blast and I have been playing consistently since November just for the joy of waging war in a detailed Star Wars playground, but I feel less like I am endlessly grinding just for a chance at some game-changing star cards and more like my sporadic killstreaks are actually accumulating in a worthwhile reward. Characters that should’ve been available at launch are now playable without having to unload an ungodly amount of credits which makes a huge difference on my enjoyment of the game. I FINALLY GOT TO PLAY AS DARTH VADER!! I play a lot, but I am pretty terrible so I rarely get to play as a hero, let alone amass enough credits to unlock the ultimate Sith Lord. It’s such an insult to both gamers and Star Wars fans that one of western literature’s most iconic villains was buried underneath a cataclysm of microtransaction bantha fodder. Simply put, the progression system now provides for actual progression, rather than a faulty lottery system that EA tried oh-so-hard to convince players wasn’t a lottery system.
David: The answer is yes. For the first time since the end of December I turned on Battlefront II to be greeted with all kinds of goodies. I only had a couple of characters unlocked and now everyone is unlocked! This is what EA should have done from the beginning. I was willing to overlook what EA had done because things were achievable, you just had to play a lot of the game. Well, a few weeks after my review, I was getting bored with grind. I also began to look at the bigger picture. This is Star Wars. Why the hell do I have to play X number of hours to play as Luke Skywalker? Why does Connor, who just wants to play as Darth Vader, have to grind to play as his favorite villain, especially when, as he said, he isn’t that good? We all want to play as our favorite heroes and EA made it a chore to do so. Yes, as of today the game is more accessible, enjoyable, and what EA’s greedy ass should have done from the start.
How noticeable is the new progression system? Are the now gameplay-earned goals clear? How can you track your progress?
David: Progressing your class seems a bit easier – you know when you level up and what you have unlocked. I leveled up my Assault class two levels in one match. I was shocked. I was also notified that I unlocked two multiplayer challenges. This is another feature that would have been nice to have at the beginning. After the match, I can look at my personal progress, as well as the challenges I need to complete. I do have an issue with getting those little yellow corners unlit on the respective characters/classes. You know what I’m talking about. You get a new emote or victory pose and you have to physically click on it to prove to the game you saw what you earned. Well, with everything unlocked now, there was yellow lit on everyone. And even as a clicked on the new items I opened, some remained yellow.
Connor: I’ll echo what David said here, in that it is pretty noticeable. I love being notified when I’ve reached a new milestone for either a specific class or a weapon I am using. There’s no more guessing whether or not you’ve unlocked a new stock for your CR-2 or a dual telescopic sight for your A280, you immediately get a glowing banner across your screen that notifies you of the milestone you’ve reached. With just about every online shooter having some form of notifying players of their accomplishments, it’s mind-blowing that EA took this long to add it to their game. Thank god David brought up the yellow corners in the menu screens because they’re unbelievably annoying. I can’t stand having unread notifications and eliminating the yellow box corners takes up a grueling amount of time. I guess I understand, because you’re still not notified of what specific star card you’re unlocked – the only way to see the card you’ve unlocked is to dig through menus.
How does the new progression affect gameplay? Is it noticeably more satisfying when you level up or gain a new weapon mod?
Connor: If you didn’t like the gameplay before, this patch isn’t going to change your mind, but who in their right mind didn’t enjoy the gameplay to begin with? The progression itself doesn’t have a massive impact on gameplay, other than offering more concrete rewards for great play. There’s a much more noticeable sense of accomplishment when you reach a milestone on a specific class or weapon that was initially missing from the game. The simple positive reinforcement of a sleek banner glowing on-screen is enough to make me go “ooo go me!” The notifications of progress in-game have enticed me to switch classes and weapons on the fly more often so I can progress each at an even pace. Regardless, I am still a garbage player using anything but the assault and heavy class. One day I’ll be a decent sniper. One day.
David: I haven’t really noticed how the progression has affected the gameplay. I have unlocked what I wanted to unlock. So I use the weapons and cards for each class. I haven’t earned anything new yet that I want to change. So as of right now, I don’t have any pros or cons to the gameplay being improved.
Aside from the progression system, what else is in the patch that improves the gameplay?
David: I haven’t noticed anything changing due to the patch. Maybe it is because I haven’t played in three months. Wow, EA! I am a huge Star Wars fan, yet I didn’t feel like playing your game for three months! Instead, I have been playing that bug filled PUBG. It’s a shame when you would rather play a half-ass build of a game over a triple A title. I like the addition of the special events and the chance to unlock skins. It is something simple, but it got my attention long enough to earn my Hoth Leia.
Connor: Aside from the notification banners that flash across the screen, there’s still work to be done to improve the game. I understand EA’s reasoning behind making players play maps twice in a row, but it’s still redundant and frustrating, especially once you’ve been absolutely thrashed by the Clone Army on Kashyyk and you’ve got to go back to the Wookie homeworld for another awful go around. It seems weird to me that EA still didn’t tweak the matchmaking and map selection for such a big update, but I am hopeful it’s still on their list to fix. I am also absolutely sick of getting mowed down by auto-turrets, nothing is more annoying than jogging to a checkpoint and getting pelted by blasterfire from the endless stream of officer-deployed turrets. Also, it just leads to more officers being in action than actual troops, and that’s just logistically improbable, am I right?
Does the patch bring more balance to the force- I mean battlefield?
Connor: For long time players – not really. To quote the ever-so-wise David Hildebrand “too little, too late.” Everything that players unlocked through loot boxes are still applicable, so if you’ve already poured in hundreds of hours or spent real money to unlock as many loot boxes as possible you probably won’t notice the progression too much. If you’re a newbie or more casual player, the progression system makes for a much more balanced experience. You’ll still be well behind the curve, but you’ll find it to be a more fair system of unlocking new features. That being said, there’s still a staggering amount of time needed to unlock everything in the game, so if you’re a completionist you best set aside a lot of time.
David: I believe the changes improved Battlefront II a great deal. But I also believe that it is too little, too late. I can tell from talking with fellow gamers that most don’t even realize the patch changes so much and aren’t necessarily owed enough to go back yet.. As for me, I like that towards the end of the match I see a number of beloved heroes and villains fighting to the bitter end. This is how the game should have started out with. Then EA could have spent more time progressing other features of the game.
Let’s say the game launched with all these features – would it have changed your opinion?
David: Yes, my opinion would have changed. I would have loved to play as Darth Vader right out of the box. This is Star Wars, dammit! We want to play as our favorite characters! We don’t want to be forced to play as some cat running around with a sniper rifle for hours on end to decide if we want to open Chewbacca before we have to grind more hours to unlock Leia. It was stressful at the beginning, you had to really commit to your decision before unlocking your character. Now I can enjoy playing as every character! Even Connor can play as Darth Vader now. This is how it should have been from the start and I am glad the gamers stood up to EA and pretty much forced them to get their s--t straight. Let’s see if they can rebound off of this.
Connor: Without a doubt, but I also loved the game when it launched. The microtransaction driven progression was undeniably frustrating but didn’t sour the experience for me. The moment-to-moment gameplay was so satisfying that I was still hopping into an X-Wing above Endor or charging into the temples on Yavin at least twice a week. Launching with a more organized, rewarding progression alongside all the heroes and villains would’ve kept me playing much more often, but this patch has had me pumping in a couple of hours a day since it installed itself on my PS4 last Wednesday. Now I feel like the grinding is worth it, I know exactly what I am working towards and why. And on the rare occurrence I play well enough to deploy as a villain, there’s not much that’s more satisfying than ravaging across the battlefield as the most infamous Sith Lord.