By Triality Lens
“She’s an old-time ambassador of sweet-talking, night-walking games,
And she’s known in the darkest clubs for pushing ahead of the dames.
If she says she can do it, then she can do it, she don’t make false claims.
But she’s a queen and such are queens that your laughter is sucked in their brains.”
— Queen Bitch (David Bowie)
Ever since I was a small child I wanted to pilot a TIE Fighter. I know that makes me a bad person, but it’s true. There is something magical about a slow-motion dogfight between an X-Wing and a TIE Fighter. They remind me of archived WW2 aerial combat footage I’ve seen on TV. I don’t have to be a crackerjack sim pilot just to get a TIE Fighter off the ground. Like modern consumer drones, they practically fly themselves.
When I had an opportunity to pre-order Star Wars Battlefront 2 I jumped at the chance. I won’t lie. I was mostly interested in the single-player campaign and still am. You should read elsewhere if you want to learn about the multiplayer portions of the game. I may get to them eventually, but they were never my focus.
Similarly, I’m not going to focus on the controversy between the players and EA or anything related to star cards, accusations of gambling or loot crates. Nor will I dissect the last minute, ‘temporary’ reversal by EA about them. I am interested in interactive entertainment, specifically – “movies” I can experience directly as a crucial participant in the story as it unfolds –on screen. The single-player campaign in Star Wars Battlefront more than qualifies, but there is a caveat.
The campaign begins with the capture of Imperial special forces Commander Iden Versio by rebel alliance forces. Versio is a capably murderous commander. She is lightly interrogated by rebel forces and left to her own devices in her cell. It doesn’t take long to free herself, with the help of her ID-10 seeker droid, which is the first playable character in the single-player campaign.
Your basic moves involve shocking rebel forces to death and slicing doors and computer terminals. Once the lockdown on Versio’s cell is lifted by the droid, the game switches perspective to Versio herself. A combination of stealthy takedowns and careful blaster shots moves the story forward and we find out why she has allowed herself to be captured in the first place. It’s a setup to recover a coded message intercepted by the rebellion that would tip them off to the empire’s planned ambush of rebel forces over Endor.
I found the first mission doable on the games highest difficulty setting. As a Star Wars the Old Republic player, the game is less frustrating on the normal difficulty mode, especially during the lightsaber sequences as the game’s perspective shifts to Luke Skywalker on the planet Pillio. It is during this mission that the single-player game’s shortcomings begin to stand out. Why does Del go alone to Pillio while Versio and Hask stay behind on the Corvus? Does Del confide in Versio that he didn’t destroy the observatory on Pillio, or that he worked with a famous Jedi to reach it in the first place?
There is nothing wrong with the overall story arc of Battlefront 2’s single-player campaign, but it feels rushed and is unfinished. Several interesting plot elements are introduced and then ignored altogether. The arrival of the Emperor’s messenger early on foreshadows Admiral Garrick Versio’s fall to madness and is never seen again. It feels like a set piece; a cool idea a concept artist came up with that is shoehorned in to provide a wisp of continuity between the battle of Endor and the rise of the New Older.
Worse yet, the arrival of the messenger and the Admiral’s fall to cartoon supervillainy is only the most glaring problem with the game’s single-player story. The Sith Empire of SWTOR is written to showcase both sides of the Empire: the rage for order in the galaxy embodied by Darth Marr and Darth Malgus stand in stark contrast to the goofy mustache twirling of Barras or the Dread Masters. Star Wars Battlefront 2 is all mustache and zero nuance.
I get it. Star Wars is – at its heart – a cowboy story about old-fashioned libertarian values and a refutation of central authority and control, but there is something to be said about the need for order in the galaxy. The contrast between the corruption of the galactic senate and the stagnation of the republic is vital to the tale of the rebirth of the empire under Palpatine. It isn’t explored here either. Cowboys = good, empire = evil.
Most of the criticism of the single-player campaign is warranted. It really does play like a tour of the various multiplayer maps with the thinnest thread of story tacked-on. The heavy hand of reveal concerning Rey’s parents in the final chapters comes across as an obvious misdirection at best or a blatant manipulation of player emotion — at worse.
The real question is: should you care?
If you are looking for a Star Wars RPG set in the current movie storyline, this isn’t it. The story is completely linear and utterly lacking in meaningful choice. To be fair, the single-player campaign never billed itself as a roleplaying game, but the potential is there. Judging by the game’s miserable reception, which is entirely the fault of the suits, by the way, there is little reason to hope that a modern era Star Wars single-player game of any depth will ever be built, which is too bad, honestly.
For Star Wars fans hungry for a single-player movie they can play through in first-person, this is cold rations. Worth a look for the truly devoted, to be certain, especially for the canon elements, but probably not at this price point. If your game device of choice is a PS4, rent it for the long weekend. If you play as I do – on PC – wait until the inevitable price drop.