It’s no secret that a lot of people have a lot of love for the Star Wars franchise (in fact I’ve riffed, optimistically, on the subject), and so from the word go, developer DICE had their work cut out for them.
The benefit of this is that there is a very level playing field whenever you jump into a game: other players may have better Star Card unlocks, or equipped buffs known as Traits - which give bonuses for consistent performance at higher levels - but largely you know what you’re letting yourself in for.
...It’s obvious the folks at DICE are big fans of the series
As soon as you jump into the world that Star Wars feeling hits you like a trusty blaster-butt to the face. The sound effects and music fit down to a T, and every level is visually stunning - particularly the lush forest areas of Endor. There’s plenty of detail in the levels as well, with references to specific moments in the films dotted about, so much so that you’ll occasionally find yourself stopping mid-battle to explore. It’s obvious the folks at DICE are big fans of the series and their dedication to the source material pays dividends.
The maps themselves span four different planets, all with a different visual style and feel to them. Some maps work more than others - such is the case in pretty much any game’s multiplayer mode - but there are definitely more hits than misses. There’s also more to come, of course, with The Battle of Jakuu DLC free to all players from December, the promise of more free DLC and an extensive season pass. Since that’s all still to come though, it unfortunately doesn’t earn the release game any points.
Gameplay is straightforward and responsive, feeling particularly easy to pick up for those familiar with the Battlefield series, for which DICE and EA are also responsible. The majority of time in most modes is spent on foot as ground infantry, fighting for either the Rebel Alliance or the Empire.
While the modes do offer variety, even the objective-based modes often descend into a chaotically messy death match at times. The stand outs are probably Heroes vs Villains - which pits two teams of six against each other with three heroes (or villains, obviously) on each team as you race to win five rounds - and Fighter Squadron - which may take place in-atmosphere rather than out in the far reaches of space, but gives a great opportunity to relive your Rogue Squadron memories in some of the franchise’s most memorable craft.
Vehicle controls take some getting used to, and finding the balance in modes like Walker Assault (which re-enacts battles like the Empire’s attack on the Rebel base on Hoth) can’t have been easy. All the modes, vehicles, heroes/villains and power-ups blend together in a most balanced fashion to create a lot of gameplay variety and replayability.
Being an online-only game, a lot of the experience relies on the abilities of your teammates, and this can be a difficult thing to rely on in any game, let alone something as universally popular as Star Wars. Thankfully the tactics needed aren’t complex enough to need complicated communication (though some non-verbal commands would go a long way), and you’ll generally be partnered with one player, highlighted on your map, who you can use both to back you up and as a mobile spawn point (think Battlefield’s Squad system).
DICE faced an impossible challenge with this game, and the end result is something which may not surpass everyone’s expectations, but at least delivers a good experience with what it ships in the box. Whether it’s justified to expect so much more money for a season pass worth of content post-release is too hard to call before we’ve seen anything from it.
There’s no denying there is fun to be had here, with locations, characters and more that will bring a smile to the face of anyone who has love for the original trilogy. While there might be less love for the newer films, it’s a shame not to see some of the war machines and locations from the prequel trilogy realised here - even if they opted to leave out some of its less endearing characters… (They had to hold that back for the sequel - Ed.)
It might not offer the depth of Battlefield or any meaningful single-player campaign, but what the game does offer is well put together and makes a strong impression, it’s just a shame there isn’t more to go around. Even if you aren’t an established series fan, the tight gameplay, gorgeous visuals and sumptuous audio make the experience strong enough to stand on its own two feet.
With Star Wars-mania arguably at an all time high, it was clearly the right time to release this game, but you can’t help but feel like if it had been delayed six months we would all had a three course meal instead of a tasty starter and a minimalist main.