There’s a classic song by Stephen Stills that says, “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with”. I’m certain that when he penned the lyrics in 1970, Mr. Stills wasn’t thinking about video games. Regardless, I like to believe we’ve all had those games over the years: games that were average to most people and maybe not worth their attention, games that didn’t receive significant critical acclaim or maybe even retail success. The industry collects only a handful of major releases every year that will be remembered for decades, and most games simply slip through the cracks. Nevertheless, some of these games have held a special place in my memory. For whatever reason, there are a number of titles I’ve played at great length whether they deserved it or not. I wanted to start with a relatively recent release for this series.
Star Wars Battlefront released on November 17th, 2015. In it’s roughly 14 months of existence, I believe it has been a fairly successful product for EA’s earnings, but it never really received major praise from critics or the more vocal users around the Internet. In fact, the launch window was rough. Initially, the game was plagued with many balance issues and what most considered to be a significant lack of content. For many, it was far too little to justify the $59 USD price tag. That full-retail price gave you a copy of a multiplayer-only skirmish game with a handful of maps, modes, and characters. Certainly, there were opportunities to unlock neat character skins and weapons, but that was hardly enough to convince most buyers to spend the time or money.
Within a few months of launch, developers finally began making headway against the many exploits and issues Battlefront had. As an example, originally AMD users on PC couldn’t even play certain levels above the “High” graphics settings as the ice caves and plains of Hoth would render as empty space. These poor players might wander about and hope and try, but they’d be nothing more than cannon fodder because they couldn’t see anything in the game world. Likewise, any player attemptng to use anything outside of the established Jetpack + Homing Launcher + DL44 combination would find themselves defeated time and time again. Finally compromising and using what everyone else was using to win was just as bad as you’d be insulted and harassed for exploiting an obvious balance flaw.
Thankfully, all of this was later rectified. Even the nearly-invulnerable A-Wing was eventually brought down to a manageable level, but this was long after the game’s release and past the point that much of the player base had lost all interest. As I’m writing this, there are 39,000 players online across all versions of Star Wars Battlefront while 57,000 gamers enjoy the older and now supplanted Battlefield 4.
None of this decline was for lack of trying on the creative teams’ part. Battlefront has some of the most true-to-source visuals and audio in any licensed game to date. Each of the maps still looks beautiful to this day and the character designs are as accurate as could be hoped for. The game, for me at least, remains a lot of fun to play. For some reason, this title more than any other I’ve played in the last year has generated almost constant moments of wonder and amazement as things that are nearly impossible seem to happen with regularity.
Since it’s release, the game has seen 4 DLC packs with a considerable amount of content. I originally purchased the base title on PC in December of 2016. I played it occasionally but consistently for many months. Just a month ago, I noticed the Xbox One version with the Season Pass available for a tidy $30 USD. After watching all of the new content being added for nearly a year, I broke and bought a whole new copy with all the fat. While the base game was an enjoyable time, the addition of the Death Star trench run and even the Tatooine and Bespin content is fun to see. I enjoy seeing and hearing the new heroes like the charismatic Lando Calrissian or even the hissing, evil whispers and screams of Bossk. While I have yet to see the movie (I’m sorry, I’ll get to it eventually!), I’ve also really enjoyed the new heroes from Rogue One as well as the new location and game type.
For me, Battlefront has also proven to be a very enjoyable social game. Whether it’s friends or family, it’s always a satisfying time to drop into split-screen and spend an afternoon blowing up AT-ATs or defeating the greatest heroes and villains of the Star Wars galaxy. It is unfortunate that a more robust AI skirmish mode has yet to be implemented. I know this has been one of the most-bemoaned absences, but that doesn’t mean what remains isn’t worth the ticket price. At least to me
Understanding that this is a game which has generated a fair share of revenue, I still believe it is mostly perceived as a failure by the “hardcore” community. I think there are a lot of reasons why it never gained the attention it might have, and I agree that some of these issues should have been accounted for before launch. It’s true the gameplay is simpler in many ways than something like Battlefield, and it’s also true that the content on offer is lighter than even what you would find with a typical Call of Duty game. The “Deluxe Edition” came across as a bit of a cash grab, and, at least initially, there was no indication that the Season Pass would end up being worth the price.
Worse still, the PC version of the game has become a hive for hackers and the most obvious cheaters you’ll ever encounter. Despite all of that, I still play it by myself and with family regularly. Well, I play the console version, anyway. I’m still working on reaching the highest level on both platforms and slowly unlocking “Hutt Contracts” and new equipment and gear. In fact, I even bothered playing through the mobile tie-in game just for the extra unlocks.
Sometimes a game is more than the sum of its parts. Sometimes I believe there is room and value in stepping back and simply appreciating an experience for what it is even if it’s not “the best” according to others. Perhaps Star Wars Battlefront has not had the same affect on you that it has on me, but I’d wager you might have a similar gaming memory to share of a title that kept you longer than expected.