Star Wars: Battlefront II is coming to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC on November 17. A small taste of what this sequel has to offer leaked in a teaser trailer last week, but the extent of just how big the game is was revealed today at this year's Star Wars Celebration. Electronic Arts has heard the demands of fans and is turning Battlefront II into a robust experience that spans both single and multiplayer.
Star Wars is at its best when it focuses on a group of unlikely heroes coming together to save the day. Luke meeting Leia, Rey finding Finn – their stories intertwine and become one, like the Force. Electronic Arts knows the heart of Star Wars is an ensemble story, but has no intention of shining the spotlight on the heroes of the Rebellion again. Star Wars Battlefront II features a single-player campaign that is told from the perspective of the Empire.
"We want you to feel like an elite Imperial," says Mark Thompson, game director at Motive Studios. The first character we will get to know is Iden Versio, a middle-aged female soldier in a military group called Inferno Squad. Iden was on Endor when the second Death Star was destroyed, and the Emperor was killed. She has vowed to avenge the Emperor and keep his war going. Inferno Squad is a never-before-seen branch of the Imperial army, comprised of elite pilots, sharpshooters, and commandos capable of handling most assignments including sabotage and infiltration. Iden is obviously a versatile character for the gameplay, being able to shift from intense firefights to aerial combat over a city or in space.
The story picks up right after the Empire’s defeat and will shed some light on what happened between the destruction of the Death Star and the creation of Starkiller Base. The intent isn’t to deliver the feeling of “I’m playing as the bad guys.” This story is taking the somewhat controversial angle of the Empire having heroes of its own, and people who live in Imperial controlled cities seeing the Empire as the purveyors of peace and the Rebellion as the terrorists trying to disrupt it.
Players will get to see just how citizens of the Empire live on a new planet called Vardos. In a piece of concept art shown at the game’s unveiling at Star Wars Celebration, Vardos retains the Empire’s sterile colors. The image showed a huge enclosed habitat, consisting of people walking on a path, and a subway racing along the ceiling. The architecture was mostly ridged, with sharp corners and despite it being a vast area, a suffocating feeling hangs over it. The colors are mostly grey, but red banners with the imperial insignia give it a hint of life. Trees with similarly colored red leaves are scattered everywhere. Blasts of lightning can subtly be seen outside of the windows.
Although the Emperor is dead, he will be a key player in this story. In Lucasfilm’s expanded novels and comic books, the Emperor created a contingency plan that would allow his vision and beliefs to carry forward even after his death. He created prerecorded messages that are inserted into Sentinel droids outfitted in red Royal Guard-like cloaks, and a smooth, black faceplate that displays a hologram of the Emperor’s face. Iden will come in contact with this robotic deity, but we don’t know exactly how he factors into the conflict at hand.
The ensemble around Iden remains a mystery for now, but we do know she is the daughter of an Imperial admiral, and has a companion with her at all times; a little droid you may not even know is there. “The Empire is known for its technological prowess and flexes its might through weapons and gadgets,” Thompson clarifies. “For a special-forces [soldier], it seems like a good fit to have a seeker-style droid.”
This helper, which rests on Iden’s back and can detach to take flight, is inspired by the ID9 droid from Star Wars Rebels. In a brief, behind-the-scenes look at the development of Battlefront II, we see the droid fly in front of Iden to create a red energy shield. “He can also electrocute enemies,” Thompson adds. “He’ll also be customizable with other powers, but I don’t want to talk about that right now.”
We also know Inferno Squad uses a ship called the Corvus. At first glance this mid-sized vessel looks like an amalgamation of a Star Destroyer and TIE Fighter – triangularly shaped, with black wings tucked around its hull. Fans of Fantasy Flight’s beloved Star Wars miniatures game likely know of this ship class. Electronic Arts is bringing the Raider class that debuted in that game out of the expanded universe graveyard and back into the current Star Wars continuity.
Iden is the main character in this story, but she isn’t the only perspective players will see it unfold from. Throughout the narrative, control will occasionally switch to a hero of the Rebellion. One such moment gives players control of Luke Skywalker. We don’t know how significant these sequences are, but they will give the campaign variety, and show on a more intimate level how the Rebels are sewn into the story.
Lucasfilm views Battlefront II’s campaign as an authentic story that fits in with the films, and other expanded stories like Aftermath, and is working closely with Electronic Arts development armada to nail every little detail.
Battlefront II’s development spans four different studios: DICE handling multiplayer, Motive Studios and Lucasfilm on the single-player and story, and Criterion Games is creating the vehicular play. DICE’s Bernd Diemer was quick to state Battlefront II is the biggest project he’s worked on.
The multiplayer component spans every generation of Star Wars, and in a way is a celebration of Star Wars celebrating its 40th anniversary this year, from the prequels up to The Last Jedi. While DICE’s focus is once again on recreating the look and feel of the films and characters, the multiplayer experience will be quite different in this sequel.
DICE wants every player, whether they are a standard trooper or someone like Darth Maul or Rey, to feel like a hero and have the ability to turn the tide of a battle. “Luke didn’t start out as a powerful hero. He was a farm boy,” says Diemer. “He went on that hero's journey.” That’s something DICE wants players to experience in Battlefront II.
Heroes are still a large part of multiplayer, but how you use them is quite different. DICE wanted them to be available to more players, so there will no longer be a mad dash across the battlefield to grab hero or vehicle tokens. DICE wouldn’t specify exactly how hero instances are initiated, but did say it is tied to a resource-based system where if you do certain things, you’ll unlock the ability to change into a hero. Diemer said there’s something else you can control using resources, but didn’t want to reveal it yet.
"We made [the heroes] more physical, so they have more presence in the game,” Diemer says. You can’t do Darth Maul without him being able to kick ass. We also gave them a career, so they can become better heroes, and you can unlock different abilities.”
Rey, Kylo Ren, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Darth Maul, and Yoda are just a handful of the heroes that are a part of this experience. DICE is also adding classes back in, so you can play the style you want, ranging from light to heavy types. You can also play as droids, such as the Trade Federation’s chatty battle droids. All of the character types will be themed to their appropriate eras, so you won’t see First Order storm troopers in the Battle of Hoth.
Space battles are a part of the multiplayer experience, and each vehicle is being treated like a character, meaning it offers a career with upgrades earned through play. The vehicles teased were X-Wings, TIE Fighters, Boba Fett’s Slave One, Han Solo’s Millennium Falcon (with the new radar dish), and Obi-Wan’s Jedi Starfighter.
No multiplayer modes were discussed, nor was any actual gameplay shown. The trailer is comprised entirely of content from within the game, but we didn't see anything from the first-person perspective.
DICE's first Battlefront game was criticized for not offering enough content; where the first Battlefront felt like the illusion of a small moonbase, Battlefront II appears to be the huge, fully functional space station people wanted. The multiplayer spans every era, has space battles, career paths, and more. The campaign gives us a different take on the Star Wars saga and is considered canon. We'll have to see how all of these parts turn out in the end, but it sounds mighty impressive at this point.