The re-envisioned Star Wars: Battlefront was a good multiplayer game, but fans knocked it for no single-player campaign. EA and DICE said they learned from the missteps, promising the sequel would have one. But if you were expecting Star Wars Battlefront 2 to be a new take on the Rebel Alliance, think again. The new game will focus on the Imperial troops as heroes and the Rebels as terrorist insurgents. And you’ll be able to jump into the war on November 17.
Mark Thompson, game director at Motive Studios, said that his dev team began working on narrative for the game around the same time that The Force Awakens was in theaters. With all the movies, having dealt with the Rebellion as heroes, it wanted to turn the tables.
“We wanted to give the Empire heroes,” he said. “Who are the soldiers that lead the rank-and-file Stormtroopers? Who are the elite pilots that inspire kids to join the Imperial Academy? Focusing on Special Forces soldiers gave us a chance for a new hero.”
Motive, which is focusing on the game’s story while DICE focuses on multiplayer, came up with idea of placing the story right at the end of Return of the Jedi when Death Star 2 blows up. “We wanted to turn that victory into a loss,” Thompson said. “We wanted to look at the soldiers that were committed to their beliefs … who wanted to avenge their emperor.”
And that is how Iden, the commander of Inferno Squadron, was born. The goal was to create someone above the rank-and-file, with the swagger of an elite soldier that could do it all. “What we came up with was this new elite TIE fighter commando hybrid that was lethal in space or on the ground.” From infiltration to sabotage, with weapons or gadgets, Iden can do it all.
Of course, Motive needed to get approval from Disney and LucasFilm for this direction, which is part of the expanded canon of the Star Wars universe. “We wanted compelling narratives that have strong game play elements,” said Creative executive Steve Blank of LucasFilm. “We love Motive’s idea. They wanted to explore the Imperial perspective and we had never done that before.” And with Iden, Blank said that the concept worked perfectly with the new viewpoint.
Of course, building Iden will be a challenge, given that everything has previously focused on the Rebellion. But Thompson and Blank agree that the story makes Iden heroic, even though she comes from a different political philosophy than has been explored in the past. She is not only respected by the Empire, but relatable by the citizenry, Blank said. At the same time, when Rebels hear she is in the air or on the ground, they are fearful and looking over their shoulders.
Motive and LucasFilm also wanted players to be able to relate to Iden as well. So they created a new world, designed to be an Imperial Utopia, and one that Iden calls home. Vardos will be entirely new from the ground up, where the populace grows up thinking the Empire is good.
“We wanted familiar locations, but also a place that was new at the same time,” Thompson said. “World building is exciting, but intimidating. We are leaving a footprint in the Star Wars universe.”
Blank said LucasFilm was also happy with the addition. “We really want people to explore it.”
While players will get to play Iden during the bulk of the single-player campaign, there will still be opportunities to become one of the iconic heroes that fans are familiar with. The game will let players see the inside of Imperial and Rebellion ships using a mechanic that will allow a switch from an Imperial perspective to a Rebellion one, without seeming contrived. “There will even be one mission where you get to play as Luke Skywalker,” Thompson said.
As for multiplayer, DICE wanted to be able to span all eras, so characters such as Darth Maul and Yoda will join Rey and Kylo Ren - as seen in the trailer - will be playable in the fights. “The blaster, ship, family, faith, friends … all are part of the heroes journey,” said Bernd Diemer, creative director at DICE. “We made the heroes more physical, and given them careers so you can actually make them more powerful with new abilities that let you personalize your play style.”
But the key to matches will still be the troopers and their different classes. “But we wanted to also explore how a lowly trooper can become a hero in a match … the guy who turns the battle at the last second. What are the tools we need to give you to make that possibility a reality?”
Each class will have a different “authentic” look, based on the planet they were on. Upgrades that are added will also look different based on location.
And Criterion is back working on the vehicles. There will be space battles, something the community has asked for, but the team is working to make the battles “meaningful,” and not just thrown in. Since players will be assuming the role of an elite TIE pilot, it is imperative that controls are easy to use and players get a feeling of real speed. “We plan on treating the ships the same way we treat the troopers and heroes,” Diemer said, adding that there will be plenty more ships and vehicles this time around. There will also be hero ships, like the Millennium Falcon.
“Not a single weapon or outfit will be in the game that the team hasn’t discussed in depth,” Diemer said. “Details must be good and every pixel is important. We geek out a lot.”
“It will feel like Star Wars,” Blank said. “It will be Star Wars.”
The game will be coming on November 17, although no platforms were mentioned other than the obvious PlayStation logo in the trailer. Diemer said that there will be Early Access for some, but didn’t offer details. That could mean through a beta, or more likely through EA or Origin Access membership, meaning that members would get a week or two jump on everyone else. We can likely expect more at EA Play around E3.
“We are looking forward to the ability to convert everyone to the Dark Side,” Thompson said.