When meeting new people who like Star Wars, DICE’s Battlefront is a conversation topic that I actively try to avoid. Among fans my age, the discussion of the greatest Star Wars video game adaptations inevitably comes up, and I’m always asked the same, uncomfortable question that brings back a myriad of confusion, regret and embarrassment.
“You played the new Battlefront, right? What’d you think?” they routinely ask.
I start to sweat. How do I articulate how bad that game betrayed me without sounding pathetic? How do I admit how much I lied to myself and my friends, giving Battlefront as many chances as I did? And how do I tell them that after everything that game did to me, it still holds a semblance of power over me?
“It’s… complicated,” I tell them.
Rewind to two years ago. The first gameplay trailer for Star Wars Battlefront was released, and its claim that the footage being shown was produced entirely in-engine seemed almost unbelievable. It looked stunning, and my mind wandered with the possibilities of a new Battlefront on current-gen platforms. I wondered what the refined space battles might look like, and how robust the new Galactic Conquest would be. The sky was the limit, and Battlefront jumped to the top of my list of must-buy games that year.
But as more news came out about it in the coming months, the more red flags appeared that I would knowingly glance over.
“There may or may not be prequel stuff? That’s okay, I have faith they’ll add it later as DLC,” I’d tell myself. “There’s not a singleplayer campaign? Fine, I’m sure they’ll take that time to make the multiplayer even more refined.” “$50 Season Pass? Well, every game has a season pass now, I’m sure EA will load it up with all kinds of extra content.”
I swore up and down that this Battlefront wouldn’t end up being nearly as bad as some of my friends billed it to be. So on November 17, I dived in headfirst, and convinced myself how much fun I was having. I didn’t “hate” that all hero and vehicle pick-ups were awkward floating tokens; it meant that people didn’t camp at the base for vehicles. It was “no big deal” that there were only four maps, because the areas were gigantic. It didn’t matter that the gunplay was flat and that the star card system was weird, because… look at that snow!
But before long, it became hard to put aside everything I didn’t like about it. I couldn’t keep lying to myself that I was happy. So I just focused on what it actually did well: it was gorgeous, and… that was about it. Yet I still recommended it to friends, and staunchly defended it from criticism.
“They had to get it out before Episode VII, no wonder it’s short on content,” I’d tell people. “You get a good amount of modes too, and the simplistic combat is great for people new to multiplayer games.” I became a Battlefront apologist, and created excuses for a game that didn’t give a damn about me.
Yet behind closed doors, I became tired of using the same weapons that all felt alike on the same four maps over and over. EA never delivered on any of that fabled prequel content I had held onto hope for, and unlocking some new heads for my Stormtrooper was the most fulfilling progression I’d experienced. The final straw came when, out of all the iconic heroes from the Star Wars pantheon to include, DICE added fucking Nien Nunb as a playable hero. It was then that I put the disc in the very back of my CD case and came to terms that I’d never be going back.
Even after our messy separation, the game would still try to re-insert itself into my life. “STAR WARS BATTLEFRONT needs 58.9 GB of space,” my Xbox would habitually remind me. “Uninstall something and try again.” Yeah, right. Admittedly, I could have just deleted Battlefront from my hard drive altogether, yet I didn’t, presumably because I still clung to a naive hope that I’d come back once EA got their act together. But that day never came.
Roughly a year later, I’d heard EA was producing another Battlefront. “WOW good luck with that,” I told myself. “There’s no way in hell I’m getting fooled again.”
Then, Battlefront II made its gameplay debut at EA Play last June. Battlefront was back, and right up front it told me how sorry it was for how things went down, and promised that this time it’d make things right. It looked gorgeous, said all the right things, and even contained content from all three eras. All those repressed feelings came rushing back, and the memories of neglect and spite contended with the jubilant spectacle I was witnessing on stream.
Just last week, I participated in the Battlefront II beta, and to my dismay, I was actually having a ton of fun. I feel guilty for betraying my past self. I guess I have no one to blame but me for being so weak-willed.
So does that mean that I’ve fallen for it again? Even in spite of the recent news that all multiplayer progression in Battlefront II will be tied to random loot boxes? Am I this much of a sucker?
Truthfully, I don’t know what decision I’m going to make this November. Will I buy into the abusive, toxic cycle for the short-term thrills? Or will I gather the courage to stand up for myself and take a stand against predatory microtransactions? You’d think I ought to know by now.