When George Lucas signed the first Star Wars contracts, he did so with foresight. Fox got the box office, Lucas got the multi-billion dollar, long-lasting tail end – the merchandising. People bought Star Wars everything. They continue to do so. Battlefront II then is the ultimate Star Wars videogame, representing, in totality, the business side of the property. This isn’t about action figures, but cards. Those cards boost in-game skills, even the Jedi’s. Midichlorians were bad, and microtransactions worse still. EA found a way to sell midichlorians and consumers will find a way to buy them as soon as EA implements them (as of this writing, the pay-to-win methodology is on temporary hold).
Battlefront II also adores the Star Wars spectacle. It uses Star Wars for its kinetic space conflicts and expansive ground wars. Starfighter Assault, with a deluge of X-Wings, Tie Fighters, Star Destroyers, and others, deserves high praise. Even at their best, Rogue Squadrons couldn’t capture the grandiosity of this space-based action. The streaking lasers, the intensity of dodging asteroids, the satisfaction of watching the Empire fall; it’s sensational. In terms of action, Star Wars in interactive form reaches a peak in Starfighter Assault. Ground battles, in comparison, with various online forms, wreak of randomness. It’s not the choreographed ballet of flight in space.
Through the eyes of the Galactic Empire’s Iden Versio, the rebel forces of Battlefront II induce fear. The mainline Star Wars saga dealt in hate; Versio’s perspective, on the ground in a post-Return of the Jedi saga, deals with the impact of propaganda. She believes in her cause – she’s not directly sinister, but a victim of ideology. It’s not difficult to imagine propaganda posters, rebels drawn as rabid murderers stabbing Stormtroopers.
Coming to an understanding toward the Empire’s evil, Versio tells her squadmate, “As a boy on Coruscant, you were afraid of the wrong thing.” She realizes her mistake and gives all to the rebel cause. Versio’s transformation from all-black clad trooper to freedom fighter is a natural character arc, albeit woefully truncated. Battlefront II skims this tale, blundering and forcing cameos by a bearded Han Solo and an unusually spry Lando Calrissian. Only Luke Skywalker feels natural, quietly pacifying (in the most Jedi of ways) an Empire soldier. More of Luke’s philosophizing and Battlefront II might come alive. It’s otherwise a plain shooting gallery, emptying to an almost indifferent tale of changing belief systems.
The space battles though, those make it worthwhile.