Ah, Battlefront. Never was there a tale of more woe than that of EA’s backfiring blunder of a game release. But complaining about loot boxes is so 2017 and we’re nearly May-deep into 2018. So here we are with DICE having fought a long and hard battle to get the game to a point of acceptance among fans, and with this update they’ve certainly covered that ground. The spectre of the loot box controversy has been exorcised and in its place is a brand new game mode called ‘Ewok Hunt’, as well as a whopping 50 new cosmetic customisations for your troops and heroes.
But before we delve into these, let’s focus on what we’re all here for. Ewok Hunt.
This is by and far one of the most creative and unexpected choices for DICE to make. And it bloody well works. Approximately 128% of Battlefront II is wish fulfilment and fan service but this feels like the first time DICE decided to satisfy an urge we never knew we had; Star Wars horror-survival.
In many ways Ewok Hunt is very much like the titular teddies themselves.
Short, deceptively brutal and oddly creative with limited tools at its disposal. The premise behind it is fairly straight-forward: A group of Stormtroopers, having survived the Death Star’s destruction, must simply survive long enough to reach an extraction shuttle.
As Ewoks it’s even simpler: Kill the plastic bastards who built an ugly satellite dish in your back garden. But here’s the twist; any trooper killed respawns as another Ewok resulting in a gradually larger pack (Tribe? Mob? Cuddle?) of Ewoks bearing down on a shrinking group of survivors. That wildly unbalanced design is a great shake up but is balanced somewhat by the Stormtroopers’ better weaponry and a few defensible positions. But the developers of this new mode really went to town on making this into a survival spinoff, bordering on a strange horror variation of Star Wars. It’s not entirely unwelcome, just unexpected.
This tonal shift is achieved primarily by turning the lighting way down on the Endor map from 2015’s Battlefront. As a Stormtrooper, your vision is not only limited to a first-person view, but its also restricted to the narrow beam from the flashlight of your gun. This offers just enough visibility to see directly in front of you but everything to your sides and behind you is almost indecipherable. Endor is the perfect locale for this reimagined style with a very irregular landscape that’s hard to figure out in the inky darkness. With all your focus so tightly trained on any movement, small motions like a slight wave of a tree branch or a billowing spider web start looking like threats and you’ll need to actively combat an itchy trigger finger to not give away your hiding place.
But I’d be remiss not to mention how well the audio serves as a tool for survival as well. One of the Ewok’s abilities is ‘Valiant Horn’ which sees the fluffy man hunter toot his horn for a buff to its abilities. But as players usually use this moments before an attack, it acts as a beacon drawing other Ewok players to the sounds of the fight, but also scares you sithless as a Stormtrooper. That chipper little sound tells you you’re about to get ganked by a teddy bear’s lynch mob.
Ewoks are restricted to spear jabs, night-vision and sling-loaded wisties (yes, the fairy things from Caravan of Courage) so they have to use all manner of sneaking and surprise attacks to take down a trooper.
One slight downside to the level design is that it’s not an original one. The map they’ve utilised for this new mode, is in fact one featured as part of the Supremacy and Walker Assault modes in 2015. This wouldn’t be the first time assets have been recycled from Battlefront either as the Bespin map added not long ago was also an older level. While I can see DICE is eager to offer up more content as quickly as possible to placate angry fans, it’s a shame that the corner-cutting can be seen so readily. However, fans should relish this limited opportunity. This is a great chance to play a leftfield Star Wars experience that rightfully displays Ewoks as the ruthless, lidless, glassy-eyed, monsters of Endor.
Arriving alongside this new mode are the new aesthetic unlocks too.
These purely cosmetic additions to the game are earned with either the premium ‘crystals’ currency or with the credits earned in-game. Arguably, this update has opened up a small avenue for EA to enact its plans of wallet domination. But, as has always been the case, this is a purely optional choice and you can readily earn the credits required for a new look, just by being good at the game (imagine that crazy concept). Or if you’re playing against me, then by cheating (definitely-cheating) because you’re all definitely cheating.
But what makes up these 50 new options? Well, there’s quite a spectrum of choice both in terms of value for your creds and also in originality. Troop customizations for your average heavy, specialist, assault and officer joes are largely a series of alien heads. These are popped onto the existing torsos but there’s also some new human faces too, representing a more diverse galaxy. But if some of these faces look familiar there’s a reason why.
They’re from Star Wars Battlefront circa 2015.
The new unlockable faces are all ported across from three years ago, and it feels like a measure that really should have been in place from the very start. Even with the more exotic alien options there’s a sense that they’ve just been lurking as files in a folder, considering they feature heavily in the campaign. These assets have been baked into the game design from the start but are only just now being made available to us. So why have DICE dragged their feet making them playable? Possibly because of the work needed to put the game’s economisation into a U-turn but hey-ho, they’re here now.
The options that really shine however are the Hero and Villain options, though far more of the former than the latter. Some of the better arrivals are environment specific costumes for Han, Leia and Rey but there remains some almost unnoticeable ones. A bandage on Chewie’s arm is intended to hark back to Force Awakens and the addition of Kylo’s facial scar updates his model to Last Jedi events. But such small details don’t really stand out on larger maps and it feels a little unimaginative to slap a band-aid on everyone’s favourite Wookie and then announce it as a new skin. Yoda’s hood-with-ear-holes has always seemed odd to me but for some reason that’s an option that got past the focus groups. Really, I’d have loved for some bolder choices like a topless and inked-up Maul or Vader with a battle-damaged suit. With DICE’s disregard for heroes non-canonically hopping around the wrong timelines, I feel safe in asking for a Senator Palpatine skin for Darth Sidious. He IS the Senate after all.
Regardless, it’s nice to see the game grow or at least regrow missing areas. Continual content updates like this are the one thing that keeps me coming back to this game though many have written it off. But I desperately want to see more from this title. New story chapters; new characters, skins and new playable modes. I’ll sign in for them all. The fact that even the singular alien heads are all numbered might even indicate an intention to expand the list further.
Though frankly I don’t know how many ways you can style a Weequay.