Is Star Wars: Battlefront Better After All The DLC?

On release, Star Wars: Battlefront was big on spectacle but short on substance. With only a handful of maps, blasters that felt identical, and a distinctly lightweight feel to the combat, there was a sense that DICE’s Star Wars shooter had jetted off to meet its destiny before its training was complete.

Since then, DICE have launched both free and paid-for DLC that takes players from the wreckage strewn surface of The Force Awakens’ Jakku, to the gunmetal corridors of the Death Star itself. But do the free updates make any fundamental improvements to Battlefront, and is it worth essentially paying for Battlefront all over again to access the Season Pass?

So far, DICE has released three paid-for DLC packs, themed around Star Wars’ Outer Rim, Bespin, and the Death Star respectively (a fourth is planned with maps and content framed around the upcoming Rogue One film). Of these, the Death Star expansion is by far the most ambitious. Headlining this expansion is Battle Station, a new mode that focuses on the Rebel Alliance’s attempt to destroy the Death Star in the original film. Rebel players must fight through a blockade of Star Destroyers before infiltrating the space station itself in an attempt to rescue R2D2 (I don’t know why R2D2 is alone on the Death Star. Maybe there’s a deleted scene where Luke & co leave him behind). Finally, the rebels embark upon the “trench-run” sequence of the original film.

The Imperials simply must stop these things from happening, the spoilsports.

In theory, Death Star is precisely what everyone wanted from Battlefront originally. In practice, things are a little more complicated. The initial Star Destroyer engagement is a far better fit for Battlefront’s aerial combat than the terrestrial maps, as you aren’t constantly worrying about piling into the ground like a big space dart, (although asteroids and the Star Destroyer itself mean there are plenty of other obstacles to keep you on your toes). It helps that the flight controls actually work on PC now. And while it hardly rivals the classic Star Wars flight sims, with a full group of players it is surprisingly challenging. I was getting shot out of the sky like an obese duck until I learned to weave and roll and use what little cover is available to shake off pursuers and evade their target-locking systems.

The on-foot section is straightforward team-deathmatch fun, although the Death Star’s flat, crisscrossing corridors don’t make for the greatest multiplayer arena. As for the trench run itself, it brought a great big smile to my face, but I did find it quite confusing while playing as the rebels. You’re supposed to protect small groups of players as they’re randomly selected to run the trench, but it’s very difficult to keep track of their location, even though they’re highlighted on screen.

Battle Station’s main drawback is that it’s not cohesive. It’s three multiplayer maps stitched roughly together into one longer match. For the idea to be truly effective, it needs to be a single, seamless experience, with rebels landing on the Death-Star manually before climbing out of their ship in order to fight on foot. It’s silly how much difference the act of getting into and out of vehicles makes in a game like this. But as Battlefront’s more down-to-earth sibling Battlefield shows, it absolutely does.

While the Death Star DLC is not quite fully armed and operational, Bespin provides a much better refuge for players looking for a little extra. It includes several excellent maps, ranging from the conical spires and terrifyingly open squares of Cloud City, to the cramped, moody corridors of the Carbonite-Freezing Chamber. These are coupled with another new mode, Sabotage. Here the rebels must destroy three tractor beams before scarpering in a transport ship. The Imperials need to defend said tractor beams, and if they fail, push forward and seize control of the rebels’ escape point.

I think Sabotage is one of the best modes in Battlefront, with a pleasing ebb and flow, enough room to outflank and outthink the opposing team, and offering a chance for both teams to go on the offensive at various stages in the match. Bespin is also the only DLC that has a playable map in Battlefront’s standout Walker Assault mode. Sadly, there was never enough people playing it for me to actually test it out, so I would be wary about purchasing it on that particular basis.

Bringing up the rear of Battlefront’s season pass is Outer Rim, which offers new maps set on Tatooine and boring old Sullust. Its main feature is that it lets you blast Stormtroopers in Jabba’s Palace. It has the least interesting new heroes of the three (Greedo and Nien Nubm, compared to Lando and Dengar in Bespin, or Bossk and Chewbacca in Death Star) and the weakest new mode, Extraction. Here the rebels must escort a shipment of “resources” through the map while under constant fire from Imperial forces. I found the mode weighed massively in favour of the Empire. It was all too easy to choke the life out of any forward momentum the rebels managed to build.

That’s the Season Pass. Death Star decent, Bespin great, Outer Rim lacking. But the best new content added to Battlefront can be accessed entirely for free. The Jakku updated late last year added Graveyard of Giants, which is by far and away the strongest map of any DICE have added. It sees players fighting amongst the scattered wreckage of Star Destroyers, and taking cover behind the smoking hulks of AT-ATs, all while a titanic space battle rages in the skies above you.

Jakku’s gigantic junkyard means there’s plenty of cover to hide behind and use to your advantage, and it’s simply a spectacular map to play on. It also comes coupled with the best new mode added to the game. Turning Point is a tweaked version of Battlefield’s Rush, in which the rebels throw themselves again a fortified Imperial line, trying to capture control points and slowly push the Empire back. But the rebels only need to capture one of the two available control points to force an Imperial retreat, which allows for some natural tactical play to evolve, and means the Imperials are constantly stretched between defending two areas of the map. Furthermore, to encourage the Imperials to fall back, each captured control point triggers a thunderous orbital barrage that wipes out any Stormtroopers caught beneath it. Alongside Sabotage and Walker Assault, turning point is one of Battlefront’s highlights.

There are a couple of other free maps which are twists on existing environments. Twilight on Hoth is a delightfully moody night map set on everyone’s favourite ball of ice, while Survivors of Endor is a slightly lacklustre map set after the destruction of the second Death Star. It’s basically standard Endor with fiery bits, and the weakest of the free maps.

There’s a whole bunch of other free stuff too, including new smaller maps, playable heroes, weapons, singleplayer missions, and the ability to play the larger-scale modes in a single-player “Skirmish”, a nice way to experience Battlefront’s spectacle without having your head-tentacles shot off every thirty seconds.

Even without investing in any of the expansions, Battlefront a year on feels like a far richer, more varied game. But is it any deeper than before? Has it eradicated that shallow feeling to the gunplay and its simplistic approach to team-based multiplayer. A little, perhaps, but not entirely. The weapon roster certainly feels more diverse, with shotgun-like blasters and the fearsome Imperial Repeater sitting alongside staples like the E-11 blaster rifle. But compared to Battlefield, it still doesn’t feel as satisfying beneath the fingers. Similarly, modes like Turning Point and Sabotage offer a modicum of tactical play, but again, when held up against DICE’s flagship series, it’s pretty basic. Plus, vehicles still feel severely undercooked.

In addition, some balancing issues remain. Thermal-detonator spam is appalling. There are times when you can barely see because of the smoke generated by the incessant grenade explosions. Meanwhile, that Imperial Repeater is just too darned powerful. A player equipped with one can halt an entire team in their tracks if they position themselves appropriately.

Nevertheless, if you picked up Battlefront last year and found it wanting, it’s worth a second look now. There’s easily a couple of evening’s worth of extra fun available for free. If you want more beyond that, I’d thoroughly recommend the Bespin expansion, and then possibly Death Star if you outstay your welcome on Cloud City. Outer Rim, meanwhile, is best avoided like a snog from Jabba. Unless you’re into that sort of thing.

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15 Comments

  1. Det. Bullock says:

    Are the flight parts still plagued by those awful canned animations instead of letting you to the fancy moves yourself?
    Watching videos on YT I got the impression that they are still there and that the flight model still largely sucks.

    • Paj says:

      I’ve been playing quite a bit of the Death Star expansion, and have had loads of fun with it. Playing across the three maps feels like a mini campaign of sorts, and while the author is right in saying they feel a bit disjointed when stitched together, it has added something the game really needed. Plus it all looks and sounds fantastic.

      As for the flying, it’s improved 10,000% if you have a gamepad. It gets rid of the floatiness and makes it way more fun.

      • Det. Bullock says:

        Does it still force you to use a Xinput pad instead of a proper joystick?
        Also, I don’t remember it being floaty, I remember the flying being stupidly constrained to the point of having canned animations for evasive manouvers (instead of letting you do you barrel rolls or sharp turns manually) and stupid autoaim to compensate the lack of control over the flight itself, not even Rogue Squadron was that dumbed down and that was a console arcade shooter that took control of your ship whenever you tried to get out of the play area.

        • Paj says:

          I’ve not tried playing it with a joystick, so I’m not sure. All the other things you mention do remain – there’s no manual control over roll which would be nice. I guess it is pretty simplistic and arcadey in that sense, but in my case the lack of complexity suits me fine.

          I’m still holding out for a true Tie Fighter sequel with all the doodads though.

  2. JakeOfRavenclaw says:

    If you’re on the fence, it’s worth noting that Battlefront is one of the games listed as “Coming Soon” on EA’s Origin Access page. No word on whether that will include all the DLC (I believe that is the case for BF4, though of course that one isn’t as recent), but being able to check out as much of the game as you want for $5 might be a deal worth waiting for.

    • SaintAn says:

      I doubt anyone with sense had Origin Access. If they’re on the fence I hope they bought Battlefront 1 or2 instead.

      • Thurgret says:

        Origin Access is a solid deal. I played all that I wanted of Mirror’s Edge: Catalyst, am playing Battlefield 1, and have played some of EA’s older games, and it costs a pittance compared to buying the lot.

      • Premium User Badge

        keefybabe says:

        It’s 4 notes a month, that’s a coffee, or a beer in the pub and you have access to a load of stuff. Origin is a piece of shite but that subscription model is great, as long as you don’t already own the good stuff.

  3. david_lim says:

    I’m tempted by the Death Star expansion, but I was wondering if you can play the trench run (specifically) as a skirmish or do you have to play it multiplayer.

    I usually do fighter squadron or walker assault with my kids.

  4. corroonb says:

    I bought it in the summer and I play it fairly regularly. Sabotage and Extraction are my favourite game modes. It’s casual, uncomplicated and fun. I probably wouldn’t enjoy it so much if it wasn’t Star Wars. I don’t play online shooters in general but I really liked this. Not having any voice comms on console is a bonus for the most part. I see it appealing mostly to kids, Star Wars dads and fairly casual players.

  5. Raoul Duke says:

    The problem I have with releases like this is that by the time all of the DLC is out and priced reasonably as a single, complete product, I will assume there is no-one left playing this and that support will be yanked in the relatively near future and thus will never buy it.

    It takes an especially crappy release model and pricing to stop me buying a somewhat arcadey death star trench run simulator with great graphics…

  6. tonicer says:

    I would buy Battlefront 3 immediately if it had:

    – server files
    – SDK/mod support
    – bots
    – no unlocks

    • J.C. says:

      Indeed. I’m tired of EA/Dice taking away Player Agency with their games, with in the end will shorten their lifespan/shelf-life.

      And with the ability to customize a server, I can’t join or make a server that does things differently. Like forcing Cockpit only for flight vehicles. And without modding, there’s nothing cool like completely stripping the game of annoying spawn tokens and replacing with classic Battlefront and Battlefield mechanics (walking up to a vehicle, to enter/use it), fully working free-roam AT-AT’s, etc.

  7. NeuroNiky says:

    I have this on the PS4 and I find it to be the perfect game to relax after a bad day at work. It doesn’t even require your brains to be turned on to be fun. It has a bunch of fun modes, and while the ones listed in the article are easily the highlight of the package, some “minor” game modes are just as fun if you don’t play them for too much time.

    It’s hard to beat it in sheer atmosphere, it really does capture the feeling of being “in the movies”, even if I’d still like it to have more differences between the ships you can use and more vehicle that you can use while on foot. It’s shallow, yes, and it gets boring if your session stretch beyond the hour mark, but it’s a game I can actually play and have fun with when I don’t have the attention and the reflexes to play, say, Rainbow Six Siege, or the willpower to play a Dark Souls 3.

    Also, a teenager me would have gone completely crazy with a game like this, so maybe we’re just overanalysing it.

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