The recent Star Wars Battlefront 2 [official site] open beta showed the game itself has come on leaps and bounds since the first one, but the way progression was tied to a loot crate system left a sour taste in a lot of people's mouths.
EA have responded to that criticism, and released a statement that clarifies some things about how the system will work when the actual game comes out. Players that pay will still have an advantage over those that don't - at least in the short term - but the most powerful items will be unlocked independently of loot crates.
Most unlocks, however, will still be tied to loot boxes. Those boxes can be bought with currency earned by playing the game, or for real monies. It means you're at the mercy of RNG for which drops you get. When you get a duplicate of the same item, you instead receive crafting parts that can be spent on unlocking what you want - but not everything can be bought with those parts.
The controversy revolves around star cards, which are slotted into your character outside of games and provide different abilities. Examples include the Assault class wielding a powerful shotgun with a speed boost for 10 seconds, Heavies temporarily deploying chain-guns and Specialists getting an (overpowered) all-in-one speed boost and mini-map jammer that revealed nearby enemies and removed the overheating mechanic from their gun. Fortunately, EA mention they're toning that one down in the same post.
Now, it didn't actually take me too many games before I had some star cards that I considered indispensable, like a different version of the shotgun one that made it reset my cooldowns whenever I earned a kill. The real problem lay in how those cards could be upgraded using ever increasing amounts of crafting parts, and just how substantial those upgrades were. A particularly egregious example is a card for Boba fett which reduced the damage he took while using an ability by 50% at the first level of the card, but 100% at the fourth level.
It's something I didn't go into in my impressions of the beta because the system was labelled as not being representative of the final game, though I'd have highlighted cases as bad as that one if I'd realised they existed. While the power difference might still be there in the actual realise, it looks like players won't be able to get the upgraded versions of cards just by spending money. Here, I'll copy in EA's list of clarifications for how the final system will work:
- There are many things you can earn in the game, including weapons, attachments, credits, Star Cards, Emotes, Outfits and Victory Poses.
- As a balance goal, we’re working towards having the most powerful items in the game only earnable via in-game achievements.
- Crates will include a mix of of Star Cards, Outfits, Emotes or Victory Poses.
- Players earn crates by completing challenges and other gameplay milestones, or by purchasing them with in-game credits or Crystals, our premium currency.
- If you get a duplicate Star Card in a crate, you will get crafting parts which you can then use to help upgrade the Star Card of your choice.
- And lastly, you have to earn the right to be able to upgrade Star Cards and unlock most Weapons. You can only upgrade or unlock them if you have reached a high enough rank, which is determined by playing the game.
That last point in particular should take some of the sting out of those that were worried the game would be pay to win - at least the people killing you with outright better stuff will only have access to it because they've played more than you. Unless, that is, EA create a mode with an entirely even playing field, as they suggest they might at the end of their post:
We also have heard some players are looking for a way to play where all players will have the same set of Star Cards with flattened values. Like everything else, we will be continually making necessary changes to ensure the game is fun for everyone. We will work to make sure the system is balanced both for players who want to earn everything, as well as for players who are short on time and would like to move faster in their progress towards various rewards.
For all these changes, at the end of the day EA are still monetising the progression system in a £55 game. There's no way that's not going to rub people the wrong way.
Star Wars Battlefront 2 releases on November 17.