Post Script

Why the force isn’t so strong in just one

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De­spite what its kill-fo­cused scor­ing sys­tem and Hero char­ac­ters might sug­gest, Star Wars Bat­tle­front is a game that de­mands ef­fec­tive team­work. Take Walker As­sault as an ex­am­ple. In this mode, one or two lum­ber­ing AT-ATs slowly make their way across the map to­wards a rebel tar­get. The walk­ers are in­vul­ner­a­ble save for three mo­ments dur­ing the match, the du­ra­tion of that vul­ner­a­bil­ity de­ter­mined by how long rebel play­ers man­age to hold the up­link sta­tions that slowly amass more sus­tained Y-Wing bomb­ing runs.

Just hold­ing the up­links is tricky enough, as de­fend­ers are bom­barded by at­tacks from stormtroop­ers, AT-STs, the AT-ATs’ lasers and an oc­ca­sional Vil­lain char­ac­ter. Play­ing as the rebels, forming an or­gan­ised line of de­fence is es­sen­tial since you need as long as pos­si­ble to pum­mel that tough AT-AT ar­mour. When the walk­ers reach the first up­link sta­tions, the win­dow of vul­ner­a­bil­ity opens and ev­ery rebel player must work to­gether to in­flict as much dam­age as pos­si­ble in the pun­ish­ingly short time avail­able, all while de­fend­ing their ef­fort against Im­pe­rial troops, be­fore fall­ing back to the next pair of up­links and start­ing the process again. Lonewolf­ing will get you kills and big points, sure, but it will rarely help the over­all ef­fort.

Sim­i­larly re­liant on team­work is Drop Zone, which re­quires play­ers to band to­gether to take pos­ses­sion of drop pods filled with powerups that could give your team the up­per hand. It’s telling that it’s frus­trat­ingly com­mon to en­counter play­ers who treat this mode as a sim­ple death­match – on sev­eral oc­ca­sions our ef­forts to de­fend a pod sin­gle­hand­edly have met with pre­dictably calami­tous re­sults while our so-called team­mates are off scor­ing kills else­where.

Even Fighter Squadron, which at first might ap­pear to cham­pion an ev­ery-pi­lot-forthem­selves at­ti­tude, en­cour­ages play­ers to work closely to­gether. Shoot­ing down enemy air­craft tail­ing al­lies and group­ing to­gether to de­fend the pow­er­ful, player-con­trolled Mil­len­nium Fal­con and Slave 1 hero ships, while also tak­ing down ar­moured enemy trans­port, de­mand close at­ten­tion to what your fel­low pi­lots are do­ing. But, again, team­work isn’t where the big points lie.

This schism be­tween what’s best for the war ef­fort and what’s best for your plac­ing on the leader­board makes for an un­com­fort­able dis­so­nance. But of greater con­cern is that a game in which vic­tory de­pends so heav­ily on close co-op­er­a­tion nat­u­rally also re­lies on com­mu­ni­ca­tion. That’s prob­lem­atic when play­ing with strangers. And DICE’s de­ci­sion not to sup­port ded­i­cated in-game voice chat for the PC version is in­dica­tive of a stu­dio for which player com­mu­ni­ca­tion isn’t very high on the list of pri­or­i­ties.

None of this is ru­inous, of course, and when you find your­self matched with play­ers whose team spirit equals your own, the sense of ca­ma­raderie is po­tent. But the setup can have the op­po­site ef­fect when some­one de­cides to fo­cus on their own, po­ten­tially ir­rel­e­vant, con­quest, since it can scup­per oth­er­wise well-laid plans and spark no small sense of re­sent­ment. Com­par­isons to Battlefield are in­evitable and small de­tails such as the fact Bat­tle­front uses a recharg­ing health sys­tem – re­mov­ing the need for medics to sprin­kle their first-aid packs about the place – in­sid­i­ously un­pick the com­plex web of ways in which you can in­ter­act and con­trib­ute. De­spite the clever, highly cus­tomis­able Star and Trait Card sys­tem, it iron­i­cally feels like there’s more flex­i­bil­ity in Battlefield’s more rigidly de­fined struc­tures.

Per­haps this sense of di­vi­sion will set­tle down once more play­ers have made their way through the rank­ing sys­tem and are no longer driven by un­lock­ing new toys and abil­i­ties. For now, though, we rec­om­mend go­ing into bat­tle with a squad of trusted, well-or­gan­ised friends at your side.

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