Why the force isn’t so strong in just one
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.