What Twitch is doing feels like the opposite of charity.
Star Wars Battlefront just ended its beta period, in which nine million users downloaded and tried out a few levels from the upcoming game. As a long time fan of the series (seriously, I used a Star Wars DVD to play the demo repeatedly on my original Xbox), I was delighted to see the franchise revived and looking oh so good. However, not everyone walked away from the TIE fighter battles and walker assaults feeling happy. In plenty of forum threads and video game websites there are a lot of complaints being thrown around.
There are some legit complaints about that Battlefront beta, for starters. The biggest among them was arguably the beta’s show piece, the walker assault mode. Based on the battle of Hoth from Empire Strikes Back, you play either as the invading Empire or the defending Rebels. The Empire are backed by two AT-ATs that perpetually march towards the Rebel shield generator. The Rebels must activate and defend command points in order to make these walkers vulnerable and then focus their attacks on gaining air strikes in hopes of taking both walkers down. Very quickly players learned that winning as the Rebels was no easy task and that the map was wildly unbalanced. Thankfully, DICE has come forward and said they’ll re-balance and change the game accordingly.
These complaints of imperfect balance play into a larger narrative some people are having about Battlefront. Players are worried about lack of player progression, about maps being locked away in specific modes, a lack of weapon variety, a lack of balance, a lack of voice chat, and the overall “feel” of the game. Many players are seeing the DICE logo and expecting a hardcore, simulation-esque shooter much like the Battlefield series that Battlefront has always cribbed from. So after playing hours of Battlefront they walk away feeling deflated and dejected. I say they’re playing Battlefront the wrong way.
If you go back and replay some of those old Battlefront games you’ll quickly see some similar characteristics. The game offers very little weapon variety. Movement feels swimmy and imprecise. There is little to no player progression. Despite taking some of its design from previous Battlefield games, this is no Battlefield. Battlefront is meant to transport you to the many battles from the Star Wars universe. We’ve been in the Battle of Hoth before but rarely as a regular peon stormtrooper. We hadn’t fought alongside the cutesy Ewoks on Endor before, but Battlefront brought us there.
There is no “right” way a Star Wars blaster should feel. The battles we’re replaying have already been written, predetermined. We’re tourists in this science fiction universe. We get to fight alongside Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker rather than only watching them on screen. Battlefront shouldn’t be about weapon feel or precision aiming. It’s about escaping reality and being immersed in a wholly different one, one from our childhoods that is filled with bombastic moments and are more than enough to warrant a sixty dollar game to relive. Perhaps we’ve learned to expect realism from every shooter game rather than accepting something even slightly different.
DICE is possibly accomplishing an amazing feat with Battlefront, providing a balanced effort to give players a fun experience romping around Star Wars that’s still competitive enough to be enjoyable for the hardcore. However, too many of us are too invested in the games we play. We must reach the level cap. We have to unlock every weapon. We must construct the perfect layout. I don’t think Battlefront will support, or maybe shouldn’t support, that style of play. Battlefront is about watching a TIE fighter crash into Luke Skywalker. It’s about mowing down rebels in an AT-AT. We need to be able to have a game that’s just about fun and not about competition. This isn’t an e-sport, it’s just another damn video game. Enjoy it.