What makes for a good Star Wars story? Ask this same question to anyone whether they are a Star Wars fan or not and a myriad of answers will be given. A Star Wars story holds different meaning to everyone, especially the fans, but no matter what anyone’s answer is, a Star Wars story is always a tale of ordinary people doing extraordinary things. Seeing that concept put into action during a preview of Star Wars Battlefront II’s campaign shows it’s hitting all the marks.
Star Wars has always been about two sides of the same coin, the good vs the bad, the Rebels vs the Empire. When talking Star Wars, it’s general knowledge who’s good and who’s evil. Some might like Luke Skywalker, others Darth Maul; Star Wars is littered with enough heroes and anti-heroes for everyone. While the cast audiences know and love is nice, only one type of tale has been told repeatedly; the tale of Rebels taking down the Empire. Even with a movie like Rogue One coming out and showing a more rugged side to the Star Wars universe, it’s still on a side the audience is familiar with, thus relating to the most. What about the other side, though? What does a citizen look like that has been reared in the Empire? This is where Commander Iden Versio steps in, played by Janina Gavankar. Star Wars Battlefront II is looking to tell a different sort of tale.
When Iden Versio is introduced, she’s being held aboard a Rebel Ship where the situation does not look good for our player character. Iden Versio is in the middle of being questioned by a Rebel officer whom is just as expressive as our heroin. The level of detail in the motion capture really shows even for minor characters who will never be seen again, at least from what was played. Iden immediately registers as a few things during her conversation with the Rebel scum; she’s got grit, is intelligent beyond most and should not be messed with. She is a fantastic character who anyone can immediately enjoy.
Once the officer leaves, Iden says a command to the room, specifically speaking to her helmet. Before even stepping in Iden’s shoes the camera moves into the perspective of the helmet and a little robot inside. Once taking on the role of this adorable Empire droid that lives in Iden’s helmet, it’s all about learning the basics of movement, sneaking, plus a few bonus attacks the player will be using regularly, such as the shock that can zap enemies to knock them out. It’s a fun way to introduce the basics while still pertaining to the story, immersing the player in Star Wars.
Upon finding and freeing Iden, the camera soon switches into her perspective — the camera can also be locked in third person. Getting through the rest of the prologue proved a clever trick while showing that opposite side of the coin. Usually when thinking of a scene involving a Rebel ship it involves two droids making their way unexpectedly to Tatooine. Battlefront II is strangely familiar, instead it’s Iden escaping a Rebel Ship. It’s a comfortable Prologue that will immediately have fans feeling like they are on familiar ground. If that’s not enough, what’s to come will really hammer this feeling home, again in a completely different way while still something known.
Not that the feeling of awesome doesn’t come from Iden, but when she makes her escape even Master Chief would give a nod with a thumbs up. She gets in a drop pod airlock… just without the drop pod. Quickly after making her escape the rest of Inferno Squad is introduced as well as who Iden reports too. Inferno Squad is a special forces commando unit with good reason. Battlefront II again inserts that feeling of familiarity with how characters in this universe operate; the camaraderie between the three members of this elite unit feels good. It makes one forget they are playing the side of the Empire.
Battlefront II begins at the exact same moment as Return of the Jedi is wrapping up. Inferno Squad’s job is to get down to Endor and put a stop to the Rebels before they take down the shields to the second Death Star. The Battle of Endor is heavy for an opening chapter and it’s not hard to imagine everyone having different reactions to watching the Death Star blow up from the ground of Endor, but it’s the feeling that comes with it that hits. I let out an audible “oh no!” which I was not expecting. I know that’s the bad guys, but it still can’t be helped but to feel sympathy knowing what was supposed to be protected. From here Inferno Squad’s mission changes and a true elite unit is put into action showing how it’s done. Battlefront II feels a lot like Halo, as far as how the environment interacts with the player, including NPCs. As Inferno Squad moves through the devastated Empire forces complete with crashed TIE Fighters, burning AT-STs and enough empire/rebel soldiers lifeless on the ground that it paints a grim picture. Inferno Squad now needs to get off Endor to regroup.
Endor is beautiful, with its lush devastated landscape a treat for the eyes that shows Frostbite being put to full use. The level of detail is rich enough that it can be hard to make out Rebel Soldiers Inferno Squad must battle while making their way towards a landing pad. Luckily those robot abilities mentioned earlier come in handy. Aside from an ability to zap enemies it can also scan the area marking targets for an extended duration of time. These abilities are part of the three ability card slots always available. The campaign is designed with multiplayer in mind as everything used in the single-player will be used in the multiplayer.
This of course pertains to the flight controls and those who played the beta will know exactly what that means. After making a daring escape by taking back a landing pad the Rebels have over taken, Iden is soon off to space in her brand-new TIE Fighter. While the whole game feels like Star Wars through-and-through, flight might be a spot it truly shines. Again, first-person or third-person controls can be used and either way is a good time.
Throw that in with the level The Dauntless, which has the player flying through the debris of the Death Star, hits for a home run. Here is such devastation up close, even losing something as sinister as Death Star has a certain loss of life, which carries weight.
Iden is reporting directly to Admiral Garrick Versio, her father. This gem of storytelling is Star Wars while also a true military tale rarely told, the story of family as it pertains to the military. Here is not only Iden’s commanding officer but her father, and what’s even better is that their relationship is good. Iden respects her father not out of a sense of anything negative, but for what he has accomplished as the person he is. Of course, for the player it’s obvious something more sinister lies underneath, it’s just hard to tell what. Battlefront II never lets the player forget, which is all part of the Empire.
The beginning of The Dauntless is standard teaching the basics of flight with some dogfighting that make for a spectacle. Soon Iden is protecting an Imperial Ship yard that will be recognized from the multiplayer beta. Garrick is trying to make his escape and Iden with the rest of Inferno Squad will hold off incoming forces for the duration of this scene. Suffice it to say, those looking for great space flight battles won’t be disappointed.
This taste of the campaign is good news for the stories to come. Star Wars Battlefront II is setting the stage for what is possible with the tales Star Wars fans want being told. While this is only the beginning of the campaign, it’s a strong start that leaves me wanting more. Iden is a fantastic addition to an already exceptional cast that Star Wars fans have come to love and I’m looking forward to seeing where her story takes her as she discovers what exactly the Empire truly looks like. Technically, Battlefront II is firing on all levels, looking gorgeous while pulling every sound and image reference it can for the player to relish in. Those wanting a solid Star Wars solo-campaign story need look no further; Battlefront II has it covered.