EA has completely revamped Star Wars: Battlefront 2 as part of an effort to respond to longstanding player grievances and to remove the pay-to-win mechanics that destroyed the game’s reputation before it even hit store shelves last year.
Where the first Battlefront was an enjoyable, if thin romp through a licensed galaxy far far away, EA promised the second game would deliver deeper play, more vehicles, multiple eras within the Star Wars universe, and a single-player campaign. It even promised to make expansions available to people who bought the base game without splitting the player base between those who shelled out more money for new maps and modes and those who didn’t. So far, so good.
The problems started when EA decided to create an alternate revenue stream for itself based solely on loot crates and pay-to-win mechanics, with players who purchased loot crates with real money gaining a significant advantage over those who opted to just play the game. While Battlefront 2 is far from the first game to include microtransactions, the original BF2 progression system was designed to effectively force players to spend money on loot crates. When players discovered it would take up to 40 hours to unlock a single hero, EA breezily responded that this requirement would “provide players with a sense of pride and accomplishment for unlocking different heroes.”
On a related note, EA now holds the record for the most downvoted comment in Reddit history.
The microtransaction system was yanked literally hours before the game launched, after Disney made EA pull it, but that didn’t solve the problems in the progression system. It just meant that players couldn’t literally buy their way to victory using real cash. EA wasn’t the only company to take fire from gamers over loot crates in 2017, but its system was one of the worst, inspiring states like Hawaii and countries like Belgium to investigate banning loot crates altogether. The company’s initial response to the controversy was to blame Star Wars canon, which didn’t exactly endear it to the community, either.
With these new updates, which started going live this week, the entire progression process has been revamped. Star Cards, which give access to various buffs, weapons, or capabilities will only be earned through gameplay (you keep access to any Star Cards you already had). All heroes and hero ships are now unlocked from the start. While microtransactions still exist within the game, they’re limited to cosmetic items and have no impact on gameplay.
Instead of buying loot crates to find parts for critical upgrades, players will gain skill points as they level. These skill points can be used to buy various Star Cards. Points are unique to the hero or class you earn them with — you can’t use points earned with Yoda to upgrade a Heavy or vice-versa. EA’s FAQ has more details on how the new progression system works. The Arcade also mode now offers all Star Cards unlocked at Epic Card levels, to give players the opportunity to experiment with various configuration options. And Bespin is now available as a location for certain game modes (Blast, Heroes vs. Villains, Arcade, and for a limited time as Jetpack Cargo).
Should You Buy the Game?
The enormous amount of negative publicity surrounding Battlefront 2 had a substantial impact on the game’s sales. EA initially reported 9 million sales compared with 10 million expected, but later corrected its own figure and reported approximately roughly 7 million sales. While that’s an excellent figure in its own right, it’s also roughly three million fewer copies than the studio expected.
If Battlefront 2 is the kind of game you would have purchased if it hadn’t used pay-to-win microtransactions, there’s a strong argument for purchasing it now. Gamers unquestionably sent a message when they refused to buy the game in the first place. Picking up a copy now that the system is gone would tell EA that the problem really was the microtransaction system as opposed to the rest of the title. Of course, some will argue that EA doesn’t deserve a sale under any circumstances for having the gall to try this trick at all. Either way, EA’s decision to scrap pay-to-win microtransactions is a win for the BF2 player base and a lesson the company won’t soon forget — until it does. Despite the happy ending, we’re still talking about EA, after all.