Star Wars Battlefront II was released last month, and to say it’s had terrible feedback would be an understatement. The game was released with a mess of a progression system via loot boxes, and EA still doesn’t seem to get what fans are truly looking for with a Star Wars game.
The visuals are stunning, the maps and heroes have been expanded, and the gameplay is fun – while acknowledging that it’s still not re-captured the feel of the previous Battlefront 2 game. Perhaps the most anticipated part of this newest addition to the series, however, was the campaign mode – something noticeably missing from the first one. Motive Studios developed the single-player story in accordance with the Lucasfilm Story Group, and I think the campaign is the strongest part of the Battlefront II.
My review follows, but be warned that story spoilers are ahead.
The campaign centers around Iden Versio (played by Janina Gavankar), who is the commander of Inferno Squad, the Empire’s elite special forces unit. We first meet Iden onboard the Rebel ship Invincible Faith as a prisoner, but she escapes with the help of her trusted droid, and we learn that Iden actually wanted to be captured. She makes her way through the ship (including past a holographic message from Gial Ackbar discussing the imminent attack on the second Death Star), and Iden erases an intercepted message that would have alerted the Rebels to the Empire’s knowledge of their attack – and the looming trap. She escapes and meets up with the rest of Inferno Squad, and they soon after wind up on the forest moon of Endor, working to repel the Rebel attack. To their shock, the Death Star is blown up – killing the Emperor – and they wipe out some more Rebels before escaping the planet.
They particpate in a fighter battle in the skies amidst the debris of the Death Star, but Iden is instructed to head to the Eviscerator rather than to the Corvus (Inferno Squad’s ship). There she talks with her father, Admiral Garrick Versio, who shares a Messenger Droid with Iden regarding Operation: Cinder. Inferno Squad is instructed to head to Fondor to protect the Star Destroyer Dauntless, which comes under attack from the Rebels. Iden and Gideon Hask (another member of Inferno Squad) infiltrate a Rebel ship and disable the canons as part of their defense, which was successful.
After their success at Fondor, Del Meeko (the third member of Inferno Squad) is sent to Pillio to destroy the Emperor’s observatory there. Also there, however, are Luke Skywalker and R2-D2. Play shifts to Skywalker, who fights off stormtroopers as he makes his way into a cave. He finds Meeko stuck in the amber created by the native bugs. Luke frees him, and the two work together to fight off the bugs and infiltrate the observatory. Del disables the security, but Luke is required to open the doors with the force – which bewilders Del, as he ponders why the Emperor would have an observatory that could only be opened by the force. Inside, Luke searches for something and finds it – a compass – and asks if he could keep it. Del reluctantly oblidges, and Luke subtly persuades Del not to blow up the observatory. He offers Del a choice to be better and the two part ways.
Del regroups with Inferno Squad, who have a new mission: to retrieve Protectorate Gleb from Iden’s homeworld of Vardos. When they arrive, however, they see the satellites they had helped steal at Fondor being used for a horrible purpose: to destroy Vardos. Iden is furious and confronts her father about Operation: Cinder, but Garrick explains that it is necessary to keep the Empire’s reign going. Iden storms off and travels with Inferno Squad to the surface, but after rescuing Gleb Iden and Del want to rescue others, but Hask makes it clear that they had their orders to only rescue Gleb. Realizing that Iden and Del are nearing treason, Hask raises his weapon but Iden shoots him in the leg, giving her and Del time to escape and rescue civilians. They sneak (and fight) their way through the city, eventually boarding the Corvus and rescuing many along the way.
Having defected from the Empire, Iden and Del decide to inform the Rebellion about Operation: Cinder, and they are brought on board the Restoration to meet with General Lando Calrissian. He provides them with two X-Wings to leave and start a new life… or says they can help stop Operation: Cinder at Naboo. They choose the latter, and participate in a starfighter attack on Star Destroyers and satellites above Naboo, but the Empire sends ships to the surface to attack Theed. Iden, Del, Shriv (Danger Leader), and others rush to the surface to aid General Leia Organa in defending the city and pushing back the Empire. The player gets to play as Leia as she teams up with Del to activate power relays, which eventually allows Del to trigger an ion blast that disables the Empire’s weapons. Leia then talks with Iden and Del, who decide to join the New Republic.
Later, Leia once again contacts Inferno Squad to send them on a mission: to find General Han Solo, who has gone missing while working on a mission, on Takodana. The player then gets to play as a bearded Han, meeting him at Maz Kanata’s palace looking for an informant, a former Imperial with knowledge pertinent to the liberation of Kashyyyk. The man left the data hidden in the forest, so the duo heads to retrieve the data cubes while stormtroopers attempt to retrieve them for the Empire. Han fights them off, retrieves the data, and regroups with Chewbacca at the Millennium Falcon, at which point Inferno Squad arrives. The Falcon and the Corvus battle the Empire in the skies, eventually escaping.
Later, Inferno Squad heads to Bespin after receiving intel that Garrick Version and Gideon Hask are at Chinook Station conducting operations. They infiltrate the station but realize it was a trap, and Hask escapes. In an effort to escape, Iden and Del have to fight off a number of Imperial troopers, and eventually they steal a cloud car and use it to destroy the station.
The player then gets to play as Lando Calrissian, on a mission with Shriv on Sullust to retrieve weapons from an Imperial facility. They are surprised to learn that it’s still an active facility, however, and amidst a fight with stormtroopers Lando manages to blow up the facility. He and Shriv escape in an AT-ST, but as the lava rises they are rescued by Inferno Squad.
After the destruction of that facility, Inferno Squad receives word that Admiral Ackbar has called all Rebel forces to Jakku, where the entire Imperial fleet is. The Corvus arrives with plenty of other ships, and there’s a massive battle above the desert planet. Del commands the Corvus from the sky, while Iden and Shriv take to X-Wings and land where help is needed. After helping with a couple of missions on the surface, they fly towards the Corvus but are met by a group of TIE Fighters led by Hask. After a dogfight, Iden defeats him, and goes against Del’s advice and goes after her father. She crashes on the top of Garrick’s Star Destroyer and fights her way inside, eventually finding her father. He intends to go down with his ship, but he tells Iden that she can have a better life. She leaves, crash lands on the surface, and is found by Del and Shriv as the battle is over. The New Republic has won.
Decades later, Iden and Del have gotten married and had a kid, but Del and the Corvus are found on Pillio by Protectorate Gleb. They alert Kylo Ren and the First Order, who arrive to confront the prisoner. Kylo wants to know where Lor San Tekka took the map to Luke Skywalker, and he probes Del’s thoughts as the player takes control of Kylo playing his way through different memories Del has. Eventually, Kylo finds out that Lor San Tekka took the map to Bayora, and Kylo then turns Del over to Gideon Hask, who executes Meeko. The campaign comes to an end with Gleb telling Hask that leaving the Corvus there would lead Iden to track it, and Hask says that he’s counting on it.
All in all, it’s a good story. Predictable, but good – and by that I mean that Iden turning from the Empire to the New Republic was predictable, but it worked nonetheless and didn’t feel forced plot-wise. The best part of the campaign was that it really felt like another Star Wars movie. The visuals are incredible for a video game, and it explores a little bit of a lot of things post-ROTJ. We’ve heard about Operation: Cinder already, but we actually get to see it in action. It’s the same with the Battle of Jakku, which we’ve already heard about in several places but we now actually get to see. We get to see a story from the beloved classic heroes, too. Luke Skywalker is searching for something at the Emperor’s observatory on Pillio. Leia Organa is fighting to liberate and defend Naboo. Han Solo is preparing for a mission to liberate Kashyyyk. Lando Calrissian aids in the defense of Naboo, and he destroys an Imperial facility on Sullust. We haven’t gotten a ton of stories about these characters in the aftermath of Endor, so it’s cool to see and be able to play through.
At the same time, however, the strongest part of the game was Iden’s storyline, and there’s a fine line between playing as the legendary characters and distracting from Iden’s story. I didn’t mind the breaks to play as Luke, Leia, Han, and Lando, but I can understand why some didn’t like it.
It was also really cool to see how connected the story is to the other stories that have been told – though that shouldn’t be a surprise, considering the story group’s involvement. But Operation: Cinder and the Battle of Jakku are major events already shown, messenger droids and the Emperor’s observatories have been explained, and Gallius Rax and Rae Sloane are both name-dropped in the campaign. And Han’s beard and preparation for the liberation of Kashyyyk are keeping in continuity with the Aftermath books, which eventually get to the actual liberation of the planet. And the compass Luke recovers on Pillio will come into play in The Last Jedi.
The highest praise that I can give this campaign is that it felt like you got to play through a Star Wars movie, with the graphics being incredible and the story being solid. It was a huge step in the right direction for Star Wars videogame storytelling, and an avenue that I really hope they keep exploring.