Due to the recent controversy surrounding the new Star Wars Battlefront II release from EA, I thought I’d go back to the classic 2005 version. Since its release, all those years ago, it has kept its acclaim and adoration and is still being played and discussed to this day. When the game initially launched it was during a year which saw some fantastic games. Many of these games are still used as inspiration today. So why has this game stood the test of time with both lovers of the Star Wars franchise and those who just like a good shooter?
Looking back through the spectacles of nostalgia, it’s effortless to fall into the trap of memory bias. The belief that a game from your childhood was the epitome of creativity and fun is often squashed when you go back to it. After so many years it’s easy to find that not only did the game play poorly but the essence of what was fun has become mediocre to you. This has not been the case for the original Battlefront series which, over 10 years later, still has a hardcore fan base and is often the inspiration for many mods in more recent games.
Star Wars Expanded Universe
When going back to play this game there are a few glaringly obvious low points. It hasn’t aged particularly well, graphically, and the story is very shallow considering the lore it taps in to. The campaign runs through the main story points covered in the film saga. Only difference is this time it has a heavy focus on the gameplay over reiterating the events that happen. That being said, the campaign does add to the ever-changing atmosphere of the universe by giving many of us our first look into the mind of the 501’st Legion.
Through the story you become privy to the thoughts shared by the soldiers as they go through the motions of the clone wars and the inevitable culling of the Jedi. It’s through these instances that fans far and wide could see that the clone troopers not only had an opinion on the Jedi but also on their orders, something lost within the films. This was a welcome surprise which added depth to an otherwise simplistic objective-based shooter.
What made it great?
Now, depending on the mood you were in or the type of challenge you wanted, Battlefront II brought two iconic game modes to life. One of which wasn’t featured in either of the new instalments, Galactic Conquest. I have no idea how EA had the audacity to look at the past title and not think this mode was both a foundation of the game and something which was sought after more than Anakin trying to find an excuse to get away from sand.
Galactic conquest allowed the player to try and conquer the galaxy in either time period as the faction they wanted. A beautiful, simple, mode which granted players access to all the maps, classes and heroes/villains in a streamlined order which made sense. For those of you who love trying to ruin your friendships, players could compete against one another and take the galaxy themselves. I often found my friend and I cursing constantly at one another as we were persistently stuck in a stalemate, refusing to go to bed until one of us was a clear victor, with none emerging.
What I feel made the game successful as it is, ultimately came down to two distinct attributes. The first of these being the balanced classes; each unit had their own strengths and weaknesses, none too powerful and all with an equal counter-class. This gave purpose and strategy to how you’d approach the battlefield and the impact you could have on the overall game. The fact that each era had their own unique classes on top of the standard assault unit with mere grenades and a blaster rifle helped a great deal in the mixing up of tactics and spontaneity of each game.
The requirement to use strategy and actual teamwork helped craft memorable battles and unrepeatable moments, leaving the player in awe. It not only helped surround the player in something bigger than themselves but also created an authentic experience. The use of vehicles is a great way to show how working in unison helped the player and the team.
In this version of Battlefront II vehicles were prevalent and were a big enough hazard that players were forced to deal with them. Players had to adjust their style of gameplay in order to eliminate this threat. You see an enemy vehicle and you instinctively know that you either have to find cover. Collaborate with your team and throw your entire ordinance onto it or die. If you’re the first one to die it feels like a sense of duty to respawn as an engineer in order to protect your falling comrades. Once spawned as this anti-vehicle class it was then down to your teammates to protect you. This was how all the players, classes and vehicles became interlinked through a single job in order to accomplish the mission.
The second factor, which I can’t believe still isn’t in this year’s release were the land-space battles. While yes the maps, generally speaking, were unique and well laid out it was the ability to take off into space after you got bored of fighting on the ground. And it was precisely this idea that added so much more to the game in both single player and playing against a friend.
During the 1000’th or so game on one of these maps and you still had to be weary of your snake of an opponent. Think they’re going to be challenging you in a fair fight head –to-head on the ground? Nope; they’re capturing the command post on your ship. Think you can be the sneak away and land a ship behind their position? Nope; they’re behind you. Whatever you did on these maps, both timing and strategy were quintessential to victory. If you didn’t pay attention then you’d be left behind in the garbage disposal.
Old and new
A peculiar observation when comparing the two iterations of Battlefront II is how they went in complete opposite directions from their base game. The original expanded and vastly improved upon its predecessor. EA’s version, however, proved miracles can happen by making theirs worse than the original. EA’s Battlefront I was an incredibly beautiful game in both visuals and audio. The problem, however, is that these are just artificial elements in a potential unlimited universe that is meant to be rich in experience.
The most common complaint, besides the monetary greed of the publisher, was the embarrassingly small amount of content. There was no campaign, only two game modes of any noteworthy interest and a handful of maps. This was not the experience that we had been waiting for, for over a decade.
While it might not be surprising for EA to pull a something like this off, it is surprising that they managed to royally bugger one of the most loved brands after having countless successes in the multiplayer genre. It’s baffling that they managed to make an inferior product than before. With the utter failure that Battlefront II 2017 has become, it’s so satisfying that the servers for the 2005 original are back up on Steam. You can yet again pour hundreds of hours trying to best groups of your friends and decide for yourself who is the true leader of the galaxy.