If you’ve been keeping up with Star Wars Battlefront II ahead of its launch
tomorrow on Friday, you might have found yourself wading through some discourse surrounding the game’s controversial loot boxes and progression. A few weeks ago EA worked through some changes to the systems after some severe backlash during the game’s open beta. But even with these slight tweaks, Battlefront II’s decision to hinge so much of its gameplay on randomly dropped cards gives players willing to pay more a tangible advantage in every respect.
Before getting into why the system is so terrible, it’s important to understand how it all works; something which took far more experimentation and reading than I initially expected. Battlefront II uses Star Cards to differentiate players from each other. Each class, starship or special character has up to three slots to quip cards in, which either have passive or direct ability effects. Star Cards also come in four types of rarity – common, uncommon, rare and epic – with the effectiveness of the associated abilities scaling up accordingly.
There are two ways to attain Star Cards though. First and foremost, players will find them handed out at random in loot crates, which have their own sort of purchasing systems around them that we’ll get to soon. Players can also craft cards that they are missing using crafting parts; another resource that you’ll only get through loot crates and challenge completions. The big change EA made after the beta involved Epic Star Cards. The most effective in the game can now only be crafted and not found in loot crates at all, with two level gating systems attempting to prevent players from using them from the get-go.
Loot crates can be bought using one of two currencies though: Credits or Crystals. Credits are attained through regular play, with a (small) amount rewarded to you after matches and challenges (which are once off rewards, not recurring). Crystals are what you’ll pay real money for, with a variety of packages ranging all the way up to $100 additional purchases. Crates, which come in three flavours for Troopers, Starships or Heroes, all cost different amounts. Trooper, the most expensive and useful of the lot, costs 4000 Credits or 200 Crystals. Comparatively, $100 will give you 12000 Crystals. Or around 72 loot crates, given which you spend them on.
Credits are tied to nearly every action in the game, but Battlefront II seems rather stingy with them. A Galactic Assault match, the largest and longest of the multiplayer game modes, routinely gave me around 250-350 Credits per match. Arcade challenges handed out 100 Credits each for a win, but stopped after around five matches to instigate a 24-hour refresh before I could start earning again (uh, gross). Challenges – which range from completing single-player missions to killing a certain number of enemies online – featured Credit rewards between 250-500. Substantial, but limited to one-time claims, which seem to quickly run out.
All said, it took around two hours of play for me to grind out my first loot crate, with a combination of single-player, Arcade and multiplayer matches. That a long time for 4000 Credits, and hinging on systems that will have diminishing returns the more I play. One other player online documented his experience more keenly (given that I struggled to find as many multiplayer matches as I’d like), posting them to ResetEra. According to the calculations, my experience was pretty much the norm. It will take around three hours to grind for a single crate, and a massive 40 hours or so if you’re saving up Credits to unlock certain Heroes (another terrible system entirely).
Given that your effectiveness in battle depends so much on these Star Cards, this already seems grim. Star Cards can give you advantages such as smaller delays on health regeneration starts or bigger limits to weapon cooldowns, all of which can range up to a 40% difference with Epic Cards. It’s not uncommon to be killed by a player that has stronger personal shields, grenades or greater health regeneration equipped (sometimes all at once) and feel immediately at a statistical disadvantage that can’t easily be overcome by skill alone.
And then you realise that EA’s changes haven’t actually helped prevent this from happening in all tiers of play. It’s just made it more confusing to understand why it’s happening.
Rewind back to a $100 purchase for 12000 Crystals, which can bag you over 70 loot crates. These loot crates will reward said players with cards up to a Rare standing, and there’s no gate in place to prevent it being equipped from the get-go. You can equip whatever cards you want when you want, with neither the class specific or player levels stopping a brand new player from immediately having a huge advantage over everyone else before even a second of play.
It progressively gets worse when you inspect the new system EA did put in place after the beta. Crafting, which is the only way to get Epic Cards, is prevented by two statistics. To craft or upgrade a card, a player will need to have a class specific card level high enough to do so, along with an overall, all-encompassing player level too. Player levels are increased through play, and your experience towards it is rather generous. Just two matches had me already up to level 4, with the system capping out at 25.
Class specific card levels are even easier to raise – if you’re pumping money back into Battlefront II. Your card level increases with the number of cards you’ve either crafted or found in loot crates, which immediately puts paying players in a distinct advantage again. Getting cards, even just paltry common ones, in loot crates is frequent, and hence makes the secondary gating system only really a hurdle for players choosing to grind out loot crates through Credits alone. It prevents them from unlocking more slots to equip cards (something again governed by how many cards you own), while also slowing down the progression of crafting new ones to use.
Paying players, meanwhile, simply need to put in less than an afternoon of play to have all their classes kitted out with the best possible cards in the game, and free to lay waste to everyone else online.
There is no argument in the matter either. Battlefront II, like DICE’s previous efforts with Battlefield, is more concerned with team play and objective work than individual killstreaks. But having even just a handful of players on the enemy team with up to 40% health buffs and additional weapon damage (or even better weapons, which they can get through loot crates instead of progression too) swings the scales of balance wildly. It’s such an obvious difference that will take months to rectify, as those unwilling to spend on microtransactions will take weeks and weeks of dedicated (frustrating) play to grind their way up to a level playing field. And that’s even if they stick around at all, given that playing against statistically superior players is no fun at all.
There’s still lots I need to dig through with Battlefront II that Origin Access didn’t give me enough time to this weekend, and a lot of that is being reserved for our review later. But if you’re picking up Battlefront II on Friday, it’s important to be aware of these systems. And understand that if you’re not aiming to spend more than full price on this game, you’re going to be at a sore disadvantage for a very long time.
Correction: We mistakenly had the game set for release tomorrow, when it’s out on Friday 17 November.
Last Updated: November 13, 2017