Electronic Arts is investing heavily in its Star Wars license with Lucasfilm and Disney. The gamemaker used Star Wars Celebration over the weekend in Orlando to officially reveal the first details of Star Wars Battlefront II. The Nov. 17, 2017 release is being created by three developers: Motive, which is focusing on the single-player storyline; DICE, which is creating the massive multiplayer battles; and Criterion, which is focusing on the space battles after delivering the PlayStation VR-exclusive Rogue One VR Mission add-on for the original title.
Bernd Diemer, creative director on the game at DICE, is new to the franchise. He told AListDaily that playing the first game as a fan brought back his favorite memories from being a Star Wars fan as a kid in Germany. “The first game allowed me to step into a picture-perfect recreation of Hoth, which still gives me goosebumps just talking about it,” Diemer said. “How do you top that?”
That’s the challenge EA faces, after selling over 14 million copies of the original game since 2015.
“We decided to make it really big,” Diemer said. “This might be the biggest and most ambitious game I’ve ever worked on.”
Battlefront II will introduce a new female commander, Iden Versio (played by actress Janina Avankar), although this time, the story will focus on the Empire.
“There are a lot of stories about the heroes of the Rebellion in the Galactic Civil War, but we wanted to focus on the Empire,” said Mark Thompson, game director at Motive Studios. “It’s a narrative we haven’t explored a lot in Star Wars. And the idea of introducing these special forces soldiers gave us a new perspective to tell a story.”
Iden leads Inferno Squad, and Thompson said these are the soldiers who can lead the rank and file stormtroopers to take out the “rebel scum.” They’re the reason these kids join the Imperial Academy and become pilots and soldiers.
It also flips the perspective of the storytelling, establishing the Empire as wanting to maintain order and peace, while the rebels are terrorists trying to disrupt the status quo.
“Iden will go down as a heroic Star Wars character as this game explores how she was raised and who she becomes,” said Steve Blank, creative executive at Lucasfilm. “It’s a different twist, but she’s that type of hero for the people of the Empire to look up to.”
The single-player story will also help fill in the official Star Wars canon following the celebration of the destruction of the Death Star 2 at the end of Return of the Jedi. Iden is on Endor fighting, and she vows to avenge the death of her emperor.
EA worked with Lucasfilm to create a new planet, Vardos, which is Iden’s home. This Imperial utopia is where citizens grow up in a peaceful environment and look to the Empire as the “good guys.”
Speaking of the good guys, the single-player campaign will offer missions where players take control of popular heroes from the Rebellion, including Luke Skywalker. This game will help fill in that gap of 30 years that took place between the end of Return of the Jedi and the beginning of The Force Awakens.
This being a Battlefront game, multi-player remains a key focus. The game will span all three eras of the film universe, including The Clone Wars, and even offer DLC that ties into the upcoming Christmas release, The Last Jedi.
Diemer said multi-player also introduces different classes, which offers more choice for individual play styles. When playing as a trooper through the eras the character will change its look from planet to planet, but it will share a progression as the player unlocks abilities and finds new gadgets.
“As a trooper who is really good and has unlocked a certain set of abilities, maybe you can stand up against Darth Maul,” Diemer said. “Teamwork becomes more important when you play as a trooper, as well.”
Heroes have received an upgrade. Rather than popping in as a power-up for a seemingly invincible bout of gameplay like in the original, they now have a career. The game includes a resource-based system that allows the player to change into a hero or vehicle. In addition to Darth Maul, other heroes featured in the debut trailer include Yoda, Rey and Luke Skywalker.
“Here we wanted to give heroes more depth,” Diemer added. “They’re more physical, so they have more presence in the game. We gave them a career, so they can become better heroes and unlock new abilities. And they’re available to more players, so there are more heroes on the battlefield.”
The game introduces plenty of new vehicles from all the films, including Taun Tauns that you can ride on Hoth. And the ship-based combat is leaving the planet’s surface this time around.
“We heard from fans they wanted to go to space, so that’s where Criterion entered the picture,” Diemer said. “Criterion has nailed the sense of speed and making you feel like an awesome pilot. We also treat the ships the same as troopers and heroes. You can unlock new abilities and modifications and customize your TIE fighter for your play style. We have hero ships like Slave 1 and the Millennium Falcon and they have the same depth and personalities as the heroes. And there are a lot more vehicles from all eras in this game.”
Disney and Lucasfilm are celebrating the fortieth anniversary of the original Star Wars film this year. And now fans have a new hope in a Battlefront game that, at this early stage, has the potential to live up to the very high bar fans have set for this franchise.