Now that the Star Wars Celebration is over, the Star Wars Battlefront II info is coming out in a steady trickle of fandom-tickling ooze. I’m not the biggest fan, but I find the coming of this new game fascinating after all the drama the first go-around. It was a pretty solid game, but as I wrote earlier this month, it needed some stuff. EA and DICE seem to be delivering, especially going from 0 to 60 on a new, single-player story mode. Based on what I’m seeing so far about this campaign, it could very well be worth the price of admission by itself.
First, the details. Rather than go through a highlight reel of moments from the movies or tell some goofy non-canon story that skirts around doing anything interesting with the source material, Star Wars Battlefront II seems to show a lot of ambition by moving the story forward. No doubt tied to how Disney is treating the IP now, the campaign is ostensibly a big part of the official Star Wars canon. The pitch is also based on an interesting twist. EA and DICE are building a story from the perspective of the Empire, specifically from the boots on the ground.
The games director has this to say about the setup: “Who are the elite soldiers on the battlefield who strike fear into the rebels? Who are the elite pilots that kids growing up [as citizens of the Empire] look up to and aspire to be? We settled on this idea of telling a story from the Imperial perspective. The idea of special forces soldiers gave us this chance to become a new hero.”
Star Wars Battlefront II initially is about Iden Versio, a commander in the Empire’s Inferno Squad. This is a sort of Star Wars special forces unit. The idea is that the big win for the good guys at the end of Return of the Jedi is a national tragedy from this group’s perspective, and avenging the emperor is the initial goal. So it's not a groundbreaking setup, but a novel one that appears to be aspiring to add some murkiness to Star Wars’ traditionally cartoony, black and white morality.
Here's where things get interesting. Like I established earlier, Star Wars Battlefront II is canon, a significant departure from the first game’s more generic approach. Star Wars is all about multimedia tie-ins, and this is no different. Christie Golden, longtime multimedia tie-in author, is penning a book meant to introduce Inferno Squad to Star Wars dorks. The book drops in July, for those hankering to learn more before the game’s November date. It’s set after the events of the Rogue One movie, while the game will pick up directly after Return of the Jedi.
Not only that, but EA and DICE have hired actual, talented writers for the game portion as well. Mitch Dyer, formerly an editor at IGN, is writing the game along with Walt Williams. Dyer is an unproven commodity, although his time at IGN was valued by many, and he doesn’t have a public fiction pedigree that I’m aware of. However, Williams is best known for a little game called Spec Ops: The Line. Spec Ops: The Line is infamous for having a great, ambitious story that toyed with expectations and perception of military shooters and really subverted the genre in a big way. It also sort of bumbled through a bunch of Heart of Darkness references, but that’s another discussion for another time.
The bottom line: Star Wars Battlefront was kind of a failure in a lot of ways, and its legacy will mostly be about unfulfilled potential. Its total lack of a story is a big part of that, and is something that similarly killed another EA effort, Titanfall. Star Wars is too big to fail though, and Star Wars Battlefront II is aiming to salvage the series’ perception. The solution appears to be all about lofty ambition, and for something as protected and safe as Star Wars, that’s pretty intriguing. Even a non-believer like myself is looking forward to seeing how it all turns out.