EA Play at E3 2017 might have been light on new announcements—bar the short but sweet reveal of Bioware’s sci-fi shooter Anthem—but there were at least plenty of new details dropped for Star Wars: Battlefront II. The biggest, that Battlefront II would feature a full single-player story mode, was reconfirmed by none other than John Boyega himself, who famously captured the mood of players when he tweeted “Will fans get a full on offline story mode?” back in 2016.
Battlefront II‘s story, which Lucasfilm confirmed as canon earlier this year, bridges the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. It casts players as Iden Versio (played by True Blood actress Janina Gavankar) who is a member the Inferno Squad, an elite Imperial special forces group that has vowed revenge on the rebels after witnessing the destruction of the second Death Star. There are opportunities to play as Rebels too, and even step into the shoes of Luke Skywalker for at least one mission.
Despite the enthusiasm for the single-player campaign, EA Play focused on Battlefront II‘s multiplayer mode. As good as Battlefront was, it suffered from wimpy weapons, poor balance between characters, and some questionable DLC decisions that split the multiplayer-only playerbase into those with the cash to splash on DLC and those without. EA says Battlefront II both fixes those problems and introduces a swathe of appealing new features.
Top of the list is the introduction of multiple themed content “seasons,” which take the place of a paid-for season pass and will be offered for free to all players. This removes the issue of matchmaking players that own DLC with others that don’t. The first season is promised for December, and excitingly will feature content based on The Last Jedi. It includes Finn and Captain Phasma as playable heroes, as well as a new planet called Crait, and a space map for the planet D’Qar. More planets, heroes, vehicles, modes, and weapons are promised for future seasons.
EA claims players will be treated to “three times the content” in Battlefront II, which sounds impressive, although that isn’t too much of a challenge given the light updates of the original.
Battlefront II introduces a new class system, bringing it in line with the likes of Battlefield. Players can choose from Officer, Assault, Heavy, and Specialist classes. The Officer is the medic/support class, the Assault class is the medium-range shooter, the Heavy is the heavy weapons class, and the Specialist is the sniper class. Each class is fully customisable with various weapons and bonus cards, which equip traps, grenades, and other more thoughtful weaponry. Weapons and skins from the entire Star Wars franchise are promised for the retail release.
One of the biggest criticisms of the original Battlefront was that while the weapons looked and sounded authentic (as authentic as fictional weapons can sound, at least), they felt rather wimpy. Battlefront II fares much better. While I wasn’t able to try every one of the new classes in my limited multiplayer match, it’s clear that there’s far more oomph to a blaster this time around. The standard rifle of the Assault class has just enough kick to make aiming a challenge, while the sniper rifle packs a powerful punch that throws off impromptu shots.
Indeed, throughout the 20 vs. 20 mission I played on Theed—the capital city of Naboo featured in The Phantom Menace—every shot, grenade, trap, rocket, and lightsaber swoosh was hugely compelling. Attempting to take down a droid army as it ploughed through the city, my team of plucky clone troopers bravely flanked and sniped its enemies across a large courtyard, only to be pushed further back into the palace as droid ships battered our defences (given the speed at which this happened, I suspect we weren’t great players).
To even the odds, players can deploy various buffs in exchange for Battlepoints that are earned as you rack up kills or complete objectives. Of these, the miniature AT-ST walkers are the most amusing, if short lived (it turns out that riding a robot makes you something of a hot target), but there are other options including a battle droid and a Naboo fighter. Players can also deploy a hero, which includes the likes of Rey, Han Solo, and Darth Maul. All are plenty powerful, with Maul’s ability to strangle opponents with the force as well as deflect blaster shots with a twirl of his light staff being particularly difficult to attack against.
Such additions make Battlefront II a far more strategic affair. There’s a depth to the combat that was sorely missing from the original, with the choice of class, weapon, and buff having a dramatic affect on the outcome of a match. There’s also a greater emphasis on teamwork, which, unsurprisingly, makes Battlefront II more like Battlefield 1. Given just how good the latter’s multiplayer is, that’s no bad thing.
I’d be lying if I was super-excited for the multiplayer in Battlefront II (bring on the campaign), but there’s no denying that it’s already a vast improvement over Battlefront. The potent and highly successful combination of gunplay and strategy in Battlefield 1 has clearly rubbed off on Battlefront 2, even if the horrors of World War 1 and the melodrama of Star Wars couldn’t be any further apart.
Battlefront II (UK pre-order) is due for release on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, and Windows PC on November 17.
This post originated on Ars Technica UK