It’s important to remember the criteria for which we select Game of the Month winners here at TSG. We don’t select the best game of the month, but the one that represents the most significant impact on the industry and culture. Though sometimes those criteria intersect (look no further than March GotM winner Breath of the WIld), we have to admit that this is not the case for the month of November. This month featured a handful of noteworthy titles, such as Call of Duty: WWII, Pokemon Ultra Sun and Moon, and several Nintendo Switch ports from Bethesda (L.A. Noire, DOOM, and Skyrim), but none of them came close to leaving a true impact on the industry. The game to actually accomplished that feat this month was Star Wars Battlefront II.
When the game was first shown off at this year’s E3, alongside a promise from EA that they had learned from their mistakes, many gamers and fans began to hope that this would be the kind of quality Star Wars game we haven’t received for a long time and, in a lot of ways, it is. For one, it’s a glorious representation of Star Wars. Everything from the graphics to the sounds to the iconic locations is designed to fully immerse players in the galaxy far far away. Gameplay has been tightened up and there is a metric ton of content compared to the sparse first entry. A single-player campaign has been added, there are close to a dozen planets instead of the first game’s four, and hero units now include fan-favorites like Yoda and Darth Maul. There’s a solid level of polish spread across the entire game and even though the single-player campaign is brief, there is still a lot to love in the gameplay here. Unfortunately, there’s one massive thing to despise.
EA’s promise to right the wrongs of DICE’s first Battlefront quickly proved to be a smokescreen. Sure, they learned from their previous missteps, but they showed that they are infinitely capable of making brand new ones. Though a single-player campaign was added and all DLC will remain free, microtransactions returned in a big way. Going beyond traditional cosmetic upgrades like those found in Overwatch, loot boxes in Star Wars Battlefront II are actually an integral part of how players level up and unlock better skills in the game’s progression system. While EA removed microtransactions just before the game’s official release to prevent a “pay-to-win” community, the damage had been done. Some players already had access to extra loot boxes through special edition copies of the game, and the randomized progression system undermines the reward system for playing the game. If you just examine how Battlefront II’s systems are designed, it looks like a free-to-play mobile game more than a $60 retail release.
The development of loot box reward systems in games has become increasingly intolerable to many gamers, especially in the case of AAA releases. The current crisis surrounding Star Wars Battlefront II represents a tipping point. How well the game performs could nudge publisher EA towards either continuing the trend or reducing its presence in future titles. EA’s response to pull microtransactions signifies a significant victory in this regard, but only time will tell if the company will continue to listen, or even truly understand, the public outcry against them. For what the game’s success might indicate for the future of loot box systems, and for being an excellent gameplay embodiment of the Star Wars universe, Star Wars Battlefront II earns our Game of the Month.
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