Classic Comeback | Star Wars: Battlefront II
A fine addition to your collection.
Since its release, it’s difficult to recall a time the Star Wars franchise has waned in popularity. While the prequel films might have exposed flaws in Lucas’ storytelling or the sequels appeared polarising for some fans, many are unified in their collective love for the original trilogy and the fantastic universe it helped craft. This principle also crosses over into video games – while the (often troublesome) DICE Battlefront games receive criticism for their microtransactions or monotonous progression, fans are untied in their love for the original Star Wars Battlefront II, released in 2005 by Pandemic Studios.
This game gives me a massive nostalgic trip. While I may have enjoyed other PlayStation 2 games more, Star Wars Battlefront II was one of the only multiplayer games I owned. It allowed myself and my brother to revel in our obsession with a galaxy far, far away. The visuals, sound effects and locations manifested the worlds we so badly wanted to explore, making for an all-out intergalactic war we could both enjoy. We would play this game for hours – I’d be the Separatists, he’d represent the Republic, and more times than not he would absolute obliterate me.
This is where the fun begins.
Recently then, I rediscovered the game and came across what is now my single favourite Star Wars experience: Galactic Conquest. In case you’re unfamiliar with it, it loosely plays like the board game Risk; you’re in control of your galactic fleet (or multiple if you have the credits to spare), hopping from one planet to the next, fighting battles against your enemies and claiming land until the entire galaxy is under your control. The mode is typically played between the Republic and CIS or the Rebels and the Empire, the two main conflicts of the pre-2015 Star Wars universe. In this particular playthrough I commanded the Empire, looking to dominate with my leagues of Stormtroopers.
The game mode features all the planets found in the game (for the most part at least; one or two are exclusive to their respective eras), as well as space battles once your fleet crosses paths with that of your enemies. This makes for highly varied and explosive gameplay, and while space battles may not be up to everyone’s taste (I hate them as much as Anakin Skywalker hates sand), the continuity surrounding it makes the trials and objectives of your fleet feel authentic. The battles are rewarding when won, but deflating when lost, making for a regroup and consideration of your next move.
It is this sense of reward that really spurs you on and encourages you to keep pushing. Your team starts out relatively small, with only a singular unit and no bonuses to speak of; only after you invade more planets and obtain more credits do you have the opportunity to grow your infantry and better your military capabilities. To go from a humble little squad of Stormtroopers to a hugely varied Shock/Scout/Dark team of destroyers was both satisfying and immensely gratifying to be a part of and think about. As my Empire gained land, they gained resources, and as such gained the credentials to expand - by its nature, this helps you track your progress.
Credits will do fine.
The credits I mentioned earlier are quite sparse, only gaining a feasible amount after a successful invasion. While a failed invasion will still get you a consolation prize, it’s not nearly enough to carry out intergalactic procedures with. This therefore demands the player to think more strategically and prioritise what they want to do and where they may want to attack. It adds another layer of depth to this already quite deep game mode, making each conquest unique and challenging for its commander. While ground fights can become quite easy as more and more benefits become available to you, if you don’t have enough credits to sustain your army and their needs, you’re going to have a bad time.
Among the bonuses you can earn are cumulative health boosts, extra armour or additional garrisons of troops for when your forces may be depleting. However, my favourite perk - as I’m sure everyone’s is - is the Leader one, where you can have a Jedi or Sith be sent down along with your usual squad to join the battle. As anybody who has played Battlefront II will know, the Heroes are extremely fun to play as, and are so exaggerated and overpowered that even the worst players can have fun being them. It adds more weight to their value seeing as how extraordinary they are from the mundane ranks of the Stormtroopers and acts as a reward for positive progress within the game.
When you do win a battle or conquer a fleet, you hear the introduction of Dual of the Fates, one of the finest musical pieces composed by John Williams, just to get you sufficiently pumped about your latest victory. Its threatening tones, though satisfying, remind you the Empire are truly the bad guys, and that each victory for you is a defeat for democracy and liberation.
Speaking of bad guys, another outstanding aspect of the mode is your commanding officer. I don’t know who voiced this guy but he is, through and through, one of my favourite parts of the entire mode. Playing this game recently and just hearing him say ‘hostile reinforcement count is diminishing’ in his overly posh, patronising and stern tone threw me back to six-year old Sam, warding off the Rebels with difficulty. He provides updates with such gusto and authority that it’s impossible not to be obsessed with this menacing man. Once, after fending off a Rebel invasion of Dagobah, he told us he was happy with us ‘maintaining peace’ on the planet, and his troublesome and manipulative tone said it all. Aside from that, the officer is useful and issues out important pieces of information throughout battles, like when a command post is lost or when your team has taken the upper hand.
Not a story the Jedi would tell you
The mode isn’t exempt from its flaws, however. By its nature, playing games again and again can often be repetitive – especially when your two fleets are stuck in a tug of war with one specific planet. There were times when I would fight three battles in a row on the same map, just because both teams wanted control of the system. Obviously this is circumstantial from game to game, but an easy way to fix this is to save, take a break and resume your conquest later.
Other than that though, the atmosphere of the whole experience is outstanding, especially for a mid-2000’s PS2 game. Of course, the beautiful sounds of Star Wars are constantly playing in the background, giving the game that cinematic and epic feeling. There was one fight I had on Polis Massa, and I was the last Stormtrooper left; I’d seen all my brethren fall, and now it was my job to see that the Empire’s mission was not in vain. With the thundering music in the background and a whole corridor of Rebels aiming for me, I darted from cover to cover, threw grenades, shot my blaster, and… lost. But that’s not the point; my point is that with the music accompanying my tribulation, my final stand was a monumental moment, an act of bravery in the struggles of the Empire.
After days of fighting however (who knew the galaxy was so easy to conquer?), I finally had every single system under my control. I had bought peace, freedom, justice and security to my new Empire. My fleets were upgraded to their fullest potential and any rebellion would stand no chance against the forces at my disposal. All that’s left now is for me to replay it again and again, as another team, conquering another galaxy, in another way. What a game.