It’s only the first beta weekend for Star Wars Battlefront II, but I’m already luke warm on the game. The gameplay is fantastic, the sound design makes my ears orgasm, and the new system for heroes and powerups actually makes some sense. On top of that the ship based space combat is so much fun I played it for 5 hours straight without getting bored at all. Sadly, all of this is completely canceled out by the looming specter of micro-transactions that this game is completely buried under. This is just one symptom of a problem has become endemic to our beloved gaming industry, loot boxes, pay to win, and other systems that prey on gamers power fantasies to extract money in exchange for power ups in game. It’s time to talk about pay to win, and how its ruining the gaming industry.
I’m zooming in and out of the crevices of a ship dock in my TIE interceptor, chasing a Y wing bomber, and a pair of photon torpedos locks on to me and blow my butt away. Normally I would have survived one impact like that, but my opponent has a special gold Star Card that gives his torpedoes a whopping 40% more damage than normal. Now he didn’t pay cash money for that card in this beta, but to anyone who plays games in this modern era of microtranactions, you already know he will be able to when the game launches. The systems are in place, even if EA and DICE aren’t collecting any money just yet, this game is primed for money making.
Its not just torpedoes either. The games crate system reaches every single aspect of it. There are weapon cards for each of the games 4 classes, there are cards for different (and more powerful) items, for each class, and breaking down cards gives you the needed scrap to get add-ons for your current weapons. So deeply baked in to the game are these micro-transactions that EA and DICE present them as totally normal, even giving you the first one for free. From what I have seen the game is even offering MMO like incentives to players to log in every day.
It wouldn’t be so bad, but the disparity between levels of cards absolutely borders on the ridiculous. The Tie Interceptor features a card that gives you an increased rate of fire and the levels are 5%/10%/15%/20%. The aforementioned torpedo cards spread are 15%/20%/30/%40%. That’s a huge difference between someone who has basic card and someone who has an epic card. That doesn’t even touch on the fact that new players who have no cards are at a serious disadvantage from having no cards at all. At no point ever, will a new player be able to pick up this game, and just play on a level playing field with others.
So, is Star Wars Battlefront II pay to win? Right now, it sure looks like it is. The game even features the trademark two currency system that was born in the micro transaction laden world of MOBA’s and free to play games. Seeing that set of icons on the top of the screen, that was the moment that really finally got to me. Here is this beautiful game full of amazing Star Wars flare, and I can spend 200$ and feel like a god in it. I wont have to earn my place among the legends like Maul and Fett I can just buy my way in.
Ok, so I made that 200$ number up, but the point is the same. To understand how this works, I have to explain a little bit of the games mechanics. Each class (including the three starship ones) has abilities. These abilities function a bit like hero shooter abilities, they do something powerful (like a grenade or shotgun) and then have a cool down. These abilities can be swapped out using various cards that you get from those boxes that you can now buy. Are you seeing the same problem that I am? The cards also contain guns, as each class has at least two, and some guns are side grades, but others, like the one for the sniper class are serious upgrades. So while the guy who spent 50$ on the game has the basic sniper rifle, I spent 100$ and got myself a nice DMR style rifle that has a higher rate of fire, and better damage than the basic sniper rifle. So with my increased rate of fire, I can easily kill him, because I spent money. That doesn’t even touch on the cards that replace abilities which don’t even have a level cap. You can use them from the moment you get them. At least the cards that just give you more power require some time to unlock.
Yes, there is a level cap for cards. It’s a simple 2/5/10 in the beta, but I imagine it will be more in the full game. That level cap only applies to bonus cards (like that torpedo damage card) and not the ability cards, or weapons. So, with enough money you can start the game with a serious advantage. Even the games newly revamped heroes aren’t free from this pay-to-win epidemic. One of Boba Fett’s cards makes him totally immune to damage while firing his rockets midair and gives him a 10% damage bonus but only at the gold level. Remember that interceptor I was piloting in the beginning? By the time im writing this article Redditor Cognimancer pointed out that it could have “a +20% rate of fire increase, a +20% damage increase, and a -40% heat buildup.” I am not a math person but that seems like serious advantage to anyone with the funds to get those cards.
Because you are for sure going to get dozen if not hundreds of duplicate cards, EA and DICE offers crafting resources that you get from breaking down duplicates. These materials are then used to upgrade guns, things like scopes and silencers. Even more egregiously, you can use those materials to level up cards. You can also of course get the raw materials from boxes. Are you starting to see the problem? I know I am, and it’s a problem that’s going to stop me from buying this game. There are also of course cosmetic items mixed in, further watering down the pool of good items you can get, and forcing you go buy more boxes.
But, this is all speculative right? No, no, its not. The game already showed Its’s hand with boxes, and on the top where you see the amount of “credits” that you have, there is also a little symbol that looks just a bit like a box, and will probably be a premium currency of some type. This is a common tatic with games with boxes, as it allows the developer to say everything can be earned, without lying at all. It is of course just a smoke screen, each box costs about 1,000 credits and even when doing well I earn maybe 200 credits per game. Each game takes around 15 minutes so lets say it games me 2.5 hours to earn a box, or I you know I can just spend 10$ and probably get a bunch with 0 time investment. That’s the definition of pay-to-win.
So late in this games development it seems unlikely that any of the many seemingly pay to win systems can be changed, but its not too late to show EA that we wont tolerate this kind of Pay to Win behavior. so vote with your wallet, and don’t preorder this game, don’t but it at launch, and show EA and DICE that this kind of micro-transaction heavy gameplay is unacceptable to gamers. We can still save our industry from turning in to a slot machine that preys on kids, but we need to vote with our wallet.