Is Battlefront II the Sequel Star Wars Needed?
If you have even a passing interest in Star Wars, gaming or pop culture, you may have heard one or two rumblings about EA’s new Star Wars Battlefront II game this last week…
The sequel to 2015’s Battlefront (in turn a sequel to 2005’s Battlefront II, itself a sequel to 2005’s Battlefront oh my god it rhymes) launched on November 17th amid a storm of controversy concerning micro-transactions and EU gambling laws, leading to EA’s (temporary) u-turn on in-game spending. You can find out more about the situation here and here.
As fascinating as this stuff is, it’s not what we’re here to talk about today. We’re looking at Battlefront II‘s campaign mode – or more specifically, the story within – and how it relates to the Star Wars we know.
Needless to say, there are spoilers for the game ahead, so consider yourself warned!
If you haven’t completed Battlefront II yet, you may need to get up to speed on the story. There are several YouTube channels featuring playthroughs and cutscene compilations, but XCageGame has put together a handy little compilation which gives you the entire single-player campaign story in just 52 minutes.
Go ahead and give it a watch, I’ll wait right here…
Pretty decent, right?
While there are legitimate concerns about the story’s lack of originality, Iden and Del’s journey from proud servants of the Empire to crack commandos for the New Republic (and highly-skilled X-Wing pilots to boot) lets us see the galaxy on a larger scale than if we had followed just one faction or the other. From the beginnings of Operation Cinder to the Battle of Jakku, we see several major points of the story immediately after Return of the Jedi – and for the first time in Disney canon, it rang true.
The Will of the Emperor
Palpatine’s contingency plan has the Empire pushing an increasingly brutal regime. From the continuation of the civil war through to the torching of planets, the end of the Empire is one long, violent death rattle.
While a lot of this ground had been covered in the Aftermath trilogy of books, Wendig’s style made the story difficult to take seriously. At the same time, the plot was so clearly rushed to fit in with wherever The Force Awakens ended up being that it never really fit together as part of the larger whole.
Battlefront II‘s campaign shows the final days of the Empire in a cohesive manner, as familiar Imperials that we come to know through the campaign are either destroyed or segued into service for the First Order. Early campaign missions are reminiscent of TIE Fighter (which can only be a good thing), helping to make aftermath to Endor a little more recognisable.
It’s the first time under Disney that the transition from the OT to the ST era has been given the space it deserves.
Remember how The Force Awakens missed a huge (and sadly final) opportunity to re-unite Luke, Han and Leia on-screen while we still had the chance to see it? Unfortunately, Battlefront II doesn’t rectify this either. But we do get to check in with each of the main heroes throughout the campaign (including Lando Calrissian) and see what they’re up to.
Anyone familiar with the Marvel Comics will know that Luke’s been tracking down the Jedi artefacts that Palpatine had squirrelled away, and so it’s little surprise to discover that this is what he’s doing here. Although the likeness and voice are disconcertingly off, Luke still acts the way that we would expect him following the events of Return of the Jedi. He practices the compassion that saved the galaxy with a Kenobi-esque wisdom and playfulness in his interactions with Del.
It’s not hard to draw a line from the Luke Skywalker of ROTJ to Battlefront II, and that’s reassuring.
In Battlefront II General Leia Organa is the best she’s been in the new canon, period. Her interactions with Iden Versio are pure-OT, pragmatic, inspirational and hopeful. When Versio asks to track down her father, Leia’s response could not be more in-character or representative of the difference between the Rebellion and the Empire. It’s a genuine pleasure to watch her back in the universe.
When we finally catch up with Han Solo we find that he’s away from the fight for a purpose, gaining vital intelligence from backwater drinking dens. It’s fun to see a closer approximation of Solo back in action after so long (because that deadbeat failure Harrison Ford played in The Force Awakens was just weird), and it was actually quite cool to see his scene in Maz’s castle.
This is the biggest takeaway from Battlefront II. While the direction that Disney chose to take the story after Return of the Jedi still doesn’t sit right with me, there’s now been enough time for those involved in building the world to catch up with Abrams and Kasdan’s curveball and start constructing a narrative that makes sense.
Battlefront II is reassuring because it proves possible that over time we’re going to see more quality connective tissue build up between the two trilogies. Hopefully, this will be created by people with at least a slight grasp of how to write these characters. If that’s the case, then the stark differences from Return of the Jedi to The Force Awakens will start to iron out.
With any luck it’ll be much like the way that for many fans, the Clone Wars worked strongly in the Prequel Trilogy‘s favour.
Back to Jakku
As connective tissue goes, you may well be thinking about one particular revelation from the cinematic reel above…
That’s right. after Iden and Del get together in the aftermath of the battle of Jakku it’s later revealed that the two of them have a daughter. We’re given very little information other than this, and knowing Lucasfilm it could all be one huge red herring – but we may very well have just seen the action-packed backstory of Rey’s parents.
Of course, if this is the case then we’ve also seen how complicit Kylo Ren was in the murder of Del – which may not play out too well if Ben and Rey end up working together after all…
Ultimately, the hints about Rey’s lineage or the mysterious Project Resurrection are laying foundations for future stories. For its many flaws, Battlefront II succeeds by recognising the story and characters that came before and then doing its bit to usher them into the new era.
As new-canon sequels to Return of the Jedi go, this is the best one we’ve seen yet.