Electronic Arts and DICE are running an early beta test for Star Wars: Battlefront II right now, and the sci-fi shooter is attracting a lot of positive buzz. I’ve played it, and I can already see a number of ways that it is an improvement over its 2015 predecessor. But some fans might not care about those upgrades because they are concerned that the online multiplayer will give advantages to people willing to spend money on loot boxes.
This beta test is probably a fair representation of how the shooting and some of the special abilities work, but players are also using it to understand the multiplayer mode’s progression system. Based on this early and possibly unfinished system, some people are fearful and angry that players could pay money in the final game to get better guns and perks faster than everyone else. That would give the players who spend the most money the best chance to win.
I’ve asked DICE and EA for a comment about this and how exactly progression will work in the game when it launches next month, and I’ll update this post if the companies provide a response with more details.
With Battlefront II, EA is shifting away from selling critical content. In the original game, players had to keep buying map packs. This split up the audience, and the publisher is avoiding that this time by promising not to sell extra downloadable content like that. But to replace that lost revenue, EA and DICE are introducing loot boxes that players may buy. This is something we’ve seen in a lot of games. This week’s new Middle-earth: Shadow of War from Warner Bros. has loot boxes, so did last year’s GamesBeat game of the year, Overwatch.
But unlike Bliizzard’s class-based hero shooter, the beta for Battlefront II has loot crates that contain more than just cosmetic items (gear that just changes the looks of your characters). While you’ll get different win poses and other ways to show off and customize your characters, you’ll also get perks that make your character more deadly or more likely to survive. One card will heal your stormtrooper after you get a kill. And each of these perks come in different levels that are more effective. That means even if you get the card you want, you can still go back and purchase more loot boxes to get the more powerful gold version of that perk.
In the beta, you can buy loot boxes with in-game currency or earn them through various bonuses. Again, we don’t know if this is how it will work in the final game because EA and DICE haven’t specifically detailed how this system will work. Loot boxes are how you upgrade your character. If you want new guns, you need to get them from the loot boxes. You can craft guns, but to do that you need the scrap currency that also only comes from loot boxes. So this test is presenting the loot boxes as the central pillar for progression in Battlefront II.
Until the game launches or EA and DICE clarify how loot boxes work and whether they give an advantage to someone who spends a lot of money, some fans’ imaginations have enough room to get anxious about how the final game will treat them.