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Editorial

Star Wars: Battlefront II ‘Han Solo’ Update Adds Insult to Injury

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Battlefront II

Star Wars: Battlefront II’s latest update, launching the ‘Han Solo’ season, offered more than new game modes and tweaks to the title’s multiplayer content. Alongside minor adjustments to Battlefront II’s online play, the recent update gave single-players something invaluable: proof that EA and its subsidiaries care so little about offline enthusiasts that the companies continue to neglect them with the occasional placating gesture. While the rare deeds are somewhat appreciated, the lack of effort put into them by Battlefront II’s development team is astounding. Giving single-player fans little to work with in a supposedly AAA title is not only pathetic, but  insulting, and the excitement with which EA’s community manager masquerades when discussing the new season’s release notes is equally dissatisfying.

When EA-DICE announced the ‘Han Solo’ season, Battlefront II had long since reached a point of skepticism among gamers. After the microtransaction controversy, saving Battlefront II was a massive uphill battle, and, six months later, EA has barely left the base of the climb. However, ignoring the popularity and financial success of multiplayer in the industry would be both foolish and ignorant. That said, popularity and financial success do not justify the almost complete disregard with which Battlefront II’s developers have treated the game’s single-player elements. The two campaigns can be completed in a matter of hours, and the arcade mode is barebones at best. EA-DICE, Criterion Software, and Motive Studios could all take some pointers from Call of Duty developers and the previous versions of a franchise they claim to be rebooting.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare Remastered and WWII both allow fans to play every multiplayer mode against the AI if they so choose, enabling single-player gamers to enjoy everything competitive players enjoy. Similarly, the original Battlefront series, while released before online gaming was as popular as it is now, permitted everyone to access the titles’ full scope in both single-player and multiplayer: Instant Action and Galactic Conquest provided near-limitless hours of entertainment. If the current and future iterations of the rebooted franchise revived those two popular and sorely missed elements, EA might see less outrage at its continuously poor practices that are more exclusive than inclusive. More content and outreach to the various types of gamers coupled with less absurd and oblivious business models may result in more sales, thus increasing EA’s financial gain—the company’s primary concern. Of course, implementing more content and catering to multiple portions of the market would require EA to care more about taking logical risks and less about being just another gutless company that sticks to what is safe and trendy. Improvement and success require risk, and, in an industry where new and improved excels, EA is failing to impress, especially when it tries creating hype around lackadaisical updates.

Battlefront 2 Starfighter Pic 2

The ‘Han Solo’ season is the first update to Battlefront II in months that expanded single-player content in any way. The single-player community has been aching since the game’s release for Starfighter Assault and Galactic Assault, at the very least, to be available against the AI. Presumably, EA-DICE would have learned its lesson after the first reboot’s failure to give single-players much content, whereby the developer eventually released an update that allowed Fighter Squadron and Walker Assault to be played against the AI or in co-op with a friend. The definition of insanity being what it is, EA-DICE seems driven towards madness. Then, with the ‘Han Solo’ season, the developer granted single-players two new arcade modes: Starfighter Team Battle and Starfighter Onslaught. While any starfighter mode is enjoyable, even these implementations grow stale. Giving gamers access to all multiplayer modes against the AI is not asking too much, yet Battlefront II’s developers care little for fans’ desires, content to force them into playing in multiplayer and dealing with an often-toxic online community when they would much rather sit back, relax, and just play the game. Moreover, bringing back Galactic Conquest would go a long way in keeping a rebooted franchise alive, and allowing that mode to be played in both single-player and multiplayer should be a no-brainer.

Indeed, all game modes, even the campaign, should be playable either alone or with others. Arguing that implementing such permissions is not cost-effective and would not increase sales is understandable, but misguided. EA’s current business model, while growing financially, is causing many gamers more aggravation than enjoyment, so the company’s future gains may be in jeopardy if it continues down a beaten path. Perhaps change is in order. Quitting monstrous practices (loot boxes) and expanding EA’s reach to all gamers might be more expensive, yet should also increase sales. In addition, such a risk could be the first baby steps needed to regain fan loyalty, which would drive sales for the company’s future titles.

Unfortunately, EA remains one of the most hard-headed companies in the industry, and, while not every title it releases is of poor quality, it is clearly doing something wrong to spur such distaste among the community. Companies need to profit to sustain their business, without question. However, when profit is all that drives companies, greed and indifference crack the industry’s foundation and have an adverse effect on consumers. Thus, those companies struggle, and EA is by far one of the largest reapers of what it has sown.

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As updates go, Battlefront II’s ‘Han Solo’ season is a typical misrepresentation of what fans have desired in a franchise they want so badly to love or love again. Ambiguous assurances were made about the content being released in the recent update, so claiming EA-DICE over-promised and under-delivered is not technically accurate. However, these vague promises allow Battlefront II’s developers, and EA as a whole, to weasel out of any commitment to integrity. Furthermore, to say working out the coding to make all multiplayer modes playable in single-player would be far too difficult or time-consuming is not only a cop-out, but a selfish, weak defense for a company that is more than capable of the skill and finances required to perform such tasks. Again, EA has the capability and staff numbers to accomplish these functions, but not the work ethic. The original Battlefront series welcomed all gamers and had ample single-player and multiplayer content, and technology has only improved in the last decade as the industry has grown. Taking one step forward and several steps backward is indefensible. Notably, EA did not have a hand in the original Battlefront franchise, but that only reinforces the point given the company is every bit as monolithic as Lucasarts was in 2004 and 2005, if not larger.

Battlefront II’s most recent update is so insulting to the game’s community that it almost circles back to incredible. Fans use the game’s forums to communicate their concerns with EA-DICE, yet their voices go largely unheard outside of miscellaneous bug fixes. Multiple posts on the game’s official forums page have players calling for Galactic Assault and Starfighter Assault. Even Reddit provides an outlet for such desires, and still those gamers are only given some apathetic nod that keeps the title’s “replayability” almost nonexistent outside of online content. Clearly, the team behind Battlefront II or the publisher who owns it cares little-to-nothing for what single-players want. While multiplayer is absolutely important and undoubtedly the focal point of the game’s existence, ignoring the offline community and refusing to learn from past mistakes is a sure way to burn bridges and hurt future business.

Editorial

Three Single-Player Games to Watch Out for in July 2019

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Three Single Player Games (July 2019) - Sea of Solitude, Fire Emblem Three Houses, Wolfenstein Youngblood

July, the middle of winter down here in Australia. Even in the bizarre New South Wales climate, the biting cold makes for a great excuse to stay inside and play games. 

Weirdly for single players, quite a few prestige games this month include additional co-op modes. With acclaimed designers behind them, such games will hopefully avoid the pitfalls of accommodating multiple players, as too many games have done in the past.

Sea of Solitude

Release Date: July 5, 2019
Platforms: PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

At first blush, Sea of Solitude looks like yet another story of a young adult struggling with questions of identity and mental health while exploring a beautiful but harsh fantasy world.

Actually, that’s what it is. ‘Quirky, life affirming indie adventure’ is a whole cottage industry these days, but the fact that such games are now more prevalent should never dismay.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a masterpiece of refined design and storytelling, and Sea of Solitude appears be something similar—this time dealing with a fantastical vision of depression that turns ordinary people into literal monsters.

Players take charge of Kay, who has sought out the eponymous Sea—or rather, a flooded city based on Berlin—in the hope that there is a cure for monstrosity. However, despite its name, she is not the only person in the Sea. Avoiding the other monsters of the Sea seems to be a major part of the gameplay. These tense encounters are likely to provide rhythm and variety to the adventure and keep it from being a just walking simulator. (Not that being a walking simulator is inherently a problem.)

Although published by EA Originals, one would do well to remember that EA the company does not actually profit off the Originals that they publish. With a focused story and themes that still are not often explored in bigger games, Sea of Solitude should be of great interest to single player fans in a month otherwise dominated by multiplayer titles.

 

Fire Emblem: Three Houses

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platform: Nintendo Switch

Almost certainly the biggest single player release of the month, and tied with Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3 as another massive Switch exclusive, Fire Emblem: Three Houses might be exactly what single players need right now.

Lately the Fire Emblem franchise has exploded in both its popular profile and sales success, buoyed by a hunger for both deep anime RPGs and polished tactics games. Three Houses seems to have doubled down on exciting trends and features in both genres: particularly a Persona/Harry Potter inspired magic school setting and an even deeper tactical battle system that ditches the rock-paper-scissors for more nuanced character progression options. As with many Japanese RPGs, the story is also a major focus and hinges upon a time-jump.

The early part casts the player as a teacher at the Officer’s Academy, situated in the center of the game world and attended by students from the three most powerful nations. Five years later, the second and likely larger part concerns the drama between the player’s teacher and their former students, whose nations are now locked in a massive three-way conflict.

As is to be expected for a series finally coming back to consoles after a long time on the 3DS, Three Houses is a massive technical leap over its predecessors. The game boasts better realised battlefields, more detailed armies, and a slick animated style that appears much more consistent compared with the three or four different art styles on the 3DS.

With such improvements, as well as the overall pedigree of the Fire Emblem brand, Three Houses should have no trouble satisfying single player fans looking for a meaty middle-of-the-year RPG.

Wolfenstein: Youngblood

Release Date: July 26, 2019
Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One

The recent Wolfenstein revival series is such a remarkable achievement in traditional shooter design and great, if goofy, sci-fi worldbuilding that the co-op focus of this latest instalment is somewhat disappointing.

Yes, as with F.E.A.R. 3 and Dead Space 3, following a well-received second chapter the Wolfenstein series now pivots to a co-operative focused chapter. Though the game is not a mandatory multiplayer experience, combat encounters and puzzles have been redesigned to accommodate the two player mode, giving single players an AI-controlled partner and bullet sponge enemies.

However, all hope is not lost for Wolfenstein: why else would it be the third game on the list? The narrative has been pushed forward in time, as B.J.’s twin daughters are now in their adolescence, now giving players a glimpse at the 1980s of Wolfenstein‘s skewed universe. Additionally, the level design itself is more freeform thanks to development assistance from Arkane, the developers of the Dishonored series.

Will Wolfenstein: Youngblood successfully deliver more of the series’s goofy charm and crazy alternate reality? Almost certainly. On the other hand, will the game be as fun to play alone as in multiplayer? That remains to be seen. Last month’s E3 demo that raised such concerns was naturally only a snapshot of a game in development, so MachineGames and Arkane have had plenty of time to resolve these potential downsides to a co-op focused game.

Those are our three big single player games to look out for this month. Other interesting titles coming soon include Stranger Things 3 on July 4 and Attack on Titan 2 on July 5, both games hitting Nintendo Switch, PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

On July 12 we will see the sequel to an almost-fantastic Minecraft-like RPG spinoff, Dragon Quest Builders 2 on Switch and PlayStation 4, as well as the Switch port of “anime Monster Hunter”, God Eater 3

The week after, July 19 brings us Switch-exclusive Marvel Ultimate Alliance 3: The Black Order, and at an undetermined time during the month Klei Entertainment’s anticipated survival-sim Oxygen Not Included will finally leave early access on PC.

Have we missed anything that you’re looking forward to? Let us know in the comments below and be sure bookmark OnlySP and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. You can also join the discussion in our community Discord server.

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