Mobile PvP shooter Star Wars: Rivals announced with not a loot crate in sight (just kidding!)

Even Star Wars’ most optimistic followers would seem hard-pressed to say that the reputation of Disney and Lucasfilm’s four-decade-strong science-fiction universe within the video gaming industry hasn’t been tarnished somewhat of late.

No matter how many past wrongs EA righted in crafting their ambitious online FPS follow-up Star Wars: Battlefront II, not least by ditching Season Passes and introducing a single-player campaign, it’s safe to say that their controversial-at-best Loot Crate system fared about as favourably as the Empire’s myriad Death Stars upon its debut.

The show must go on, however, and Disney evidently plans to waste no time whatsoever in directing fans’ attention away from Battlefront II while EA continues to perform damage control on said debacle, focusing instead on their next licensed project set in a galaxy far, far away.

Takeaways:

  • The project in question? Star Wars: Rivals, a self-proclaimed competitive action shooter which pits both the heroes whom fans love and the villains whom they love to hate against one another on cover-based, semi-destructible PvP battlefields.
  • As with most entries in its genre, players progress through Rivals by completing Arena Leagues, collecting both common and rare characters to recruit on their team, utilising each contender’s unique weapons and abilities, and striving to earn Bonuses by teaming up heroes from the Rebellion, Underworld and other factions.
  • If our usage of the phrase “common and rare characters” set off any alarm bells in your mind, then it’s not entirely without reason. Disney’s press release does openly admit that Reward Crates will make their not-so-long-awaited comeback in some form here, though with no further details on pricing provided as of yet.
  • On the plus side, one aspect of the revived Battlefront franchise which Rivals won’t borrow is its 2015 freshman outing’s refusal to look beyond the Original Trilogy for inspiration. Expect to see settings including Empire’s Bespin, Rogue One’s Scarif and The Force Awakens’ Jakku amongst the shooter’s initial Arena roster.
  • As for the scoundrels, Jedi Knights and nerf herders duking it out on these maps, we already know that Han Solo, Boba Fett, Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Finn, Captain Phasma, Chewbacca, Admiral “it’s a trap!” Ackbar, Orson Krennic, R2-D2 and (brace yourselves) Salacious Crumb will appear, with more heroes still to be announced.

Will Rivals defy as many expectations as Rian Johnson did with The Last Jedi, throwing in legions of Porgs, “yo mama” jokes and outrage-inducing mythology subversions en route?

Time will tell, but so long as Disney can manage expectations as to how their Reward Crate system – the likes of which usually better befit free-to-play mobile games anyway – will operate, then chances are that the Force could still prove strong with this one.

We’re still waiting on Rivals’ official release date for the time being, but those wanting to pre-register on Google Play can do so now right here and scoop themselves some bonus Death Trooper support units fresh from Rogue One in the process.

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A Visceral End? Thoughts On The Studio’s Closure

Irony’s a cruel mistress and make no mistake. Just last week, we thought indie platformer Cuphead’s near-unprecedented smash success might signal a welcome change in the air for the gaming industry, particularly during a year abundant with studio closures.

But if the latest development in publisher EA’s fraught era at the helm of licensed Star Wars IPs reminds us of anything, it’s that some trends aren’t so easily bucked as one might hope.

Yes, Visceral Games, the studio behind the hit sci-fi-turned-horror FPS saga Dead Space as well as divisive but diverting spin-off Battlefield Hardline, has officially closed its doors on the orders of its EA overlords.

Before this troubling turn of events, the team was hard at work on a new action-adventure set in the universe of Jedi, Sith and Gungans, first teased as a “story-driven” IP upon EA announcing the project in 2016.

Work on said untitled licensed effort will still continue beyond Visceral’s shutdown, however, albeit in the hands of EA Vancouver and with an apparently revised modus operandi: expect less of a “story-based, linear adventure game” and more of a “broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency”.

That’s according to EA’s executive VP, Patrick Söderlund, and while we’ve no idea precisely what he means either, apparently a core focus of the refreshed project will be providing an experience that encourages players to return “for a long time to come”, presumably with extra content atop its “stunning visuals” and “authenticity”.

Shifts in the ‘marketplace’?

Given Söderlund’s emphasis on how much of the rationale behind EA’s tweaked approach has come thanks to the publisher “closely tracking fundamental shifts in the marketplace”, that the move has already prompted more than a few grumbles should come as no surprise.

Relying on focus groups and market trends has its benefits, of course, as anyone on the marketing team for 2015’s controversial Battlefront reboot will surely attest today, but allowing that to hamper creative vision carries equal risks, not least if it means we lose the opportunity for a Last of Us-rivalling tour de force of Star Wars storytelling as a result. And guess what? We like single-player games.

With all that said, it’s worth remembering that we only ever saw brief glimpses of Visceral’s IP in EA’s E3 showreels, so we’ll never know for sure whether the developer’s approach to the project would’ve born fruition or proven misguided in hindsight.

For now, then, let’s keep our thoughts with the enviably creative minds at the fallen studio who’ll now need to seek gainful employment elsewhere. No doubt they’ve bright futures ahead at EA or elsewhere, and we wish them the very best of luck en route.

EA shuts down Visceral Games

In a move that will only surprise people that haven’t heard of Electronic Arts before, EA has shuttered yet another studio. What is surprising is that the studio in question is Visceral Games. Visceral were hard at work on an eagerly awaited Star Wars game, with Amy Hennig spearheading development.

This was exciting because it was believed to be the re-birth of Star Wars 1313, which looked amazing but was binned once LucasArts ceased to be an actual developer and simply turned into a licensing operation. It was also exciting because Amy Hennig was one the major leaders of the Uncharted series. It was meant to be so perfect. Alas, it was simply not meant to be at all.

Takeaways:

  • Visceral Games were most well known for the Dead Space series.
  • This is the latest developer that EA has closed down. EA is infamous for doing this and have a section of their Wikipedia page dedicated to studios they’ve shuttered.
  • Amy Hennig was brought onboard to direct Visceral’s ‘Uncharted-like’ Star Wars game. Her future with EA remains up in the air.
  • This looks like EA is moving away from single-player story-driven games in a big way. The game itself is not ‘dead’ but instead, development will ‘pivot’ to be multiplayer focused.
  • We have no idea who’s making this Star Wars game now. Good luck to them though.

The game itself hasn’t been cancelled but has instead seen the design take a ‘pivot’. An EA spokesperson said:

“It has become clear that to deliver an experience that players will want to come back to and enjoy for a long time to come, we needed to pivot the design. We will maintain the stunning visuals, authenticity in the Star Wars universe, and focus on bringing a Star Wars story to life. Importantly, we are shifting the game to be a broader experience that allows for more variety and player agency, leaning into the capabilities of our Frostbite engine and reimagining central elements of the game to give players a Star Wars adventure of greater depth and breadth to explore.”

So there it is. EA close down another studio, the ‘marketplace’ has decided that single-player games don’t make enough money and this Star Wars game, which started off as the hotly anticipated Star Wars 1313, now looks like a poisoned chalice.

All the best to those at Visceral affected. Dead Space was dope.

Source: Polygon

New Star Wars: Battlefront II trailer reveals maps, modes and Maul (oh my!)

Between director departures, the return of animated TV series Rebels and teases of a new trailer for December blockbuster The Last Jedi, fans of a galaxy far, far away can barely move for major news-bytes right now.

Not content to become lost amidst the maelstrom, however, EA is only adding to the pile with an info-packed new Battlefront II trailer, revealing many of the key details on the sequel to 2015’s divisive multiplayer FPS which sceptics and optimists alike have been waiting for since Day 1.

Takeaways:

  • Anyone concerned the studio would deliver a paucity of launch maps – as was the case with the original Battlefront – can breathe easy, since the follow-up will pack 11 arenas taken from across three eras of Star Wars history this November.
  • As well as reprising the Hoth, Endor and Jakku maps available in the 2015 game, Battlefront II is set to play host to Kamino, Kashyyyk, Theed, Death Star II, Mos Eisley, Yavin 4, Starkiller Base and Takodana, with not a Season Pass barrier in sight for any of those fan-favourite worlds.
  • The interplanetary showcase doesn’t end there, though, since those who join the Empire-enlisted Inferno Squad to bridge the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens in the solo campaign will also visit Bespin, Sullust, Pillio and Vardos en route.
  • Another lesson EA has seemingly learned from the ample criticisms directed at the first Battlefront involves its multiplayer offerings, with a diverse range of gameplay modes present this time around including Starfighter Assault, Galactic Assault, Blast, Strike and the returning Heroes vs. Villains.
  • If the latter  left you wondering precisely which scoundrels and guardians of peace and hope we’ll have the chance to command here, then fret not. Watch the trailer closely and you’ll spot many of the 14 hero characters available such as Leia, Kylo Ren, Boba Fett, Darth Maul, Yoda, Han Solo and Rey, with Captain Phasma and Finn teased as future free DLC.

There’s not long to wait until fans can play-test Battlefront II‘s various maps, modes and Phantom Menaces either, since a multiplayer beta set on Theed will showcase Galactic Assault, Starfighter Assault, Strike and Arcade this Friday, October 6th on all consoles.

They mightn’t have quite shot first what with Lucasfilm and Disney XD having beaten them to the punch on major announcements, but if nothing else, EA seem admirably intent on righting the wrongs of their first licensed Star Wars production here, and we can’t wait to see whether their efforts pay off next month.

Stay tuned to D-pad Joy for more coverage on Battlefront II building towards its Xbox One, PS4 and PC release on November 17th, but for now, be sure to check out the John Boyega-narrated new trailer below for more reveals than you can shake a lightsaber at (trust us, we tried)…

Star Wars: Battlefront 2 beta awakens in October

Electronic Arts have drawn back the veil on the launch date for the multiplayer beta of their latest licensed tie-in, Star Wars: Battlefront II.

Set to meld together iconic set-pieces from all eight films in a long-awaited single-player campaign and a plentiful array of online modes, the first-person-shooter sequel will strive to right its predecessor’s much-vaunted wrongs, not least by ditching the 2015 original’s scorned season pass model and throwing a character class system into the mixture to boot.

Takeaways:

  • Come October 6th, Battlefront II’s online beta will arrive on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC – via the Origin store – for every farm-raised hero, charming scoundrel and nerfherder alike to consume in all its far-flung, space operatic glory over three days.
  • As well as experiencing the expansive Naboo map showcased at E3 – with its Clones, Droids and magnificently over-powered Heroes – in Galactic Assault, fans can take flight too via the newly-announced Starfighter Assault mode, where EA promise “a variety of the most memorable Starfighters” from the hit sci-fi series.
  • But for “Han Shot First”- proclaiming, Holiday Special-defending devotees who can’t wait until October 6th for all of that content, pre-ordering the full game in the interim will offer two-day early beta access from October 4th, not to mention a rare “Yoda’s Epic Lightsaber Mastery” Star Card which practically sells itself on its name alone…

While holding off until approximately a month before Battlefront II’’s full-scale launch to trial its online component’s technical strengths and weaknesses might seem a risky gamble on EA’s part at first – not to mention an irksome delaying tactic in the eyes of fans who couldn’t attend E3 last month – there’s likely method behind the publisher’s madness.

After all, rather than showcasing a glitch-ridden, unfinished build of their foray into a galaxy far, far away in the next few weeks, the beta’s October launch should give the development team the chance to truly impress players with a near-complete version, yet at the same gathering data as vital as the Death Star plans to allow for tweaks before release.

Keep your eyes locked on D-pad Joy in the coming weeks to stay on target with all the latest Battlefront II news and views, ahead of both its multiplayer beta on October 6th-9th and its retail launch on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, PC and as an Xbox One X ‘Enhanced’ title this November 17th.

Star Wars: Battlefront II Featurette Teases Story Campaign

Not so long ago on a wave of internet forums not so far away from our fine domain, EA incurred their fair share of wrath over the absence of a single-player campaign mode in Star Wars: Battlefront.

But if the latest featurette for their upcoming follow-up to the 2015 franchise reboot, Star Wars: Battlefront II, reveals anything, it’s that the publisher and its development teams appear to have learned their lesson two years later.

Titled ‘Telling a New Story’, the video (below) describes – via the words of Lucasfilm’s creative execs – how EA’s Motive team pitched “a soldier’s story” set between 1983’s Return of the Jedi and 2015’s The Force Awakens to developers DICE and the Lucasfilm Story Group, an Imperial-aligned lead character its USP.

According to Motive’s Game Director Mark Thompson, we can expect protagonist Iden Versio to be “a loyal member of the Empire” and the “perfect candidate” to believe in her tyrannical employers’ merits given her family’s Imperial heritage.

“Something we really wanted to get into in the story is to meet the people inside the Empire,” Thompson says. “Stormtroopers and everyone inside the Empire, they aren’t conscripted or forced – they’re brainwashed and programmed from an early age to believe.

“And what we do with the audience is we take them to a place where they can understand Iden, why she makes the decisions that she does.”

But while comments like these – and the team’s voiced commitment to delivering “great character and gameplay moments” during the campaign – will surely generate hype for the FPS sequel, that doesn’t mean fans will give it a free pass.

After all, few will likely have forgotten the intense controversy surrounding not only the 2015 Battlefront outing’s absent campaign but also its overall lack of launch content, especially compared to the noughties Pandemic originals’ ample offerings.

The quasi-reboot released with just four planets – Hoth, Endor, Sullust and Tatooine – that November, with the other four – Jakku, Bespin, the Death Star and Scarif – as well as plenty of locked gameplay modes only becoming available once players had swiped up the hefty £40 / $60 Season Pass.

Already DICE has confirmed Battlefront II won’t follow its predecessor’s staggered content strategy, the Season Pass ditched for now and the DLC approach (if any) still to be determined, with goodwill also having been built by the presence of Yoda, Luke (who’ll also star in the campaign), Rey (ditto) and other fan favourites in the launch trailer.

Until EA brings a fleshed-out gameplay demo along to the studio’s EA Play event at E3, though, the true likelihood of Battlefront II‘s success where its predecessor failed remains as uncertain as Rey’s parentage.

Star Wars: Battlefront II hits Xbox One, PS4 and PC this November 15th, with its EA Play showcase due on June 10th-12th.