It would have been so easy to just slap a skin on Star Wars Battlefront (opens in new tab) but instead DICE is actually doing a lot of interesting things with some core mechanics that most of us take for granted. There are no classes for example, and players run around maps littered with glowing, floating power ups, like everything post-COD never happened.
Instead of pre-defined choices like assault or engineer, Battlefront has Star Cards that you form into hands that shape your character's abilities. Senior producer Sigurlína Ingvarsdottir explains the change, "so we don’t have classes but as you progress in the game you are able to unlock more and more of these cards. You saw players with the jet pack for example? The Jetpack is an example of a card. So basically your shields, your grenades, your jet packs, all of these are cards and you combine them into what you feel is a good kit for you going into battle. That’s how you basically create the loadout that goes with how you like to play the game".
As well as creating your character's abilities before playing, you can modify them using power ups you can collect during the game. "The power ups are basically what you pick up in the level," confirms Sigurlína. "So they might be an especially powerful weapon like the ability to call in a strike or an X-wing or a Tie-Fighter or an AT-ST or AT-AT or a hero token that would be then spawn you as a villain or hero depending on which faction you are playing". As far as getting a chance to play as one of the film's iconic characters (Luke, Vader and Boba Fett are confirmed so far), that all depends on "certain conditions" according to Sigurlína. "There’s a random spawn system that we have. In the multiplayer modes that have heroes, they spawn in certain locations at a certain time".
One really interesting feature is the partner system. Instead of Battlefield's squads you now have a single partner you can spawn on and work with (you can always 'see' them through terrain to help keep track of them). There's one, really interesting benefit to having a buddy though: "One thing that we think is pretty cool is that you can share unlocks with your partner," says Sigurlína. "If you have a certain set of star cards and he has a different set of star card you can share them. You can do that via sharing hands because you have the card hands: pre-selected hands that you bring into battle".
This sharing system creates a couple of immediately obvious ideas, points out Sigurlína: "Your partner can share your hand and that becomes a very interesting dynamic in two situations. One when you’re both pretty up to speed with the game and kit yourselves out to compliment each other and create a really cool unit. Or, if you are bringing a friend who’s a noob into the game and hasn’t played before, then you are also able to give them more of a taste of the game by actually sharing unlocks that you have".
No classes, shared loadouts and old school power ups are a refreshing step away from a fairly established shooter template. Star Wars Battlefront's even ditched the iron sights (opens in new tab) "in the traditional sense" says Sigurlína who points out that "you have the ability to zoom in" with scoped weapons. My main hope with all this is that this shakes up shooters a bit in general, and encourages a bit more creative thinking in the future.
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