The world of Star Wars: Battlefront is expanding significantly in 2017, as the anticipated sequel -- yes, with a full single-player campaign -- is on the way this fall.
Star Wars: Battlefront II hits stores on November 17, but the release date was just the tip of the iceberg from EA and Lucasfilm when they brought the game to Star Wars Celebration Orlando. Syfy Wire and other press were invited to preview the game ahead of the panel, which filled the main Galaxy Stage.
Community Manager Mat Everett was joined by representatives from two of the three studios working on the game, DICE creative director Bernd Diemer, Motive Game Director Mark Thompson, as well as Steve Blank, Creative Executive on Lucasfilm's Star Wars Story Group. The panelists enthusiastically presented the sequel, which features a campaign designed by Motive, multiplayer from DICE and revamped vehicle (and animal) controls from Criterion.
This kind of joint development was something they wanted to do, to use teamwork, the same way Star Wars and Battlefront are all about teamwork, to create the best gaming experience possible. After the trailer aired, fully revealing the new campaign, new characters and some big twists, the panelists described more about the game.
Battlefront II stars Janina Gavankar as Iden Versio, a brand-new character created for the game. She leads Inferno Squadron, a special forces group from the Empire -- yes, you'll be playing as an Imperial Special Ops character in the single-player campaign. They're also starring in a new book from writer Christie Golden. And yes -- both of these stories are 100% canon.
"What we wanted to do was we've heard a lot in other storytelling about the heroes of the Rebellion," Thompson described. "We wanted to give the Empire heroes in that same way, the elite soldiers on the lead of the battlefront, the elite pilots that kids growing up on Imperial worlds aspire to be. That's why we settled on this idea of telling the story from the Imperial perspective." The story, then, starts as Return of the Jedi ends -- the explosion of the Death Star 2 kicks off the story.
Of course, some of that has been covered in the printed page, but in an epic or interactive fashion it's been silent. That meant bringing in the Story Group to make sure the story lined up with -- and even intertwined with -- the novels and comics that covered some similar territory.
"Mark and Motive sat down with us and came to us with a pitch," Blank said. "They acknowledged that books like the Aftermath series, and at Marvel Comics with Shattered Empire, we were starting to explore what happened right when the war ended. We started from Day 1 being really invested in that pitch, getting to see it from another perspective."
Inferno Squadron, an elite unit that can be a TIE pilot and Commando equally, was created for this game, and will lead the majority of the story -- but not all of it. Still, a special forces unit gives you a little deeper level of dedication to their cause.
"They're still invested in the Empire, still dedicated to that," Blank said of Inferno Squadron. "I think she's going to go down as a heroic character. Through her story, you'll see how she grew up in the Empire and how she can be a hero for those people."
They'll be running into new characters and familiar ones, and they'll be visiting locations old and new as well. Iden's home planet of Vardos is brand-new -- and it's an Imperial Utopia. "Vardos is a place where citizens of the Empire could grow up thinking they're good, and the Rebel Alliance is a terrorist organization threatening their peace and order," Thompson explained. The planet was "defined by the story," Blank added -- they wanted to show the soldiers and the place they would come from that would be on posters and would be inspirational to kids in the Empire.
Between the three studios, "at any given point someone from each of the studios was always talking to Lucasfilm," Thompson said. That was to make sure that this was as Star Wars a game and story as possible. "There wasn't a single weapon, vehicle, character or story beat that Lucasfilm wasn’t involved in," Diemer added. "Every detail is important. Every pixel on the screen is Star Wars."
In addition to Iden and Inferno Squadron, gamers will have the chance to play as a couple other characters in the story mode, including Luke Skywalker. This is Luke at the height of his power, and the shift in perspective is something that was important to them, because Star Wars is famous for its ability to go from character to character and view the world in different ways. The story will span several decades, as well, and that means Kylo Ren will also be playable in the single player campaign.
On the multiplayer side, they wanted to go for all eras to help celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Star Wars. "We wanted to have something that spans the whole universe as it is today, and give people access to planets, weapons, ships, gadgets from all eras," Diemer said. "One thing that stood out, is that there's a chance for everyone to become a hero. At its heart, it's a hero’s journey," even in multiplayer. "How can a lowly trooper become the true hero of that match."
They've changed the heroes system, making them "much more physical, having more of a presence in the game. We also gave them a career to make them better – you can unlock new abilities. They're also more available to more players." Instead of the power-ups, it's a resource-based system, as you play, you’ll be able to then transform to a hero or into a vehicle "or one other thing I can't say yet," he teased.
Adding the prequel era was "a no-brainer," Diemer said. "It was the right thing to do."
There are new playable characters, as a female Rebel trooper (looking like Jyn), a First Order stormtrooper, an Imperial Agent and a B-1 Battle Droid were all shown.
Yes, there are ride-able Tauntauns as seen in the trailer. The ships and other transportation are also progressable for some customization, and "hero ships" include Slave-1, the Millennium Falcon "and hero ships from all eras as well."
Star Wars: Battlefront II will hit November 17 worldwide, about a month before the release of Star Wars: The Last Jedi. "There will be certain ways to play early – check the website for more information about that."
"I'm looking forward to getting the opportunity to convert everybody to the Dark Side," Thompson said, tying it all together.