A few days ago I gave Star Wars Battlefront’s new offline Skirmish mode a thumbs up but it seems not everyone is as happy.
Dissent largely comes from two groups – those who think more offline content should have been made available, and those who think DICE and EA should have ignored calls for any offline content and put the resources into building more online goodies.
Although I’m pleased with the new offline Walker Assault and Fighter Squadron modes, I can understand the disappointment of the first group and personally would love to see offline versions of Supremacy, Turning Point and Blast added.
But I also think the decision to put WA and FS into a separate Skirmish menu is creating a false perception that there are only two offline games when, in fact, there are now four decent offline games to enjoy because the original ‘Human v AI’ Battles and Survival games remain.
If these and the two new arrivals were grouped together under a single menu and the Training Missions moved to a separate menu of their own, the offline content would sit together in a more logical fashion.
So yes, more offline modes would be great but three ground combat options and an aerial warfare game isn’t a bad deal. Some way to tie them all together though, such as a playlist, would definitely be welcome.
But I can’t agree with those who think other people’s wants count for nothing and that only online content should be developed.
Playing online can be a great experience but some people are saddled with slow or unreliable broadband, others want to play with someone else in their household without the absurdity of both players sitting in separate rooms, each playing on their own console, and a lot of people just want to have fun.
Fun is what games – whether played on a pitch or on a PS4 – are meant to be about.
But like a lot of shooters, playing Star Wars Battlefront online can often be a very un-fun experience.
Every game starts with a crowd of jet-packed equipped soldiers racing to scoop the power-up of their choice while in modes such as Demolition people ignore the mission objective while they camp out in places they know power-ups will appear later in the game.
Other players – be they less experienced, just less good or more focussed on playing the mission – can spend entire sessions without ever becoming a Hero, getting to pilot a ship or driving an AT-ST.
Watching the same players endless bag the goodies while they ignore the objective can be hugely frustrating and spoils the experience for many who also paid money for the game.
The new Skirmish mode means everyone can have some fun.
If you want to take your chances online you can still do so, but if you just want to kick back and play a round of Walker Assault on Endor, guaranteed you’ll be able to despatch dozens or even hundreds of Stormtroopers as Luke Skywalker, you can now do that too.
Apart from the fear that the cannon fodder some onliners rely on to bolster their scores may now stay offline, I can’t really see why people are objecting to other players’ getting something which makes them feel better about their purchase.
OFFLINE GAMING REMAINS POPULAR
But we can’t entirely blame certain gamers for their selfish attitudes to those who want to play offline because in this they’ve been encouraged by EA and other developers.
For years the games industry has been racing ahead of where many casual players are in order to service the hard-core – the type of players who not only preorder the ultimate edition of a game so that it arrives on release day, but also book the day off work so they can start playing it the second the postman brings it to their door.
There’s nothing wrong with this level of passion or dedication, but games studios and developers increasingly focus resources on this vocal, fast spending group to the detriment of others.
More casual gamers, parents who want to play alongside their kids, and flatmates who just want a laugh, are seen as less important by an industry which is producing fewer and fewer titles with meaningful offline content.
People who have already paid a lot of money for their console and games are being forced into also paying for an online subscription and DLC packs in order to enjoy the full experience.
EA’s decision to drop offline gameplay in order to meet The Force Awakens’ release date is just the most obvious, topical example of this trend.
But limited offline functionality risks deterring many from taking up or staying involved in the world of gaming.
Yes, some might be persuaded to move online but many others will just find other titles or even other ways to spend their money.
In the long run, that won’t be be good for the gaming sector.
EA and other developers need to learn some lessons from the way Star Wars Battlefront disappointed many and from the persistent and, ultimately successful, demands for offline content.
Work is now underway on Battlefront’s sequel. EA has the perfect opportunity not just to show customers that it’s learnt lessons from the handling of the first game, but also to set an example to the wider market by ensuring the next title addresses the wants and needs of all players from day one.