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Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire VR Review

Star Wars: Secrets of the Empire is a new VR experience located in Downtown Disney. We were able to grab tickets on pre-sale last year before they sold out, and this morning, after months of waiting, was our turn to don the suits, helmets, and blasters and recover the Imperial intelligence.

Here's a quick story synopsis from the official Secrets of the Empire website:

Under the orders of the budding rebellion, your team will travel to the molten planet of Mustafar. Your mission is to recover Imperial intelligence vital to the rebellion’s survival. Alongside the pragmatic droid K-2S0, your team must navigate through an enemy facility walking into danger at every turn. Disguised as stormtroopers, grab your blaster, solve puzzles, and fight giant lava monsters in an effort to fulfill your team's orders.
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EA Wants Games as a Service

Last week EA announced the closure of Visceral Games, the studio currently developing a futur Star Wars game (not Battlefront). The reason they gave was quite fascinating.

Apparently the new Star Wars game was shaping up to be a linear story-based game. So pretty much exactly what I would want in a Star Wars game that wasn’t Battlefront. You may recall this was the game being director by previous Naughty Dog story directory Amy Hennig. Hopes were high for an awesome action-adventure story-driven game.

But since, you know, who would ever want a Star Wars story game, they decided to go in a different direction.

EVP of EA, Patrick Soderlund, said instead of making a linear story-based it to be reshaped “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.”

Whatever the heck that means? That’s just gobbledygook gibberish you say when you have no idea WTH you’re going to do with a defunct game and studio.

Alas, the writing is on the wall. EA wants loot boxes and games a service. They want the recurring revenue and microtransaction. And it’s clear that these business models do impact game design.

 

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Battlefront 2 Will Be Pay to Win

So apparently there will be microtransactions in Battlefront 2. Players will be able to spend real money on in-game currency to buy crates that unlock items. I actually didn’t know this at all until yesterday, but that’s okay.

I’m seeing a huge wave of negativity surrounding the microtransaction business model. I’m no fan, either. I get it. Paying real money to get crates that DO provide an advantage isn’t something I’m ‘ok’ with, but it’s also not something that’s going to keep me from playing.

Thankfully, maps and stuff won’t come at a cost. There won’t be the “season pass” (which go for like $20-$40 these days for other games) or any of that nonsense. You buy the game, and you play it as long as you like.

If you want to drop lots of cash and buy crates, you can probably earn an advantage if you get some nice items out of those crates.

Pay to win? Yes

I do wish they’d have gone the route of Overwatch’s crates. I have a friend who spends way too much money on Overwatch stuff, and I’m almost positive it’s just cosmetic. People like cosmetic stuff and will buy it, but perhaps not at the rate people will drop on crates with advantages.

The point has also been made that “star cards” dictate your class’ level, which dictates what you can use. So yes, buying crates on day one will shoot you to the top.

Again, this is indeed pay to win.

But again, I’m still pre-ordering.

Why? Because Battlefront is A LOT of fun. I had my best game tonight loading up a basic Specialist on Graev’s account to get make sure he could get a founder’s crate (he couldn’t play this beta period). So I had the basic rifle and nothing else. I smoked people and was the leader in kills. Other people had all weekend, were level 10, and yet it made no difference. My blaster still killed them fine.

Now the wait until release.

Star Wars Battlefront Day 2: More Impressions

Battlefront 2 is all I played today, and I have no regrets. I'm still completely smitten by the gameplay, and finding it's exactly what I want in a 'get in and have some fast action' shooter-type game.

A couple of observations.

Hero Units are No Joke

Really, just take a look at this.

Don't consider this a complaint or anything. In fact I rather enjoy the fact that the hero units are serious trouble for everyone but other hero units. 

Playing as Boba Fett, you're going to get those moments where people clump up and you kill 12 of them in one wrist rocket volley. Playing as Darth Maul, you'll rush into a room of 20 and be the only one to leave.

Saving points to play as one is usually my goal. Even a lesser unit like the Super Droids can turn the tide.

Space Battles are Actually Fun

I played the space battle mode today and had a lot of fun playing around dog fighting. They did a much better job with space battles in this one compared to Battlefront 1.

First-person flight is a lot of fun and very immersive, though I feel there's rarely a time I'll do it when playing in third person feels like it's such a big advantage -- same holds true for ground play.

Rushing is a Great Way to Die

In most games, the minute you spawn you have this impulse to just sprint ahead and rush out. In Battlefront 1, that's the best way to die. Take your time. Slow down. Get a feel for the flow of the fight and figure out where the enemy is pushing. 

Holding areas and advancing slowly with a squad will not only yield more points, but you'll hold your ground longer. Most people forget that the Ion disruptors on the Theed Galactic Assault spawn in the same place every match (a flaw, imo) and that holding those areas is all you need to do in order to win very, very quickly.

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Star Wars Battlefront 2 Day 1 Initial Impressions

I'm going to keep these day 1 impressions short and sweet because anyone can download the beta and give it a try, as long as you're not one of those "Steam only on my computer" people.

Battlefront 2 Combat Point Unlocks

Battle Points

That stupid token system is gone! In its place we have a system where you accrue points while playing a match. These points can be spent on vehicles or special characters, which is a way, way better system.

Earning points is fairly easy. In most of my games played I scored somewhere in the middle to 80-percentile (one game I came in first) and was more than able to play any vehicle or special character available.

Scoring points in general (not the same as battle points) seems fairly balanced. I love how playing the objective earns bucket loads more than playing like it's a deathmatch. 

Upgrades

Here's something a bit different. Upgrades to weapons can be crafted with what I think are called crafting points. These points are earned inside of crates (see below). 

Crate System

Ahh, crates. Love 'em or hate 'em. I usually hate them. Battlefront 2 has a crate system where you can open a daily crate or spend points on them (yet another point system for playing the game).

Crates seem to be the biggest form of progression, at least from what I could tell. Crates give you the 'cards' or the big upgrades to your character.

There are already people putting on the tinfoil hats saying they found premium currency in the beta files. Reddit is abuzz with doomsday "omg pay-to-win" stuff. I haven't seen it yet, so I'll ignorantly give them the benefit of the doubt.

Play the Objective and Earn More Points

The beta map we're playing is the same Naboo map they showed at E3 where it's objective based to either destroy the Droid army's vehicle thing or to break into the Palace and secure it. Throughout the level there are objectives to claim or use, and doing so will skyrocket you to the top.

Battlefront 2 Air Combat

Air Vehicles

Air combat on the Theed map is pretty tough. There's not a lot of space to fly around, and I found myself quickly out of bounds. I also struggled to control the vehicles. I think I have to figure out my sensitivity settings because I crashed every single time. I can see how the air battles will be a blast, though.

Overall Gameplay / Feel / Fun

Unlike Call of Duty WW2 -- which couldn't do anything right at all -- I'm definitely sold on Battlefront 2 after playing the beta. 

I had a really great time in the 2 hours I put in, and that's saying a lot since it's just one map.

I found each of the character classes to be enjoyable. The Assault, Heavy, Officer, and Specialist all made sense to me while playing. I though their weapons felt good, shot well, and the upgrades made a different to my gameplay.

I enjoyed the map's objectives and the pacing of the battles, and they felt way better than Battlefront 1.

I think EA has a real winner here, and that's such a relief after how bad Battlefront 1 turned out.

You can play the Open Beta from October 6-9 to give it a try yourself.

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