Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Star Wars Battlefront II: 13/20 hours

I just finished Galactic Conquest mode, and I think I like it a lot more than Story mode. Going into a battle knowing the stakes in advance and with an understanding that the initial tactical situation is basically fair changes the complexion of the whole game. It makes me feel like the world exists independent of me, rather than purely for my benefit. It's an illusory feeling, obviously, because I'm playing single player, but then again perhaps this is what playing multiplayer is like - a world created for the benefit of multiple players instead of just one.

I doubt it, though. Mostly because my progress through Galactic Conquest seemed highly random. Assuming my troops were evenly matched with the enemy's, then surely my presence, as an individual soldier who can kill ten opponents before succumbing to death, would tip the balance in my favor every time. And while it's true that I won almost all the time, the outcomes were so swingy that I'm not sure how much of that was due to my influence. Sometimes, my forces would overwhelm the enemy and win with 50 or more surplus troops, other times it would be hard-fought with less than a half-dozen of my allies remaining. And I don't think it was a matter of my performance that determined these outcomes.

I mean, sometimes it was all down to me. On Yavin 4 I was the last of my army standing. More than 20 Imperial Soldiers still patrolled the woods. I had to use all my cunning to pick them off one at a time until I got down to the last four enemies and they were all in tanks. So I had to steal an Imperial Tank and then get in a massive vehicle battle and in the end, I won. A certain defeat was turned into a victory by my stubborn refusal to give up and I was inspired to waste a lot of time in future levels where the situation really was hopeless.

Star Wars Battlefront II (single-player mode) is at its best when it becomes a vehicle for emergent stories like that. Most of the time, it really just seems random, but sometimes you can impose order on the narrative and it becomes something magical. . . and then other times you fight your hardest and are defeated because 50 of your teammates simultaneously decided to shit the bed.

I wonder if the same holds in multiplayer? I kind of think than in this game, it might. The teams are so large that it's unlikely that they can develop into the sort of stable partnerships that allow complex tactics to be executed. I imagine that if you just play with a random group of strangers, the highs and the lows will cancel each other out and each match will essentially be a coin-flip. Does that make it less or more appealing, I wonder. I'm guessing that anything that gives people the sensation of being able to control the chaotic flux of the universe must be popular, even if it is nothing but the illusion of control.

Or maybe I'm reading too much into it and people just like shooting stuff in the Star Wars universe. That seems  . . . probable.

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