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In Star Wars Battlefront 2’s campaign, you’re the bad guy

DICE casts players as a hero of the Empire

Star Wars Battlefront 2
Electronic Arts
Michael McWhertor is a journalist with more than 17 years of experience covering video games, technology, movies, TV, and entertainment.

Star Wars Battlefront 2 will give players a different perspective on the enduring conflict between the evil Empire and the scrappy Rebellion. While the vast majority of Star Wars video games are played from the viewpoint of the heroic Rebel Alliance or the Jedi, in this year’s sequel to Star Wars Battlefront, players will take on the role of an elite special forces soldier in the Imperial navy.

That might be a hard task, drumming up sympathy for the genocidal space Nazis of the Star Wars universe and establishing a new hero who wants nothing more than to crush the Rebellion and avenge the Emperor. But developers DICE and Motive Studios apparently feel up to it. And their pitch for Star Wars Battlefront 2’s single-player campaign — which is canon, according to Lucasfilm — is intriguing.

Mark Thompson, game director at EA’s Motive, said the Battlefront 2 team wanted to go beyond the heroic stories of the Rebellion to explore a new frontline of war.

“We wanted to give the Empire heroes in that same way,” Thompson said during a preview event at Star Wars Celebration 2017. “Who are the elite soldiers on the battlefield who strike fear into the rebels? Who are the elite pilots that kids growing up [as citizens of the Empire] look up to and aspire to be?

“We settled on this idea of telling a story from the Imperial perspective. The idea of special forces soldiers gave us this chance to become a new hero.”

Star Wars Battlefront 2
Electronic Arts

The story of Battlefront 2 picks up right after the events of Return of the Jedi. The elite Imperial special forces group that Thompson’s referring to, known as Inferno Squad, witness the destruction of the Death Star II from the forest moon of Endor. They vow revenge on the Rebels, who are seen as terrorists who threaten peace and order in the galaxy.

“It was the idea of the explosion [that] the Death Star II is seen as a victory,” Thompson said of the story’s genesis. “That’s how it’s framed: a celebration.” But Motive Studios wanted to “turn that victory into a loss” for its main characters, to strengthen and reinforce their imperialistic beliefs and make them think “I want to avenge my emperor.”

In Battlefront 2, players will primarily take on the role of Inferno Squad member Iden Versio, an elite TIE Fighter pilot and spec ops soldier who grew up believing in the Empire’s vision.

Iden — who is voiced by actress Janina Gavankar (True Blood, Sleepy Hollow) — was born and bred on Vardos, an entirely new planet in the Star Wars universe. Vardos, a sleek, sterile looking world, represents the utopian vision of Imperial rule. To Iden and the citizens of Vardos, the Empire symbolizes structure, peace and order. The Rebellion represents chaos, a terrorist organization that threatens the safety of the galaxy.

“We never describe the Empire as the bad guys [in Battlefront 2],” Thompson said. “We never say Iden is a villain. We present the other side of the conflict.”

Star Wars Battlefront 2
Electronic Arts

Thompson described Iden and her Inferno Squad comrades as “elite TIE Fighter-commando hybrids” who are well-versed in the Empire’s tech. They’re equally dangerous in ship-to-ship combat as they are lethal on the ground.

Steve Blank, creative executive at Lucasfilm, said Iden “will go down as a heroic character,” despite her Imperial allegiance. She’ll offer a different perspective on the Star Wars conflict from what players have seen before.

As far as how Battlefront 2’s single-player campaign will play, Electronic Arts didn’t have much to show during its preview event — we didn’t see much in the way of gameplay footage. We were told that the campaign will be open, empowering and full of choice as players experience battle as an elite trooper. Thompson hinted at “sabotage and epic-scale battles” in Battlefront 2’s story mode and said that Iden’s droid will play “a big part of the moment to moment gameplay.” Her floating, customizable droid companion appears capable of taking down enemies stealthily, but she’ll also have other Imperial gadgets at her disposal.

And players won’t just play as Iden throughout the entire campaign.

“Just like in Battlefront multiplayer, you get the opportunity to become a hero” of the Rebellion, Thompson said. At some point in the campaign, players will step into the shoes of Luke Skywalker for at least one mission.

Bernd Diemer, creative director at DICE, called Star Wars Battlefront 2 “the biggest, most ambitious game” he’s ever worked on. Thanks to the single-player campaign’s new point of view, the developers hope that it tops 2015’s Star Wars Battlefront, which Diemer said featured “picture-perfect recreation” of classic Star Wars moments. But Battlefront 2, they hope, goes beyond that with Lucasfilm-sanctioned world building, not just nostalgia.

Beyond single-player, EA and DICE have also big changes in store for Battlefront 2’s multiplayer mode.

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