Spoiler alert! This article discusses key plot points from the base game.
Like most Star Wars stories, Star Wars Battlefront II is about family.
In the game’s main campaign, players get to witness the aftermath of the Empire’s defeat at Endor in the role of Iden Versio, commander of the Emperor’s elite special-forces unit, Inferno Squad. After being ordered to exfiltrate the Imperial world of Vardos, Iden’s homeworld — while the Emperor’s chosen raze the planet from orbit — Iden and Del Meeko make a difficult choice: to leave the Empire and its broken ideals behind.
Doing so earns them the trust of Lando Calrissian, Leia Organa, and others within the New Republic that’s risen from the many worlds that suffered under Imperial rule. However, it also forces them to turn their backs on Gideon Hask, the third member of Inferno Squad, whose loyalty remains with the Empire. Del, having found faith in the Force during a chance encounter with Luke Skywalker on Pillio, bravely continues to follow Iden’s orders when she betrays Hask — as well as her father, Admiral Garrick Versio. At the Battle of Jakku, Iden and Del fight for the New Republic, distinguishing themselves as heroes.
Eventually, the First Order traces Del back to Pillio, where Kylo Ren plunders his memories for the possible location of Lor San Tekka, the only person who might know the whereabouts of Skywalker, the last Jedi. After Ren’s interrogation, Hask reveals himself to Meeko, asking where he might find Iden.
Star Wars Battlefront II: Resurrection is part of EA’s Season One DLC and is the continuation of Iden’s story. “We’re in a period, when the Resurrection DLC begins, where Iden is in a time of peace. The galaxy is at peace — there is no war,” says Motive’s Mitch Dyer, co-writer of Star Wars Battlefront II.
Unfortunately, with Meeko having served his purpose in revealing San Tekka’s potential location to Kylo Ren, Hask executes his old squadmate on the spot. “We very specifically wanted to have a laser focus on our characters and their family,” Dyer says, “so Gideon is gonna be our villain. And he plays a pretty sinister role. Paul Blackthorne, who plays Hask goes from a little nuts in the main campaign — he’s full-blown terrifying in Resurrection. He’s got a couple scenes that, even though I’ve seen them a hundred times and saw him do them on set, still just give me shivers. He’s menacing, man. Hask has harbored something like 28 years of bitterness and anger toward Iden and Inferno Squad for what went down on Vardos and Jakku. He’s angry, but he’s spent decades building something with that anger, and now he’s ready to see it unleashed with the First Order.”
Together, Del and Iden have a daughter, named Zay, and her father’s unexpected death pulls her into the world she’s only ever heard about in stories. “Iden’s daughter is a central character,” Dyer says. (“And, of course, Uncle Shriv,” he adds with great affection.)
“The way we conceived Zay was, she’s kind of a Star Wars fan! She grows up in a peaceful galaxy, the daughter of two war heroes who have, presumably, a lot of really interesting stories to tell — from both sides of the war. So Zay would’ve grown up knowing that her mother and father fought for the Empire, and had this moment of clarity when they realized that they were functionally brainwashed and needed to reclaim themselves, fight for the right side, and stop the Empire from creating the chaos that they’d sworn to prevent,” Dyer explains.
“She’s as interested in this world as you and I,” he says, “and now she is getting her chance to be involved in it, albeit under not-exactly-desirable circumstances. So she’s gonna kind of come face-to-face with the realities of what it means to fight an evil like the First Order, and discover the harsh truths of the galaxy, while also being on this fun and entertaining adventure with her mother.”
The Battle of Crait and The Last Jedi
The Resurrection story content arrives as part of Battlefront II’s first season of free downloadable content inspired by Star Wars: The Last Jedi. Players not only get to play through the rest of Iden Versio’s story; they’ll also have access to new multiplayer experiences, with new heroes, vehicles, and environments straight out of the film.
John Boyega and Gwendoline Christie reprise their roles as Finn and Phasma, respectively, joining the fight as playable characters with unique abilities that speak to who their characters are. The teams at DICE worked closely with Lucasfilm to nail down the essence of each character, with designers poring over various pieces of Star Wars media for added inspiration. “For Finn, a lot of it is around him being kind of an inspirational leader,” says Paul Keslin, a producer at DICE. “He kind of brings this natural force to him that people just gravitate towards. And we wanted to try to tap into that with most of his abilities, so he has things that will benefit his team. That’s kind of the angle we played with for his character.” In video-game parlance, he’s a “support character” who still knows his way around a blaster.
Phasma, by contrast, is a tank. “She’s more of a survivor,” says Keslin. “She’s somebody who wholeheartedly believes in the First Order. So we wanted to bring someone to the battlefield, from her end, who’s really able to take a bit of punishment but also dish it out to opposing players. It’s more about her level of survivability and her ability to kind of lock down a point. She’s got some tools at her disposal, but she’s really there to kind of be an imposing presence on the battlefront.”
The game’s flagship multiplayer experience, Galactic Assault, now lets players live out a battle on Crait, which is inspired by the events of The Last Jedi. “The number-one thing we wanted to capture was a large battle that will have people coming away from the theater going, ‘Man, I want to be part of that.’ That’s something that we’ve been trying to do with a lot of the content we’ve made in the game, from a variety of movies up until now.” For 2015’s Battlefront, DICE worked with Lucasfilm’s Orion Kellogg and other members of the games team to build various game scenarios depicting the Battle of Scarif, from the still-in-production Rogue One. When it came time to do this for The Last Jedi, the real challenge was in crafting vehicles and worlds that hadn’t been seen in a game before — all from a film that wasn’t yet finished.
Without access to a rough cut of the movie, DICE worked from a mixture of concept art, still frames, and short clips from the film to get a sense of the look, scale, and specific details of Crait. “In our battle, we have the gigantic AT-M6s stomping on the battlefield,” Keslin says, referring to the large “gorilla walkers” the First Order built as a replacement for the less-reliable AT-AT. “So, for us, that was something that we needed to see a little bit. ‘Okay, how does that thing move?’ Because we need to make sure that we have the movement down properly.”
Keslin (a self-described “First Order supporter”) and his team weren’t content to merely reuse the AT-AT from other portions of the game; instead, they took the opportunity to implement new technology they’d been planning on pioneering down the line. “This kind of forced our hand,” he says. “It was a great chance to make some under-the-hood changes that are really beneficial to us as developers, that the player may not see.” He recalls being particularly impressed with the way his team, wanting to do Rian Johnson’s film proper justice, “rallied around a cool set piece that they all saw a lot of value in.”
In Galactic Assault on Crait, players get to take control of The Last Jedi’s new “ski speeders,” while Criterion’s Starfighter Assault mode adds a new hero ship, Tallie’s RZ-A2 A-wing, with the planet D’qar. “You mainly get to see bits and pieces of D’qar from the ground in The Force Awakens,” says Keslin, “whereas this new battle takes place in the space above D’qar. Something that, I think, ties into the movie quite well — right before The Last Jedi kicks off. That’ll be a fun one for fans to see.”
Iden’s Journey and Authenticity
“It’s always about maintaining authenticity,” Dyer says of building a cohesive experience across the various EA studios working in synchrony to bring a game like Battlefront II to life. “We’re all leading into touching the same era. There’s a little bit of crossover between locations that I don’t super want to get into right now, because it’s a little spoilery. But there is some connectivity between what we’re seeing in the first season and The Last Jedi, obviously.”
Dyer recalls a moment, early in the development of the main campaign, where he and co-writer Walt Williams unwittingly pitched a new location similar to Crait. “You start throwing out tons and tons of ideas, right? You think of every biome, every type of weather you can. ‘Is it oceanic, or islands, or mountains, or stone?’ But one of the ones we came up with super early, that we got really attached to, was this planet that had crystals underground — these crystals coming up out of the ground. We thought, ‘Oh, that’s such a cool visual.’ ”
Then the narrative team at Motive pitched the idea to Lucasfilm. “They instantly went, ‘Um, no, that’s not gonna work — for reasons we can’t tell you.’ [Laughs] And we said, ‘Ah, that’s a bummer. I guess we’ll find out eventually. It’s a bummer we can’t have that cool crystal planet in the game, though.’ But now you see the trailer for the Crait DLC, and you see these crystals in the cave, and it’s like, ‘Wow, man, it was Crait. It was Crait all along! It was always there!’ We were crushed not to have this cool planet in the game, but we do. We do get to have that planet.”
While he’s hesitant to give away too much (“I like to keep Star Wars secrets,” he says), Dyer is proud of the story that he, Williams, and their many collaborators, like Inferno Squad writer Christie Golden, have managed to tell.
“Resurrection is entirely focused on Iden,” he says. “One of the key pieces of feedback we got was that people really liked playing as Iden. She’s an interesting and compelling new character in the Star Wars universe, so we wanted to really focus the rest of the story on her. Especially because it’s about her family and the events happening with them at a particular point in time.”
Battlefront II is Dyer’s first game-writing credit. His favorite part of that whole journey with Motive and the Lucasfilm teams, he says, has been in “figuring out a way to resolve our story, and have some nice closure at the end of this arc that we’ve built. Giving Resurrection exactly what it needs to tell a complete story, while also blending into the Last Jedi timeline and figuring out, ‘Where does that lead next? Where does that leave these characters?’ And I think we give multiple definitive answers about what future stories may exist for the Versio family.”
Season One, the Finn and Phasma characters, and the Resurrection campaign DLC are now available as a free update for players who purchased the Star Wars Battlefront II base game.
Alex Kane is a journalist based in west-central Illinois. He has written for Glixel, Kill Screen, Polygon, the website of Rolling Stone, and other publications. Follow him on Twitter at @alexjkane.