Last week Monolith released an official statement announcing that as of 17th July, Shadow of War will no longer contain microtransactions. Buying Gold with real money will be gone for good on 8th May, and a couple of months later the market which erstwhile sold item chests, XP boosts and orcs for the Nemesis system will be dismantled completely. Apparently buying those orcs, rather than earning them in-game, "risked undermining the heart of our game," said Monolith, six months down the road from implementing that marketplace.
If the story of DICE's Battlefront is a one of a young upstart torn between the forces of dark and light then this, coming after the series found itself corrupted and besieged late last year, should be the third act that offers some kind of redemption. Star Wars Battlefront 2's new update, which dropped last week, sees the game undergo the biggest overhaul seen in a big budget title since Diablo 3 excised its auction house - and it's a change that's come about in a fraction of the time. Even then, is it all too late for DICE's shooter?
You can't really fault the effort that's been made here, and each adjustment nudges Battlefront 2 firmly in the right direction. The loot boxes - those deeply problematic loot boxes, which used to carry upgrades and perks - have now been pushed to one side. All the hero characters are now available from the off. Progression is now linear, rather than the weird random sprawl that went before. Classes are now ranked up one by one, with new skill points that can be applied to perks unlocked upon reaching a new level, while the Star Cards that grant those perks are now level-gated with the more useful ones being available earlier.
It's a plain, simple and easy to parse system, and a quite remarkable feat of development to have it all up and running so seamlessly in such a short time, but it also serves as a reminder of how truly awful Battlefront 2's progression system was beforehand; not only was it deeply cynical, but it was also an absolute mess that held the player in complete disregard, putting them at the mercy of random drops. How could it have made it so close to launch without any intervention from anyone with half an ounce of sense? How short-sighted and plain dumb must EA and DICE have been to think they could ever get away with such a brazenly broken system?
The great Star Wars debacle - and I'm not talking about The Last Jedi's second act here - dominated video game headlines in the last quarter of 2017. But in truth the year was packed with depressing stories about loot boxes, so many in fact that it has at times felt like our beloved hobby was more about the chance to win a rare item than it was about the chance to play.
Last week, independent charity Gamble Aware held its annual two-day conference in London. It focused on what's called Harm Minimisation, in particular, how to protect young people from gambling. The event was a who's who of the UK gambling industry, but there was one topic on everyone's lips: loot boxes.
Blimey, there is hope. Because of a rising tide of discontent surrounding pay-to-win content in loot crates in Star Wars Battlefront 2, the ability to spend real money on them has temporarily been removed. Loot crates can only be bought with credits earned by playing the game.
You asked for it, and here it is. A campaign was, for many, the missing piece from 2015's Star Wars Battlefront, and the one key ingredient that could make its sequel worthwhile. Having played a slim handful of missions, it's certainly not been left wanting when it comes to budget, production values or sheer spectacle. This is as visually grandiose as Star Wars single player games have been to date.
DICE's Frostbite engine kicked off the console generation with Battlefield 4, and the technology has evolved considerably over the last four years. Star Wars Battlefront 2 may well be its most spectacular outing yet. Importing and enhancing many of the new features from last year's Battlefield 1, our impression of the recent 2 beta is that we're not simply looking at newer maps, weapons, and characters, but a clear visual upgrade that brings us even closer to the definitive Star Wars videogame experience. It's all about authenticity - Frostbite's feature set is a terrific match for the Star Wars aesthetic.
Sin City is the global capital of gambling. Casinos with colourful chips, well-postured croupiers and automaton pensioners plugged into slot machines. At first glance it might not seem sinister, but strip back the glamour and Las Vegas paints a sad picture - its denizens cogs in a billion-dollar machine fuelled by potentially addictive gaming. The novelty of the place can hide its true intentions.
You can't fault EA for listening to the fans, at least. When its revival of the Battlefront series came out in 2015, the main complaint was how basic it all was, and how developer DICE had watered down the epic skirmishes of Pandemic's original for a wilfully dumb shooter.
Star Wars: Battlefront 2 is set to have a far more engaging multiplayer than the original 2015 reboot. At DICE's headquarters in Stockholm I had the chance to check out four competitive modes: a chaotic 40 player Galactic Assault game on Naboo, and the recently introduced space dog-fighting of Starfighter Assault. Now, I'd already seen these two demos from E3 and Gamescom, but the Arcade mode's survival mission, and 8v8 Strike mode on Takodana were new. And it's in the Strike mode in particular that DICE's efforts to bolster the multiplayer portion of the game became apparent.
Star Wars Battlefront 2, and its all-new space battles, demand absolutely nothing of you. Maybe a couple of rounds to figure out the spectacularly counter-intuitive flight controls, if you're anything like me - but nothing else.
Electronic Arts' continuing investment in its talented Frostbite team continues to pay dividends. We played a few rounds of Star Wars Battlefront 2 in the wake of the EA Play event, and initial impressions are very positive - this is an exceptionally beautiful game.
A long time ago in a galaxy far away (well, in Florida last weekend, but it still is quite a journey) we attended the Star Wars Celebration where EA properly lifted the veil from Star Wars Battlefront 2. It's set to feature a campaign that spans from the end of Return of the Jedi and up to The Force Awakens, and is also rejigging multiplayer in line with many of the requests from players of the original.
Star Wars Battlefront took its time to come good. It wasn't until the end of 2016, when the Death Star DLC dropped and completed the package, that it finally delivered on its considerable promise. Having burned plenty of early purchasers who paid full price for a content-light game at launch, EA DICE bigwigs have their work cut out to bring back singed-finger fans for the sequel. A proper campaign option would be one way of winning people over, but a better approach is perhaps to look at what the first game (eventually) got right - in particular, the Walker Assault mode on Hoth, Sabotage on Bespin and Battle Stations on the Death Star.
It's taken its time, but step by step and piece by piece DICE has moved towards the Battlefront that fans wanted. Not that it was too far off at its first attempt, mind; upon release last November Star Wars Battlefront was an arrestingly gorgeous multiplayer shooter that only just stopped short of greatness. The updates outside of the expansion packs have often done a better job of keeping the game fresh than the paid DLC, but the final add-on for Battlefront feels like the most substantial yet. It certainly feels like the one that's been shaped most by fan feedback as well.
"The reception was mixed," DICE producer Paul Keslin says of the launch in an honest appraisal. "We've been listening to a lot of the feedback since launch and even post-launch as we've been adding new things. We've announced the next game that's coming out - those are things we're look to tackle in the future. We can't always get everything in the current game, but in the future we want to hit those things and give the fans what they're after."
Battlefront's Rogue One DLC comes mighty close to delivering one particular request from fans. When DICE's take on Battlefront was revealed, people were upset that it lacked one of the key features of the original games - namely the ability for players to go from on-foot to aerial combat in one seamless action. The Rogue One DLC doesn't quite go that far, but what it does is present a game mode that moves from aerial combat to ground warfare - and unlike the Death Star DLC before it that had a similar mode, the loading screens here are kept to a minimum, the transition now happening via a swift cutscene.
Poor DICE. One of the biggest criticisms thrown the way of its Star Wars-themed multiplayer shooter, and one of the biggest hurdles it's faced since its announcement, is that it didn't feel very much like Battlefront at all. Gone was the easy transition from on-foot combat to aerial dogfights, and every leaked piece of footage from Free Radical's Battlefront 3 only serves to illustrate how far DICE's take had fallen from the tree.