This article contains specific plot details for Star Wars Battlefront II’s single-player campaign.
Right in the beginning of Battlefront II’s single-player campaign, protagonist Iden Versio does something that very few other Star Wars heroes have ever done: She refers to her trusty robot sidekick as simply “droid.” She doesn’t give it a fun nickname like “Artoo,” she just says “droid, do this thing” with the tone a rich snob might reserve for their butler. This is because Versio isn’t like most Star Wars heroes. She’s not a Jedi savior raised on a farm and destined for greatness; she’s a Spec-Ops commando who was born on a planet ruled by the Empire and has spent her life fighting under the assumption that the Empire is good and righteous. It’s given her a cold detachment that allows her to execute Rebel terrorists with impunity and address her droid like the tool that it is—at least until the first time Versio refers to it as “buddy,” and the cracks begin to appear in both her loyalty to the Empire and what could’ve been a unique Star Wars story.
Yes, at the risk of spoiling a surprising twist that is only surprising in the sense that it almost seems too predictable, Iden Versio does eventually lose her faith in the evil Empire that she dedicated her life to. Actually, “eventually” isn’t the right word, because Versio pretty much drops her loyalty to the Empire immediately upon discovering a new evil scheme that involves killing everyone on her home planet. The story takes place in the immediate aftermath of Return Of The Jedi’s Battle Of Endor, meaning Emperor Palpatine is dead, the second Death Star is gone, and the Empire itself is basically on the ropes, and a lot of the plot revolves around Operation Cinder, a contingency plan left by Palpatine that doesn’t really make any sense.
Versio was presumably on board with destroying Alderaan and everything else the Empire planned to do with the two Death Stars, but as soon as her father—an Imperial admiral—begins roasting the surface of her home, she abandons her mission and jets off to join the Rebellion. Rather than a story about a soldier who fights for her cause even in the face of overwhelming defeat, Battlefront II quickly becomes the story of a soldier who realizes it’s more important to do what’s “right.” There’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s a boring story that has been told countless times—including with Star Wars itself, considering it’s similar to the arcs of both Han Solo and Rogue One’s Jyn Erso.
This is especially frustrating because Versio herself, as played by Janina Gavankar, is great. The animation and writing for some other characters can be weird, particularly Versio’s father and a dude played by Arrow’s Paul Blackthorne who refuses to stop showing all of his teeth in a crazy snarl for one whole scene, but she seems fully realized and Gavankar’s performance is refreshingly subtle for mo-capped video game cutscenes. It’s just a shame that her story is so immensely predictable. Had she remained loyal to the Empire for a little longer, it would’ve allowed the game to explore some more interesting territory, but instead she just gets tossed in with the other good guys.
There are some bright spots in Battlefront II’s campaign, specifically a handful of levels where you play as actual Star Wars heroes. These essentially function as tutorials for playing as those characters in multiplayer, but they also give the game a chance to divert from Versio’s story in a way that lets the game briefly intersect with the movies. One level has you playing as Leia on Naboo, defending the palace that her mother once lived in, and another lets you control Luke as he protects a member of Versio’s squad, teaching him an important lesson in not being evil while also seemingly laying the groundwork for whatever Luke’s been up to since the original trilogy.
Then there’s the Han Solo mission, in which everybody’s favorite smuggler has a weird beard and is trying to extract a defecting Imperial statistician from Maz Kanata’s castle, as seen in The Force Awakens. The statistician character plays no role in the story, so it seems like his entire purpose is to annoy Han with useless anecdotes while you run around a jungle protecting him from Stormtroopers. It’s bizarre and pointless, especially given the introduction of Shriv, a Duros sidekick character in later missions who is integral to the plot and is also very funny. Shriv fills an important archetypal role: the sarcastic jerk who makes snide comments and resents the ostensible heroes for being so reckless. He plays off of Lando Calrissian delightfully well in a mission that is otherwise frustrating, and he undercuts a few sappier moments that come late in the story.
The hero levels generally don’t connect to Versio’s journey beyond moving the recognizable characters around, and her story doesn’t relate to the movies very much either. By the end, the game tries to do better on both counts. After a climactic battle over Jakku, the desert planet from The Force Awakens that’s covered in Star Wars garbage, the game jumps ahead several decades to an epilogue sequence immediately preceding the events of the new sequel trilogy. You play as Kylo Ren, harassing Versio’s partner-turned-partner Del, a guy who now has a clue to the whereabouts of Luke Skywalker. The scene ends on a cliffhanger (one that will hopefully be resolved by a previously announced free add-on that EA’s releasing later), and though Versio herself doesn’t appear, it teases that she played a big role in a major plot from the movies and foreshadows that the resolution of this cliffhanger will have more meaningful stakes for her—and possibly for her daughter, who also doesn’t appear but is mentioned.
Battlefront II had an opportunity to tell a new Star Wars story from a pro-Empire perspective we don’t normally get, but it ends up playing it safe and wasting an exciting new hero and great performance on a clichéd plot that is only saved by its occasional connections to the iconic heroes of the movies and by a supporting character who is very aware of how much better than all of this he is. Still, even a predictable Star Wars story is better than no Star Wars story at all, and it’s an entertaining way to kill some time for anyone tired of opening loot boxes in multiplayer.