Battlefront II’s Ewok Hunt mode is gorram terrifying

If you spawn as a stormtrooper, you’ll need to muster a caravan of courage to make it through this dark night.

Battlefront II’s Ewok Hunt mode is gorram terrifying

Before we delve into Ewok Hunt, I want to take a quick look at my recent experience with Star Wars Battlefront II (skip ahead to ‘Three-foot fury’ if you just want Ewok Hunt-related stuff). When I recently returned to Star Wars Battlefront II—just prior to the reintroduction of crystals but just after the overhaul of that whole progression-tied-to-loot-crates fiasco—the PC community appeared to be pretty dead. I waited about 10 minutes for whatever limited-time mode was going at the time and, well, no dice.

According to one of the people in the chat, as the odd person joined and left without a game starting, this was their experience of the state of the game. They suggested that Galactic Assault was the mode to try these days. So that’s where I went. Y’see, I’d been waiting to come back to Battlefront II, to give it a second shot after the balancing changes, for two reasons. First, because I believe, though casual, the core offering had potential.

And, second, I figured that departed players would return around about the same time. This proved partially true, but so too did my fears. The smattering of relatively low-level players, myself included, were playing in servers mostly populated by the Battlefront II faithful. While not entirely unexpected, it’s problematic because the veterans got to keep all the shiny purple Star Cards they ‘earned’ through RNG loot crates or pre-order ‘rewards’ (read: imbalanced pre-order-to-win stuff).

The fact you still get to see the Star Cards of the enemy player who kills you is telling. Most of my deaths were at the hands of players all decked out in purple—the highest rarity—Star Cards. For me, this meant either the matchmaking was broken—that’s still the only way to play Battlefront II online; no server browsers, alas—pairing low-level players like me with a majority of high-level friends and foes, or the community simply wasn’t big enough for that matchmaking algorithm factor to kick in.

After my lobby experience with the limited-time mode, I suspect it’s more the latter.

Three-foot fury
But you’re likely not here to read about the recent not-so-flash state of Star Wars Battlefront II; you’re probably here to read about Ewok Hunt. In short, it’s a blast. It’s incredibly easy to learn, and while it’s single-map setting restricts its longevity (even as a limited-time mode), you should absolutely take it for a spin, if only for a few rounds.

My gripes about higher-level players with purple Star Cards are, thankfully, moot in Ewok Hunt. It’s an asymmetrical mode where Star Card rarity isn’t a thing. At the start of a round, two players spawn as diminutive (but surprisingly terrifying) Ewoks while the rest of the server spawns as stormtroopers. Ewok Hunt is effectively an infection mode variant, wherein those Ewoks have unlimited lives and each stormtrooper death results in that player respawning as an Ewok.

As the Ewok ranks swell, the Imps are ultimately playing the clock waiting for their escape shuttle to arrive. The additional twist on top of this is that stormtroopers are restricted to first-person perspective, while Ewoks can enjoy the more generous FOV of third-person perspective. Oh, the mode is also set at night. On top of this, stormtroopers all spawn with E-11 Blaster Rifles and a flashlight that has a finicky battery, which operates on a cooldown. Considering how dark the map is, managing the cooldown of your flashlight is paramount to spotting the furry ankle-biters as a stormtrooper.

You can find single-use supply crates in fixed locations (this would be better if those locations were randomised), which gift a DLT-19 Heavy Blaster Rifle upgrade, Incendiary Imploder (that works on a cooldown), and a flashlight that’s more realistic and less Alan Wake in that it doesn’t run out. Normally, I’d prefer the E-11, but the frantic Predator-like spraying at hard-to-hit threats in Ewok Hunt means the DLT-19 is a huge upgrade. Plus, the Incendiary Imploder works well for entry-denial at chokepoints.

Those flashlights will blind fellow stormtroopers if aimed at them, so there’s an art to not startling your teammates, too. As far as teamwork goes, your best bet is to stick together, and this becomes clear almost immediately (even more so after the first stormtrooper is “lost to the forest”). Friendly fire isn’t on, unfortunately, because I experienced a few panicked moments when my teammates shot at me out of sheer fright, and I reckon friendly fire would add more to the tension.

When it comes time for the Ewoks to attack, it’s more horror game than action game. And it’s fantastic. Ewoks have fixed abilities that allow them to see better in the dark, stun stormtroopers with a ranged and semi-persistent swarm attack, and boost their melee damage. This last point is particularly important for quickly dispatching isolated or overly zealous stormtroopers, but it’s how the Ewok players activate it that’s downright terrifying for Team Imp.

To activate the damage boost, the Ewok sounds off their war horn. As a stormtrooper, you quickly learn that one horn means a single Ewok is about to attack, but when you hear multiple horns sound off nearby, you’re in trouble. Ultimately, you’ll only know you’re being stalked by a good Ewok player when they start melee attacking you. Unfortunately for the Ewoks, their melee attack locks them into a forward-thrusting animation, so button mashing isn’t advised and hit-and-run tactics (or mobbing strategies) work best.

After all, it’s easy enough to roll away after that first hit and pour blaster fire into the attacking Ewok’s head. That doesn’t make it any less panicked when a group of stormtroopers are all unleashing their shots at what they hope is an Ewok. Certain objects in the forest look like Ewoks, and when you’re moving among the trees (especially if you’re alone), there’s a fantastic feeling of tension.

Alas, the single-map limitation is further limited by how easy it is to mount an effective turtling defence against the Ewok menace. There’s a cave at the top of the map that has two main entrances, and two additional entries into the main defensible area. Savvy Ewoks can, technically, enter this cave network through the back and sneak up behind an unsuspecting defence, but as long as you have one or two troopers keeping an eye out on those middle entrances to the main defensible section, the Ewoks don’t stand much of a chance. If you’ve got the numbers, you can spread that defence out more through the cave network to shut down all Ewok entry points.

Couple this with the lingering reality that there’s no in-game VOIP, and it’s even trickier for Ewoks to coordinate an attack (even if they can type to each other on PC). Yes, the surviving stormtroopers have to leave the safety of their cave at some point to reach the escape shuttle, but there’s another missed opportunity here, too. The Ewoks aren’t told where the shuttle will land but are told, instead, the flight path of the shuttle as it happens.

The problem with this is it’s too easy for surviving stormtroopers to switch off their flashlights and sprint to the escape area. While it takes time for the shuttle to arrive, it reeks of a missed all-or-nothing opportunity for cave-camping stormtroopers to have to square off against an Ewok ambush at their escape point. What was once a stalemate could then prove to be a potentially bad team strategy for survival.

Still, I had fun with the mode for those handful of rounds, even if I doubt I’ll go back and play Ewok Hunt again. For me, it’s more important that DICE (or whichever studio is working on the DLC) is trying something different to entice players back in. While there are still balancing concerns with the main game, I still intend on keeping Battlefront II installed to see if the community can get back to a stage where the matchmaking works and there’s a healthy enough player count to have fun with the other modes. I’ll check in with each significant update.

More importantly, though, as a big ol’ Star Wars nerd, I appreciate how DICE has plugged another Star Wars plot hole and shows why a legion of the Emperor’s best troops can be bested by (now) legitimately threatening Ewoks. If you’re keen to see what it’s all about, check out the video below for the full replay of my first round.

Copyright © PC PowerPlay, nextmedia Pty Ltd