Upon its release last November, Star Wars Battlefront was criticised for a lack of locations and even after December's free Battle of Jakku update there were just five. Roughly seven months later Battlefront is finally ready to head to a sixth planet in developer DICE's Bespin expansion.
Bespin is home to Cloud City, where the memorable final act of the Empire Strikes Back takes place. It's where we meet Lando Calrissian, where Han Solo gets encased in carbonite, where Boba Fett gives Darth Vader some sass and where Luke Skywalker first gets a sense of the scale of his daddy issues. It's one of the locations that couldn't be ignored.
The first of Battlefront's four expansions – Outer Rim – returned to Tatooine and Sullust, offering four maps that support smaller game modes. The Bespin expansion offers five new maps supporting larger game modes, including one specifically for the dog-fighting Fighter Squadron mode. The larger venues sadly only highlight the expansion's disappointingly lacking map design.
Visually there isn't really a whole lot to work from in Cloud City. Two maps make use of the settings that immediately spring to mind (the carbonite freezing chambers and living quarters/landing platforms where Lando takes/greets Leia and Han) but the other two take place in the wider city, which we don't see much of in the films. While designed well enough to be in-keeping with the location's aesthetic as depicted in the film – the cleanness and crispness of it all creates a sense of blandness.
The best map houses the carbonite freezing chambers and surrounding maze of corridors, and what helps it is how close the player gets to its details. This – in tandem with excellent environmental design – is what helped the Outer Rim expansion. The smaller game modes meant smaller, more compact maps in which more classic Star Wars sights and DICE's own visual invention could be crammed. In DICE's Cloud City, there is a lot of shiny white sameness and wide open spaces.
While Walker Assault, Turning Point and other existing modes are still fun to play on these maps, new game type Sabotage disappoints. The first phase of the mode, in which Rebels attempt to destroy three gas generators is good. It's the second and final phase that lets it down. After destroying the generators, the Rebels fall back to an extraction point the Imperials must try to capture. These areas are far too easy for the Rebels to defend. Over the past two weeks I only took part in one game where the Imperials managed to capture it. It's the kind of unbalanced multiplayer mode that DICE is rarely associated with.
The new heroes hold up much better. While neither is likely to become a firm fan-favourite – Lando and bounty hunter Dengar bring great abilities that make them both viable options during play. Dengar's explosive dash is a particular favourite.
Battlefront's Bespin expansion is let down by some functional but uninspired map design, inhibited by the location of choice. New mode Sabotage also feels like a misstep. DICE's next expansion will finally take Battlefront to the Death Star – and the developers will absolutely need to up their game to match what will be very high expectations.