I just finished Titanfall 2’s campaign.
I played nearly a hundred hours of the first Titanfall, and that was largely multiplayer. It had a campaign, but it was this bizarre radio drama that played over and around actual multiplayer matches. The universe was interesting enough: Titans are giant robots used in all walks of life, but especially in warfare (where they ‘fall’ from space, get it?). There’s some home grown militia people and some evil corporate military and some mercenaries or whatever. It was a fun world and the game was exciting and crazy.
Titanfall 2 has an actual campaign, and it is goofy in ways I did not expect. It has more in common with Portal than with Call of Duty. There are extensive platforming areas that are super fun to move around in, and even puzzle elements, where you have to switch things mid-jump. Apparently, the creative team at Respawn found that they created the most satisfying play by just building levels around pilot and titan abilities, and then they draped the story over it.
Before playing the game through, I had heard about the writing process. This let me think about how it might have been to get these mission concepts and then be told, ‘build a story that ties these together.’ A large swath of games writing works like this.
It’s not an especially great story. Everyone is super serious and stereotypically gung-ho. The plot is absurd and veers in directions that don’t seem to fit the world very well. But it does successfully tie together all these insane level concepts, and that means that Jesse Stern and his writing team accomplished something very difficult. Have you played the campaign? Give it a shot and think about the levels sans story, and think about how you would tie it all together.
For my money, there’s an obvious missed opportunity. The best part of the writing is the relationship between you as the pilot, and your titan, BT. BT is endearing in the way lots of robot companions are endearing – he’s humorless, loyal, math-driven. The enemy pilots are a typical evil and confident bunch, but they never talk to their titans.
I know there had to have been a conversation somewhere about that being too much content. The enemy pilots already talk to each other constantly. But all they talk about is how to stop you, how to kill militia guys, how confident they are they will stop you, etc.*
*This is in contrast to the radio play in the first game also. There were fewer characters, but they all had different points of view and had a dynamic with other characters. MacAllen knew the IMC commander guy. Sarah was the determined underdog, Blisk wanted to get paid and be South African. Barker was drunk. Yes I remember this stuff.
BT and Jack are the template for that pilot-titan dynamic. They exhibit good guy qualities – Jack is hopeful and works hard for what he wants, BT is thoughtful and calm. They form a lighthearted bond based on trust and the impossible situation they are in. Okay, so what does a mercenary’s titan sound like? She’s a manipulative evil science person. What’s her titan like? It’s an opportunity to reveal a lot about a character in a few simple lines. It’s also a huge opportunity for comedy in a story that could use some more.
If it isn’t clear, I really liked playing through the campaign. It was fun and does a good job of training you for multiplayer, where you’ll be spending the most time. I’m curious about the talk around developing Titanfall material for other mediums. Yes, it would be crazy expensive to have giant robots and hyper-mobile pilots and huge space structures. But beyond that, what sort of stories would they tell? Where does the creative team at Respawn see this universe going?