The Tragedy of Titanfall 2: Part II

by Joey Chuang ’22

It is the summer of 2020. The lockdown is in full swing as the world sits at home, uncertain and isolated. As a new cycle of blockbuster games like Cyberpunk 2077 and Halo Infinite become delayed, many gamers turn to older games in order to entertain themselves. Titanfall 2, once dead and buried, is about to see the light of day once again.

Electronic Arts, publishers of Titanfall 2, had announced that various EA published games would be available to users on Steam. Steam is an online gaming platform run by Bellevue company Valve. It is the largest digital marketplace for computer games in the world, at one time having twenty-five million users using the service concurrently in January 2021. Their announcement was headlined by The Sims 4, as well as Battlefield and Need for Speed. Titanfall 2 was also quietly released on the same day, alongside its predecessor. In the first month of release, The Sims 4 peaked at 3,793 concurrent users, playing the game at the same time. Battlefield V, the most recent installment of the Battlefield franchise, maxed out at 2,034. Titanfall 2, a game that wasn’t even mentioned in the announcement, had at one point 13,427 users playing the game at once. How was this game, one that hadn’t received a major update in two and a half years, the one to burst out from irrelevance?

In 2016, Titanfall 2 experienced a perfect storm that destroyed it’s commercial success. In 2020, however, Titanfall 2 would experience a perfect storm that would launch it back into the consciousnesses of gamers. The release of the game on Steam was one. Steam’s sales are another factor: In fact, I had planned to make an article about them but opted to shelve it. Slashing the price of an already great product from 30$ to 10$, and down to under 5$ at it’s very lowest attracted many budget gamers who wouldn’t have pulled the trigger otherwise. Titanfall’s loyal core community also helped. In the years since Titanfall 2, no game has been able to recreate it’s mechanics with the same fluidity, map design, and well developed animations that Titanfall 2 did. With no other options on the market, Titanfall fans made the easy choice to continue playing the game. Finally, Respawn Entertainment (the developers of Titanfall and Titanfall 2) released a free-to-play battle royale in 2019: Apex Legends. With Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds and Fortnite’s battle royale making billions of dollars off of the hype for the genre, Respawn created a Titanfall spinoff that continues to make bank for EA to this day. Apex Legends introduced many to the original games by mere proxy, with the game exploding in popularity the way Titanfall or it’s sequel never did. Apex possesses slower gameplay than Titanfall 2, with wallrunning removed and movement slowed. Titanfall was not replicated by Apex Legends, but rather changed up. 

For about a year, Titanfall 2 finally received some of the popularity it deserved, at least on PC. It was perfect for Respawn and EA. Too perfect. Titanfall 2 had an Achilles heel, something that would turn a now thriving community on its head. Titanfall 2’s online mode had incredibly weak protections against DDoS attacks, or distributed denial of service attacks. Essentially, hackers could flood the Titanfall 2 servers with fake traffic, slowing the servers to a crawl. If the server was being attacked, the game from the point of view of a normal user would lag tremendously, to the point of unplayability. Respawn stated that their team was investigating the attacks, but no fixes have come of it. It’s likely that Respawn has simply set aside the game permanently, instead focusing on developing newer titles and maintaining Apex Legends. Player counts began to decline, and haven’t looked back since, not even with sales. The online mode of the game is essentially dead, and the campaign’s short length makes buying the game for the single player alone a very tough sell. Titanfall had died again.

And so, we reach the present. Titanfall 2’s multiplayer remains broken, and the community has attempted to take the issue into their own hands. The Northstar client, created by passionate fans of the game, has introduced a DDoS-proof server browser system for the game. However, the project’s relative obscurity and the extra step it takes to make the game playable leaves the prospect of expanding the player base tough. Respawn continues to work and update Apex Legends, with content in Titanfall being introduced into the game. They also work on some of EA’s Star Wars projects. Unfortunately, because of their new focus, Respawn has stated multiple times that a Titanfall 3 is not in development, and it’s unlikely they’re trying to conceal a surprise reveal. 

Despite this all, Titanfall 2 has had a great run. It’s a work of creativity and art that’s been challenged by its creators, its competition, and even itself. It attempted to leave behind a legacy of success but instead left behind a tragic odyssey. In the end, Titanfall 2 was a tragedy.