The Infinite Zenith

Where insights on anime, games, academia and life dare to converge

Avanti Savoia: Reflections on the Battlefield 1 Campaign

“The machine gun is a much over rated weapon.” —Field Marshal Douglas Haig

In the years after the Great War, Luca Vincenzo Cocchiola recounts his experiences to his daughter. A member of the Italian Arditi unit, Luca is tasked with supporting the main unit, which his brother Matteo, is a part of. Luca equips heavy armour and a MG-08/15 machine gun, punching his way through enemy lines and allowing the forces to capture Austro-Hungary positions, taking an anti-air position and repelling an attack. When the Austro-Hungarians detonate explosives that trigger a landslide to hold back the Italians, and out of concern for Matteo’s safety, Luca sets off to find Matteo, assisting Italian forces along the way. Upon reaching a captured fortress and clearing out the hostile forces, Luca finds that Matteo has died. Back in the present, Luca bids his brother happy birthday. Translating to “Go, Savoia” in reference to Italy’s period monarch and used as a battle cry to rally soldiers, the fourth mission of the campaign takes place in the Italian Dolomite mountains, the site of fierce battles between Italian and Austro-Hungary forces. “Avanti Savoia” is the shortest mission campaign of Battlefield 1, spanning only two acts, but in spite of this short time frame, succinctly captures the notion that the First World War’s impact at the family and individual level scaled to affect entire nations.

While long cited as perhaps the most implausible mission of the campaign, “Avanti Savoia” comes across as being an introduction of sorts to the elite classes of Battlefield 1. The elite classes are subdivided into Sentries, Flame Troopers and Tank Hunters, each with their own unique strengths. Equipping the MG-08/15 as Luca means players will experience the Sentry class, which is characterised by its slow movement speed, high damage resistance offered by the heavy armour and a weapon most useful at close ranges. In the campaign, Luca’s equipment allows him to push through enemy lines and lay waste to enemy positions in frenzied close-quarters combat. The MG-08/15 is terrifyingly effective against enemy infantry, and while intended to be fired on full automatic, it can be lethal in bursts, as well. After surviving an assault on his position by enemy aircraft, “Avanti Savoia” takes on a more personal tone as Luca tries to find his brother to ascertain his safety. This desparate mission gives the sense that the combatants in the Great War were still people, each with their own families, backgrounds and stories. While Battlefield 1 does not give much insight into the countless number of enemy forces killed, watching Luca’s own story does lead one to wonder what stories the Austro-Hungarian (and enemy soldiers in general) have, well beyond being game objects programmed with AI to make the player’s experience interesting.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • The Arditi unit’s precursors in reality were indeed known for their armour and “Farina” helmets, playing a demolitions role that resulted in many casualties. I’m not too sure as to whether or not the Arditi themselves used such armour; while Battlefield 1 might be portraying the armour and weapons as being more effective than they were historically, the game is trying to go for authenticity over realism. This was quite a point of contention when the game came out, but with the launch past now, it seems that most folks have accepted the new environment and setting that Battlefield 1 offers.

  • The heavy armour provides serious protection against enemy fire, reducing incoming damage by a substantial amount, although it also precludes aiming down sights. Fortunately, the MG-08/15 is reasonably accurate at closer ranges even when fired from the hip and so, this section’s goal becomes a simple matter of clearing out the enemies. While the weapon is intended for fully automatic suppressive fire, I fired in bursts to down opponents to ensure the weapon did not jam mid-combat.

  • I’m ordinarily tempted to reload very frequently so I’m not caught with an empty magazine mid-firefight, but LMGs in general demand a different style of gameplay. Their large magazine capacity is offset by a longer reload time, so it is not particularly useful to reload when one still has around eighty percent of their rounds available. This leads to a new paradigm of gameplay, where I typically reload when I’m down to my last twenty percent of my ammunition.

  • Battlefield 3 and 4‘s multiplayer only allowed soldiers to carry an additional two hundred rounds in reserve for their LMGs, but the MG-08/15, both in the campaign and the multiplayer’s elite class, allows for a staggering eight hundred rounds to be carried in reserve. The original variant, the MG-08, was a general-purpose German machine gun derived off the Maxim gun for German infantry, and the 1915 variant was a lighter version, weighing around eighteen kilograms compared to the standard version’s sixty-nine kilograms.

  • The climb up the mountain is a slow one, as Luca must turn the MG-08/15 to bear against numerous soldiers. In conjunction with Luca’s armour, I almost feel bad for the soldiers going up against what would have seemed an unstoppable force against which they had little efficacy against. Time and time again, I hear the phrase “no effect on target” in shooters, and in games with more fictional elements in their settings, this is usually done to emphasise the power of their opponents.

  • Here, the fog effects in Battlefield 1 are visible: like its predecessors, Battlefield 1 uses the Frostbite 3 Engine and so, the game only represents a moderate jump in graphics. However, subtle details, especially pertaining to details in the environment, such as textures of environment assets and the player viewmodel of their weapons, have been improved substantially. One element I’m noticing is the accumulation of mud and water droplets on a weapon as one moves through the environment.

  • The reason why I’ve only gone through only two magazines’ worth of 7.92 x 57 mm rounds for the MG-08/15 is because I’ve been firing slowly. Though it might be tempting to hold down the trigger and let loose the weapon’s full rate of fire, I figured that I would try to hold onto this weapon for as long as possible.

  • The Dolomites are located in Northeastern Italy and take their name from the mineral, which is found in abundance. At present, the area is a popular tourist location, with skiing being the predominant winter sport. During the summer, rock climbing, hiking and cycling are some of the activities that visitors partake in.

  • As Luca makes his way further up the mountainside, flame troopers are present in larger numbers, and can rapidly deplete the player’s health. The mechanics in Battlefield 1 introduce a new means of lessening damage sustained by explosions and flames; by going prone, fire and explosion damage is reduced slightly, making the difference between life and death. In the campaign, shooting the flame trooper’s fuel tanks will cause them to detonate spectacularly, dealing incendiary damage to nearby enemies, as well.

  • Luca’s secondary weapon is an Automatico M1918. At present, my assault class in the multiplayer is rank one, so I should be able to purchase this weapon’s trench variant, which has a better hip firing accuracy than the factory version. The M1918 generally has a much higher firing rate than the MP-18 and is devastating in close quarters. After clearing the bunker, I somehow lost the MG-08/15 and picked up a Hellriegel in the process.

  • I’ve been playing through the Battlefield 1 multiplayer concurrently with the campaign, and so far, have largely focused on leveling the medic class. In all the Battlefield games I’ve gone through, the medic invariably becomes my most used class, typically because it allows me to heal and revive teammates on very short order. In all versions of Battlefield, and where Battlefield 1 is no exception, I hardly ever play the sniper classes, since I prefer to be in the midst of combat, armed with weapons that let me capture objectives and fend off close opponents at close range.

  • The darkening skies in the Dolomites are reminiscent of what occurs whenever a storm enters my region adjacent to the sun. The amount of water vapour in the air causes light to scatter, reducing the number of photons that make it through, creating a sense of darkness. However, once the storm is overhead, the differences in light and dark become far less pronounced.

  • Repelling the air assault can be a little challenging owing to the amount of smoke and obstruction in the skies once things really get underway. There is only one model of anti-air weapon in Battlefield 1, and while the armies using shared weapons does prima facie seem a little strange, Battlefield 1 is set before nations created dedicated weapons manufacturing firms, resulting in a plethora of weapons diversity presently seen.

  • For “Avanti Savoia”‘s second act, Luca is armed with a Villar Perosa M15, a double-barreled weapon capable of firing 1500 rounds per minute per barrel and originally designed for use on an aircraft. Although the weapon’s weaker 9 mm bullets deal limited damage, the M15 has an effective firing rate of 3000 rounds per minute, making it a beast of a weapon for hip-firing at close quarters environments.

  • While tempting to simply use this weapon, it is more practical to sneak about and silently dispatch the first of the enemies, then ascertain where everyone else is before going loud. While Battlefield 1‘s campaign tips suggest that melee kills are not totally silent, in practise, I’ve used nothing but melee kills to sneak through entire areas without being detected.

  • One of my readers has stated that Battlefield 1 is unoriginal and unimaginative for not presenting things from the Triple Alliance or Axis perspective if the game is in a World War setting, wondering why no game developer is willing to take the leap of faith and do so. There are several explanations: most developers of FPS titles are of an American origin, and there is a market demand for retelling stories of how the good guys kicked the bad guys’ asses in both World Wars. In Germany and Japan, games of different types are more popular, hence the relatively limited number of games told from an alternative perspective, and most developers probably are unwilling to present a campaign where the protagonists are doomed to fail on virtue of historical outcomes for fear of disappointing their audiences.

  • Thanks to its short effective range, I immediately traded off my sidearm for something with a bit more stopping power at a distance, and in this mission, the Gewehr M. 95 is available to fulfil that role. Despite possessing only iron sights, the ranges at which enemies are encountered in the campaign are not too high, so iron sights will be more than sufficient to get the job done.

  • There are several ways to approach the fortress, whether its sneaking in through the basement or taking a more direct route. In comparison to its predecessors, Battlefield 1‘s campaign takes place in more open environments, and offer multiple paths, making it much less linear. So far, I’ve not encountered any quick-time events, either, and overall, while I do miss the real-time weapon customisation offered by Battlefield: Hardline‘s campaign, in general, Battlefield 1 has taken lessons from earlier games and improved on its campaign.

  • My Gewehr M. 95 eventually ran dry, but I was able to source an Selbstlader M1916 Optical: the Selbstlader’s marksman variant is a medic weapon I grew rather fond of during the beta, and a few of my past gaming sessions was indeed to reach rank two for the medic class in order to unlock the Selbstlader marksman, which will be an asset on conquest matches where there is plenty of open spaces. However, as I am very fond of close-quarters combat, I also picked up the Autoloading 8 .25 extended to facilitate my preferred play-style.

  • With the fourth of the campaign mission now over, I’ve only got two missions left to experience and write about for Battlefield 1. The campaign does come across as a bit short, but it’s been quite entertaining, acting as an extended tutorial of sorts for the game’s main attraction, the multiplayer. Naturally, this means that posts for the remaining missions will come out soon, and in the gaming department, I’m very nearly finished the Prague night missions for Deus Ex: Mankind Divided. From the anime side of this blog, I’m continuing on with my weekly Brave Witches talks, and on top of the finale talks for Shuumatsu no Izetta and Hibike! Euphonium, I’ll be looking to write about Stella no Mahou, as well.

In presenting these war stories in its campaign as opposed to a single narrative, Battlefield 1 is able to explore a variety of different perspectives from fictionalised accounts of the First World War. Because this war is often forgotten in the aftermath of the much deadlier and widespread Second World War, even if the stories in Battlefield 1 are fictional, they nonetheless do much to pique the players’ curiosity with respect to the untold conflicts and campaigns of the Great War beyond the familiar muddy trenches often depicted by media. Thus, through the War Stories, the more unknown sides are brought to light to demonstrate that World War One is more complex and involved much more than the Western Front alone, hence its moniker as the First World War. Battlefield 1‘s unique combination of these short stories in conjunction with unparalleled sound and visual design means that there is much to experience, bringing both the heroics and horrors of the First World War to life in a way that World War One games have found difficult to capture.

Grape Juice For Your Eyes!: Brave Witches Eighth Episode Impressions and Review

“You cannot eat a cluster of grapes at once, but it is very easy if you eat them one by one.” —Jacques Roumain

When Waltrud is made commander of a mission to escort a fleet of ships carrying high-value materials after discovering intel hidden away in some macarons from Sanya and Eila, she decides to assign Hikari, Nikka and Naoe to aid her in this mission. She grows enamoured with the Britannian Witch already escorting the surface vessels. They make the thousand-kilometer journey to rendezvous with the fleet, with Naoe and Waltrud receiving upgraded Striker Units en route. However, on the eve of the mission, Waltrud succumbs to the temptation of alcohol and wakes up on the morning of their assignment with a hangover. Despite seemingly unfit for combat, she recovers upon learning the Britannian Witch has been shot down by the Neuroi, a large type capable of generating numerous drones. In the midst of battle, Waltrud sends Hikari to assist Nikka and Naoe, but Hikari convinces her to take the FP-45 Liberator before leaving. Waltrud activates her own magic and destroys the Neuroi with a rifle grenade, but is impacted by one of the remaining drones. The hit turns out to be non-lethal, as the Liberator in her chest pocket has deflected the impact’s severity, and in the episode’s final moments, Waltrud’s injuries allow her a chance to interact with the Britannian Witch. Hence, in response to the question that Edytha poses, pertaining to why she picked Hikari, Nikka and Naoe for the task, it would appear that Waltrud seems quite attuned to individuals’ personalities and selecting the role most appropriate for them — this decision ultimately saves her life.

Waltrud’s laidback and ever-optimistic mannerisms make her the most easygoing of all the 502nd: she is fond of indulging herself, as evidenced by her alcohol consumption, and has a propensity to lie to her juniors, informing Hikari that the Liberator is a good luck charm rather than a miniature weapon. Although her nonchalant attitude leads her to frequently run afoul of Edytha and Naoe, this belies her capabilities as a Witch. Favouring high risk, high reward combat approaches, she’s able to engage the eighth episode’s Neuroi independently to both defend the fleet. Waltrud is therefore an excellent example of someone who counts on high spirits and (poor) jokes in order to overcome adversity: her seemingly flippant behaviours have the effect of keeping Nikka and Naoe from worrying too much about the presence of uncommonly dangerous Neuroi, and with these two focussed on the mission, Hikari is likewise able to follow suit. It is very likely that this is the reason why Waltrud remains a critical member of the 502nd despite irritating Edytha and Naoe; her antics, though a nuisance at times, also serve to shift the other Witches’ focus away from the ceaseless threat posed by the Neuroi towards something more commonplace, in turn lessening their fear somewhat.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Hikari marvels at the FP-45 Liberator, a single-shot pistol firing a .45 ACP round that was intended for use by resistance forces, but never saw widespread action. While small, with a short range of roughly 1-4 meters, the Liberator does not hold the title for smallest pistol of all time — this position belongs to the 2mm Kolibri, which was introduced in 1914 and fires exceptionally weak bullets. It’s the level ten unlock for a class in Battlefield 1 and was probably meant to be a joke weapon, since it deals only five damage per shot.

  • Edytha presents the mission while the 502nd sit down for reindeer stew, courtesy of the supplies that Eila and Sanya brought during the previous episode. Their flight path takes them high into the arctic near Russia’s Kola Peninsula, a frigid region rich in natural resources. For this reason, the region is highly polluted as a result of intensive mining: the town of Norilsk and its nickel mines accounts for one percent of the world’s entire sulfur dioxide emissions. In Brave Witches, however, this would be before any industrialisation of the area, so the Kola Peninsula of Orussia would remain relatively pristine.

  • Edytha and Waltrud’s interactions are always quite interesting to watch when the two are bouncing off one another, but the two also can share some insightful conversations. These aspect leads me to my remarks in this episode’s discussions, and in general, while I’m not quite so keen on indulgence as Waltrud, I definitely believe in the significance of good morale: when things get busy or stressful, I tend to crack particularly lame jokes about what I’m working on. Most folks won’t have an opportunity to see this unless they work with me in person.

  • Waltrud’s entire willingness to accept the mission stems from the fact that she’s a womaniser to the same extent as Sean Connery’s James Bond. Curiously enough, the last time I saw someone fall for a girl in a photograph, it was in From Russia With Love (1963). The old James Bond films were amazing, although I was introduced to James Bond through Moonraker (1979), which features Roger Moore as James Bond and sees a plot to eliminate the world’s population from space.

  • Even while on break, the Britannian Witch’s photograph is never too far from Waltrud’s hand. Naoe is quite displeased with the arrangements, although Nikka seems to be taking things in stride. After eight episodes, it’s quite clear that Hikari, Nikka and Naoe are Brave Witches‘ equivalent of Yoshika, Lynette and Perrine. Owing to the tremendous length of their journey, the Witches’ travels are broken up into different legs.

  • The distances involved, coupled with Nikka’s tendency for poor luck means that her Striker begins to malfunction shortly before they reach their next pitstop. Because Nikka flies Waltrud’s Striker unit later on, it’s safe to say that her old unit has bitten the dust, bringing the total of failed Strikers that Nikka has seen in Brave Witches up to a grand total of four. The next episode is titled “Break Witches”, so that total will likely rise further.

  • Up until now, the Ground Striker Units have not been seen, but a few frames depict some Ground Witches being briefed before cutting away to Waltrud ogling them. These units are the land-based equivalents and propel their users on the ground at great speeds, and owing to the decreased emphasis on air mobility, Ground Witches appear to be equipped with heavier-calibre, slower-firing cannons that likely are useful against armour. It would be fantastic to see a series about Ground Witches, and even better would be a series where the two kinds of Witches collaborate to defeat their foes.

  • I believe the acquisition of upgrades mid-season is known amongst audiences as “mid-season upgrades”. Naoe is ecstatic at finally being able to pilot a Shiden Kai herself, marvelling at its increased performance specifications. Being someone who pushes their gear to its limits, I’m also fond of upgrading the equipment I use, and readers who’ve read my Planetarian post will note that I’m now rocking the EVGA GTX 1060 SC 6 GB edition: since I’ve acquired it, I’ve been enjoying the latest games at a buttery smooth 60 FPS with the 1080p resolution, and remark that this particular GPU is still on backorder at Memory Express for my store. It was only with a reservation that I was able to pick mine up back in August.

  • I’ve reiterated this point in other posts previously, but delving into literature further, it seems that I’m not deficient on enzymes for breaking down alcohol. Instead, I have an overexpression of alcohol dehydrogenase, which causes me to decompose alcohol much more quickly than usual, and in turn, I grow sick quickly. Prolonged exposure to alcohol can increase my susceptibility to disease, so this is why I don’t drink, much less with Waltrud’s speed. Brave Witches calls wine “grape juice”, which is technically acceptable: wine really is just rotten grape juice. With that being said, the episode’s title is rather curious — I wouldn’t want ethanol anywhere near my ocular systems.

  • Because of an intolerance for alcohol, I’m no fun at parties, but fortunately, my friends and colleagues are accepting of this, and will usually laugh off my preferences for ginger ale or root beer. With that being said, I will drink on some occasions, usually preferring a good rum of sorts. Waltrud’s carelessness seems to hit a new low when she sorties into battle despite her hangover, and in any other setting, this would be unacceptable. However, in Brave Witches, the Witches’ magic might be assumed to help them overcome any effects of the aforementioned hangover.

  • With the battle against the Neuroi under way, I found myself impressed at the sheer number of Neuroi present on screen in this battle. Such numbers, however, is not a first for the Strike Witches franchise — during the first season, the 501st engage cube-like Neuroi in large numbers in their eighth episode as well, but that one ended with Minna expressing concern over Mio’s declining magic. While Strike Witches was more heavy-handed with its infamous pantsu moments, they explored themes about team dynamics as well. Consequently, it might be worthwhile to go back and watch both seasons again once Brave Witches draws to a close.

  • The page quote comes from Waltrud’s fixation on grape juice, but could easily refer to the nature of the Neuroi the Witches encounter this episode. If and when I’m asked, I do posts with paragraphs of discussion and figure captions as “reactions”: anime discussion and blogs usually come in two varieties, with some folks taking a hybrid approach as I’ve done. While I enjoy drawing elements together to discuss their importance in the bigger picture, I also enjoy responding to individual events on screen. In general, however, I find that individuals who do reaction-type discussions usually leave very little in the way of context. This is perfectly acceptable, but for my readers, I’m not about to let them hunt down the precise moments that I refer to in order to follow them, hence my extensive use of imagery.

  • This scene captures the sheer intensity of the battle taking place in the skies above, with particle effects all over the place as the Witches shoot down the smaller drones to clear a path and neutralise the mothership. In the chaos, friendly vessels begin sustaining damage, even with Waltrud, Naoe, Nikka and Hikari’s efforts. Hikari is ordered to provide fire support for the others, but before she takes off, she gives Waltrud her “good luck charm”.

  • The Liberator would probably be effective against Neuroi the same way the Kolibri pistol is effective against other players in Battlefield 1, and should Brave Witches ever be a video game, there should be an achievement for defeating a Neuroi with the Liberator. However, as Hikari is still under the impression that the Liberator is a good luck charm, she passes it to Waltrud, who confidently states that she’ll be invincible with it.

  • Waltrud’s magic seems to be a booster that greatly increases her speed in combat at the expense of her Striker Unit. She utilises this boost to destroy multiple drones before engaging the larger Neuroi at closer range: in combat, she typically wields an MG 42 or the STG 44 (MP 44), the forerunner of modern assault rifles.

  • After Hikari and the others take out one half of the Neuroi, they learn that the core is residing in the remaining half that Waltrud is fighting. Her skill as a Witch is apparent here, and despite her normally lax demenour, Waltrud is one of the top operators in the 502nd, second only to Gundula in terms of kill count. She manages to locate the core and destroys it with what appears to be an under-barrel grenade launcher, before she is swatted from the air by a stray Neuroi drone. My inner weapons historian than asks: were there really under-barrel weapons in this age for the STG 44?

  • It turns out there is: even though under-barrel grenade launchers only became widespread after the development of the M203 and Soviet BG-15 in the late 1960s and previous grenade launchers were either carried as standalone weapons like the M79, or else took the form of rifle grenades, the weapon in Brave Witches is authentic. Waltrud is seen here after firing a Sturmpistole, a modified flare gun designed to fire anti-tank projectile. Not particularly effective against even light tanks, the idea was soon discarded, but historically, Sturmpistoles could be mounted as under-barrel attachments for the STG 44.

  • In frustration that Waltrud is able to pull off stunts such as those, Naoe states that she’d like to punch out Waltrud’s lights. A viewer with a keen ear and keener sense of memory will note that tracks from Strike Witches and Strike Witches: The Movie also make a return in this episode. The return of familiar music serves to remind audiences that while being about a different group of Witches and their stories, this nonetheless remains Strike Witches.

  • Despite injuries sustained after falling into the ocean, Waltrud is in fine spirits and enjoying the Britannian Witch’s company. As it turns out, Waltrud is a surprisingly good judge of character: she answers Edytha’s remarks about choosing Hikari, explaining that Hikari’s phenomenal in the support role. Right before she takes off to engage the Neuroi, Hikari gives Waltrud her “good luck charm”, and it is this action that saves Waltrud: ironically, rather than being misleading about the Liberator’s purpose, her misinformation and Hikari’s reactions turned out to be beneficial.

  • If Waltrud had been flying a new-model Striker in this battle, and the Neuroi are able to both regenerate, as well as incorporate the Striker’s circuitry into its workings, the next Neuroi the 502nd encounter could be quite fearsome. The episode preview betrays nothing about what is to happen, so with this week’s episode in the books, it’s time for me to conclude this post. This is the fastest I’ve been all season with respect to getting a Brave Witches post out, and this episode’s talk comes on the same day as the episode. It is a consequence of unique scheduling, so next week, I imagine I’ll be back to finishing the ninth episode’s discussion on Thursday. Until then, it’s back to iOS programming as deadlines loom at work, and playing Battlefield 1 and Deus Ex: Mankind Divided when I’m off work.

Nearing the three-quarters mark, and with new model Striker Units introduced, as well as a foreboding scene where the Neuroi is shown to be regenerating and integrates Striker technology into its operation, Brave Witches is beginning to gear up for its final quarter. Strike Witches has typically taken this direction as the season progressed: unlike the Neuroi in earlier segments of their respective seasons, Neuroi appearing towards the end were not to be trifled with, forcing the Witches to work together in full in order to accomplish victory. As Waltrud mentions en route to their destination, the final enemy the 502nd will face in Brave Witches is the large hive in their AO. This is sure to be a thrilling fight, and one wonders how the 502nd will take down their foe (Strike Witches‘ main theme means that the final episode’s outcome is more noteworthy for how it reached its conclusion, rather than what the outcome itself is going to be), but until then, the remaining few episodes will deal with any characters who’ve not had much exposition yet: Gundula and Naoe come to mind, and once their stories are presented, it’ll be time for the 502nd to take on the hive as a full-fledged team, as the 501st had done before them.

One Year of Service in Battlefield 4

“It is only through labor and painful effort, by grim energy and resolute courage, that we move on to better things.” —Theodore Roosevelt

I’d expected to only play Battlefield 4‘s multiplayer intermittently after purchasing it, but back during May, DICE began rolling out the “Road To Battlefield” programme that saw the release of all of the DLC for free: beginning with “Dragon’s Teeth”, the DLC became freely available over the course of the summer, and so, I eventually picked up “Final Stand”, “China Rises”, “Second Assault” and “Naval Strike”. I’ve only played a handful of the new game modes and maps, but the greatest addition the DLC conferred to my experience was the inclusion of new assignments and their corresponding unlocks, as well as new maps. I recall when I’d picked up Battlefield 3 Premium and marvelling at all of the new features — the excitement there had been in gaining access to new maps and unlocks, as well. However, this time, the complementary DLC come from a promotion leading towards Battlefield 1. In the time since my last Battlefield 4 post back in March, I’ve ranked up around twenty levels and add thirty-four more hours in multiplayer, bringing that total to seventy-two hours. “Dragon’s Teeth” had come out in May, and I recall many an hour spent in the Sunken Dragon map armed with the MP-412, trying to get kills on opponents while in the water in order to unlock the Unica 6. Several long and difficult matches later, I’d succeeded, and proceeded to the next assignment, which involved using the Unica 6 to score twenty headshots. After numerous deaths, the Desert Eagle was finally unlocked, and has since become my favourite heavy pistol. Although the road to obtaining the Desert Eagle was a tricky one, it was also marvelously rewarding to succeed.

This is the sort of experience that has given Battlefield 4 such longevity: on occasion, I drop into a match now and equip a new weapon to try out, unlocking new attachments and accessories for it. In the occasional match, medals and awards pop up to alert me that I’ve completed some assignment I’d not even heard of before, unlocking new weapon skins or even weapons in some assignments. The unlock system in Battlefield 4, being a more refined upgrade to Battlefield 3‘s system, always finds a way to give back to players for investing time into the game, as well as for being adventurous, and in doing so, continues to encourage players to return, either to work towards unlocking all of the weapon accessories in order to make the weapon something they enjoy using, or else promote altering one’s playstyle with a new weapon. At this time, I’ve unlocked all of the shotguns, as well as all but one of the assault rifles and pistols. There are other weapons, such as sniper rifles and designated marksman rifles, that remain to be conquered, but even once everything is unlocked, there remains the weapon mastery challenges (get 500 kills with a weapon) to be completed. The sheer diversity of things to do in multiplayer well beyond completing objectives means that there’s always room to play Battlefield 4, and over the foreseeable future, I will likely alternate between Battlefield 4 and Battlefield 1 depending on whether or not I’m seeking a more modern experience, or Strike Witches in the Frostbite Engine.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I threw down enough resupply crates and ammo pouches such that the resupply medals were my most received medal after the suppression assists. In Battlefield 4, the support class had access to LMGs, along with DMRs and carbines, and for the most part, I particularly enjoy using LMGs for their high ammo capacity. The M249 became my favourite LMG in both Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4, handling superbly with low recoil.

  • Here, I earn my first-ever chain link ribbon after trying out the game mode for the first time. These screenshots date back to May, during which I would have been in the middle of working for my thesis paper. I did take a few hours off each day to play Battlefield 4 and found out about the free DLC programme while looking up whether or not there would be any events for double XP.

  • “Dragon’s Teeth” was the first of the DLC to be offered free of charge; its theme is conflict-ravaged urban settings, and my favourite map is probably Propaganda, which is set in Pyongyang in North Korea. Besides Soviet-style apartments, there’s a statue of the North Korean leader and large billboards. I had a fantastic time on this map, but it appears that games set on DLC maps tend to be more specialised, rather than the conquest or TDM I’m most fond of playing.

  • If memory serves, I went nine and twenty-nine during the one conquest match I tried unlocking the Unica 6: the assignment involves getting five kills while swimming and opening the flood gates. Both objectives proved quite difficult, as the other team had superb defense: I was sniped or died to campers hiding out in the towers where the controls where while trying to open the gates. Even after succeeding, the five kills while swimming were a challenge, since players simply shot me out of the water. I eventually succeeded with the fifth kill, finishing the assignment and earning myself much fist pumping and yelling.

  • One of my favourite features in Battlefield 4 is the whole notion of “assist counts as kill”, which I find to be a mechanism that appropriately rewards players for dealing a majority of the damage to another target before someone else finishes them off. It is especially satisfying when one is killed before they can get the kill, only to have “assist counts as kill” pop up on the screen, awarding credit for having done the bulk of the work for another teammate to finish them.

  • I predominantly play TDM in Battlefield 4, but in general, Conquest is my favourite game mode, bringing large-scale battles to life as teams try to capture and hold objectives in order to deplete the opposing team of tickets. Its smaller counterpart, Domination, is most similar to King of The Hill in Halo, although there is more than one hill and the hills do not move. In this particular game, I’m playing on a remastered version of Battlefield 3‘s “Operation Metro”, which I spent many hours playing during the days of Battlefield 3.

  • It was a Herculean task to get twenty headshots with the Unica 6 in order to unlock the Desert Eagle: I normally roll with the MP 412 Rex, which has a higher firing rate and for which I’ve got the green laser sight for to improve hip fire. I count on getting two body shots in close quarters in order to best an opponent while using a sidearm and so, never bother aiming for the head. However, a combination of luck and the occasional unaware player meant that after some effort, I finally unlocked the Desert Eagle.

  • I primarily like the Desert Eagle for its aesthetics, and for having the fastest reload of any of the so-called “hand cannons” in Battlefield 4, and my most-used pistol is the MP 412. For the lighter pistols, I used the M9 the most extensively. I am a huge fan of pistols, and typically have a blast on the pistol only servers, but in ordinary servers, a good pistol can be a fantastic complement for one’s primary weapon: a hard-hitting pistol goes great with shotguns or PDWs, while something like the G18 or 93R is a fantastic backup for bolt-action rifles.

  • I haven’t gotten a KILLTACULAR since my days of playing Halo 2: Vista, which was defined to be getting four kills, each within seven seconds of one another (or, four kills within twenty-eight seconds) until now: using an anti-tank rocket, I blew up a vehicle carrying four occupants here. In Halo 2 on Lockout, I became so familiar with the spawn points so that I could use a sniper rifle and battle rifle in conjunction with plasma grenades to clear out the opposing team’s players as they spawned, eventually earning me the covetted killimanjaro medal (seven kills, each within seven seconds of one another).

  • The engineer class in Battlefield 4, like Battlefield 3, finds most utility on games where there are plenty of vehicles. I usually roll with the repair torch for the sake of being able to rapidly repair friendly vehicles, although I remember chaotic matches where I make to equip an anti-tank rocket, pull out the torch by mistake, then proceed to walk up to the vehicle and begin damaging it with the repair tool, eventually causing it to explode.

  • Thanks to the antics of Girls und Panzer, I usually try to flank enemy armour to destroy them, but the main battle tanks in Battlefield 4 are also effective against lighter vehicles and infantry. The combination of double XP events in conjunction with capturing objectives while in vehicles has allowed me to unlock almost all of the accessories for the tanks: I’m only three short at present. My typical loadout for a tank is the default loadout, but it strikes me now as strange that I’ve not altered the tank as the defaults have worked so effectively.

  • Dragon Pass in the “China Rises” expansion has some of the nicest scenery in Battlefield, and here, I get a spot bonus as I run through the rice paddies and karst rock formations of the Guilin valley. According to the time stamps on my screenshots, after May and June, I stopped playing Battlefield in July, since I was in Cancún for the ALIFE 2016 conference. After I returned, my goal was to finish revising my thesis such that it was submission ready.

  • At the end of July, I submitted my thesis, but during a tense week in early August, my thesis was rejected for formatting issues. However, after three attempts, my submission was finally accepted, and so, in early August, I resumed playing Battlefield, recalling one particularly hilarious match where one fellow going by the name of Mars732 continually spouted profanity when I got him with the SPAS-12.

  • Even after acquisition of new DLC, I still think that my favourite maps of Battlefield 4 are Zavod 311: the forest environment and abandoned T-54/55 factory is an excellent environment that suits a variety of play styles. Here, I unlock the RPK-74 as a reward for completing the “Powder Keg” assignment, and further recall another assignment where I had to get one M320 kill, one pistol kill and one defibrillator kill in one match. Players recommend getting the three assault rifle ribbons first, otherwise the kills won’t count, but I jumped in a little late, and neglected to get the ribbons beforehand. So, I hastened to get eighteen kills with the assault rifle, and after a tense match, I unlocked the L85A2.

  • After a year of playing Battlefield 4, I finally witnessed the Levolution event naturally occur during one conquest match on “Siege of Shanghai”, when the central skyscaper’s support columns were damaged by tank fire sufficiently for the entire thing to collapse. I was on a mission to finish the “Make a Dent” assignment, which unlocks the MP7. Getting the anti-vehicle ribbons was not a difficult task, but the portable anti-air kills proved more difficult. I was completely unsuccessful with the Stinger missiles, but in a later match, a lucky shot with the Igla netted me a nice double kill, unlocking the weapon.

  • Unlike Battlefield 3, the DMRs in Battlefield 4 deal much less damage and require three shots to kill even in close quarters. Quite a force to recon with in Battlefield 3, I found that they’re not as useful in Battlefield 4, being outperformed by higher fire rate weapons in close quarters and lacking the accuracy to be effective sniper weapons at longer ranges. Still, there are some days where I’ll feel up to trying them out, and I’ve unlocked a handful of attachments for the RFB that make it slightly more usable.

  • As I hardly ever play the recon class at long ranges, the marksman ribbon is something I’ve not seen during my game time until now. I’m not particularly good with sniper rifles in general, and consequently, have not unlocked many of the weapons. In Battlefield 3, the DMRs and bolt-action rifles were under the same category, so I usually just rolled with the M417 and had a blast two-shotting folks at close quarters.

  • After a friend suggested I try out the M240B, I immediately took a liking to the weapon and got fifty kills over the course of two TDM matches, unlocking the support expert title and the associated RPK-12. I’ve now reached expertise for both the medic and support classes, leaving only the recon and engineer classes left to master. However, having spent a “mere” seventy-two hours in Battlefield 4, I’m still a long way from unlocking everything.

  • Shotguns see limited utility for most game modes, but on “Operation Locker”, they’re beasts to be reckoned with. Insofar, my favourite shotguns are the SPAS-12 and the 870 MCS: I have been called a “shotgun n00b” before for making use of shotguns in TDM, although I’m unfettered by the remarks; TDM is where I go to focus on farming kills for weapon unlocks, and over the past week, I attempted the “Road to Battlefield” challenge, which asked for twenty-five M1911 kills.

  • I’d not actually used the M1911 up until that point, and so, had no attachments for the weapon. Instead, I ran the weapon with no accessories, managing to perform quite well with it and earning me the moniker “pistol n00b” by some players. I’m not bothered, since doing so allowed me to complete the mission, earning me a cool weapon skin and dogtags for Battlefield 1, as well as a gold battlepack for Battlefield 4 (I got two knives from this drop, so I was quite pleased with the outcome of that assignment).

My performance in Battlefield 4 is primarily objective-driven: in most matches, I play to capture points, arm or defuse MCOMs, or else do what is necessary to win a game, even if it means my KD ratio takes a hit. This particular play-style comes from my personal preferences in how I approach problems in reality; it’s acceptable for me to take a few hits here and there provided that the team overall is doing well. Consequently, I will utilise my class to its fullest to assist my teammates in a match, and on several occasions, have reached close the top of the scoreboard despite having what would considered be a poor KD ratio (less than 1.0). This is because I’m more interested in capturing points, healing and reviving teammates, resupplying teammates and repairing vehicles than I am with kills in objective driven matches. To offset this, I play team slayer in order to accumulate kills and unlock weapon accessories. Over the course of the past few months, I’ve also played in a squad with my friends: that was an immensely enjoyable experience where our team won one of the two conquest large matches we played. The first one, we were able to mount a comeback, and the second one was a closer game that we’d narrowly lost. Playing with friends is a vastly different experience than playing solo, although in all cases, I have the most fun where I’m able to help my team out. Now that Battlefield 1‘s out, I’ll probably be dividing my time between this and Battlefield 4, which means that my time in Battlefield 3 has drawn to a close.

Friends In High Places: Reflections on the Battlefield 1 Campaign

“Oh, he’s probably getting ready to take off in the Sopwith Camel on the next dawn patrol. His mission is, to find the Red Baron and shoot him down. Here’s the World War I flying ace climbing into the cockpit of the Sopwith Camel.” —Charlie Brown, It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown

Seen through the eyes of Canadian gambler Clyde Blackburn, the third mission of Battlefield 1‘s campaign follows his misadventures after he steals George Rackham’s plane and pilots it during a test flight, later contributing to a mission to destroy a German munitions depot. The operation is successful, but Blackburn and his copilot, Wilson, are shot down. Blackburn makes his way through no-man’s land and rescues Wilson; upon reaching allied lines, Blackburn is arrested for impersonating Rackham. En route to his trial in London, German forces attack the city and kill Rackham in the process. Blackburn and Wilson take to the skies, shooting down numerous aircraft before crashing on one of the Zeppelins. Moving through the Zeppelin, Blackburn manages to commandeer one of the anti-aircraft guns and shoots down several Zeppelins before jumping off into the Thames River when the Zeppelin he’s on is damaged. He manages to climb out of the river unharmed and remarks that his recollections are truthful.

Introducing players to flight, “Friends in High Places” is an immensely cinematic experience that mirrors Battlefield 3‘s “Going Hunting”. Unlike the on-rails mission of Battlefield 3, Battlefield 1 allows players to take the pilot’s seat and pilot an aircraft through the skies in order to complete mission objectives. Flight has always been a little tricky to master in Battlefield, and in both Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4, I’ve not amassed too many hours in jets owing to the fact that I prefer the “boots on the ground” style of gameplay and land vehicles, so when I realised I would need to fly for a part of this mission, I was a little pensive. Fortunately, Battlefield 1 eases players into the basics of flight with a tutorial mission that predictably ends with combat against enemy aircraft. While flight missions constitute much of this third mission (concluding with an immeasurably beautiful final mission set over London by sunset), the act to sneak through enemy lines back to friendly territory stood out for me — it marks the first time in Battlefield where I completed a mission without firing a single shot. After crash-landing, I stealthily neutralised a German soldier and took his Gewehr 98, but quickly realised that using it in any capacity would have likely resulted in instant death. Hence, I snuck around soldiers, used melee attacks on lone individuals and otherwise, threw shells to move soldiers elsewhere to move across the map. Firing zero shots and completing the mission felt a little unusual but also rewarding, showing that there are numerous ways to complete campaign missions.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • While I make the comparison to It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, where Snoopy flies a Sopwith Camel, here in the third mission, I will be flying the Bristol F.2 fighter, a biplane with maneuverability on par with those of period fighters despite being a two-seater. The training mission is set over the Vosges mountains in eastern France, although their towering peaks are perhaps more similar to those of the Alps or Canadian Rockies: the Vosges are low mountains in reality and do not look anything like the mountains depicted here.

  • The duel with the first German aircraft is set in an area reminiscent of the Caradhras in Lord of the Rings, where Gandalf duels the Durin’s Bane in a titanic battle that spanned four days and four nights. It also feels as though these mountains might house one or two of the Beacons of Amon Dîn: the orchestral soundtrack of Battlefield 1 really brings the location’s majesty to life, and it was here where I learned that the flight controls of the campaign differ than those of the multiplayer.

  • “Friends in High Places” is broken up into four different acts; at the end of the first act, Blackburn flies over a German munitions depot and photographs it, leading the superiors to coordinate a raid on this installation. The second act involves clearing the way for an attack, beginning by clearing the barrage balloons placed over the depot. Once this is done, players must engage both enemy aircraft and anti-air trucks on the ground.

  • While some might find it inconceivable that aircraft could have had rockets functioning similar to the Hydra 70s seen in Battlefield 3 and 4, some investigation turns up the Le Prieur incendiary rockets, essentially cardboard tubes filled with black powder and a knife that could be fired electronically from the cockpit. The real rockets were intended for use against air targets, but their low accuracy means that in Battlefield 1, they’re best used against slow moving targets in either the ground or the air.

  • Once the anti-air trucks are cleared, friendly bombers arrive and begin their bombing run. Enemy fighters are scrambled, so it’s up to the player to shoot these from the sky to ensure as many bombers can reach the target. Once the facility takes enough damage, it will detonate spectacularly, although Blackburn is also shot down at this point.

  • A disproportionate number of images in this post (a standard size of twenty images) are from the mission’s second half because the first two acts ended fairly quickly. Here, Blackburn has untangled himself from the parachute and executed a German soldier to requisition his Gewehr 98. In the multiplayer, two variants of this weapon are equipped with long range optics for sniping, but there’s also an infantry version with iron sights and a bayonet. With higher spread and recoil decrease, it’s rather unsuited for stealth combat.

  • Consequently, as I snuck through German lines, I was ever mindful of ensuring that I never accidentally fired the weapon. Moving behind enemy lines brought to mind memories of when I watched Snoopy doing the same in It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. It’s a quiet, sobering section in the special, and came across as a bit frightening when I was in primary school. The artwork of the 1966 special was remarkably effective, and fifty years later, something like the Frostbite Engine allows people to really see what Snoopy might’ve imagined himself to see.

  • By nightfall, the trenches are quiet and only a few scouts linger — they can be neutralised reasonably quickly without drawing too much attention to oneself. Remaining crouched throughout this mission to minimise noise, I found that the dark corners of the trenches were the perfect path to make my way back to friendly lines. It’s a full moon here, and a few weeks ago, there was another “supermoon”. Though said to be quite rare, I find it amusing that I’ve seen two supermoons over the past three years when the media claim that they’re set to occur decades apart.

  • Husks of burnt-out trees are visible here as I close the distance to friendly positions through no-man’s land: this area is referred to as such in World War One for being territory where no man would consciously choose to traverse out of fear of being attacked for being in the open. An entire pack of rats can be seen scurrying about: battlefields were infested with rats during World War One, as dead bodies and food provisions gave them plenty of resources to grow. Disgusted at the fact that rats could grow to gargantuan sizes, soldiers on both sides shot trench rats when they saw them, or else impaled them with a bayonet, but these actions did little to lessen the rat populations.

  • The final act in “Friends in High Places” was breathtaking, and this screenshot captures only a fraction of the majesty. Blackburn’s actions seemingly catch up to him prior to the fourth act, but he seems uncommonly lucky, being spared death in a sudden, unexpected raid by German forces. With Rackham dead, Blackburn takes to the skies with Wilson and begins engaging the enemy fighters, the Fokker Dr.I triplane. I find it somewhat unusual that all of the planes in the campaign are given a distinct red colour; I would appreciate it if someone with a more substantial background in First World War history would inform me of whether or not von Richthofen was the only pilot to pilot red aircraft.

  • For his incredible combat prowess in the air, von Richthofen took on the name Red Baron. Mobile Suit Gundam‘s Char Aznable was doubtlessly inspired by von Richthofen; his mobile suits are coloured in red colours, and in the Battle of Loum, proved himself to be a highly effective pilot, earning the moniker The Red Comet.

  • The battle in the cloud rages on as German Gotha G.IV bombers appear. Crewed by three, these bombers carried up to 500 kilograms of bombs that ranged from high explosives for attacking structures to fragmentation bombs for anti-personnel usage. Historically, heavy bombers were used by the Germans to attack British targets, and these raids sometimes included Zeppelins, as well. Between 1915 and 1918, Zeppelins bombed London; early raids occurred by day, but anti-air defenses led the Germans to change their attacks to take place by night.

  • In Battlefield 1, the rockets are a powerful means of attacking the Zeppelins once they show up. The fabric covering its surface tears when shot at, and when a section sustains enough damage, it explodes violently. The rockets are an ideal weapon for attacking the Zeppelins, dealing a reasonable amount of damage, although several attack runs will need to be made before any serious damage can be dealt.

  • There are sections of the Zeppelins housing anti-air weapons, and these will quickly blow the Bristol out of the sky unless tended to. Germany used Zeppelins extensively during World War One, as they were able to move as quickly as the smaller, more nimble fighters while at the same time, carrying a much larger payload. These Zeppelins were kept aloft by hydrogen, although bullets could not ignite it easily: this is reflected in Battlefield 1.

  • After crash-landing on one of the Zeppelins, Blackburn is separated from Wilson and is initially, only armed with a Webley-Fosbery Self-Cocking Automatic Revolver, a powerful sidearm that is available for the medic class. Insofar, I’ve reached rank one with the medic for the multiplayer after capturing an objective in the new Operations game mode. A large-scale match spanning several rounds, it is a combination of conquest and rush; I won the first match I played, which should contributes towards my obtaining the PTFO skin for the MP-18.

  • This comes amidst the Battlefest event, during which one can complete challenges in order to unlock some swag for their in-game customisation options. Last weekend, I spent most of Saturday afternoon playing Battlefield 4 with the M1911 pistol in order to obtain the twenty-five kills needed to complete the “Road to Battlefield” mission, which yields a unique dogtag and M1911 weapon skin in Battlefield 1. I was not particularly keen on the M1911 before, having only two kills with it since I unlocked it, but it’s growing on me now that I’ve used it, and in practise, I managed to do reasonably well running a sidearm against other players with primary weapons (to the point of being called a “pistol n00b” by some).

  • Returning back to Battlefield 1, here, I’ve picked up the MP-18: against the soldiers here, it’s a shade more effective than a revolver. After fighting through the Zeppelin’s interior, which is intricately detailed, I close in on the anti-air gun position. Blackburn punches the gunner out and takes control of the weapon, making use of it to destroy hostile air elements.

  • The QF 1-pounder is the emplaced anti-air gun in Battlefield 1: nicknamed the “pom-pom” for its unique firing sound, this 37mm auto-cannon fired one pound shells that historically did little damage against Zeppelins. In Battlefield 1, the weapon is immensely effective as an anti-air, anti-armour and anti-infantry weapon in the multiplayer, and although this is inaccurate from a historic perspective, I personally think that good gameplay in conjunction with authenticity is more meaningful for a game than realism.

  • It is immensely satisfying to use the anti-air gun against a Zeppelin here even if the real QF 1-pounder performed pitifully against Zeppelins. While I am uncertain as to whether or not the QF 1 anti-air guns were mounted on any Zeppelins, I am certain QF 1-pounders were indeed used by German forces; they were designated as the Maxim Flak M14 and used in 1915 against South African forces.

  • The destruction of the last Zeppelin brings the third mission to a close, and with it, this post also draws to a close. Up next for Battlefield 1 will be a talk on the “Avanti Savoia” mission and my initial impressions of the multiplayer experience (not in any particular order), as well as some thoughts I’ve got on Battlefield 4 now that it’s been a year since I picked up the game during last year’s Black Friday Origin sale. I also remark that we’re now nearly at the three-quarters mark for the Fall 2016 anime season: for both Hibike! Euphonium and Shuumatsu no Izetta, I have plans to write a full season reflection once their finales have aired. I’m still watching them, of course.

Whether it be the throbbing of propeller blades or the play of light across the landscape, “Friends in High Places” brings to life the thrill of being able to pilot some of the first combat aircraft ever designed. This is a time when there were no infrared-guided missiles or flares, just machine guns and a steady aim: the atmospherics brings to mind the sort of duels that Charles M. Schulz’s Snoopy would have envisioned in his mind when taking to the skies and dogfighting with Manfred von Richthofen, the Red Baron himself. This aspect of Snoopy’s alter-ego is among the most famous, and in It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, viewers are treated to a sequence where Snoopy engages the Red Baron, is shot down and forced to sneak through the French countryside, eventually reaching Violet’s house while the Halloween Party is in full swing. Through sight and sound, DICE has brought this scene to life in Battlefield 1, allowing players to interact and experience as vividly as Snoopy would have done so vis-à-vis the Frostbite 3 engine.

On a Holy Night: Brave Witches Seventh Episode Impressions and Review

“Christmas is not an external event at all, but a piece of one’s home that one carries in one’s heart.” —Freya Stark

Hikari falls ill after riding on a sled in the frigid winter air of Petersburg and becomes bed-ridden. Meanwhile, the 502nd discover that their supplies have fallen critically low as a result of earlier Neuroi attacks on their warehouses. Consequently, Gundula decides to cancel this year’s Saturnus Festival, much to Nikka’s dismay. Recalling that it was the Saturnus Festival that led her to feel more welcome as a member of the 502nd, she resolves to try and push a scaled-back variant for Hikari: she, Alexsandra and Naoe carve Matryoshka dolls for Hikari while Waltrud is out hunting for a pine tree as punishment after inadvertently insulting Edytha. Waltrud accidentally reveals to Hikari their plans for a Saturnus Festival and is further penalised, sent out to find some edible mushrooms. However, these mushrooms induce uncontrollable laughter, and so, when a Neuroi appears in the area, it’s up to Nikka to defeat it. Her bad luck seemingly prevails midcombat, when her weapons jam, but Eila and Sanya of the 501st arrive to defeat the Neuroi, before dropping off enough provisions that allow the 502nd to have a Saturnus Festival for Hikari that Nikka fondly recalls. This seventh episode of Brave Witches follows in the footsteps of its predecessors, being one that is rather more relaxed in nature, but, ever-mindful of differentiating itself from Strike Witches, Brave Witches capitalises on their episode to tell a meaningful story about how meaningful the Saturnus Festival is for Nikka, and her desire to make Hikari feel at home amongst the other Witches of the 502nd.

Episode seven of Brave Witches is in effect a Christmas episode, depicting a celebration of Christmas at the front lines and how even if the traditional elements of Christmas are absent, it is the spirit and togetherness that makes this season a magical one. The Saturnus Festival is derived off the Roman holiday Saturnalia — during winter months, to appease the Sun God, Saturn, human sacrifices were made to bring back the sun, and Roman law would select an enemy who would be permitted to indulge in sins. At the end of the festival, this individual would be executed. During the festivities, law was not be in effect, so people could party and give gifts. Numerous winter festivals developed independently of the Roman Saturnalia and Jesus Christ’s birth, and in modernity, Christmas is the main winter festival that people observe. A time for togetherness and gift-giving, there’s a magic about Christmas that Nikka experienced during her first year as a 502nd witch, and speaking to its impact, she tries her best to ensure that the 502nd’s latest addition, Hikari, can also experience thus to feel more included as a 502nd Witch. In keeping with the notion of a Christmas miracle, Eila and Sanya arrive, allowing the Saturnus Festival to truly be magical for both Hikari and Nikka, who is given an opportunity to see her friends.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Winter has now set in over Petersburg, and being from Suomus, Nikka hardly notices the frigid air, whereas Hikari and Naoe find the air surprisingly brisk. I can understand Nikka’s remarks; lifetime of living in Canada means that I’m mentally prepared to handle cold weather. For me, a day where it’s -15°C is considered comfortable, especially considering how the more frigid winter days can drop temperatures down to -40°C with windchill.

  • The seventh episode of Brave Witches holds the season record thus far for “most funny faces”, and I’ve decided to include some in this here episode discussion. What is less amusing for Naoe and Nikka is what happens subsequently, when Hikari pushes the sled and trips, leaving no one to steer it and causing it to drive over thin ice. In the ensuing cold, Hikari develops a cold of her own.

  • Dwindling provisions leaves Sadako with increasingly fewer options for preparing meals; she creates a dumpling soup that each respective Witch attempts to identify as a cuisine from their own homeland, and Naoe names it as suiton (すいとん) soup. Having nothing to do with the spell in Final Fantasy or one of Gundam‘s most infamous online presences, the soup is said to be hearty and filling when properly prepared. Here, it’s stated that Witches falling ill are uncommon owing to their healing factors, although Hikari’s weak magical ability is leveraged to created a specific situation that drives the remainder of the episode.

  • Fortunately for the rest of the world, Suiton629 is a name that no longer plagues most online discussion venues, and so, there will be no further mention of this individual. Back in Brave Witches, Hikari is left to rest and recover from her cold. That Nikka and Naoe are looking after her suggest that they’ve grown the closest since Hikari joined the 502nd. I’m still finding it difficult to believe that Naoe shares a voice actor with Gochuumon wa Usagi Desu ka?‘s Megu Natsu.

  • While Gundula has made it clear that there is to be no preparations for any sort of festival, Nikka nonetheless begins trying to bring in even small tokens, and Alexsandra contributes her own Christmas experiences, having received a Matryoshka from her parents as a child. Known more commonly as Russian Dolls, these nesting dolls are a relatively recent invention, being crafted in 1890 by Vasily Zvyozdochkin.

  • It may strike some as an unusual contradiction — whereas I greatly enjoy reading ghost stories on paper or hearing about them, I am not particularly keen on horror movies in general. The last and only horror movie I’ve seen is Dark Water (Japanese title: Honogurai Mizu no soko kara); my fear and unsettlement came from the implications of the familial dynamics in the movie, as well as pity for the ghost, and I realised that I fear that part of people capable of neglecting or even bringing harm onto others, rather than anything a ghost can or cannot do to the corporeal world.

  • To see Edytha show up just as Nikka and Naoe take off after Waltrud’s “ghost” story was bloody hilarious: while normally of a quiet and reserved demeanour, seeing any emotion from Edytha contrary to her normal self evokes a sense of amusement. What she does to Waltrud for telling the story is not shown, but the aural cues themselves do a fantastic job of suggesting that for Waltrud, things were not particularly pleasant.

  • Nikka, Alexsandra and Naoe begin carving the Matryoshka dolls for Hikari, and although they’re off to a strong start, with Naoe carving an intricate dog that is mistaken to be a cat, Hikari awakens and wonder what’s going on. The straw that breaks the camel’s back is Waltrud appearing with an evergreen tree and loudly announcing that she’s hoping Hikari will enjoy their efforts at a Saturnus festival. The secret out, Waltrud is sent on a second punishment assignment.

  • Waltrud and Edytha stumble on some mushrooms while hunting for ingredients such that Sadako can cook a reasonable Christmas dinner. This seventh episode also sets the record for most number of unique facial expressions from Edytha: capable of maintaining a neutral expression under most circumstances, it is either pleasant or amusing to see her expressing her feelings.

  • I’m not a mycologist and therefore, I cannot immediately recognise species of fungi on sight alone. Here, Edytha reacts to the consumption of the mushrooms she and Waltrud have found earlier: they’re remarked to be “laughing mushrooms”, specifically, Gymnopilus junonius. This identification is based purely on the mushroom’s geographical range: unlike other mushrooms with these properties, which are found in more temperate climates, G. junonius‘ distribution includes Russia). These mushrooms contain a compound known as psilocybin, which is metabolised in the body to form psilocin. This chemical induces euphoria, leading the characters to laugh uncontrollably. Although the science is not mentioned explicitly in Brave Witches, it is impressive that the writers have taken the effort to get these details correct.

  • Psilocybin is the compound found in hallucinogenic mushrooms, which are consumed recreationally by some, and the results leave individuals in no fit state to operate machinery. Thus, with everyone on base in hysterics from the mushrooms, and Hikari still on the mend from her cold, it’s up to Nikka to deploy and engage a Neuroi that has seemingly appeared from the blue. Remaining on the ground, Hikari’s observations lead Nikka to the conclusion that the Neuroi has active camouflage, which enabled it to evade observers until it was in close proximity to the base.

  • The MG 42 that Nikka wields in combat is one of the top machine guns that German produced during the Second World War, coupling a high reliability and durability with an impressive fire rate of 1200 to 1500 rounds per minute that resulted in a unique report. A solid all-around weapon, that it jams in Nikka’s hands is meant to illustrate the misfortunes that befall her in combat, and without any other combat options, it’s all Nikka can do to remain in the air after her weapon fails to continue operating. However, Nikka’s luck is not totally poor: in this screenshot, a rocket can be seen entering the frame, and moments later, a burst of machine gun fire destroys the Neuroi.

  • These shots are fired from the 501st’s very own Sanya Litvyak and Eila Juutilainen: whereas Yoshika and Mio only made cameo appearances in a newspaper clipping during the first episode, this episode marks the first time 501st Witches are given dialogue on-screen. In the aftermath of Strike Witches‘ first season, Sanya and Eila return to the Sumous area and spend time with Nikka; The Sky That Connects Us depicts Sanya singing for both Eila and Nikka.

  • I purchased The Sky That Connects Us more than two years ago, and it never ceases to amaze me just how quickly time has elapsed. Here, Hikari and Nikka admire a miniature Christmas tree that accompanies the supplies that Sanya and Eila have shipped in. With American Thanksgiving being today, and Black Friday tomorrow, the next major holiday on the table is Christmas. This year, Christmas will be a quiet event with nuclear family: with no Master Grade to build this year, I foresee that I will spend most of the day reading books and playing Battlefield 1 (or Mankind Divided).

  • As a consequence giving everyone an unwanted high from the ‘shrooms and very nearly bringing about the destruction of the Petersburg base, Waltrud is made to kneel in a corner, bearing the sign “I committed sabotage”. While seemingly harmless, Waltrud’s actions incapacitated the 502nd’s ability to defend against hostile actors and, were it not for Nikka, could have spelled certain doom for the 502nd. Her punishment therefore comes across as being quite light in nature, although strictly speaking, her punishment for accidentally revealing the 502nd’s plans for a Saturnus festival was also unnecessary.

  • Under the candlelight, Alexsandra, Naoe and Nikka present Hikari with her gift. Hikari mis-identifies Naoe’s carving as a pig when it’s supposed to be a dog, but Naoe’s reaction to this mistake is decidedly more benign. While outwardly expressing a seeming lack of concern about Hikari, subtle changes in Naoe have been expressed through her actions, which plainly show an abundance of concern for Hikari’s well-being.

  • Gundula confiscates some champaign from Waltrud, and proceeds to open the bottle. While writing this, I suddenly recall that, in the wake of my thesis defense, I was given one voucher to a bottle of champaign at the Last Defense Lounge on campus. I still have the voucher with me, and originally, I intended to stop by the Last Defense Lounge to lay claim to some complementary champaign after my convocation. I’ve yet to actually do so, but the voucher is good for quite some time, so I’ve a bit of a window to capitalise. Despite my low tolerance against the effects of beer, I can drink other alcohols in moderation without too many ill effects.

  • The reflection of candlesticks among the droplets of champaign in the episode’s final moments are impressive and magical, worthy of the sort of magic that Nikka describes the Saturnus festival as having. I now go briefly off mission to explain why this post comes out with only a few minutes left on the 24th: one of my friends was back in town after a clerkship out East, and we decided to go watch Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them after work ended today.

  • I rather enjoyed the movie, which is set in New York during the roaring twenties: it allows for magical communities outside of Britain to be explored, and despite having numerous layers in its narrative, the story told is rather solid. In many ways, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them is similar to Brave Witches in that both spinoffs have enough uniquely identifying elements to stand apart from their predecessors, while at the same time, have enough familiar elements to remind viewers that they’re in the same world. Prior to the movie, I dropped by Kilkenny’s Irish Pub for a fantastic dinner: a medium-rare double steak sandwich with onion rings and a large helping of sea-salted fries. Aside from the tender and tasty steaks, the best part is that the sandwich was thirty percent off, being the Thursday special.

  • I’ll wrap up this post with a screenshot of Eila and Sanya in Yuletide attire. It was most pleasant to see them again, and while they might not have appeared in the Operation Victory Arrow OVAs, their being given some screentime here is much welcomed. With the Christmas episode of Brave Witches concluded, and a mere quarter hour before Black Friday, I need to sign off and get some sleep. My upcoming posts in the near future with deal with Battlefield 1‘s campaign mission “Friends in High Places”, and perhaps something on Deus Ex: Mankind Divided once I finish the Prague by night missions. In addition, Kiniro Mosaic: Pretty Days was released a week ago, and once the episode becomes available, I will be giving that a reflection, as well.

Given that this is Brave Witches‘ idea of a “fanservice” episode, it is quite apparent that Brave Witches stands exceptionally well on its own and quite apart from its predecessor. The inclusion of meaningful character development and world building (here, depiction of what Christmas is like in the Strike Witches universe) provides a chance to begin exploring the extensive and hitherto uncharted world that is the Strike Witches universe. The world that Humikane Shimada created extends well beyond the pantsu elements that Strike Witches was once known for; audiences have wondered what life in such a world could be like and with Brave Witches beginning to present various facets of life in such a universe, this alternate reality becomes more life-like, more plausible and more welcoming: the seventh episode of Brave Witches drives this world building through character interactions, giving additional insight into Nikka’s personality and beliefs. In this manner, the Witches themselves become more complex, believable characters that, despite perhaps lacking the same glitz as their counterparts in the 501st, nonetheless are a thrill to watch.