The Infinite Zenith

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

Nothing Is Written: Reflections on the Battlefield 1 Campaign

“Men have looked upon the desert as barren land, the free holding of whoever chose; but in fact each hill and valley in it had a man who was its acknowledged owner and would quickly assert the right of his family or clan to it, against aggression.” —T.E. Lawrence

Bedouin rebel Zara Ghufran is working directly in the employ of legend Thomas Edward Lawrence, fighting to undermine the Ottoman Empire and their occupation of the Arabian Peninsula. Ghufran sneaks into the heavily-defended wreckage of a derailed train to retrieve a manual containing Ottoman communication protocols, and is caught by Tilkici. At the last moment, she is rescued by Lawrence, learning from Tilkici during interrogation how to summon the armoured train, the Ottoman Empire’s secret weapon. Ghufran sets out to send three messages and infiltrates Ottoman territory to do so, but before she can send the final message, she is captured again by Tilkici, who had escaped from Lawrence. Before he can execute her, she manages to kill him and returns to Lawrence; they decide to mount an assault on the armoured train. Ghufran destroys the railway to slow the train down, and together with other rebels, they manage to defeat the train in a titanic battle. In the aftermath, Lawrence has set his sights on targets in the Suez area, and feeling that Ghufran had fulfilled her revenge, invites her to participate. The last of the campaign missions in Battlefield 1, “Nothing is Written” shows daring in the face of overwhelming danger: it’s the classic David versus Goliath story as the rebels take on a seemingly invincible leviathan, and functionally, serves to show players that, while the behemoths in Battlefield 1 are titans to be reckoned with, they’re certainly not invincible — sufficient teamwork and firepower are often enough to deal with behemoths.

The final campaign mission in Battlefield 1 is perhaps the most open in terms of its gameplay, and its second act greatly resembles Battlefield: Bad Company 2‘s “Sangre del Toro” mission similarly featured three distinct waypoints to visit and gave player full choice with respect to which destination to complete first. Set in a large open area, efficient traversal becomes necessary unless one wishes to walk, and so, it becomes imperative to make good use of vehicles to get around. Both missions stand out as being set in wide expanses of desert where players are free to explore to some extent, setting the missions apart from the more linear progressions the Battlefield campaigns are wont to present. Besides bringing back memories of “Sangre del Toro”, “Nothing is Written” also gives players an incredible experience in its final act: the goal is to take out the armoured train after clearing out a village of hostile forces. While seemingly difficult to do so on account of superior enemy numbers, a suppressed bolt action rifle suddenly made the mission much more straightforwards, allowing Ghufran to silently dispatch the entire camp without being noticed. The game subsequently recommends the use of the field gun emplacements to damage the armoured train; the train’s heavy bombardment notwithstanding, I managed to disable most of its anti-personnel weapons, then ran up to the train and destroyed it using dynamite. It was a highly engaging mission that acts as an exciting end to the Battlefield 1 campaign, and with “Nothing is Written” now in the books, I will focus my attention towards the multiplayer.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • There’s a certain mystique about movies set in deserts made during the 1960s and 1970s (Lawrence of Arabia and The Spy Who Loved Me come to mind): beyond these movies, deserts also remind me of Break Blade and Sora no Woto, the latter of which was a particularly enjoyable anime that I have plans to revisit in the near future. However, this is not a reminiscence post about things like Sora no Woto and so, I’ll be going back on mission to discuss Battlefield 1‘s final mission.

  • With the expertise that DICE has gained in rendering environments like Tatooine in Star Wars: Battlefront, it is not particularly surprising that even the desolate dunes and cliffs of the Arabian desert look highly detailed. However, here, there are no Imperial Stormtroopers or AT-STs to engage: instead, Ghufran’s goal in the first act of “Nothing is Written” is to reach the marked train car.

  • Ghufran is outnumbered and out-gunned, but as Lawrence narrates, attacking as one allows for stealth to be utilised. I imagine that it is possible to complete this first section using a purely stealth driven approach, and initially, I was successful. After carefully making my way behind the train and acquiring a suppressed M1911, I carefully took out nearby soldiers. However, owing to the density of the enemies, I was eventually spotted.

  • While I was equipped with a Gewehr 98 and M911, I managed to find a Lewis gun. This made it easier to go loud, and so began a very familiar procedure of attempting to be stealthy, then having my cover blown and being forced to  shoot everything up. While the infantry are not too difficult to engage, several soldiers will make a beeline for the mounted MGs. These can lay down quite a bit of fire and damage Ghufran quickly, but dealing with them clears out the entire area, leaving Ghufran free to retrieve the code manual.

  • The multiplayer, while offering dynamic weather in its maps, do not provide night as a time of day to play under. This makes sense from a gameplay perspective: lacking FLIR and IRNV technologies means that engaging other players could prove quite chaotic. In the campaign, however, this is less of a concern and adds to the challenge of a mission. Consequently, it was quite enjoyable to fight through the night sections of the different war stories.

  • The second and third acts of “Nothing is Written” both look like they utilise a similar, if not the same, map as the multiplayer’s Sinai Desert. Games reusing assets for their single player and multiplayer components are not uncommon: 007 Nightfire is a fine example of this, where most of the maps from the campaign were modified to work as multiplayer maps. However, in the case of something like Battlefield 1, powerful engines like Frostbite mean that, by fine-tuning lighting and other subtle details, the dynamic of a map changes completely to suit the atmosphere required, whether it be a lone wolf sneaking about or a squad of soldiers fighting to control flags on the map.

  • The second act in “Nothing is Written” can be completed in six different ways, although on my playthrough, I opted to go with the one that involves the shortest distances. At the end of each campaign level, there’s a post-game report that indicates how many field manuals, challenges and difficulty points were collected, and generally, I completed the odd challenge or two for each of the acts in the campaign.

  • I may go back to play through the campaign again in the future on maximum difficulty while trying to collect everything at some point in the future, but for now, my attention rests solely on the multiplayer. In recollection, I think that I’ve said that I’d replay several games to complete their campaigns more wholly, including that of Wolfenstein: The New Order and Valkyria Chronicles.

  • It’s a full moon as I sneak around the different Ottoman-held installations; the last full moon a month ago was a supermoon, and the next full moon is a week from now. A few nights ago, I dreamt that we could see the dark side of the moon, but scientific knowledge states that it’s not likely, given that the moon is tidally locked with the Earth. That is to say that the moon’s rotational period is the same length as its orbital period; this arose owing to gravitational interactions between the moon and Earth.

  • This is the last time I will have an image of Ghufran riding a horse to move swiftly between the different outposts, and with the moon behind me, this is the darkest screenshot I’ve got for the entire post. While a little unwieldy at times, the horse is the best way of moving to destinations. Even if one loses their horse to enemy fire, there are a few saddled-up horses at each point, making transportation reasonably straightforwards. I wonder if anyone has tried to walk the distance between each of the bases.

  • I would have loved to have a proper scoped bolt action rifle, plus some explosives at the ancient ruins, since there are a handful of snipers hanging about, plus some armour. At the weapons depot and the village, any weapon will do the trick: the goal is to take out the commander and obtain a satchel from them containing the message. This is the only other place in the campaign where pigeons are used for communications, and I note that I’ve yet to play the war pigeon game mode of the multiplayer.

  • Regardless of the order that Ghufran completes the objectives in, Tilkici will appear and knock her out. She manages to kill him in the middle of the desert, but by this point, the armoured train has already begun routing allied forces. Such vehicles were not historically used by the Ottoman Empire or their allies, but Austria-Hungary, Russia and Great Britian had trains of their own: the Austrian-Hungary armed forces deployed theirs against the Italians, while the British trains saw combat at the First Battle of Ypres in 1914. Later British trains were constructed to defend Great Britian.

  • Camped out over an Ottoman outpost with a suppressed bolt action rifle, I managed to take out all of the guards without attracting any attention to myself, and dealt with the sentry using anti-tank grenades. The trick here is to take one guard out while the other isn’t looking, just as Captain MacMillian suggests to Lieutenant Price in Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare. A bit of patience and steady aim is the way to go for this mission, as my first attempts to go loud ended in death.

  • Here’s a curious bit of trivia concerning armoured trains: the Canadian armed forces had their own armoured train during the Second World War. Designed to defend against a possible Japanese invasion, the train, dubbed the No. 1 Armoured Train, was equipped with a 75 mm gun, two Bofors 40 mm guns, and could accommodate a full infantry company. It was deployed in 1942 and decommissioned in 1943.

  • In order to facilitate a successful assault, Ottoman artillery trucks must first be destroyed. The fastest way to do so is to acquire some dynamite, plant a charge by the vehicle and then detonate it. Doing so while under fire is ill-advised, and during my playthrough, I chose to eliminate the enemies first so that there air would not be filled with hot lead while I was trying to complete the objective.

  • Once all three vehicles are smoldering wrecks, the armoured train itself will appear. Armed with a mortar and a variety of weapons, the train is impervious to most forms of attack. There are several field guns strategically placed around the camp, and making quick tracks to the appropriate one can allow Ghufran to get off several shots before the train gets its mortar online. Each shot on normal takes away around a twelfth of the train’s health, but once fired on, the train will target the player’s current position.

  • In the chaos of battle, allied rebels will support the player, although being only equipped with small arms, they won’t be of much help against the train or Ottoman aircraft supporting the train. Once enough damage is done to the train, it becomes immobilised, and by this point, I would recommend having anti-armour equipment of some sort, since the train will have either eliminated the field guns in the right position to deal the finishing blow, or else the train is in a position not reachable by the remaining field guns.

  • The option that I took was the use of dynamite: hiding in a crater left from a mortar round, I waited for a gap in the weapons’ firing, then ran up to the train and put down the remaining dynamite I had. It was a mad scramble to get out of the blast radius, and at last, I was in a position to finish the train off. I hit the detonator…

  • …and the train detonated spectacularly. The amount of firepower the armoured train brings to the table is staggering, making this mission one of the most difficult ones to finish, but it was superbly rewarding to complete, showing that persistence and quick thinking allows for even a behemoth to be overcome. In the multiplayer, the addition of teamwork means that behemoths definitely are not overpowered, and while they can close the score gap between the losing team and winning team, by the time they appear, most folks focus on eliminating the behemoth.

  • Totalling some five-decimal-five hours, the Battlefield 1 campaign is short but immensely enjoyable. I remark that I would have liked to try Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare‘s campaign out, as well, but given that I’m unlikely to ever consider playing multiplayer in Call of Duty even if it is designed for my preferred run-and-gun style of play. There are numerous reasons for this, but that is a topic for another time. With Battlefield 1‘s campaign now complete, all I have left is Deus Ex: Mankind Divided‘s campaign to finish, and marking the first time I’ve completed not one, but three titles the year they came out. All told, 2016 has been an excellent year for games, and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to play through the biggest titles within the realm of my interests.

It took on average around an hour to play through each of the campaign missions (some missions were longer and took upwards of eighty minutes, while the shorter ones only took forty), so after around five-and-a-half hours in the campaign, I’ve finished all of the war stories that Battlefield 1 has to offer. The campaign ultimately resembles a war anthology in its presentation, showing glimpses of the battles and the characters that fought them, ranging from new soldiers to swindlers and everything in between. Overall, Battlefield 1‘s campaign aimed to show that, as per the game’s tagline, there is indeed a human being behind every weapon and bullet in warfare, and that everyone who fought in the Great War had their own stories to tell. With an estimated 17.7 million casualties, the number of dead or wounded was staggering, resulting in the loss of a whole generation: the impact the Great War had on the period was immense, and reshaped the world. Battlefield 1‘s campaign, though a fictional representation of this war, nonetheless succeeds in suggesting that the human cost of warfare in general is unacceptably high. It marks a departure from previous Battlefield games, which were purely for entertainment, and in choosing to step in this direction, DICE manages to paint a compelling perspective of the dawn of contemporary warfare.

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