“If we are not ready to shoot a saboteur and a White Guard, what sort of Revolution is that? Nothing but talk and a bowl of mush.” —Vladimir Lenin
DICE has advertised Battlefield 1‘s In The Name of the Tsar as the biggest update to Battlefield 1 in living history, and with the DLC’s contents, this claim is certainly one with merit: In The Name of the Tsar adds six new maps, eleven new weapons, at least two new vehicles, a new game mode and specialisations into Battlefield 1. Set on the bitterly cold expanses of Russia, In The Name of the Tsar focusses on the Eastern Front and Russian Civil Army, bringing with it the Red Army Faction, which would historically defeat the monarchist-supporting White Army during the Russian Revolution. From the icy archipelago of Albion to the expanse of open fields in Galicia, or the river flowing through the mountains of Brusilov Keep and the magnificent ruins of the Kronstadt Naval Cathedral in Tsaritsyn, the new maps introduced in In The Name of the Tsar are as gorgeous as the French maps of They Shall Not Pass. Whether it be the golden light of a winter’s sun casts the land in a light that soon gives way to fog and snow in Brusilov Keep, the ruins of Volgograd or the sparse forests and farmland of Galicia, the Eastern front maps of Battlefield 1 capture the mystique of Eastern Europe and satisfies the sense of intrigue I’ve long held for this part of the world: quite simply, the maps are beautifully designed, and even though we’re still in the middle of summer, the snowy maps definitely convey a chill to them. For me, combat on the new maps started out with my learning the ropes (and dying frequently to folks concealed amongst the rubble covering many of the maps); with the passage of time, I’ve become somewhat more familiar with the maps and where people are likely to move through. Each of the maps are distinct in their designs: for the most part, they’re quite fun and offer something for all players, from the aggressive PTFO players all the way to people who are content to hide in the dark places of a map and ensnare unsuspecting players, although Tsaritsyn still requires some balancing to prevent one team from utterly dominating the match – despite this map’s fantastic aesthetic, it is game over for a team once they lose control of the central flag and find themselves cornered onto their spawn. Additional flanking routes and either better flag placement or more flags will remedy this.
Besides the additional maps, In The Name of the Tsar also offers a vast selection of new weapons that players can unlock. The weapon that piqued my interest the most is the Fedorov Avtomat – an automatic rifle firing the 6.5 mm intermediate round at 400 RPM, this weapon is a predecessor to the modern assault rifle. In Battlefield 1, this weapon is the perfect tool for aggressive medics who are accustomed to being close to the frontlines with their teammates. While its statistics are not known yet, in practise, it can trade blows with an MP-18 in capable hands, and so, the Fedorov Avtomat Trench was the first weapon I busied myself with acquiring: with a relatively straightforward unlock criterion of 40 Cei-Rigotti Trench kills and 40 squad heals, it took around an hour of play to unlock the weapon. I was immediately blown away by how effective the Fedorov Avtomat was; with reasonably good hip fire accuracy and the highest firing rate of any medic rifle, this weapon is the ultimate performer for folks who enjoyed the medic class of Battlefield 4 and Battlefield 3: assault rifles were unmatched in terms of damage output and accuracy. While Battlefield 1 has attempted to balance things out by giving medics the equivalent of DMRs, the addition of the Fedorov Avtomat is an incredibly welcome one that will allow me to play the medic class as I once had – after unlocking it, I turned my performance on a match around completely and was able to fulfil the role of healing and reviving teammates with a much greater confidence than I have in all of my earlier time in Battlefield 1. The other two weapons I’ve unlocked so far are the Parabellum MG14/17 Suppressive and the Model 1900 double-barrel shotgun: the Parabellum MG14/17’s greatest strength is its high rate of fire, and while the suppressive’s been fun, I’m looking forwards to the Light Weight variant, which has been said to perform similar to Battlefield 3 and 4‘s M249 (an LMG I absolutely love using for its high firing rate). Of course, getting to the Light Weight variant is no walk in the park, and it’s been a frustrating process to try destroying planes so far, although persistence should be worth it, as unlocking the Parabellum MG14/17’s Light Weight variant is to bring back another experience from Battlefield 3 and 4 that made the game so enjoyable. On the other hand, unlocking the Model 1900 was not a particularly unreasonable challenge and since I’ve unlocked it, the weaon has been an absolute beast of a gun to use.
Screenshots and Commentary
- By a curious stroke of fate, the first kill I got in any In The Name of the Tsar map was with the Mark V, the same as my first kill in a They Shall Not Pass map, although here, I use the canister shell rather than the HE rounds. As far as brute firepower goes, the Mark V is the best vehicle in Battlefield 1, since secondary gunners have access to the 57mm cannon. As such, a well-coordinated tank can quickly eliminate enemy armour, although this comes at a cost – it’s the slowest and least manoeuvrable of the tanks, and the driver’s weapon has a limited traversal compared to with other tanks. However, it’s also the only tank available for In The Name of the Tsar maps, and I’ve grown to love being a secondary gunner in this tank.
- The Cathedral of Light in Tsaritsyn is a beautiful location that isn’t always this quiet: as the central capture point, it’s where the fiercest fighting happens on the map, but in this moment, fighting’s died down, allowing me to take a gander at the volumetric lighting. The Cathedral is actually modelled off the Kronstadt Cathedral, but it’s located where the real-world Alexandro-Nevsky Cathedral is. Tsaritsyn is the old name for Volgograd, and after Stalin took power, became known as Stalingrad. It’s the site of the most bitter battle between Soviet and Nazi forces in the Second World War, and the attrition was so intense that Nazi Germany eventually gave up, marking a turning point in the war.
- Set in a wide open plain with very little cover, save some trenches and farm buildings, Galicia feels a little like the Foothills of Southern Alberta. The map is set in a valley near the Carpathian mountains, with the Russian and Austrian-Hungarian factions vying for dominance. Here, I begin my quest to unlock the Fedorov Avtomat using the Cei-Rigotti Trench. It’s been quite some time since I’ve used the Cei-Rigotti line of self-loading rifles. However, the trench variant can be hip-fired with acceptable accuracy and this contributed to my acceptable performance with it.
- My favourite feature about Galicia is the fact that the moody fog covering the landscape can roll away to blue skies, giving the map a late winter feel to it. I believe Battlefield 1 marks the first time where I’d ever explored the rural reaches of Eastern Europe; this location has long captivated me, and I still vividly recall reading about American military doctrine of the Cold War, which was organised around fighting a potential Soviet force by means of conventional weapons. Tom Clancy’s Red Storm Rising depicts a hypothetical Third World War between NATO and Warsaw Pact nations set in the plains of Germany, where an expected confrontation was expected to occur.
- It was expected that the Fulda Gap would be where Soviet armour could move through; the AH-64 Apache and A-10 Thunderbolt were designed to fight in this terrain, along with tactical nuclear weapons. With the passing of the Cold War, the Fulda Gap no longer holds the same strategic significance as it once did. Back in Battlefield 1, I manage to destroy an enemy tank; the Mark V remains an under-appreciated tank on the vanilla maps, and it’s rare that I encounter teammates using it. Few moments can compare to my shooting down a bomber with the Mark V, but withIn The Name of the Tsar, I’ve had more than ample opportunity to ride in a Mark V again.
- The Lewis Gun lightweight is required to unlock the Parabellum MG14/17 suppressive, and unlike the suppressive variant, is actually easier to use. Here, I run with it, along side ammo pouches and the repair tool: this is my Aleksandra I. Pokryshkin loadout. Ideally suited for slightly closer range engagements, repairing friendly vehicles and resupplying allies, it mirrors Aleksandra’s role amongst the Brave Witches, especially with respect to repairing the Striker Units that Naoe and Nikka frequently break.
- If memory serves, the sixth episode of Brave Witches dealt predominantly with Aleksandra, following her internal conflict and reluctance to accept help from the other Witches. This episode was set in the streets of St. Petersburg. While Tsaritsyn is around 1700 kilometers away from St. Petersburg, and moreover, possesses different architecture, the composition (a large cathedral set around ruined city streets and the riverbank) is similar enough so that of all the maps, Tsaritsyn reminds me most of Brave Witches. Here, I continue on my quest to unlock the Fedorov Avtomat: I’ve actually got a superior skin for my Cei-Rigotti, and it looks quite nice, with the metal having a golden colour.
- In general, I’m not too fussed about having weapon skins: it’s the weapon itself, rather than the customisation, that makes it fun to use. Unlike the skins of CS:GO, which are exquisite, skins in Battlefield 1 are more subtle in nature. As a part of my premium pass, I occasionally get superior battlepacks for free, and last month, I decided to open all of them all at once to see what would happen.
- The wide open fields of Galicia are perfect for sniping, and while the terrain might suggest that the M1903 Sniper is the best weapon for this job owing to the large distances, it’s also got scope glint. I’ve been saved in several occasions by noticing scope glint and ducking for cover. The map might be the flattest of all maps, but I found that between the trenches, random windmills, farm houses and craters, there’s enough cover so that one could survive reasonably well on this map, long enough to move into the SMLE Mk. III’s sweet spot for sniper sprees.
- The cold winter skies of Brusilov Keep bring to mind the winter days in my city, and while the Canadian Winter is no match for Real Soviet Winter™, Canadian Winters are nonetheless something that we Canadians pride ourselves for being tough enough to weather. After all, this is a nation whose sport is ice hockey, played on a frozen pond on a crisp winter’s day, and maple syrup is best tapped when warm daytime temperatures coincide with night temperatures below freezing, allowing the sap to flow more readily. However, I’ve read that Canadians as of late are less resilient than their predecessors as far as the cold goes.
- Of the assault class’ new weapons, the Model 1900 Trench looked to be the most conducive for my play-style, and so, one of my earliest focuses were to unlock it. The requriements aren’t actually all that bad: one only needs forty kills with the M97 Trench Backbored, plus five kills with the AT Rocket Gun in one round. The Sweeper variant remains my most used of the M97 family for its stopping power at close quarters, but it turns out the Backbored variant isn’t all that bad, with a quicker recoil recovery that makes it more accurate for follow-up shots.
- Albion features numerous islands and boat combat: the German faction must land on the islands by means of small boats, while Russians start from inland and meet the German forces on the islands. It’s one of the bigger maps with open spaces, and while I’m not particularly fond of it from a lighting perspective (as can be seen from the moody blues and greys of this image), it’s actually remarkably fun to run around on the map with a suitable long-range weapon. Despite the map’s large size, there’s enough variation in the terrain for each class to be useful.
- After the last of the Cei-Rigotti kills, I unlocked the Fedorov Avtomat, and I mention here that this gun alone is worth the price of admissions for In The Name of the Tsar: during this match, I was dying left and right because, while the Cei-Rigotti is a fine weapon in capable hands, I do not have the proper mouse or mousepad to use it precisely: my mousepad is around 18 cm by 10 cm, and in order to maximise movement, I usually ramp up my mouse axis sensitivity as a result. This is why I’m not particularly effective with iron sights in general, and in Battlefield 1, will almost always run with a weapon with some sort of optics where needed.
- Under the beautiful golden light of a winter sun, I began making use of the Fedorov Avtomat, and my KD ratio started turning around almost immediately. The weapon’s hipfire accuracy is respectable, and its DPS is similar to the MP-18. With a box-magazine, the weapon also has a fast reload. The sum of these characteristics means that the Fedorov Avtomat is almost similar to the performance of carbines in older Battlefield games, making it perfect for the medic who enjoys being in the heat of battle. No longer are medics forced to keep their distance: with this gun, medics finally have a viable option that allows them to hold their own against faster-firing weapons.
- Yet another player falls victim to the Fedorov Avtomat trench here, and I reload after getting five kills while my team steadily pulls ahead. While an amazing weapon in all regards, the Fedorov Avtomat is not overpowered in any sense: the weapon is not particularly effective at longer ranges that the Mondragón or Selbstlader rifles would be. In other words, it is well-balanced, being tuned for a very specific style of gameplay. I’m a little excited to bring this into a vanilla server and troll other players with the weapon.
- Weather changes are less obtrusive in the In The Name of the Tsar maps than they were with earlier Battlefield 1 maps; save the fog in Galicia, and while I do consider some of the changing weather patterns to be a bit disruptive, they also add a new level of strategy to gameplay. A sniper dominating other players under fair conditions may suddenly find themselves at a disadvantage, for instance, and be forced to make use of their spotting flares more liberally. Meanwhile, the assault class may suddenly be given the cover they need to sneak across an open field and neutralise an enemy vehicle firing on their team.
- One thing I’ve come to accept and love about Battlefield 1 is that the scout class and bolt-action rifles can be made to work on almost any map during Conquest. A year after the Battlefield 1 beta, I now hold that there is no better all-purpose bolt-action rifle configuration than the SMLE Mk. III Marksman, even with the addition of the legendary Mosin-Nagant rifle into Battlefield 1 for In The Name of the Tsar players. The winter maps, when sunny, have a warm light to them: the lower angle of the sun in winter means that light has to travel further through the atmosphere, allowing some yellows and oranges to make their way into the spectrum when normally, diffraction means mostly blue light is scattered.
- Like JackFrags, I spent an entire match of conquest just running behind a Mark V tank and repairing it to get the vehicle repairs required for the Parabellum MG14/17 suppressive. This was done on a server running a custom game mode, and while we were losing quite handily, the match did last long enough for me to get all fifty repairs. At this point, I cared not for my KD ratio and went some matches without any kills, so focused was I on the assignment tasks: I got more repair ribbons in this one match than I have throughout all of my hours spent in Battlefield 1 combined. I’ve heard suggestions for players to spawn into a heavy bomber and get the repairs this way, as well, although JackFrags’ approach is much more fun.
- The Parabellum MG14/17 is better suited as a closer-range weapon for laying down heavy suppressive fire with the bipod deployed, making it less capable as a run-and-gun option to the same extent that the lightweight variation would be. Players who’ve unlocked the lightweight Parabellum MG14/17 say it handles similarly to a M249 configured for mobile firefights: this is exactly how I played the support class back in Battlefield 4 and 3. At the time of writing, I’ve gotten one of the two planes destroyed requirements, and that was a feat accomplished through blind luck alone.
- Spawning into the anti-air seat of the dreadnaught allows players to defend the dreadnaught from enemy boats and planes, and here, I get a double kill from players trying to torpedo us. One of the interesting properties about the QF-11 on the dreadnaught is that I can actually fire right through the ship without any ill effects, allowing me to take on boats that are ostensibly out of the gun’s line of sight. Unfortunately, during this match, the ship’s operator decided he was not going to move the vessel around, and while this prevented us from getting destroyed, it also precluded any chance of using the ship’s firepower to mount a comeback.
- While not quite as epic as JackFrags’ use of K-bullets, I managed to destroy a vehicle here with K-bullets, thanks to one of my teammates being kind enough to put down an ammunition crate beside me. This puts me a step closer to the Vetterli M1870 carbine: I’ll need to get used to the carbine incarnation of the SMLE Mk. III to earn this one, but I’ve heard it’s not too bad. I personally feel that the Parabellum MG14/17 lightweight assignment should be to destroy one plane with an LMG, not two, and I’m hoping that before this month is out, I’ll have the other kill so I can move onto the mortar kills; while some folks contend this is harder, twenty mortar kills will come about through playing the game normally.
- It should hardly come as a surprise that work’s been busy, but I’ve nonetheless tried to relax in order to ensure I’m always ready to work hard. We’re now nearing September’s halfway point, meaning that Beakerhead is back. An amalgamation of science, engineering and art, it’s a fantastic show, and I learned of it as a consequence of my own involvement in it three years earlier with the Giant Walkthrough Brain. I’m done university now, although my interest in seeing art combined with science means I’m very interested in seeing what the show had to offer. This year, the main attraction is the “Serpent Mother”, a 51.2-metre long metal snake that can project fire high into the night sky. The show was an absolute thrill, and is a ways more safe than trying to lob AT grenades or fire AT rocket gun rounds into enemy tanks.
- Prior to the show, it had been a rather moody, overcast and rainy day: it began raining when I stepped to for dinner at Booker’s BBQ Grill and Crab Shack, where I ordered their brisket-and-chicken dinner with a side of green beans and yam fries. The brisket was melt-in-your-mouth and incredibly tender, while the chicken was well-seasoned and very juicy. It’s the perfect sort of food for warming one up, and after dinner, it was off to the site where the Serpent Mother was located. The entire field was covered in mud, probably to prevent loose fire from starting a grassfire, and over a twenty-minute period, we were treated to a fantastic show that warmed the night skies considerably as the display fired a gas flame 30 meters into the air. Back in Battlefield 1, I finally get all fifteen MP-18 Trench kills, putting me one step closer to unlocking the SMG 08/18.
- The vivid winter lighting in this moment reminds me of the sort of weather we might get on Christmas morning. It’s still a bit early to be thinking about Christmas, but one of the new Christmas traditions is now spending the entire day at home with family. If the weather is favourable, a hike in the nearby park is on order: the brilliant blue skies up there under a land blanketed in snow make it an immensely beautiful and quiet place to be (very few people are out and about on Christmas), and this is the perfect segue to a light tea before Christmas dinner. During some Christmases past, I used to play Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader at a cousin’s place during our annual Christmas parties, and one of the things on my mind is that, with Star Wars: Battlefront II coming out in advance of The Last Jedi, I am interested in buying Battlefront II, if only for the fact that it has a campaign. I’ll probably make the decision to purchase or hold back on Battlefront II once the game releases on November 17, but I admit that it would be such a treat to play a Star Wars game on Christmas Day, just like the days of old.
- One of the elements about In The Name of the Tsar that proved unexpectedly enjoyable, aside from the squad support package-equipped Mark V tank, which has a 20mm auto-cannon perfect for dealing with infantry, is the soundtrack. The DLCs have had excellent music thus far, and In The Name of the Tsar, the choral elements in the theme music adds a substantial amount of atmosphere to the locales. I’m a very big fan of performances from the Red Army Choir, especially their renditions of Russian folk songs such as Song of the Volga Boatmen, Polyushka Polye and Katyusha. While Shirō Hamaguchi might be a capable composer, there’s nothing quite like the original songs.
- After nailing five AT rocket gun kills in a match, including a very lucky triple kill, I went back to play some TDM on Ballroom Blitz, and in a particularly one-sided match, I got the rest of the kills to finally unlock the Model 1900 double-barrelled shotgun. Immensely powerful, this weapon has an amazing reload animation: if players only fire one of the two rounds, the soldier will only load one shell into the gun. There’s also a secret reload that is a callout to the super shotgun of DOOM II. After unlocking the gun, I gave it a shot the next day on Volga River, a map that’s actually quite conducive for close quarters weapons, and had one of the most fun matches I’ve ever had in Battlefield 1.
- On this match, I ended up going 18-8, and our team won. Aside from having a blast, the in-game weather also looked favourable: this map can get quite snowy, but on my rampage, I was fortunate enough to be treated to a beautiful Russian winter, with sun low on the horizon and pale blue skies conveying a sense of frigidness. In addition to breaking in the Model 1900, I also got some surprising kills with my M1911 in moments where I’d emptied both shells from the Model 1900 – here, I managed a pair of kills against two enemies in quick succession with the M1911, and after I took this screenshot, I barely got away from the third guy, who began shooting at me.
- The Model 1900’s raw power is offset by the fact it carries only two rounds, which offers players a chance to adopt a completely different play-style compared to the other shotguns. This is why I relied on my sidearm more during this match, enough to get a semi-automatic pistol ribbon. This variety is most welcomed, and allows Battlefield 1 to provide players with incentive to continue returning. With this being said, player-base division is still real, and I’ve heard DICE say that Battlefield 1 is the last Battlefield with the premium programme.
- While I would lose this particular match of conquest, I had a considerable amount of fun with the SMLE Mk. III. Late in the match, the other team began pooling at capture point bravo, and I was perfectly positioned to fire on them. While they were outside of the rifle’s sweet spot, some of their players immediately dropped into prone position, leaving them open to fire. While I died to more bombing runs and other snipers than I cared to count, I ended this match 23 and 15. Most of the match was quite foggy, but mid-game, the fog gave way to clear skies.
- All told, I’m rather surprised I managed to unlock three of the assignments already in just a little more than a week, in contrast with They Shall Not Pass, for which I’ve still not unlocked everything yet. Some of the assignments in In The Name of the Tsar are quite daunting (and somewhat ludicrous); I foresee taking a hit in performance while on these assignments, especially since they’re outside of my comfort zone. With this in mind, I could also be pleasantly surprised en route to unlocking these assignments, and one thing is for certain – no assignment in Battlefield 1 could ever induce the same sort of frustration that folks report in Kantai Collection.
While there have been some infuriating moments in In The Name of the Tsar so far, especially with respect to getting caught in level geometry and dying subsequently, the new maps have been most immersive to play on. Similarly, the new weapons add a bit of variety to the game: I’ve yet to actually find any matches of Supply Drop (similar to Battlefront’s Supply Drop mode, which is essentially Domination where the flags move), but the conquest matches I’ve played in so far have been anywhere from modestly entertaining to absolutely exhilarating. Having a two week head start on experiencing the new content has been a blast, and I’m quite excited to see what will happen when the DLC releases for all players to purchase or try out by means of Premium Friends; with an edge in knowing where things are, it could be quite interesting once more players become available, and this might make unlocking some assignments a little less challenging, or else present opportunities to try out different game modes on the new maps. The launch of In The Name of the Tsar has been a solid one insofar, and I am looking forwards to acclimitising to Brave Witches in the Frostbite Engine – for the first time in modern shooters, players have the opportunity to run around in a Russian city by winter with old school weapons; although there aren’t any Witches, Striker Units or Neuroi, there is the old-time charm of Russian architecture coupled with the sense of a true Russian Winter to enjoy. Folks looking to take things one step further in their Brave Witches in the Frostbite 3 Engine could do as I have and run around with the Lewis Gun’s light weight variant: its top-mounted drum fed magazine resembles the Soviet Degtyaryov DP-28 that Brave Witches‘ Aleksandra Pokryshkin wields, completing the ensemble with the ammunition pack and repair tool to reflect the fact that Aleksandra is the 502nd’s mechanic and chief engineer for her expertise in fixing Striker Units.