“No-man’s land under snow is like the face of the moon: chaotic, crater ridden, uninhabitable, awful, the abode of madness.” –Lieutenant Wilfred Owen
Battlefield 1‘s final DLC package is titled Apocalypse for bringing players to the most infamous battles of World War One. When the most ferocious and brutal battles of World War One are mentioned, my mind immediately conjures up The Somme, Passchendaele, Vimy Ridge and Verdun. Verdun was already covered in the They Shall Not Pass DLC in the Verdun Heights and Fort de Vaux; Apocalypse finally brings to life the wretched wastelands of Passchendaele and the devastation wrought by the Battle of The Somme. With these inclusions, the only battle to have not received its proper portrayal was Vimy Ridge. Alongside Passchendaele and The Somme is the Battle of Caporetto. Befitting of its name, Apocalypse brings to Battlefield 1 two of the most vividly-rendered maps to be available to players: Passchendaele in particular stands out for its incredibly detailed design. From the burned out husks of trees, to mud-covered routes, embers of burning fires and water-filled shell craters, Passchendaele in Battlefield 1 embodies Hell on Earth, capturing the sense of desolation and destruction that World War One brought to the world. The Somme acts as a map of contrasts – on the British deployment are pristine wheat fields and small villages. As they push across the river, shelled out factories, shredded railway tracks and scorched land give an idea of the devastation ahead: the entire landscape is aglow with the fires of war. Caporetto is similarly impressive, with the Austro-Hungarians deploying the Livens Projector to cover a snowy hill by a swift sunrise in a brutal bid to crush the Italian defenses. As far as visuals go, the last of the Battlefield 1 maps are impressive and truly capture the atmosphere that Apocalypse had aimed to present.
While the sheer detail and immersion offered by the new Apocalypse maps are nothing to sneeze at, the sudden, unexpected deployment of the Apocalypse DLC meant that a great deal of content and concepts were rushed into production. Against the community’s feedback, The Somme and Caporetto were made conquest assault maps, as opposed to standard conquest; these maps heavily favour the defending team, and offense is remarkably tricky if the attackers are not well-coordinated right from the start. A good attacking team could make use of vehicles and horses to open up new paths and capture points to give their teammates a chance, but more often than not, it turns into a one-sided slaughter in which the attackers cannot even leave their deployment. These maps would have been more balanced and fun to experience as standard conquest maps. In addition, the new update also introduced a bug that consumed additional CPU resources, causing the game to lag whenever an action producing points was carried out. I’ve been fortunate that this isn’t affecting me as substantially, but for some players, Battlefield 1 is rendered unplayable – DICE has since deployed the update that rectifies this. Compared to the previous DLC offerings, Apocalypse has the least amount of content: Turning Tides was released in two phases and brought in an exciting new mode of naval combat, In The Name of The Tsar introduced a staggering six new maps and host of weapons whose unlocks were rewarding for those who undertook the challenge, and They Shall Not Pass immersed players in the French fronts and weapons, adding a new behemoth to the game. By comparison, Apocalypse adds only three new infantry maps and six new firearms to the game. It definitely does not feel complete, and I was originally expecting Apocalypse to release mid-to-late March to both better tune up the maps and perhaps add new infantry maps.
Screenshots and Commentary
- In this first screenshot of thirty, the desolation and destruction wrought by constant artillery barrages on the landscape is apparent. Passchendaele is one of the new maps, and it is the image that immediately forms in the mind’s eye when World War One is mentioned. With total devastation as far as the eye can see, Passchendaele is the only map in Battlefield 1 where there is complete destruction; no corner of the map is untouched.
- I had originally been expecting Apocalypse to release in mid-March: to learn that it would be coming out this month was a bit too soon for me, and so, I shelved plans for the second instalment of the Terrible Anime Challenge, where I would write about Sansha Sanyou, and Violet Evergarden, which I subsequently decided to not write for until the series ends. So, if you’re wondering about the absence of anime posts, you can thank the good folks at DICE for deciding to release Apocalypse much earlier than anticipated.
- As noted previously, I’ll take a look at Violet Evergarden in April after everything’s settle down a little. Sansha Sanyou will similarly get a post in due course. After spawning in with the German forces on The Somme, I decided to play the role of a medic. Having tried this map during the CTE, I knew that the Germans held the advantage on this map in that, if the British advance was too disorganised, it would grow increasingly difficult to break out and capture the other points. I thus took advantage of this to constantly heal and revive teammates, which is a part of the assignment to unlock the new Howell Automatic rifle for the medic class.
- Having relied on the Federov Avtomat since In The Name of The Tsar as my primary medic weapon, the wide open wheat of The Somme means that a good long-range option is more viable here. I thus fell back to using the Selbstalader M1916 Marksman; with its optics and large magazine, the weapon is perfect for mid-range engagements. Since the TTK patch, it’s only become more reliable at range, and I was able to use this weapon to keep distant foes at bay while reviving teammates.
- While researching The Battle of The Somme for school projects years ago, I found a plethora of images depicting the soldiers in trenches and marching in open fields with mud and dampness all around. The Somme in Battlefield 1 features wheat fields and houses interspersed with trenches on the British side, while on the German side, ruined factories and rail lines form the landscape. It was interesting to see the DICE team’s interpretation of one of the most infamous battles of World War One, and while the gameplay evidently does not capture the mode of warfare, the atmospherics are highly authentic.
- The mud and filth of Passchendaele means that combatants on both teams blend into their surroundings. To support my team, I made liberal use of the spotting flares and found myself out of flares on numerous occasions. Being able to alert teammates to where the enemies were was immensely helpful: craftier players tend to hide among the rubble or shattered buildings to score kills, remaining invisible owing to the chaos unfolding around the map. As such, spotting flares are highly valuable on this map.
- Passchendaele is actually a remarkably well-designed map that allows for all playstyles. Assault players can decimate enemies in the trenches and narrow spaces surrounding the capture points, while snipers have enough of a vantage point to pick off distant foes. Medics and support players perform well in the intermediate ranges. There’s something for everyone on this map, similar to Nivelle Nights; the best maps of Battlefield 1 accommodate all of the classes such that players never feel vulnerable with their class.
- The largest issue gripping Apocalypse, aside from the reduced content and seemingly lack of attention paid to community feedback from the CTE, is the micro-stutter introduced. DICE developers have confirmed that it stems from the assignment tracking mechanisms, causing a momentary spike in CPU consumption that causes the game to jitter whenever one begins accumulating points, from hitting enemies to the mere act of standing on a capture point. According to the DICE Battlefield Twitter, an update was rolled out earlier today that will address these issues. I was lucky in that this issue did not seem to affect me as severely (i.e. the game remained very playable at 60 FPS and did not dip below this), but it’s good to see that DICE has fixed things.
- I’ve been lucky in that I’ve not noticed this micro-stutter on my end: the game remains playable for me. However, ping was a bit of a concern for me on account of a lack of good servers available to me, and so, I entered servers suffering from a high ping, along with the attendant punishment for players whose ping exceeds 100. Some of my earlier games were less enjoyable for this, but I’ve managed to have matches on servers with reasonable ping now, which confers a more accurate representation of how Apocalypse handles. Here, I make use of the M1917 MG Low Weight: I unlocked the secret “An Escalation” skin for it a few weeks earlier. The process involves Morse code, which dissuaded many from attempting, but I’m glad I took the efforts of giving it a whirl – the new skin is very fancy.
- As my most-used primary weapon, the SMLE Mk. III Marksman has been with me through many dangers; I unlocked the Elite Codex Entry for it here by shooting out an elite class player. Folks who play Battlefield 1 regularly (or at least, with a much greater frequency than myself) will have earned these codices already, and one of the things that I’m curious about are those who have more than a hundred service starts for their weapons (or more impressively, those with a hundred service stars for their gas grenades). More than a year after Battlefield 1 released, I’m still unsure as to how some folks find so much time to put into Battlefield 1 (and games, in general), especially considering just how busy things are.
- Caporetto is a beautiful map set under a sunrise, and bits of snow cover the hillside. Of the Apocalypse maps, it is the least desolate, and the lighting effects on the map are absolutely stunning. There is a great deal of open space on Caporetto, so long-range weapons are the most effective for combat taking place between capture points: scouts can perform well on all of the Apocalypse maps, so one of the first things I decided I would go for was unlocking the Ross Rifle, which can be earned with a mere fifty kills using the scout class.
- The weapon assignments in They Shall Not Pass were reasonable, but In The Name of The Tsar, they were brutal: my efforts to unlock the Parabellum MG14/17 Low Weight and Mosin Nagant Marksman forced me to abandon my usual play-styles in favour of a lone-wolf approach and cost me dearly in performance. Determination led me to unlock the MG14/17 Low Weight, and the weapon was well worth it. It was only recently that I managed to get all of the HE trip-wire kills for the Mosin Nagant; I accomplished this by planing the mines, one across the other, at high-traffic areas in Domination matches and eventually got the kills. The Mosin Nagant isn’t really anything standout and suffers from a long reload time: of all the weapons for the scout class, the SMLE Mk. III remains the champion right up until Apocalypse.
- The Explorer’s Golden Globe is one of the new medals introduced in Apocalypse, requiring that players get ten kills on each of the new infantry maps. It’s quite straightforward, and here, I spawned into a match on Caporetto that allowed me to get the last of the kills for this medal. There are many new medals introduced with Apocalypse, and with Battlefield 1 reaching the end of its development, I’m hoping that the day will come when we can pick the medals we wish to work on (even if the game only allows players to track one at a time), rather than being given only a week to work on whatever five medals are available.
- The conquest medal can be unlocked through playing conquest assault modes as well as standard conquest, and here, I earn another one after capturing a point at Passchendaele. Earlier today, I stepped out for a coffee (or hot cocoa, in my case) with my former supervisor, where we caught up on things ever since he became the department head. While I’m right at home in the higher-paced environment of industry, where everything is different each day, I admit that I somewhat miss the slower environment of academia. From what I gather, life in the lab is the same as it was previously, and there are many new faces there – with numerous projects in progress, my old Master’s projects remain at the forefront of demonstrations for its completeness and visual impact despite their age.
- The Hellriegel is perhaps one of the most maligned weapons of Battlefield 1, being considered the beginner’s choice of weapon, but I personally find the Automatico to be less of a skill weapon, if only for the fact that it unlocks earlier. Players who have the Hellriegel have at least earned it, and I’ll fall back on it when I feel the necessity to help my team more has come. By comparison, the ultimate skill weapons for the assault class is the new RSC 1917 and the Maschinenpistole M1912/P.16: despite their short time to kill, they only hold enough ammunition to guarantee one kill, requiring players expertly manage their reloads in order to be effective with them.
- The open plains and players making a rush over the top across the landscape means that scouts, with their bolt-action rifles, are incredibly effective. While scouts will get wasted in close-quarters combat of the trenches, having a good team providing support means that it is possible to pick off opponents from a range without fear of retribution. As players push further away from the British deployment in The Somme, the changes in the landscape are profound.
- Fires rage in the distance towards the far side of The Somme; early concept art showed fields of brilliant yellow under darkening skies. The actual map is a bit more subdued, and while I generally prefer maps with clear skies, Battlefield 1 excels at making use of volumetric clouds to create realistic weather and sky conditions that I’ve not seen in any other game: most games come with pre-defined weather patterns that look very convincing, but the fact that Battlefield 1 has real-time weather effects sets it ahead of everything else that I’ve experienced.
- Shotguns are only really effective on Passchendaele and some parts of The Somme, where there are enough trenches so that one could conceivably spend an entire match running through them and slaughtering anyone within. Since the TTK patch, shotguns have become much more consistent in performance, although despite DICE’s efforts to balance the Model 10-A Hunter out, it nonetheless remains the most effective shotgun to roll with.
- Here, I unlock the RSC SMG Factory: a modified RSC 1917 capable of firing on automatic, this weapon only has an eight-round magazine (and one extra round in the chamber). Offsetting the small magazine is the fact that the RSC SMG hits much harder than any other of the submachine guns available for the assault. The weapon is evidently designed to excel at one-on-one combat, similar to the Maschinenpistole M1912/P.16, but it’s got a slightly faster reload.
- The wide expanses in the Apocalypse maps mean that the Gewehr 98 is a fantastic weapon: it is more suitable for scouts that wish to support their team from a distance, compared to the SMLE Mk. III Marksman, and because of the scope glint from the sniper optics, I’ve elected to go with the marksman optics, which do not have scope glint at the cost of having a bulkier housing. I’ve come around to like marksman optics in Battlefield 1: at the ranges I play the scout at, having less magnification and no scope glint is to my advantage.
- The Battle of The Somme began in July 1916 and ended in November; originally conceived to be a quick victory over German forces, the battle quickly became one of attrition and is remembered for having the highest casualties of any battle in World War One, as well as being the first place where tanks and aircraft were deployed. Battlefield 1 chooses to wisely disallow aircraft on this map, and only the British have access to a pair of Mark V tanks. I’ve found that, now that players are getting used to the map, strategic-thinking players will take their tanks and ignore the first capture point outright, making a beeline for the echo and foxtrot capture points instead.
- The end result of this is that British players can now spawn in behind the German team, and begin capturing the other points. Being pinned down at point alpha only occurs when tank drivers stubbornly insist on using their tanks to shell alpha, rather than using them to break through the ranks. With this strategy in play now, as well as the inclusion of new trenches and cover, the British team is not consigned to defeat at The Somme, and players on the German team must similarly be watchful of the other points beyond just alpha: keeping a handful of assault and support players further back has its merits.
- The River Somme runs though the side of the map closer to the British deployment, and across this river is capture point bravo, which consists of a windmill. The lighting in The Somme is absolutely stunning, and while exploring the map for the first time, I did die on a few occasions because I was too immersed in the visuals to be mindful of my surroundings. The relatively dark environments of The Somme means that soldiers can blend in with the grasses and trenches, especially if one is heading East towards the factory and rail lines: again, the scout class, with its spotting flares, become an indispensable asset here.
- During one memorable match, I used the spot flare to tag two players camped out under the bridge, and my teammates subsequently dealt with them. I then secured the remainder of the kills necessary to unlock the Ross Mk. III Marksman rifle. I was quite disappointed to learn that Vimy Ridge and the Canadian faction would be absent from the proceedings, but as a bit of consolation, DICE added the Ross Mk. III rifle to Apocalypse. A rifle of Canadian design, the real world equivalent was renowned for its high muzzle velocity and accuracy at range, making it a preferred weapon for snipers despite the weapon’s low reliability; the weapon jammed very frequently.
- In Battlefield 1, the Ross Rifle is unlocked by the simple requirements of scoring fifty kills with the scout class. The cross between the SMLE Mk. III and the Gewehr M.95, the Ross rifle has the same sweet spot as the SMLE and also features a straight-pull bolt, allowing it to fire quickly. It is balanced out by a five-round capacity; the weapon will run empty very quickly. In practise, the combination of a close range sweet spot and straight-pull bolt means that the Ross rifle could displace the SMLE as the single action rifle best suited for the aggressive play-style.
- Because I’ve become so accustomed to scoping out to chamber a new round after every shot, I must remind myself that I can stay zoomed-in for follow up shots. It seems I’m not the only individual who thinks this way: several players that I follow on YouTube will instinctively zoom back out as a reflex after firing a shot. Here, I land a clean headshot in Passchendaele with the Ross rifle: snipers can do a bit of damage on this map if their team controls point alpha at the ruined church, or if they can find a suitable spot amongst the ruins and holes scattered throughout the map.
- I decided to give the RSC SMG a whirl, and the weapon is quite entertaining to use, being able to drop lone targets with ease. Each shot causes the gun to kick like a mule, however, and tap-firing isn’t too effective with this weapon. The stats report the RSC SMG as having a firing rate of 900 rounds per minute, which puts it at the same level as the Automatico M1918. However, it’s even more specialised in its intended role as a weapon for single combat, and the best way of countering the RSC SMG (or M1912/P.16) is simply to travel with others.
- While it took some getting used to, the RSC SMG can be an entertaining weapon to use on individual targets. Amidst the ruined landscape of Passchendaele, I managed a large number of kills, primarily by sticking close to my deployment and picking off stragglers trying to capture additional flags. We ended up losing this match, but despite the pandemonium, I ended up KD positive. Overall, I’d say that Apocalypse, while easily the weakest of the DLC offerings, nonetheless remains modestly enjoyable with the weapons and maps: with the last of the DLCs now out, one wonders if there will be a few more community updates that will add free content for all players, premium or not, as Battlefield 4 had done previously.
- I’ve never been a particularly skillful pilot in Battlefield 1, so the new air superiority game modes that Apocalypse added did not particularly catch my interest. There’s a dogfight mode, which is essentially TDM with fighter planes, as well as Raiders and Scourge. Raiders is the most fun for me, since there’s the option of spawning into a Behemoth or passenger seat of friendly bombers and C-class airships. Defending the friendly L30 is a particularly enjoyable task: there’s nothing like the rush of defeating approaching enemy attackers and blowing them out of the sky. In the skies of London, the view is fantastic, and I shoot down a plane here to a brilliant sunset.
- The Behemoth on Behemoth action at London Calling is immensely appealing, and while some may not like being a support gunner, it’s a role I’m fond of. With this in mind, the mode does have its share of bugs: I count a few kills where I shot at a plane and did minimal damage to it, but somehow got the kill anyways. I foresee that many air superiority servers will empty out once all players have given it a whirl: Apocalypse releases in full for all players in a little more than a week, so there will be more folks who can access the game modes. Not shown in this post is me unlocking the Howell Automatic factory, the new medic rifle. My next goals now will be to unlock the Howell marksman and the lMG 08. With this Battlefield 1 DLC post in the books, I will return in the future to consider my Battlefield 1 experience as a whole; this is the first Battlefield title I followed shortly after launch and during the update cycle, so I’ll be recounting what this was like, and where I’ll be going with Battlefield in the future.
Having put in a few hours into Apocalypse, the map balance issues are quite noticeable on The Somme and Passchendaele; I’m either on the receiving end of a beatdown or dealing one out. Passchendaele, on the other hand, has been superbly entertaining, although the sheer amount of stuff on the map, from shattered barbed wire fences to pieces of splintered wood jutting from the ground and exposed rocks, means that navigation is quite difficult. I’ve been killed simply by getting stuck in the level geometry. Evidently, Apocalypse was rushed into production and did not receive adequate testing – I feel it to be the weakest of the Battlefield 1 expansions, and this is disappointing, considering that I had been looking forwards to this one the most when it was announced. While there’s missed opportunity to have made a more fully-fleshed DLC in Apocalypse, there is no denying that what Apocalypse does have truly captures the sense of what made World War One such a terrifying chapter of our history. This DLC also continues in Turning Tides’ path of making weapon assignments much more approachable for players, which is appreciated, considering that not everyone has the time to invest in playing in a way that is contrary to their preferred play-style. Moving ahead, I’m looking forwards to DICE patching up the performance issues affecting all players, and hope that adjustments are made to the way The Somme and Caporetto play out; it would be very straightforwards to set the map rules to play out as standard conquest matches. These maps are beautiful, and it would be fantastic to have balanced gameplay that leave players feeling satisfied with their contributions to each match on top of immersing them in World War One’s most infamous battles.