“Hikari Karibuchi was able to take out a Neuroi Hive in the Arctic cold! With a Liberator pistol!”
“Well, I’m sorry. I’m not Hikari Karibuchi.”
—Obadiah Stane and a scientist on miniaturising the Arc Reactor, Iron Man
Earlier this week, it was announced that Strike Witches would return the story to Yoshika Miyafuji and the 501ˢᵗ Joint Fighter Wing. In a thrilling trailer, Yoshika and her fellow Witches deploy from the bomb bays of a B-17 Flying Fortress into the countryside below. They are immediately surrounded by a Neuroi swarm vastly outnumbering the swarms seen in the movie, beginning a fierce engagement. The trailer closes with a distraught Yoshika resolving to protect everyone. Set for release in 2020, this marks the triumphant return of the 501ˢᵗ, after Brave Witches followed Hikari Karibuchi’s time in St. Petersburg: it’s the first time we’ve seen Yoshika and her friends take to the skies since the Operation Victory Arrow OVAs, marking a welcome return to the familiar Witches that really kicked things off. With the likes of Strike Witches The Movie and Operation Victory Arrow setting the precedent for what Strike Witches can potentially cover, expectations are high: while Strike Witches‘ first two seasons were best known for their weekly enemies and flimsy excuses to stare at pantsu (which is unsurprisingly and, should remain, illegal in all jurisdictions outside the realm of fiction), The Movie began developing a deeper narrative about what being a Witch meant, and Operation Victory Arrow explored different aspects of new technology, the strength of resolve when one is fighting for their homeland and how trust is lost and gained. These substantial changes in Strike Witches gave the series a new meaning and the possibility to explore a world that had been surprisingly well-developed and detailed, for a series that was once meant to provide gratuitous pantsu moments. Thus, when Brave Witches came and continued to hone this pattern, crafting a meaningful and engaging story with new characters, it became clear that the world of Strike Witches definitely could stand on its own and explore a wide range of interesting themes. As a result, when we turn the story back to the 501ˢᵗ, expectations are high for this group of Witches to impress and make the most of their world to create a compelling narrative.
Although the date seems quite far off, being 2020, there are a few factors that make this timeline much more palatable. For one, this new Strike Witches series, titled Strike Witches: Road to Berlin, is going to be a televised broadcast, which corresponds with a concrete timeline of when audiences will be able to watch this; Girls und Panzer: Das Finale has no known timeline, and so, could conclude in 2023 at the current rate of progression. The Witches’ deployment from a B-17 Flying Fortress also seems to resemble the Narvik Grand Operations opening cinematic, where British Paratroopers make a jump onto the battlefield. Readers wondering why this post has all of the metadata tags and title of a Battlefield V post have their question answered here: Battlefield V returns players to the World War Two setting, and Strike Witches is set in an alternate-history version of World War Two. Alluded to in my previous post, the shared setting means that players who also happen to enjoy Strike Witches will finally be able to run with some of their favourite Strike Witches loadouts in the Frostbite Engine. Moreover, with a powerful new customisation system projected for Battlefield V, I imagine that players could fine-tune weapons, and even cosmetic features, so that they can more closely resemble their favourite Witch should they be inclined to make a purchase for those items. This aspect of Battlefield V has drawn a considerable amount of flak and will be the subject of a discussion for another day; at present, I am content to simply run with the same weapons and setup as the Witches of Strike Witches, and believe that it will be necessary to learn more about the customisation system before attempting to run around as Lynette Bishop, Gertrude Barkhorn, Georgette Lemare or Nikka Katajainen.
Screenshots and Commentary
- In this post, I will be mixing talk of Battlefield V with talk about Strike Witches: my story with Strike Witches dates back some seven and a half years, when I picked up the first season out of curiosity. Those I knew recommended against watching the anime on reputation alone, but once I got into Strike Witches, I found a simple and modestly entertaining series during its first season. The second season was more or less a carbon copy of the first, merely being set in a different setting and also began exploring the limits of magic.
- Here, I give the German MP-40 a go: an open-bolt, blowback-operated submachine gun firing 9×19 mm Parabellum rounds at 500-550 RPM, giving the medic class a viable close-quarters weapon. Battlefield 1‘s medics were largely relegated to medium range combat, and only had the Federov Avtomat as a closer range weapon. This is contrary to the medic’s role of being in closer ranges to heal and revive teammates. One interesting tidbit about the MP-40 is that Battlefield V‘s soldier is holding it correctly: holding the magazine itself could move the magazine out of position, causing the weapon to stop firing.
- With a selection of submachine guns and semi-automatic rifles available to the medic, this class will become much more versatile and useful now. I believe in Strike Witches: The Movie, Erica Hartmann also holds her MP-40 in the correct manner, gripping the weapon closer to the magazine housing. While typically rolling with the MG42, as Gertrude and Minna does, she switches over to the MP-40 after her MG42’s barrel overheats mid-combat.
- Running with a proper Karlsland Witch loadout in the finished Battlefield V will largely depend on how the game treats the MG42: this general purpose machine gun could be configured as either an LMG or medium machine guns. Since Battlefield V chooses to balance MMGs by making soldiers unable to aim down sights unless they have their bipods deployed, I did not utilise the MG34 to any real extent during the closed alpha, and a MMG configured MG42 would force players to adopt a more defensive style. Conversely, an LMG-configured MG42 would allow for players to play as aggressively as do the Karlsland Witches.
- By comparison, bolt-action rifles are much rarer in Strike Witches: the anime allows the Witches to carry heavy arsenals without effort on virtue of their magic, so they can carry heavier weapons into combat, including the Type 99 cannon and Boys Anti-Tank Rifle. Running an authentic Lynette Bishop loadout, then, is impossible, since the mechanics of Battlefield V are such that heavier weapons would necessarily be mounted. However, this isn’t going to stop anyone from being effective with the bolt-action rifles and semi-automatic rifles: I managed to land consecutive kills here with the Karabiner 98k while defending a point.
- While my performance at the start of the closed alpha was quite poor, once I became accustomed to moving around more slowly, with squad-mates, and chose to play a more defensive game, things turned around dramatically, to the point where KD ratios exceeding 1.5 became the norm. Battlefield V has gone the extra mile to encourage a more tactical play-style: by deliberately limiting players’ ammunition capacity, this prevents camping, while the shorter time to kill encourages a more defensive play-style that is far removed from the aggressive swarming tactics that worked so well in Battlefield 1.
- The end result is that a shorter time to kill and reduced ammunition capacity forces players to move strategically, picking the best times to press forward and attack, or else defend a position. Things are much more skill driven, and this will hopefully result in much more consistency in one’s experience: it only took me around five hours to get comfortable with Battlefield V‘s approach, whereas with Battlefield 1, I am forced to accommodate for random factors that impact my gunplay.
- Even though the sweet spot is completely removed from Battlefield V, I nonetheless found sniping to be superbly enjoyable: close to the alpha’s end, I was nailing back-to-back kills one enemies. By this point in time in Battlefield 1, I’ve largely stopped playing within my rifles’ sweet spots when running as a scout: the Enfield Silenced is a superior all-around weapon and aiming for the head will ensure a one-hit kill regardless of the sweet spot.
- I speculate that Road to Berlin will likely deal with the Human-Neuroi War’s later stages: in World War Two, the Allied forces’ assault on Berlin marked the closing stages of the war, and in Strike Witches, we’ve seen the equivalent of The Battle of Britain in the first season, and the Liberation of France during the second season. With Nazi Germany being the final part of the war, it stands to reason that Road to Berlin will see some of the fiercest fighting seen in Strike Witches to date. The trailer certainly seems to suggest this: the sheer number of Neuroi on screen far surpasses anything seen previously, even in The Movie.
- While the closed alpha saw players running around in the frozen hills of Narvik, Battlefield V has also showcased concept art of other locations, including Northern France, Rotterdam, Arnhem (so, players will get to recreate the Battle of Arnhem in the Frostbite Engine and play as Perrine), and North Africa (fans of the 31ˢᵗ Joint Fighter Squadron Afrika will rejoice). This is particularly exciting, and in some of the more open maps, such as amidst the rolling hills and sleepy villages of France, it might be possible for some heavy armoured combat to take place.
- Bringing the sort of tank combat that ought to have been seen in World of Tanks and Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match will be one of the other things I’m looking forwards to seeing in Battlefield V: even if the scale of the tank battles are smaller, the fact is that the Frostbite Engine is incredibly sophisticated and in previous iterations of Battlefield, tank combat has been quite satisfying.
- The new mechanics of tank combat in Battlefield V forces tankers to play more strategically: much like how infantry carry less ammunition, tanks now have a finite pool of shells for their main cannon and secondary machine guns. Reloading is a slow and nerve-wracking process, leaving tankers exposed to enemy action. As such, it is no longer viable to shell buildings to the ground, or camp in some remote corner of the map and pick off distant foes. One must make every shot count, but when rounds connect, they are devastating.
- Going purely from my impressions of armoured warfare in the closed alpha and how tanks are quite fragile against Panzerfaust rounds, the Daigensui-ryu is utterly worthless in Battlefield V: charging into an urban area without any infantry support will doom any tank, even the mighty Tiger I. This individual’s infamy has passed into the realm of obscurity now: five years previously, they’d been reviled for starting a brutal flame war arguing that Black Forest’s practices in Girls und Panzer were a proper display of the school’s skill, and Shiho’s preparedness to disown Miho was justified.
- With the revelation that Shiho cares very much for her daughters despite her outward appearances, it is quite clear that the old flame wars amounted to little more than a waste of time. Supplementary materials further show that Shiho is a good parent, but struggles to make her feelings known. So, she hides her doubts behind a veneer of toughness. I watched the flame war from the sidelines at the time, since I was entangled in trying to finish my honours thesis program at the time, and looking back, I believe that Shiho’s inability to make her feelings clear could give the impression that she’s cold and unyielding.
- While I may espouse that Battlefield V is Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match as it should have been, featuring much more dynamic and skill-driven gameplay, a part of me wishes that they would port Dream Tank Match over to the PC. However, I imagine that Dream Tank Match will release for PC the same way Half-Life 3 will release for PC, so having DICE bring new stories of World War Two into life in their engine is more than a satisfactory substitution: it’s like losing a dime and finding a dollar. I’m glad that Battlefield V will be exploring some of the lesser-known battles of the Second World War, and in a later post, I will be dropping by with the last batch of closed alpha screenshots and my own wishlist of what I hope Battlefield V will have in terms of content.
- The Bren gun in the closed alpha was a mixed bag: initially, I struggled to perform with the Bren because of its low rate of fire and longer time to ADS. This meant I was losing firefights frequently, trying to use the gun in a way that it was not meant to be used. However, once I got the hang of it, I began playing more defensively, hanging back and picking off enemies at range while providing suppressive fire for allies, and the Bren became a powerhouse weapon that I went on several killstreaks with.
- The Bren is yet another weapon that illustrates that with enough time, one could get used to a weapon and its mechanics to get more out of it: by the end of the closed alpha, I was tearing apart enemies with the weapon between the Bravo and Delta capture points in conquest, using my ammo pouches to help teammates resupply, and building up fortifications to provide our positions with more cover. While the fortification system is useful and fun, one of the things I did not see in the closed alpha was the ability to build a snowman for bonus morale points.
- The Bren’s slower firing rate and unwieldy iron sights might make it a bit of a challenge to use at extreme close quarters, but at some ranges, it is possible to hipfire the weapon and score kills with it. In order to run with Perrine’s Arnhelm Bridge loadout, I would also need to have a PIAT handy. Because of the class system, it may or may not be possible to pull this off, since the PIAT is an anti-tank weapon and likely to be made available to the anti-vehicular archetype for the assault class. American-made Bazookas might also be available as a viable anti-vehicle weapon, and looking through inventories of World War Two-era anti-tank weapons, the list is extensive.
- This post was largely written about Strike Witches: Road to Berlin, and before I wrap up, I’ll explain where the page quote is sourced from – I’ve been doing some catch-up with some of the MCU movies that I did not watch previously, by beginning with 2007’s Iron Man. During one point in the movie, while tasking his scientists to replicate the Arc Reactor, Obadiah Stane yells at the lead scientist at their lack of progress. The page quote, then, is a modified variant of the quote: I was most impressed with how Brave Witches handled their Neuroi Hive fight, being a true example of teamwork and resourcefulness. As a result, Yoshika and her fellow Witches have a rather tall order ahead of them – they must put on an equally good showing without resorting to the ridiculous antics that were seen at the end of seasons one and two when the 501ˢᵗ took out their hives.
- The ribbon system was very inconsistent in the closed alpha, and I imagine that ribbon criteria will likely be tuned before the final release. Here, I earn one for resupplying team mates, and with this final screenshot, my part-Strike Witches-part-Battlefield V closed alpha talk comes to a close. I’m sure that readers might be disappointed to learn that this post has no screenshots of Road to Berlin, but I do have a stockpile of Battlefield V closed alpha screenshots to make use of, and a post talking about Strike Witches with five screenshots would not be too exciting, either. Upcoming posts are less likely to disappoint readers – I am going to write about the second Yuru Camp△ OVA very soon, having recently watched it, and there’s also Harukana Receive‘s second episode to look at, as well.
The Battlefield V closed alpha provided a fine opportunity to run around with some of the weapons that will feature in Battlefield V; the time to kill at present is very low, and with semi-automatic weapons having next to no spread, their laser-like precision at range creates an interesting challenge in which semi-automatic weapons become sufficiently powerful to dominate gameplay. The Gewehr 43 and StG 44 in semi-automatic mode are so versatile that they may render the other weapons obsolete if not properly balanced. Fortunately, there is a solution: adding increased recoil to semi-automatic weapons forces players to learn their pattern without requiring changing spread and damage mechanics. Skill-based shooters are largely built around recoil control, so if Battlefield V can stick with modifying recoil patterns and modifiers, as well as reload times, for different weapons without affecting damage, then each weapon will have a consistent behaviour that one can learn over time. Mastering these patterns confer improved experiences over time and also provides an incentive to better oneself: there is a sense of accomplishment when games reward players for taking the time to learn their mechanics. Players who invest the time in learning their weapons and archetypes will help their team substantially and may also bring about more Only in Battlefield™ moments that make the best titles of the series so captivating to play. Similarly, in Strike Witches, Yoshika started out as a bit of a joke, but her persistence and determination to do right in the name of her friends and duty led her to become a hero of sorts. With at least a year-and-a-half between the present and Strike Witches: Road to Berlin‘s release, I imagine that there will be a sufficient amount of time to go into Battlefield V and unlock all of the necessary weapons and equipment needed to run with the same, or at least, a very similar loadout as their favourite Witch.