“Your premium brand had better be delivering something special, or it’s not going to get the business.” — Warren Buffett
It was a warm spring evening last week, and news had reached my ears that Origin was having an Easter Sale that saw titles go for half-off. A sale paired the fact that I was looking to further my Battlefield 3 experience meant that fifteen dollars and an hour later, I would become the proud owner of a Battlefield 3 Premium account. I admit that, as fun as vanilla Battlefield 3 is, I was growing a little bored of playing team deathmatch on Noshahr Canals and Seine Crossing for almost three-quarters of all my matches. Coupled with the fact that I was nearing rank 45 (after that, I’ll have unlocked all of the all-class specialisations, shotguns, pistols and personal defense weapons), I was looking for something to extend my experience. Originally, I bought Battlefield 3 on its own to give the game a shot, but after all this time, I realised that Battlefield 3 is something that I genuinely enjoy, and as such, purchasing the Premium edition was not a particularly difficult choice. So, as the evening sun was setting, and the honey-glazed Easter ham was baking, I stepped into my first-ever premium match on Scrap Metal. Fortunately, all of my previous experience carries over here, and even though I would lose the match, I ended up with a positive KD ratio. Sprinting through the dark, crumbling remains of a warehouse, I suddenly felt that this is something I’d wished to do for a long time: fight in a haikyo. Battlefield 3 Premium won my heart over, and for the past week, I’ve been messing around with Gun Master and Scavenger, two incredibly fun gameplay modes that add spice to Battlefield 3. Whereas I only played Conquest Large and Team Deathmatch, there were now new gametypes to keep things going. The fact that I get 75 dollars worth of DLCs for fifteen dollars, plus Premium perks, is an incredible deal that I won’t soon forget. Thus, Battlefield 3 Premium does indeed deliver something special, and now, they’ve got my business.
- Opinions about Battlefield 3 Premium have generally been positive, and now, there is one extra person who is enjoying the perks that come with this edition. My inclinations to play Premium began somewhere back in March, when I was watching LevelCapGaming’s “Loadout” series and began wishing I had more maps to experience.
- I thus resolved to buy Battlefield 3 Premium if either condition was satisfied: I either reached Rank 45 before May 28 (a half-year after I purchased Battlefield 3), or a sale happened that would allow me to net all of the DLCs all at once for a great deal. The original intent was actually to wait until Origin did another summer sale, but through a strange twist of fate, a sale ended up happening during the Easter Long Weekend.
- Thus, despite being Rank 38 (at the time of purchase), I ended up picking the DLCs up. After waiting a short while for the 11 GB worth of content to finish downloading, I logged back into Battlelog, but the effects had not taken place yet. Fortunately, the fix was simple enough: uninstall the Battlelog browser plugin, update Battlefield 3 in Origin, and re-installing the plugin will set things right.
- After the game was ready to roll, I found an empty server and spent several moments exploring Ziba tower, before deciding to play an actual game. I landed in Scrap Metal, and despite fighting on a losing match, this turned out to be the moment I realised that Premium had been well worth it. I must’ve been getting quite close to the resupply medal because I ended up getting another one (my third, I think) after dropping off numerous ammo crates for my teammates, who were surrounded.
- The M249 makes a return here as I re-equip it with a Kobra RDS: it is my third most-used weapon and has roughly 300 kills. My favourite weapons is the PKP and the M416, although I am experimenting with different weapons now that I’m in the premium club.
- A lucky grenade kill here, paired with some M249 fire, nets me a double kill here reminiscent of the days back when Halo 2 Vista was big: I used to busy myself with getting Killtaculars and Killimanjaros, although since the Games for Windows Live servers have shut down, Halo 2 Vista has largely become dead, and servers are now largely privately hosted. The fact that Battlefield 3 has now filled Halo 2‘s niche is a big deal: I’ve long been looking for a game to do that ever since last year.
- I’ve unlocked the L86A2 through finishing an assignment; said to be a highly accurate, magazine-fed LMG, I still have yet to try it out, but for me, there were numerous weapons that I found myself wishing to try out in Battlefield 3, including the AUG, MG36, MTAR, QBU-88…some of these weapons made an appearance in Bad Company 2, although I’ve since slowed down my time spent there and likely won’t unlock them. Assignments add a new dimension to Battlefield 3, and really give players the incentive to play in styles that may be outside their normal preferences. The L86A2’s s “imouto“, the L85A2 (informally known as “Elle”) requires that I win five squad deathmatch rounds, and since those happen to be in short supply, I doubt I’ll unlock this gun for the time being.
- While there have been criticisms directed at the Close Quarters maps, I personally find the game style to evoke memories of the tighter maps in Halo 2. At these ranges, it’s nearly impossible to run too far without leaving the combat, whereas on larger maps, emptier servers mean spending more time getting from point A to point B. While Close Quarters may not be channeling the original Battlefield spirit of large maps and vehicular gameplay, the frenzied chaos is much welcomed and offers a change of pace from long-distance battles in Conquest games.
- “Strike at Karkand” is an old classic from Battlefield 2, but has been given an update and makes a return in Battlefield 3‘s “Back to Karkand” expansion, which came free with pre-ordered versions. I decided to play a round of team deathmatch here after winning a conquest match at Ziba tower, and given the map’s layout, I equipped an ACOG sight for my M416, eventually putting on quite a good performance.
- As I was running through the alleys and lighting up anything that moved last week, the aroma of honey-roasted ham began wafting downstairs. Outside, the sun was setting, and I suddenly realise that it’s been almost a year since I finished my last thesis defense. As I am now enrolled in the Master’s of Science in Computer Science now, another thesis is on the horizon. Things are going to gear up, and I have a special announcement that I’ll make concerning this blog once Mobile Suit Gundam Unicorn: Over the Rainbow is done.
- Insofar, I’ve only spent around 33 minutes in this map, but I’ll need two hours to finish one of the objectives required to complete the “Familiar Territory” assignment, which will unlock the PP-19. Over the course of this summer, I will have several goals that I aim to accomplish: I will be returning to the lab and assisting in the Giant walk-through Brain, which will be a concert performance that will make use of the simulation tools the lab has developed to assist in visualising structures and events in the brain. I believe that my research is significantly more productive and meaningful than “researching” Japanese tanks for World of Tanks: even if one needs connections to get access to the original blueprints and whatnot, I completely disagree with Sumeragi’s sentiment that this position is worth five thousand dollars.
- Besides the Giant Walk-through Brain (I’ll probably have to learn Unity and see how to hook it up so that I can control the Unity simulation using an iOS device), I’ll also need to think of a good thesis project over the course of the summer. Here, I’ve finally unlocked the Javelin for my engineer, allowing me to disable armour with more ease compared to the AT weapons, although one unfortunate tendency is that the Javelin sometimes locks onto unoccupied vehicles instead.
- Gun Master is a remarkably fun game type, and although I’ve yet to actually get good enough to make my way to the top and end the game, I have ended up in the top five before. This map here is Operation 925, an office building under construction. Players get to fight through office spaces, a coffee shop, and the building’s parkade.
- Kiaser Railroad is a part of the Endgame expansion, featuring verdant fields and a vast lake in spring. The Endgame maps are seasons themed; my earlier image with the Javelin was captured on Operation Riverside, an autumn map. While I’m not doing anything impressive in this image, I decided to take a moment to enjoy the lake view after capturing an objective from someone who was camping there. I originally had spawned in a tank, but after my driver couldn’t get any kills on the guy, I exited and removed him from the flag before capturing the point while the tank driver covered me.
The question now becomes: what is life like as a Battlefield 3 Premium player? In all honesty, it’s actually not too different than being a regular player. I still win and lose like everyone else; other Premium players can be felled as quickly as they did before I upgraded, and I still die at the hands of ordinary players as I always have. Beyond having a plethora of awesome new maps, weapons, assignments, server queue priority and slick new dog tags for my opponents to steal, I’m still an ordinary player, and that’s the point. Being a part of the Premium Club doesn’t give me an unfair advantage over my teammates and opponents: my weapons are only as good as I am, and different weapons don’t confer a combat advantage compared to weapons of the same class. This point becomes particularly important because Battlefield 3 Premium is, although far from the ideal concept for distributing DLCs, able to remain as a reasonable setup for how premium accounts in general should work. Paying extra for the content doesn’t reward players from a combat perspective, and choosing not to pay won’t hurt combat per se, keeping it fair for those without the premium accounts. There is a way of how not to do premium accounts: in Wargaming.net’s World of Tanks, premium accounts yield 50 percent more experience and silver currency per match. This is prima facie equivalent to gaining 50 percent more experience per action in Battlefield 3, but when factored in with the mechanics in World of Tanks, it means ending up with more profit per battle, in turn translating to having more resources to train tank crews, buy new tanks and maintain higher-tier tanks. The increased experience rating allows players to spend less time with stock tanks, improving overall performance and ultimately leads to an improved win rate. If we were to convert this into an equivalent in Battlefield 3, it would be like saying that every round I fire deals 50 percent more damage, and I can absorb 50 percent more damage, allowing me to survive longer to complete objectives and turn battles in my favour. Doing so by paying, then, would defeat the purpose of improving in Battlefield 3: if my wallets were deep enough, I’d rapidly ascend. Thankfully, this isn’t how Battlefield 3 Premium works: premium here confers no advantages to the gameplay itself and follows the model of adding new features, content and customisations, which is precisely what payments should be conferring.
- I decided to play a few more matches on Monday before hitting the books: this was a conquest match I ended up winning, and as of late, I can hold my own against reasonably skilled players, ending up with a good KD ratio for most of the matches I play. At one point during that match, a motorbike was rushing towards me, although a quick trigger finger allowed me to wipe the driver and passenger out.
- I’m about to tell a familiar story: after I got comfortable with the engineer class in Battlefield: Bad Company 2, I decided that, with the right weapons, I could probably make the engineer class work in Battlefield 3, as well. That weapon turned out to be the A-91, which has a good rate of fire and low spread, but unpredictable recoil at longer ranges. Since I happen to prefer CQC, the recoil doesn’t affect me as much. After unlocking the A-91, my performance with the engineer improved.
- Here is an amusing moment: a scout helicopter passed overhead right under my tank’s cross-hairs, and I instinctively fired, blowing the helicopter out of the sky. Ordinarily, this doesn’t work, since air vehicles travel very quickly and are oftentimes out of the barrel’s range of elevation, but this was a particularly lucky moment. Much laughter from both sides ensued after.
- I’m now back at Donya fortress, playing some Gun Master, and my practise exam was done. Gun Master is fun, although I do have a great deal of difficulty using the revolvers and the 93R burst-fire pistol. Owing to the circumstances surrounding co-op, I now doubt I’ll get to unlock any of the weapons there, and so, I’m considering buying the co-op unlock shortcut later on should I decide to try those weapons.
- Of course, the fact remains that there is a pile of weapons to unlock and other maps to try mean that I am likely to see my Battlefield 3 experience as complete, co-op weapons or not. What I like most about the Close Quarters maps is the incredible amount of destruction that happens: while rooms and parts of the buildings might not collapse, the damage and ravaging done by weapon fire is very convincing. The details in the environment, whether it be the dining tables or bars, allow me to fight in a locale as opulent as Kaffarov’s mansion in the campaign.
- Sabalan Pipeline is the winter-themed map in the Endgame expansion. I will take a moment to admire yet another carbine ribbon; since getting the A-91, these have been more frequent. The snowy landscape evokes memories of some of the Bad Company 2 maps; there were more snowy maps in that game, but thanks to Endgame, I now get to experience winter combat in Frostbite 2.
- I am particularly proud of this moment: after using the Javelin to disable this vehicle, its operator exited and made an attempt to repair it, leaving him open to attack. However, rather than using my trusty A-91, or knifing him, I decided to break out the repair tool, resulting in this moment. I have no hard feelings to the guy at the receiving end, especially since this helped me unlock the G53.
- Here, I’ve defended my flag from two guys who were trying to rush this objective in the match’s final moments, earning me a double kill. There used to be an oil refinery that was visible from my place on the horizon; after I got my first-ever pair of binoculars (10 x 25 Bushnells), the refinery and neighbouring gas plant were my favourite subjects, although I would also turn these binoculars to the sky. It’s been some thirteen years since I got them, but I still have them, and they still work just fine.
- Talah Market is part of the Aftermath expansion and feels a little like Counter Strike: Source‘s Dust II, which is one of the more famous maps. Mentioned by FPS_Doug in Pure Pwnage, Dust II is where FPS_Doug gets most of his headshots during episode five of the web series’ first season; this video got me into Pure Pwnage, and presently, I share jokes with my friends that were inspired by this series, especially teh_pwnerer’s reactions to victory. In fact, this was my reaction to various announcements this year, and my performance in Halo 2 after playing for the first time in over a year.
- Aftermath features maps following a large earthquake in the Tehran region, adding the XBOW crossbow and a scoped variant to the game, as well as the Scavenger gametype. This DLC’s theme is post-earthquake survival and combat.
- Thanks to the fact that most gun master matches begin with pistols, I’ve accumulated several more pistol ribbons now. In an ordinary match, I tend to stick to my primary weapons more, and use the pistol only if I ran out of ammunition in a firefight. With that said, I do like the pistols, especially the Glock 18C, which comes with a laser sight.
- The QBU-88 semi-automatic sniper rifle makes a return in Close Quarters: Bad Company 2 veterans will know this as the Type 88 rifle, and I call this the Slenderman rifle, although in Battlefield 3, the lack of a distinct set of optics and firing sound means that the QBU-88 doesn’t really feel like its Bad Company 2 counterpart. I unlocked this earlier today after laser designating a jet in a match of conquest (and subsequently watching a Javelin-equipped teammate blow it out of the sky). Because I hardly play as the recon class, sniper rifle ribbons are an uncommon sight. I typically play recon to spot enemies and, on Noshahr Canals, fulfill the roll of a counter-sniper, blowing away snipers on the crane.
- The Scavenger game mode brings back memories of Halo 2, an age when players could pick up a diverse assortment of weapons off the map if default settings were enabled (most games, the Battle Rifle and Covenant Carbine or Sniper Rifle are the only available weapons). The aim is to make use of the various weapons scattered on the map and hold the control points long enough for the enemy team to run out of tickets: even weapons that I haven’t unlocked, such as the co-op weapons and the XBOW, are available here.
- Scavenger is surprisingly fun, and of the two games I completed, I’ve won both, so I’m now one win away from unlocking the XBOW. Battlefield 3 Premium is an incredible experience, breathing new life into a game that was becoming a little dull, but now that my year is drawing to a close, an entire summer awaits me now. We’ve come full circle since I exited summer 2013, and this summer, besides hanging out with my friends more often (think wings nights, Irish nachos and movies) and reading the backlog of books I’ve accumulated, I am looking to pick up three old hobbies again: building Gunpla, pencil sketching and mountain biking. I will also aim to learn some C#, the .NET framework, finite automata, context-free grammars and Turing Machines in preparation for the upcoming year.
- With all of these things going, I’ll probably end up playing less Battlefield 3 (but not too much less): as noted previously, the specific details behind what’s going to happen will be explained after Over the Rainbow is done airing. Given that the Gundam Unicorn finale is airing on the day of Otafest, things could get interesting; as per usual, I’ll try to get the review out ahead of other anime blogs. In addition, a little bit of perseverance and skill has allowed me to build a subtitled copy of the AnoHana movie, which means I’ll be reviewing that at some point in the future (as well as the original TV series: I may have forgotten most of the plot elements, so I may just have to rewatch that). For now, though, the BioShock Infinite post is up next, followed by Ace Combat: Assault Horizon (which I just beat yesterday). Because I imagine the anime news aggregator I’m linked to is also looking for anime posts, I’ll do a post on Yahari Ore no Seishun Rabu Kome wa Machigatteiru so I’m not flooding them with gaming posts: this is a series worth recommending.
Battlefield 3 Premium comes with all of the content from Back to Karkand, Close Quarters, Armoured Kill, Aftermath and End Game. This means that, besides having twenty spectacular new maps and some twenty new weapons, new vehicles and gametypes are also included. As mentioned earlier, I get to take a break from Caspian Border and Noshahr Canals. Don’t get me wrong: I love those maps, and some of my finest moments happen here, but every now and then, some diversity is nice. Some days, I’d love the old-style CQC that Ziba Tower, Operation 925, Donya Fortress and Scrap Metal gives. Other days, I may itch for a map under winter conditions and play Sabalan Pipeline, or else wish to be air-dropped onto the battlefield from the air in Nebandan Flats. Assignments also give incentive to try out new things: just recently, I unlocked the G53 for the engineer by killing someone with the repair tool. Thanks to my overwhelming affinity with the support class, I’ve unlocked the QBB-95 and L86A2 already. Because the PP-19 (a weapon that I’ve been itching to try since watching TheRadBrad’s playthrough of Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3) requires that I arm ten M-COMs, I’ve diversified a little, and so, played a few more rush matches I ended up winning. I still have a few more M-COMs to arm before I get the weapon, but I will get there. The new maps are very scenic, and sometimes, I wish that they were empty so I could just run around and explore. I recall another article out there about another player’s experience in Battlefield 3 Premium; he concludes that “it’s a better idea to hang back and only buy the expansions you really want to play”. Said article was written by someone with vastly more gaming expertise than myself, and is dated back to June 2012, when Battlefield 3 Premium started taking off. Back then, there were more unknowns than knowns, and while some might have been disappointed with the way some expansions turned out, now, everything is now known: I’ve seen all the maps, weapons, vehicles, game types and perks, allowing me to make a better decision. My verdict is that the normal cost of premium (thirty dollars for those who currently own Battlefield 3) isn’t worth it, but when sales happen, one can get everything imaginable for the price of one DLC. So…how’s life in the Premium Club? It’s allowed me to experienced a new side of Battlefield 3 that I’d never seen before, with Easter Ham under a spring sunset that manages to evoke a mid-summer feeling. I’d say this is quite the club 🙂