“Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” –Martin Luther King, Jr.
Whereas we’ve yet to see the release of the second half of the Turning Tides DLC for Battlefield 1, which will bring to the table some major updates to the game’s mechanics, as well as two new maps depicting the North Seas battles, DICE has gone ahead and pushed the Apocalypse DLC maps to the Community Test Environment, or CTE. Requiring some 60 GB of storage, the Battlefield 1 CTE is the place where developers allow players who are part of the Premium Club to test out proposed changes to the gameplay and new content. I’ve participated in the CTE before for In The Name of The Tsar, trying out the new weapons and the like, but passed on the Turning Tides. Apocalypse’s contents were announced a few days ago, so I was curious to see what the final DLC would entail. The official announcement sees the introduction of three new maps, Caporetto, Passchendaele and La Somme for infantry combat, plus two maps for the upcoming air supremacy game mode. The AA Rocket Gun is also making its way into the game after appearing in the CTE some months ago, giving infantry a viable option for disrupting aircraft, and there will be six new weapons introduced, including the Ross Rifle Mk. III, a Canadian weapon that, despite its poor reliability in the muddy conditions on the Western Front, continued to be the workhorse of Canadian snipers thanks to its exceptional accuracy. While a little light on new content, Apocalypse introduces two of the most infamous battlefields of World War One into Battlefield 1: the ravaged ruins of Passchendale, with its burned out husks that were once trees and artillery craters, captures the devastation wrought by ceaseless shelling, while La Somme presents the damage that the conflict brought into France: as players move across the map, the golden wheat fields give way to muddy trenches and burning buildings.
Of course, this is what the finished product is expected to deliver: the maps for Apocalypse are still early in development and at this point, are definitely not representative of the final product. There are no textures, with a standard grid being present in place of the usual assets, and the rough gameplay of the maps further illustrates this. Of the maps, Caporreto is the most balanced: designed for conquest assault, the attacking Austrian-Hungary team start at the top of the mountain and make their way down the slopes to capture points scattered on the mountainside that the Italians are holding. While it could lead to a slaughter, cover down this hill and support from aircraft allow the attacking team to slowly push through. Conversely, La Somme is remarkably unbalanced: if the attacking British team does not use its tanks in a coordinated fashion, the defending German forces will amass at the first capture point and decimate the British. More hard cover, and possibly additional light vehicles, such as motorcycles, will be necessary to give the British team a chance to break the one-sided slaughter. Passchendaele, a moderately well-designed map, plays out with classic conquest and is balanced, but the sheer amount of stuff on the ground makes it easy to get stuck in the geometry. With these criticisms in mind, it is fantastic that players are able to see what is needed to get the maps to a state where playing on them is fun – DICE had previously made extensive changes to the Zeebrugge Raid map for the Turning Tides DLC, adding an extra destroyer for each team along with the first-ever Behemoth-on-Behemoth combat in Battlefield 1 when the CTE demonstrated that the naval combat was uninspired and left the map’s players vulnerable to air power. The map now looks immensely promising to play on, and perhaps looking to create the best experience for players, DICE has done the same for the Apocalypse maps, letting the players provide feedback so that they can fine-tune and alter the maps to encourage skilful, fun gameplay.
Screenshots and Commentary
- The lack of textures means that soldiers don’t blend in quite as well with the environment, and so, will get picked off quite easily. Of the new maps, Caporetto feels the least apocalyptic in nature. I didn’t really have the time to go through the Turning Tides maps when they were in the CTE, primarily because I was focussed on Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus and The Division, and while I do have screenshots from my time with the In The Name of The Tsar DLC, the actual content released shortly after I tested the maps, so I decided to hold off on talking about the content in the CTE.
- Caporetto is presently the perfect place for snipers with its wide open fields and slope giving players who’ve got the high ground the advantage. I performed surprisingly well with the Ross Mk. III rifle, and it strikes me that in Battlefield 1, I don’t use the Gewehr M.95 nearly enough; I gave the optical a whirl for one of the assignments in Turning Tides and eventually switched over to the Marksman version, which is right up my alley. The straight-pull bolt affords the weapon with a higher firing rate relative to other single-action rifles, allowing for follow-up shots to be made easily. One of the disadvantages now is that by muscle memory, I always lower my sights so I can chamber in a new round while using single-action rifles.
- The Chauchat-Ribeyrolles 1918 (CSRG) is an unusual weapon: with a high firing rate and heavy-hitting rounds, it breaks the mold of what a standard assault weapon would be. Using this weapon was a considerable challenge – the combination of high recoil and low ammunition capacity means I was missing my shots and dying frequently (against players who were running the Automatico M1918, no less). The CSRG looks to be the ultimate skill weapon for the assault class at present, but I remark that my entire CTE experience was played on European servers, where my ping left me at a severe disadvantage to begin with.
- As such, aside from the Ross Mk. III and the Howell rifle, I cannot say that I had an accurate experience with the new weapons of the Apocalypse DLC. The lack of textures on the Passchendaele Map gave the impression of a landscape following a volcanic eruption, covered in ash, and while Passchendale does certainly feel this way, the actual landscape is of mud and water. This is one of the maps I’m looking forwards to seeing in a completed state.
- The devastation in Passchendaele was so extensive that images of burned out trees and artillery craters become a very enduring image of the First World War, and here, I reload next to a burning tree. The visuals of Battlefield 1 have remained consistently of a top-tier quality, and Passchendaele could very easily be one of my favourite maps of the Apocalypse DLC: unlike the other maps, it plays with standard conquest, and there’s a good balance of cover and open spaces so that any class could reasonably do well on this map.
- The final map of the CTE showcased is the La Somme. The vast fires burning in the distance are terrifying to behold, capturing the apocalyptic feeling the final DLC is meant to evoke as effectively as Passchendaele does. While doubtlessly a beautiful-looking map, however, La Somme is also the map in the greatest need of a bit of a redesign as far as placement of cover, trenches and obstructions go. While I won several matches on this map playing as the attacking team, this was during situations where the team sizes were relatively small.
- While I managed to make the LMG 08/18 work in some cases, the ping made the weapon highly inconsistent. There were some moments where I mowed through multiple opponents standing closely together with the weapon, and others where I got the drop on a stationary target. When I began firing, I would watch as they whipped around and melted my face because my bullets apparently were not registering on the server.
- Pushing closer to the German spawn, the rubble of a factory burn. Of the battles in World War One, the Somme is probably the most widely-known for having casualties of over a million. In the wide, open fields of the Somme river plains, British and French forces squared off against the Germans, and footage of this battle remains some of the most iconic from the war. However, all of this footage is in black and white; to see all of these sites recreated in colour will be incredibly immersive, conveying to players the sort of backdrop that the Battle of the Somme were set against.
- Here, I shell the second capture point with the Mark V’s infantry support variant: the 20 mm cannon is a fun weapon to use, being devastating against infantry. In its current iteration, La Somme heavily favours the defending German team, and in one match I played, in which the British were completely outmatched, the folks in the text chat commented that if DICE were trying to remind players of some of the battles in World War One, then the La Somme map would have succeeded entirely in capturing this sense.
- Apparently, the medals in rotation are active in the CTE: I’d played through two matches, won a few and ended up capturing ten flags to earn the Star of Alexander, a medal for playing through conquest. Since DICE made changes to the way that medals work, they’ve been a bit easier to secure, but I still think it’d be nice if players could pick and choose the ones they wished to work with for a week. This would be a good way to strike a balance between encouraging replay (as a part of the progression system) while allowing players a bit more choice.
- The Howell Automatic Rifle is the new medic weapon for the Apocalypse DLC, coming in two variants. The factory variant has some interesting iron sights that takes a bit of getting used to, but the marksman version handles very fluidly and is a fantastic mid-to-long range weapon that can hold its own against the longer range weapons of Battlefield 1. I imagine that the marksman variant will have an assignment similar to the Farquhar Hill rifle’s optical version, requiring one to familiarise themselves with the standard version first.
- A slick-looking rifle, the Howell Rifle was a conversion of the Lee-Enfield that allowed it to fire on semi-automatic. The designers were intending to use the weapon in a war that had reached a stalemate, counting on the superior rate of fire to overwhelm German forces in the trenches, but before the weapon made it to production, the First World War ended. While cited as a reliable weapon, it was also somewhat uncomfortable to use this weapon.
- It’s rare for the score to be this close on La Somme: on the occasions that I played, I had a competent team that allowed for the British forces to push their way past the first capture point, and my first game here was actually a victory. I subsequently joined a match where my team was only slightly behind, and having heard beforehand of the slaughter that this map causes, I had a feeling that it was blind luck that I managed to play some reasonably close and enjoyable matches on La Somme.
- Here, I wield the LMG 08/18, a modification of the MG 08/18 that removes the water-cooling mechanism for an air-cooled barrel, making it lighter. The weapon was mounted onto aircraft, and it suddenly hits me that Battlefield 1‘s more unwieldy machine guns can be shoulder-fired: the support class soldiers of Battlefield 1 therefore are at least as strong as the Witches of Strike Witches, if they are able to move and operate these weapons.
- The LMG 08/18 proved quite unusable in the CTE: I was emptying my magazine into enemies and found myself overheating before any serious damage could be done. While it might be a consequence of my being unfamiliar with the weapon’s recoil pattern, my high ping might have played a more substantial role in causing most of my shots to miss, by causing other players to be rendered a step or two behind where they actually were.
- It’s a bit unfortunate that the only active CTE servers are hosted in Europe, meaning that my signal takes anywhere from 140 to 170 milliseconds to reach the server and return. Normally, my ping is between 40 and 120 milliseconds depending on the day when I quick-match, and while using the server browser, I can stick the the low-ping servers for the best experience. High ping servers make sniping particularly unforgiving, so I usually go with the assault class if I’m forced to play on high-ping servers.
- In a note that’s seemingly unrelated to Battlefield 1, I’ve now had a chance to listen to Girls und Panzer: Der Film‘s Cinematic Concert Album, which covers a live concert where the voice actors and Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra perform moments from the movie. It’s a fun album that is more similar to a drama album rather than a music album, and the quality of the music here also speaks to the strength of the music in Der Film: the musical quality in Der Film‘s Original Soundtrack are at the same level as that of the Cinematic Concert Album, which released on December 20 in 2017.
- While Girls und Panzer is seemingly unrelated to Battlefield 1, it turns out that the Mark IV makes an appearance in Das Finale‘s first episode, being used by Ooarai’s newest tank crew, subbed the Shark Team. Battlefield 1 uses the Mark V: while a devastating presence in Battlefield 1 with its two 57mm cannons and canister shot, as well as whatever the driver’s preferred loadout for the tank is, the Mark V would have been outclassed by WWII-era armour, with its slow speed being its biggest impediment. If the next Battlefield is indeed to be set in World War Two, DICE has the potential of producing a Frostbite-powered game far surpassing the armoured warfare in World of Tanks or even Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match in terms of mechanics and visuals.
- I’m personally hoping that Dream Tank Match will be localised and released on PC: the next Battlefield probably won’t run on my computer, but Dream Tank Match will. I returned to Caporetto and decided to give the Ross Mk. III another go in spite of my ping, and during this match, I landed several impressive headshots considering the ping. This is probably the weapon I’m most excited about: the combination of a sweet spot and straight-pull bolt absolutely fits in with my preferred play-style for the scout class, which is actually my highest-ranked class right now.
- As we near the end of Battlefield 1‘s development cycle, content and updates for Battlefield 1 are going to slow down. I’m hoping there will continue to be community missions and events, or even one or two free maps for all players upcoming, much like how Battlefield 4 introduced some community maps and missions for players well after the final DLC launched. After the Apocalypse DLC releases, I’ll probably spend some time playing around with different loadouts, and I might bring back my old “Firing Range” posts if time permits. In these posts, I run with specific weapons, usually from anime, to see how well those loadouts serve me in a Battlefield game. Some ideas lined up include the Perrine H. Clostermann loadout and Charlotte Yeager loadouts, as well as the Girls’ Last Tour loadout, now that the Arisaka Type 38 is in Battlefield 1.
Because it’s still early in the game, my experiences in the CTE are definitely not representative of how the Apocalypse maps will play out. This extends to the new weapons, as well: I found myself disappointed with most of the new weapons as far as performance goes. The assault class gains access to the Chauchat-Ribeyrolles 1918 submachine gun, which has a 900 RPM firing rate but a nine-round magazine. Burning through magazines was an all-too-common occurrence, and the weapon seems useless outside of single combat: I found the weapon more effective by tap-firing it. Medics will have the Howell Automatic Rifle, which is equipped with a twenty-round magazine. Similar to the Farquhar-Hill in the role it plays, the Howell has the marksman variant, which makes the weapon a bit more useful at long ranges. This version was quite fun to use compared to the factory version, whose unusual iron sights were very tricky. The support class receives the LMG 08/18, and either as a result of the recoil or my ping, I found this weapon unusable. Finally scouts will get the M1917 Enfield, which will fulfil the role of a proper infantry M1903, and the Canadian Ross Mk. III. The Ross Mk. III is the most exciting of the weapons, featuring a similar performance to the SMLE Mk. III but adding on top of this, a straight-pull bolt. To balance it out, the weapon has a five round magazine rather than the SMLE’s ten, but this does not hamper the weapon in any way: of all the new additions I tried in the CTE, the Ross Mk. III is the most promising of the new weapons, and I’m excited to add a Canadian rifle to my loadout. I’m hoping that the unlock requirements are not insane, and looking ahead, with the continued improvements to the Apocalypse maps as DICE receives more feedback, the Apocalypse maps and weapons will likely be much more enjoyable to experience as the release date for the DLC approaches – it’s set to launch in February, which was much sooner than expected. For the time being, however, players in Battlefield 1 have yet to experience the Zeebrugge Raid map and what looks to be some of the largest-scale naval battles implemented in a Battlefield game.