The Infinite Zenith

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Yoshika Miyafuji and the Frostbite Engine, or, Strike Witches: Road to Berlin and The Road to Battlefield V

“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.

Battlefield V: Initial impressions of the closed alpha

“I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails to always reach my destination.” –Jimmy Dean

This is probably a post that none of my readers were expecting and comes out of the blue: a few days ago, I received an email from EA with an invite code to the Battlefield V closed alpha. The intent of this closed alpha is to provide players with an idea of how Battlefield V‘s new mechanics handle, as well as for developers to gather data on performance and usage statistics. Unlike previous closed alphas, Battlefield V‘s closed alpha has no NDAs in place, and so, I’m allowed to share screenshots of my experiences. Returning to the World War II period, Battlefield V was marketed as being completely unlike its predecessors: the attrition mechanic was introduced alongside fortifications that favours slower, tactical play over run-and-gun tactics. After I finished pre-loading the closed alpha, I dropped into a match of conquest. My team was behind, but after I learned my way around the medic’s Gewehr 43, I began healing and reviving every teammate in reach. We eventually came back from our deficit to win that match, and in this moment, it became obvious that classic Battlefield conquest had returned in full – tickets count down, and more importantly, holding a majority of the flags will bleed the other team of tickets. In this manner, a well-coordinated team can mount comebacks that make conquest a particularly fun game mode: this was largely absent in Battlefield 1, but makes a welcome return in Battlefield V. With a default ticket count of 800, matches last roughly half an hour, which is perfect for my schedule. Battlefield 1‘s conquest lacked the same excitement and relied on Behemoths as an unsuccessful comeback mechanic, but matches were consistently half an hour in length. The return of classic conquest with a reasonable ticket count means that conquest is now much more exciting, while at the same time, fitting with my schedule. However, there’s much more to Battlefield V than just conquest, and here, I explore some of the things in Battlefield V that are fantastic, and things that need work before the completed title can release.

Firing the semi-automatic Gewehr 43 carbine at distant foes and scoring my first kill of the closed alpha highlights one of the most important change Battlefield V makes to gunplay. Random bullet deviation is gone, and weapons are now consistent in how they fire. Semi-automatic and single-fire weapons are as precise as their users, and automatic weapons have a recoil pattern that can be mastered. Without random chance affecting firefights, the outcomes of an engagement boil down to skill alone now: powerful semi-automatic weapons meant that in the closed alpha, I found the Gewehr 43 a superb all-around weapon for the arctic fjord map in Norway. Suppression has also been reworked to be purely visual, so players under fire can still return accurate fire and potentially win a firefight if they are skilful enough. Having guns that handle differently, but reliably means that different weapons will suit different players. This will hopefully encourage players to try a wide range of loadouts to find ones that work best for them, giving incentive to unlock different weapons and equipment. The attrition mechanic is also a welcome addition to Battlefield – players can no longer regenerate their health fully after a firefight and only start with limited ammunition. To remain effective, one must stick with one’s squad and know the map well: health and ammunition is acquired from allied players and resupply crates scattered at important locations around the map. Supporting one’s team with healing, revives, resupplies and spotting becomes even more important than it did previously: a lone wolf player simply won’t last long, and players can no longer toss grenades on a whim. However, resupplying, healing and reviving are no longer easy actions. There’s a delay in carrying them out, forcing players to assess a situation, deciding whether or not they should go for ammunition or reviving a downed teammate. While perhaps starting players with a little less ammo than I’d like, attrition slows play down and promotes careful, strategic play. Destruction and fortification also changes the way Battlefield handles; it is now possible to undo destruction or else modify areas to give allies an advantage, while forcing enemy players to re-evaluate their next move carefully. Overall, Battlefield V is a slower experience: I died frequently treating the game like Battlefield 1, but when I slowed down to support teammates and defend capture points, things became much more fun. In particular, the medic class has benefitted from the changes and has come back in a big way for Battlefield V: this is much welcomed, allowing me to pick off distant enemies, then retreat to cover so I could heal and revive teammates.

Because we’re still early in Battlefield V‘s testing, the closed alpha also revealed numerous technical limitations that will need to be ironed out before launch. My client crashed on several occasions, and a system report indicated that I’d run out of RAM. Memory leaks and CPU consumption will definitely need to be addressed: the game largely runs smoothly at 60 FPS, but when I spawn in over-the-shoulder onto a squadmate, the frame-rate dips to 30 FPS. This lag has occasionally costed me: I died instantly because I could not move to respond to a threat. I’ve heard that the snow effects are all computed: the EA Play build of Battlefield V was particularly bad for it, and while toned down for the closed alpha, there were moments where performance became an issue. I vividly recall being killed by a guy that had looked like he was behind a wall, but had moved before the client could update it. Besides optimising performance, Battlefield V‘s movement system is nowhere nearly as smooth as it was previously. Vaulting over ledges is very clunky; some surfaces that should be easy to jump over were not passable, and it was common to get stuck in the level geometry. By comparison, players move like a dream in Battlefield 1. The new spotting system is also tricky: the only way to mark enemies on the minimap now is with the scout’s monocular, and hitting “Q” simply marks a spot on the ground. As a result, enemies are nearly invisible in their environment and can pick off other players uncontested. A system where hitting “Q” marks enemies’ last known location on the minimap, followed with a spotting animation, would be more visceral without making it too easy to hunt down enemies, as with earlier Battlefield titles. The UI still needs work so it appears in the right places, with the right feedback (it sometimes disappears after I’ve been killed) and also so it intuitively works for players (in my first half-hour, I did not know it was possible to switch back over to the classic map spawning system). Finally, physics and state related bugs must be addressed: I once spawned in with no weapons in hand, and another time, phased through the ground when I died and could not bleed out or be revived. These bugs are hilarious now, but will quickly become frustrating if not addressed for production.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Following the EA Play event, where attendees were able to try out Battlefield V for themselves and capture footage of the gameplay, other members of the Battlefield community were interested to try the game out for themselves on their own computers. After the announcement of the closed alpha, a small number of Battlefield players were invited, myself included. I note immediately that I’m running the closed alpha on a computer with an i5 3570k, 16 GB of RAM and an EVGA GTX 1060 SC. Performance for the most part is smooth, save for moments when the snow becomes too much or when I spawn back in over the shoulder of a squadmate. For this post, I feature some of my earlier screenshots of me getting a feel for Battlefield V – I will be showcasing some of my more impressive moments in a future post: while I was off to a rough start, by the last few days of the closed alpha, I was consistently scoring a positive KD ratio.

  • The Bren Gun is an iconic World War II light machine gun: developed after World War I ended, the Bren is a magazine-fed, gas-operated LMG firing .303 rounds at 500-520 RPM. Despite its cumbersome design, the weapon was reliable and counted as quite effectual. It’s also the weapon of choice for Strike Witches‘ Perrine H. Clostermann: in Battlefield 1, I ran with the Madsen MG as a stand-in, but with World War II being Battlefield V‘s setting, I will have a chance to run with authentic Strike Witches loadouts now. In Battlefield V, the Bren is a little unwieldy but hits reasonably hard when properly used.

  • The mountain village of Narvik is an absolutely beautiful setting, featuring both long range and close quarters combat. The real town of Narvik was the site of several battles in World War II for its strategic importance, and after Nazi Germany captured the port town in the opening stages of the Norwegian Campaign, Allied forces attempted to dislodge the defending German forces. They dominated the German naval forces, but were ill-equipped to deal with the dug-in Germans. Battlefield V recreates this experience – in Grand Operations, players will play as the attacking British forces or the defending German forces.

  • Because Battlefield V takes away random bullet deviation, tap-firing once again becomes viable, allowing the assault rifles to reach out further in their effectiveness. Here, I use the StG 44, the German automatic rifle that would form the basis for all modern assault rifles. Designed in 1942, it fired 7.92 x 33 mm Kurtz rounds at 550-600 RPM and had a detachable box magazine. Its automatic fire makes it effective at close ranges, and at longer ranges, tap-firing allows one to hit distant targets reliably. The StG 44 in Battlefield V pulls to the right and up slightly when firing, so with time, players could accommodate for this recoil and even hit distant targets while firing on full automatic.

  • The medic class can equip the Gewehr 43, equipped with a ZF4 4-power optic. This semi-automatic rifle was designed in response to semi-automatic Soviet rifles, and features many innovations in its design. Battlefield V‘s Gewehr 43 is accurate and reliable: every shot lands where players intend to land them, making the medic highly viable at long range engagements. After getting a feel for the Gewehr 43, I immediately found it a dependable rifle – I was hitting targets at a distance that I would have had no hope in nailing in Battlefield 1, and I suddenly find myself wishing the self-loading rifles of Battlefield 1 had this level of consistency.

  • Grand Operations are the centrepiece of Battlefield V, featuring multi-day skirmishes that depict campaigns of World War II. The mission available in the closed alpha is a part of the Narvik campaign, dealing with the British invasion. The first stage is set late in the evening and has the attacking British force work towards knocking out German artillery emplacements. The Germans must defend their artillery and eliminate as many attackers as possible. All of this is set under the Norwegian night sky, aglow with the aurora borealis – the sophistication of the Frostbite engine now is such that aurora can be viewed and enjoyed in a virtual space without the need of powerful solar activity and a ticket on board the AGB-5003, better known as the Shirase.

  • Battlefield V follows in Battlefield 1‘s use of the Frostbite 3.0 Engine, which has evolved to feature more realistic destruction and sophisticated physics-based rendering, giving players more immersion than previously possible. While Battlefield V has improved effects, its requirements are not substantially steeper than those of Battlefield 1: it feels like an incremental upgrade from a visual perspective, rather similar to how iOS 12 is an upgrade that brings subtle new features and performance updates to iOS 11 rather than sweeping changes. By comparison, when Battlefield 1 was announced, it was leaps and bounds further ahead visually than Battlefield 4, even though both games use Frostbite 3.0.

  • Battlefield V introduces an all-new mechanic in which downed players will slowly bleed out unless a medic revives them. This is actually a pretty clever mechanic that prevents players from skipping revives, which is a feature that I did not enjoy from Battlefield 1. By default, players will spawn back in if they bleed out fully, but they can stem blood loss and call for nearby medics to revive them. A new feature is that squad mates can now revive downed allies, as well, even if they are not playing as a medic. This allows one to save squad mates quickly even if a medic is not immediately available, and is balanced out by reducing the amount of health one gets back if revived in this manner. To slow down the revive trains of Battlefield 1, the revive animation in Battlefield V is longer and more detailed. While less efficient, revives feel much more visceral, and an obscene amount of points can be scored for reviving teammates as a medic.

  • While seemingly a side-task, fortification in Battlefield V has proven to be quite handy. I make extensive use of fortifications to create cover where their was previously none, allowing me to set up a reasonably well-defended sniper position in a pinch, and during one match, I noticed enemy players cleverly dropping behind cover and fortifying their position when I began firing upon them with the Karabiner 98k. No longer able to pick them off, I was forced to move on, altering the dynamic of play considerably.

  • Having the Stg 44 as an assault player means being able to run the Waltrud Krupinski loadout. I feel bad for playing the assault on some occasions: emphasising offensive play over support, one cannot heal or resupply teammates in this role. The assault class is intended to provide firepower at close quarters for clearing out capture points aggressively, and this firepower extends to anti-vehicle options. In the closed alpha, only the Panzerfaust is available, but with its high damage, a group of players can very quickly eliminate even the heavy tanks on short order.

  • The single most glaring issue with the Battlefield V alpha is performance: my machine is getting up there in the years, but it’s no slouch, and I’ve heard that individuals with much more powerful setups are still suffering from framerate drops. I’m not sure if others have encountered this issue, but the biggest problem for me was a memory leak that intermittently causes the game to crash. Battlefield 1 was very well optimised, and Battlefield V needs work to ensure that it is able to properly deallocate resources to better improve performance.

  • Here, I make use of the scout class and its Karabiner 98k to land my first kill with a bolt-action rifle. With the sweet spot gone, sniping in Battlefield V is a return to the days of old, where skill and judgement for landing headshots was the only way to be effective with this class. It took some time for me to become familiar with the bullet drop on the Karabiner 98k, but once I got the hang of it, landing headshots with this weapon was incredibly satisfying, knowing that every headshot was from slowly learning the ropes around the weapon.

  • Overall, the UI workflow needs a bit of an improvement: switching from squad spawning to the classic spawning system is very slow, and it is frustrating not to be able to change out my class from this screen. While many of the weapons or customisations are not available right now, I feel that Battlefield V also should make customising archetypes and weapons much more intuitive than it was in Battlefield 1, where the simplified menu made navigation cumbersome. In addition, it is bizarre that even after two years, Battlefield 1 does not allow players to customise their vehicle setups from the menu.

  • Running around with Perrine’s Bren was a riot: of all of the classes: while I was the least comfortable with the support class’ LMGs in Battlefield I, the Bren is very entertaining to use despite its obstructive design and slow fire rate: it’s perfect for the aggressive recon, and playing tactically, defending capture points, is the support class’ forte. The MG34’s slow deployment time and reliance on a bipod made it less suited for playing the support class in the frontlines: players who prefer a much more stationary approach will find this weapon more suitable for them.

  • I’ve spent around seven hours in the closed alpha in total. Yesterday was Canada Day, and although I was tempted to spend the whole of the day playing the Battlefield V alpha, it seemed more fitting to celebrate the nation’s 151th birthday by capitalising on complementary National Parks admissions. I thus strolled around Lake Minnewanka and the abandoned coal mining town of Bankhead by the cool morning air, retreated to the Silver Dragon Chinese restaurant for lunch (their house noodles, crunchy noodles topped with shrimps, chicken, calamari, scallops and vegetables, are delicious) when a sudden downpour rolled on the area, and then browsed the Banff Park Museum National Historic Site, where I looked at various preserved wildlife specimens dating back a hundred years.

  • The weather remained a moody overcast during the afternoon when I set out to walk the Vermillion Lakes trail, but upon reaching the Third Vermillion Lake, the skies began clearing up, and when I reached the First Vermillion Lake again, the weather had largely cleared out. Previous Canada Days were characterised by very warm weather, but this year, things were a bit chillier than usual, making the walk a very refreshing one. Others evidently were enjoying things, too: there were canoes gliding lazily about on the lake’s surface. I was utterly exhausted by the time we returned back to town and sat down to dinner at the Old Spaghetti Factory at Cascade Mall; I ordered their steak and fries with a prawn skewer. Steaks taste fantastic after a good walk, and by the time dinner wrapped up, the rain had returned.

  • The time to kill (TTK) in Battlefield V is much faster than it is in Battlefield 1: it is similar to that of older Battlefield titles, and while it can be frustrating to be at the receiving end, the shorter time also makes combat more visceral. A short TTK encourages tactical play, forcing players to move cover to cover and be very mindful of their surroundings. The system is balanced with the attrition system, which prevents players from camping in one spot.

  • Submachine guns appear to retain their hipfire bonuses: here, I’m running with the Erma EMP. Firing 9mm Parabellum rounds at 550 RPM, the EMP is a fun weapon to use for extreme close quarters. By World War II, submachine guns became much more widespread, and a World War II game thus has much more liberty for weapon selections. A longstanding complaint, however, is the presence of reflector sights on rifles. These complaints indicate a lack of research: the EMP here is equipped with a Nydar 47 sight, which was introduced in 1945 for shotguns. While its mounting on a submachine gun might be unrealistic, Battlefield (save Battlefield 1) has long accommodated for weapon customisations that are not used in real life (such as my propensity of mounting a Chinese JH-406 Coyote sight to American rifles).

  • One of the most noticeable improvements in Battlefield V is that frequent grenade use is largely absent. I’ve died to fragmentation grenades maybe five times at most, and it’s amazing to finally run around without the ever-present risk of dying to lucky grenades as one would in Battlefield 1. From the sounds of things, grenades are still “smart”, with their fuses only counting down once they hit the ground, and I’ve not been too fond of this, since it allows players to throw grenades great distances to score easy kills, as opposed to using them to flush out enemies.

  • Having a Karabiner 98k means that I can finally run the Sora no Woto loadout in the Frostbite Engine: the primary weapon for the Helvetian forces in the anime, Battlefield V‘s Karabiner 98k is the only bolt-action rifle available in the closed alpha, and despite attrition mechanics limiting me only to two additional reloads, I managed to make extensive use of the weapon to pick off distant foes. The scout class of Battlefield V involves a much higher skill level than its Battlefield 1 incarnation as far as headshots go, but having tried the gadgets out, I think that the spotting flare is the only useful gadget: if I had time to pull out my binoculars and spot an enemy by clicking, then I probably had time to shoot them myself.

  • K-bullets were in service during World War I, and were still manufactured during World War II, although with their limited armour penetration (12-13 mm at 100 meters), it’s difficult to see them being reintroduced to Battlefield V, where we have the likes of Churchill and Tiger I tanks that are nigh-impervious to most infantry weapons. I’m not sure what kind of gadgets the scout class will get, but having tools to help with spawning and spotting are likely to be the case. It would also be nice to give the scout class limited anti-vehicle capabilities: earlier Battlefield games allowed scouts to carry C4. The archetypes system may give each subclass specialised roles to fit a specific objective or playstyle, so I’m curious to see how these will turn out.

  • Even now, I’m still amazed that I was fortunate enough to get into the Battlefield V closed alpha: with my luck still running strong, perhaps I should try my hand at getting into Kantai Collection through its notoriously challenging lottery system. I had preloaded the client as soon as I was notified, and on the day that the closed alpha became available, I had enjoyed a Swiss-mushroom burger and beer-battered fries while watching the England and Belgium World Cup game. Belgium scored the lone goal and won that game: when I played my first match of Battlefield V that evening, I joined a team that had fallen behind in tickets, but thanks to the re-implemented ticket bleed system, I ended up helping contribute to my team’s win.

  • The sidearms in Battlefield V fulfill the same roles that their predecessors did in earlier Battlefield titles, being useful for when one runs out of ammunition mid-firefight. In the closed alpha, each class uses the same sidearm, although because it’s very early, I imagine that like Battlefield 1, there will be different sidearms for different archetypes, and that there will be a set of sidearms that all classes can equip.

  • I’m actually not too big on the reinforcements mechanic, which is reminiscent of the killstreaks in Call of Duty, although Battlefield V‘s implementation is more driven by squad performance rather than individual kills, and appears to be an evolution of the Behemoths of Battlefield 1. So far, there have only been two reinforcements: the Sturmtiger and the V-1. The Sturmtiger was intended as an infantry support vehicle and was outfitted with a 380 mm RW 61 rocket launcher that allowed it to punch through enemy fortifications, while the V-1 was one of the first cruise missiles and can deal massive damage. I managed to try both out, and the V-1 is so powerful, it’s almost unfair.

  • Here, I finally try my hand with the armoured vehicles of Battlefield V: at long last, in a modern iteration of the Frostbite Engine, I get to seat myself behind the wheel of some of history’s most famous tanks, including the Tiger I. Long regarded as one of the most iconic of the German tanks, the Tiger I was characterised by its powerful 88 mm gun and heavy armour, allowing it to devastate Allied armour. The Tiger I is also Maho Nishizumi’s tank of choice in Girls und Panzer, being suited for her execution of the Nishizumi style.

  • Visually and aurally, tanks in Battlefield V feel powerful, although in the closed alpha, they proved to be quite fragile and could be blown apart by a few Panzerfaust rounds. As well, tanks are quite sensitive to bumps in the ground, and I recall an amusing moment where I flipped one of my tanks over, allowing the enemy team to shred it. However, when the tanks do connect, they can be a useful presence on the battlefield: here, I shell a distant British tank with the German light tank and annihilate it.

  • Battlefield V is Girls und Panzer in the Frostbite Engine, or as Gandalf might say, Girls of Panzer: Dream Tank Match as it should have been: learning a tank’s strengths and weaknesses is essential to victory, as each tank has different handling characteristics and a specific role to play. Unlike the luck-driven mechanics of Dream Tank MatchBattlefield V‘s tank combat looks to be skill-oriented. I’m hoping that there will be a dedicated armoured warfare-only mode that pits tanks against tanks only: it’s high time that DICE showed the world the might of the Frostbite Engine and proper skill against the likes of World of Tanks.

  • I would’ve gotten this post earlier, but today, I attended a LAN party and played Halo 2 old school on Xbox, with split-screen and the like. Besides catching up with friends, I also somehow managed to perform much better than usual: I’m terrible with console games, but today, managed a few double kills and even a killing spree, keeping my KD ratio above one and helping my team win several matches: during my final game, I scored the winning flag capture. Halo 2 is the game that really got me into shooters, and since the Halo 2 PC servers were decommissioned, I’ve been looking for a similar type of shooter. Battlefield has since filled that particular role. This was time spent away from playing the Battlefield V closed alpha, but in the end, I feel like I’ve gotten a pretty good handle on what my thoughts are for this current build.

  • The Panzer IV, Miporin’s tank of choice, also figured in the closed alpha as a medium tank. There’s an interesting bug where the KwK 40 L/43 anti-tank gun will shorten, making the tank resemble the Ausf. F1 variant, but zooming in and back out rectifies this. This visual bug will hopefully be fixed in newer builds of Battlefield V, and one other visual element I’d like to see fixed is the fact that some UI elements can be very difficult to see, especially amidst the white snows of Norway. Adding a translucent, glassy box to put the text on, as with Battlefield 1, would be one possible fix.

  • Here, I use the Sturmtiger to melt an enemy, and this brings my current set of thoughts on the Battlefield V closed alpha to an end. I’m very glad to have had the opportunity to give it a spin, and while it’s still rough around the edges, the core concepts of attrition, teamwork and fortification add new depth to the game, bringing back skill and encouraging tactical play. Performance issues, movement and the UI are my biggest gripes about this build, but my initial impressions are especially positive – by the time this closed alpha came to an end, I was nailing back-to-back headshots with the Karabiner 98k and having a ball of a time in helping my team out. I do have another post coming out in the future dealing with what I’d like to see in Battlefield V from a content perspective, as well as things that shouldn’t be in the Battlefield series, period. For now, with this set of initial impressions of the closed alpha in the books, I return to my usual scheduled posts: Sword Art Online Alternative: Gun Gale Online‘s finale and the Violet Evergarden OVA are on the schedule, as is Harukana Receive‘s first episode.

On the whole, my impressions of Battlefield V is that this is a game that will put skill back into Battlefield. Random chance and luck won’t figure as much as knowing the map, one’s weapons and role in a squad, so players who take the time to play the game will be rewarded with superior performance. While the new mechanics are fabulous, there are some others that will take some getting used to or be tweaked slightly. Attrition really slows down gameplay, but it also limits players a little too much in its current state. Giving players 20-30 percent more ammunition capacity would give players more freedom once they’ve resupplied. I imagine that spotting will not likely go through many major changes, and so, despite me not liking it, I can see myself eventually learning the mechanics as time wears on, much as how I got used to the differences between Battlefield 4 and Battlefield 3‘s spotting. Beyond this, it’s a promising start for Battlefield V: once the technical issues are resolved, and the game is optimised, if the movement system is also improved to be a little smoother and intuitive, the new mechanics could very well usher in a new way to play Battlefield that takes the best of older titles while encouraging more tactical, methodical gameplay. This approach is, curiously enough, completely contrary to how I play shooters, but in offering something new, Battlefield V has persuaded me to change my approach and in the process, I gained a much richer experience for it. If my experiences in the open beta prove to be as positive, then the decision to purchase Battlefield V would be an easy one to make.

Clash at Loum: Mobile Suit Gundam- The Origin Episode Five Reflection

“Your task will not be an easy one. Your enemy is well-trained, well-equipped and battle-hardened. He will fight savagely.” —General Dwight D. Eisenhower

The opening stages of the One Year War begin when Zeon launches a surprise attack on Side 2, eliminating Hatte altogether, while Kycila leads task force in capturing the lunar cities of Granada and Von Braun. Amuro and his friends are caught attempting to sneak into a restricted area in Side 7, but Amuro is spared a beating when guards recognise him as the son of Tem Ray. After witnessing the massacre at Side 2, Ramba Ral refuses to participate in Operation British and becomes wanted for treason against Zeon. The Zeons continue with Operation British, dropping the coloney Island Iffish on Earth with the aim of destroying the Federations Jaburo Base, but the coloney break into three sections upon re-entry. The largest pieces impacts with Australia and the sum of the impact halves Earth’s population. Meanwhile, Sayla Mass has become a doctor, and while treating the injured from the political strife breaking out, she learns from a Zeon operative that Casaval is alive, piloting a red mobile suit and later sees him attacking a coloney, after she herself had helped fend off ruffians. While she manages to protect Eduardo Mass, he dies. With Operation British unsuccessful, Zeon launches another attack at Loum. Although their ships are routed by Federation Forces, their mobile suits allow them to even the odds in terms of fighting strength. Char himself steps out into battle, locating the main Federation fleet on short order after pushing his Zaku to its limits. The Origin‘s fifth instalment comes nearly a year after the fourth, and in it, the more horrific stages of the One Year War are illustrated, including the gassing of Island Iffish for the purpose of dropping it as a kinetic impactor. The Origin presents a different take on things than did Gundam Unicorn, but with its high animation quality, is able to capture the sort of devastation that characterises the One Year War, and also illustrate the processes, as well as individuals, behind Zeon’s atrocities.

In contrast with the earlier instalments, the fifth The Origin entry is more fragmented in design, portraying different aspects of the One Year War’s opening stages. From the early Zeon victories to their failed execution of Operation British, from Char’s verbal sparring with the Black Tri-Stars to watching Sayla Mass defend her adopted family and home, The Origin presents a series of war stories that show where everyone’s at since the events of the previous episode. The episode does not follow any one character in particular; in doing so, it is able to capture the scope of the One Year War. In this episode’s presentation, one also gains the impression that Zeon’s worst atrocities and actions were the consequence of Gihren’s decisions. Gihren has been counted as the Universal Century’s incarnation of Adolf Hitler, sharing Hitler’s Social Darwinism beliefs, as well as placing an undue amount of emphasis on Wunderwaffen. Gihren’s beliefs are extreme enough that his father, Degwin, denounces him: Degwin’s original ambitions had been to gain independence for and rule over Zeon, whereas Girhen sought to dominate and destroy the Federation entirely. The Origin evidently presents Gihren as having architected the suffering and deaths of billions; the lingering animosities and injustices indirectly lead to the formation of the Titans and precipitate the rise of three Neo Zeon factions following the downfall of Zeon.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • I can’t believe it’s been ten months since I last wrote about The Origin, and for this post, we begin with the Zeon fleet engaging Federation forces. As the instigators, Zeon has the initiative in the One Year War’s early stages, rapidly gaining an edge over the Federation. Early space battles were characterised by long-range engagement between naval vessels. Originally, the Federation were lagging behind on their armaments and fired conventional rounds from their cannons, only upgrading to mega-particle cannons later in the war.

  • Along with the Magellan-class cruisers, The Salamis-class cruisers were the earliest space-faring vessels the Federation fielded, but by the time of the One Year War, they proved outdated: their weaker weapons and lighter armour made them ill-equipped to deal with Zeon battleships, and they were lost in great numbers. Magellan-class cruisers were better armed than the Salamis-class, but both vessels proved inadequate against mobile suits, leading the Federation to design spacecraft capable of housing their own mobile suits.

  • While audiences familiar with things like Cosmic Era and even Anno Domini would be more accustomed to seeing mobile suits equipped with directed energy weapons, Universal Century does not introduce beam weaponry until the RX-78 II. Prior to the Federation’s deployment of the first Gundam, mobile suits were essentially humanoid tanks, armed with scaled-up firearms that still proved exceptionally effective: the basic machine guns Zakus carry fire MBT-sized rounds at several hundred RPM and despite becoming ineffective later on in Gundam as technology advances, they certainly would have been sufficient to overwhelm whatever was available to the Federation when first deployed.

  • During the battles on the moon, Char himself is present, but while engaging Federation forces mid-combat, his thrusters fail to provide the propulsion that he needs. He nonetheless destroys Federation fighters engaging him before continuing with his mission. Char’s choice of red colouration is strictly a personal preference, making him immediately recognisable on the battlefield and earning him the ire of other Zeon soldiers, especially the Black Tri-Stars.

  • Zeon forces destroy the Hatte Colony Cylinder here during an operation. Colonies are fairly commonplace in the Universal Century and are separated into two categories – open colonies have windows and mirrors that allow sunlight in to mimic natural weather patterns, while close colonies were more inexpensive and could house double the number of residents. Industrial 7 in Gundam Unicorn is a closed colony. Despite their seeming fragility, the large size of colonies allow them to withstand a considerable amount of damage – colonies have a diameter of 6.4 kilometres and are typically 36 kilometres in length.

  • Ramba Ral watches as his forces assault the colony Hatte, encountering next to no resistance. He considers it a meaningless slaughter rather than war, and his experiences here shape his actions later on. While Zakus and early space-capable battleships are often presented as primitive and obsolete, enhanced by the limited animation of the late 1970s and early 1980s, the revisitation of the Universal Century with modern animation and artwork illustrate that for its time, the early weapons of both the Federation and Zeon are cutting edge.

  • Gihren Zabi is probably my least favourite of the characters for his facial features: he’s got all of the characteristics of an unlikeable 80s villain. With his exceptional brilliance and ability to sway a crowd, his resemblance to Adolf Hitler is probably deliberate, and here, he gives a speech about the need to eradicate enemies to Zeon. Having seen The Origin and read the history of the Universal Century, it is safe to attribute many of the worst events to him in some manner.

  • Amuro’s only appearance in the fifth episode of The Origin is when he and Kai Shinden, plus a couple of classmates, are caught trying to sneak into an area of Side 7 under construction. Some of the guards recognise Amuro as Tem’s son and jovially remark that if he wished to tour the area, he merely needed to ask for permission. They then proceed to beat the living daylights out of the others while Amuro looks on in disapproval.

  • When Dozle explains the plan behind Operation British, Ramba Ral has reached his limit and storms out of the meeting, feeling that war is not about maximising the enemy’s casualties. His refusal to carry out an order eventually lead the Zeons to count him a traitor, but in the fifth The Origin episode, his fate remains unknown. Dozle and the others continue the operation in his absence, mounting engines onto Island Iffish and prepare to guide it along a trajectory towards earth.

  • Inside the colony, a young man named Yūki promises to protect the inhabitants from Zeon invaders and spends his final moments with his girlfriend before she takes shelter. When Zeon introduces the nerve agent inside the colony, total casualties ensue, and Yūki himself dies slowly in the cold after expending the last of his energy trying to enter the shelter, after seeing the bodies of others caught outside. The nerve agent penetrates the interior of the shelter, killing all within, as well: officials were likely anticipating an invasion force rather than outright extermination.

  • When it becomes clear of what Zeon’s intentions with the depopulated colony are, Admiral Tianem leads the already depleted Federation fleet in a desperate bid to stop the colony from impacting with Earth. The full firepower of the remaining Federation ships are insufficient to destroy or even slow the colony, and the Federation fleet sustains further damage while trying to stop Island Iffish, engaging defending Zeon elements. It is not until the Zeons construct the first Colony Laser that there is a viable weapon of destroying objects the size of a colony all at once. The Titans would construct their own Colony Laser during the Gryps conflict, and in Gundam Unicorn, the Federation secretly commissioned the Gryps II laser.

  • One wonders if the UNSC Infinity’s CR-03 Series-8 MACs could deal enough damage to stop a colony, given an estimated yield of around 50 gigatons. The Zeon’s plan do not account for the forces of re-entry causing Island Iffish to break up in the atmosphere. While considerably less dense compared with a natural asteroid of similar dimensions, the sheer size of a colony could deal considerably damage nonetheless: the three fragments hit Australia, the Pacific Ocean and North America near Toronto, and the resulting damage from the impact, resultant cooling of the climate and seismic activity lead to immeasurable casualties.

  • Sora no Woto fans typically do not agree with my conclusion that the world’s state in the anime was caused by a human war, instead, insisting that global devastation was caused by an extraterrestrial avian species. Their theory is ill-justified and disintegrates when one asks about the species’ role on ecology and why their presence is not noticed in Sora no Woto. An event rivalling a colony drop in scale, following a protracted war, on the other hand, provides a much more plausible explanation, and the events of The Origin reinforce the idea that colony drop events can cause the sort of devastation that the folks in Sora no Woto must contend with.

  • The results of Operation British are vast Federation civilian casualties, with no damage done to Jaburo base whatsoever. Despite his insistence to continue the war, and his proclaimation that those who carried out Operation British are to be punished, Gihren offers no rebuttal when Degwin counters that responsibility of Operation British actually falls on him. I imagine that Gihren is referring to the subordinates who executed the plan, but ultimately, it would appear that for his sharp-mindedness, Gihren did not expect the colony to disintegrate during re-entry.

  • Dozle is easily the least disagreeable member of the Zabi family. Despite his bombastic nature, Dozle is surprisingly gentle. His loud rants quickly cause Mineva to wake up. He promises to make a world where children do not needlessly die in war and resolves to fight for Zeon in the hopes that a Zeon victory will allow such a dream to be realised. Mineva will later play an instrumental role in the Laplace Conflict during the events of Gundam Unicorn, and while I thoroughly enjoyed the OVAs, one of the elements that remained unaddressed is what eventually happens to Banagher, Mineva and Riddhe.

  • A doctor by this point in time, Sayla Mass is very dedicated towards her work, but when a Zeon operative reveals information to her about Casval, who’s taken the name Char Aznable by now, Sayla cannot help but be distracted from her duties. Her longing to meet Casval again does not appear to have wavered after all this time, although the rumours surrounding him lead her to wonder what he’s become since they went their separate ways following their mother’s passing.

  • Char informs his mechanic of performance limitations in his Zaku and requests that the limiter be disabled here. He later spars verbally with the Black Tri-Stars, whose animosity for him are out in the open. While they are quite hostile towards Char, perceiving him as being present to steal their glory and receiving special treatment, the events at Loum will lead them to confer upon him begrudging respect. The Zeon forces begin amassing to take Loum, realising that the Federation will certainly respond, and despite the disparity in their numerical strength, the Zeons place their wagers on mobile suits as playing an instrumental role.

  • Freshly-outfitted Federation cruisers launch from underground sites. Special booster units are seen attached to them, allowing them to overcome escape velocity, speaking to the relatively primitive state of the Federation space fleet: in later Gundam instalments such as Gundam Unicorn, warships are able to exit the Earth’s atmosphere and return to space at will. The composition of this scene brings to mind a moment in Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare where Captain Reyes takes control of the SDF Olympus Mons and sets course for Mars to exact revenge against the SDF fleet.

  • Zeon’s march to war drives their supporters to rally and clash with anti-Zeon parties, resulting in civil disturbances within the colonies as citizens become divided with respect to which side they should support. Because Loum is set to receive Federation support, Zeon’s leadership decide to eliminate Loum before the Federation can reinforce them and as such, is anticipating attack from Admiral Tianem’s forces at Loum.

  • The fifth instalment of The Origin reveals that Crowley Hamon is also an accomplished singer. After evicting agents working on Kycilia’s behalf, she performs a ballad that mirrors the increasingly grim and sorrowful mood that has gripped the Universal Century as Federation and Zeon forces continue their war. For a few moments in The Origin, the futility of war can be felt in Miyuki Sawashiro’s performance: she’s a capable singer and played Perrine H. Clostermann of Strike Witches, Masami Iwasawa in Angel Beats! and Sword Art Online‘s Shino Asada (aka. Sinon).

  • When ruffians begin attacking the nearby village in the Texas Colony and make their way to the Aznable Estate, Sayla picks up a lever-action rifle and begins firing, killing several ruffians in the process. Despite her objection to the fighting and violence between the Federation and Zeons, seeing all of the injured and wounded as being people, Sayla does not hesitate to fire on people who threaten those around her. Despite their older weapons, the residents of the Aznable Estate put up a fight and eventually manage to drive off the ruffians.

  • During the course of the night, Eduardo Mass dies from cardiac failure, likely brought on by the intensity of the combat. There’s little time to mourn his passing, as outside, the Zeon forces have engaged and destroyed the docks to a nearby colony. The surviving ruffians are consumed with fear when they realise they cannot return, only to find themselves at the hands of understandably angry residents.

  • As of late, one of my friends picked up the 1/144 System Weapons 007 revision package for the beam spear for Federation mobile suits, as well as the Sinanju’s Rocket Bazooka options. As I have an HGUC Sinanju, he gave me the parts to upgrade the Sinanju: I’ve found the Sinanju to be an excellent model all around for its detail and options, and I’ve also seen several different choices for the Rocket Bazooka. The 007 revision provides the original under-barrel attachment, as well as the means to convert the bazooka into a standalone weapon system, and even can be mounted onto the shield, allowing me to configure the Sinanju into the loadout it’s seen with in the fifth and sixth episodes of Gundam Unicorn.

  • Despite her furious resolve to survive and do what she can, Sayla’s desire to contact her brother’s fate drives much of her actions in Mobile Suit Gundam, where she later takes on a position on board White Base and becomes the backup pilot for the RX-78. She encounters him on several occasions, and later learns of his motivations to exact revenge on the Zabi family. This revelation shows that Char actually had very little interest in the Zeon cause, desiring advancement to better position himself for revenge. However, upon meeting Amuro Ray and losing Lalah Sune, Char’s quest for revenge against Amuro takes on a more personal tone.

  • The Zeon forces prepare for their attack on Tianem’s fleet, marking the opening of the Battle of Loum. One of the elements I’ve noticed in The Origin is that combat sequences are comparatively fewer relative to those of other Gundam series; The Origin places a much greater emphasis on the human elements of warfare and so, it is appropriate to be illustrating the sorts of things people experience in war. With this in mind, I’m hoping that the finale will have a bit more combat scenes, rather similar to how Gundam Unicorn was predominantly driven by stories of the people involved and presented a fantastic finale.

  • Degwin and Garma watch on as the Zeon forces begin engaging the Federation Fleet. The Origin’s animated incarnation appears to have dispensed with the Zeon’s attempts to drop a second colony onto Earth, and instead, opens with the Zeon forces engaging Tianem’s fleet as a distraction. Nuclear weapons are also absent, with all of the engagements being traditional ship-to-ship battles. When the Battle of Loum is mentioned, my mind immediately returns to the fuzzy, low-resolution image that belies the true scale and intensity of the ship-to-ship battles as seen in the high-resolution, crisp presentation in The Origin.

  • The Origin depicts the Federation as having an overwhelming edge over Zeon forces, and here, Tianem remarks on the necessity of stamping out Zeon as his forces decimate Dozle’s fleet. Both Zeon and the Federation have access to mega-particle cannons, which are explained to result from the fusion of Minovsky Particles in a high energy-environment. When properly contained by an I-field and propelled in a certain direction; compared to other directed-energy weapons, the mega-particles are much more powerful for their size, but the generators to compress and fuse Minovsky particles are themselves massive, being only appropriate for deployment on capital ship-sized platforms.

  • The RX-78 II was thus revolutionary for making effective use of an innovation called the E-cap. An energy capacitor, the E-cap holds Minovsky particles and fuse them to generate a mega-particle beam capable of destroying a mobile suit in a single shot, as Amuro discovers when sortieing in the RX-78 II for the first time. Because the high energy resulting from a beam rifle cannot be deflected by anti-beam coatings, mobile suits would come to rely on speed and I-fields to avoid destruction. Federation Mobile Suits adopted beam technology more quickly than their Zeon counterparts, although Zeon eventually catches up.

  • Char prepares for sortie in his distinct red Zaku. To reach the Federation fleet, he pushes the engines to their absolute limits, ignoring the system’s warning and gaining a lock before Federation vessels can detect and engage him with their CIWS. Subtle details in the thruster outputs, the keystrokes Char uses to disengage the limiters and warning indicators even as his targeting computer marks out Federation vessels made this scene particularly enjoyable to watch. With the hitherto unmatched power of a mobile suit, Char feels as though even God himself ought to bow down to him: for his exceptional skill as a pilot, Char is also unabashedly confident in his own ability.

  • It is here at Loum that Char becomes known as the Red Comet, and with this final screenshot, my talk on The Origin‘s fifth episode draws to a close. Superbly enjoyable to watch, I’ve found The Origin to be an excellent interpretation of the Universal Century, perfect for folks who enjoyed Gundam Unicorn and general fans of the Universal Century in providing a modernised, detailed view of Char’s story and the rise of Zeon. I note that this movie’s been around since September 2, but things have been busy, and I’ve only recently had the chance to really sit down and write about it. The conclusion of this post means that we’re very nearly done The Origin, which will close with the sixth episode, “The Rise of the Red Comet” in the upcoming May.

With the next and final chapter of The Origin releasing in May 2018, there remains a ways to go yet before we see the conclusion of The Origin, which deals with Char and his ascendancy in Zeon as the ace pilot. I’ve longed to see the Battle of Loum with modern animation, and the fifth instalment of The Origin does just this, showcasing the One Year War’s most infamous battles in fantastic detail. From the technical aspects of Zeon’s Musai-class compared against the Federation’s Salamis and Magellan-class vessels, to Char’s requests for removing the limiters on his Zaku and participation in some of the battles, The Origin continues in following the development of the hardware involved in fighting the wars, as well as the people fighting them. Of note was Ramba Ral’s refusal to participate in Operation British, reflecting that while the Zeons were undoubtedly an antagonistic entity, there remained at least a handful of reasonable individuals in Zeon. Ramba Ral’s role in The Origin differs greatly from what it was in the original Mobile Suit Gundam, where he was intended to represent an ordinary but devoted soldier whose death came about from the tragedy of conflict. The Origin takes numerous liberties with the narrative, but so far, things have remained consistent: ultimately, I am quite excited to see what the last chapter of The Origin will entail, and it would be most pleasant if Amuro Ray and the RX-78 II makes a combat appearance in the finale to fight Char and his Zaku II Custom.

Star Wars Battlefront II: A Reflection of Starfighter Assault and Space Gameplay in the Open Beta

“It’s no good, I can’t manoeuvre!”
“Stay on target.”
“We’re too close!”
“Stay on target!”
“Loosen up!”

–Gold Leader and Gold Five, Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope

If I had been active as a blogger back during the early 2000s, Star Wars Rogue Squadron II: Rogue Leader would certainly have been featured as a game I would write about. Featuring ten single player missions and several bonus missions spanning the original triology, Rogue Leader boasted some of the most sophisticated visual and gameplay effects that could be run on the Nintendo GameCube, allowing players to relive the most famous moments in Star Wars. From the first attack on the Death Star to the Battle of Hoth and the Rebel Alliance’s final attack on the Emperor’s Death Star II, the game’s technical sophistication and enjoyment factor led many critics to remark that this game alone was worth buying the GameCube for, and indeed, even fifteen years after its launch, only Pandemic’s Star Wars: Battlefront II in 2005 can even hold a candle to Rouge Leader. However, this year’s reinterpretation of Battlefront II comes the closest to bringing back the sort of magic that was available in Rogue Leader, for in Battlefront II, there is the Starfighter Assault game mode that pits players against one another in beautifully written space battles. In the Battlefront II open beta, players are assigned to the Rebel Alliance or Galactic Empire over the shipyards of Fondor. In a multi-stage battle reminiscent of the Rush and Operations game modes of Battlefield, Imperial pilots must deplete the Rebels of reinforcement tickets and defend a Star Destroyer in dry dock, while the Rebels aim to take down the Star Destroyer. Players get their pick of three different classes of starships: the balanced all-rounder fighter, high-speed dogfighter interceptors and the slower but durable bombers, each of which can be customised with star cards to fit a player’s style.

The epic scale of ship-to-ship combat in Starfighter Assault is quite unlike the infantry-focused Galactic Conquest: the space battles of Battlefront II were developed by Criterion, of Burnout and Need For Speed fame. I jumped into a game and attempted to steer my X-Wing with my mouse, but promptly crashed. After switching over to the keyboard, I began learning my way around the controls, and within minutes, was pursing Imperial TIE fighters and firing on objectives. Unlike Battlefront, where starships had the manoeuvrability of a refrigerator, the controls in Battlefront II are responsive and crisp. As I became more familiar with the ships available, I began climbing scoreboards, shooting down more enemy starships and playing objectives more efficiently. The sheer scope of Starfighter Assault and the easy-to-pick-up-but-difficult-to-master design of this game mode makes it incredibly fun and with nearly unlimited replay value. While playing the Imperials, I focused on shooting down Rebel ships, and as a Rebel, there was the challenge of finishing the objectives without being shot down. Regardless of which team I played for, there was always a great satisfaction in landing killing shots on enemy starfighters and going on kill-streaks that I never was able to manage in Galactic Assault. It got to the point where I improved sufficiently to have the chance of making use of three of the four Hero ships. Automatically locking onto an enemy starfighter à la Battlefront is gone – aiming and leading shots is entirely a skill-based endeavour now, and while Criterion provides a helpful reticule to assist in aiming, it ultimately falls on players to learn how to best move their ships around. These elements come together to provide a game mode that is exceptionally entertaining to play, rewarding skill and encouraging new-time players to try their hand at flying.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • Shortly after spawning into my first Starfighter Assault match, I started to use the mouse and promptly crashed into the radar dish; there’s no option to reset or centre the reticule, so if the mouse is moved slightly, it causes the vehicle to drift in one direction. Once I left the mouse alone and began flying with the keyboard, the controls became much more simple to use. Unlike Battlefront, where vehicular handling as as stiff as molasses, the controls of Battlefront II are much smoother. It took a grand total of ten minutes to become accustomed to the system.

  • There are plenty of AI-controlled fighters flying around the map so that players have no shortage of things to shoot at, and here, a seismic charge from the Slave I goes off. They were first seen in Attack of the Clone and create a devastating shockwave that can punch through asteroids. The weapon is fantastic against starfighers, and edges out Battlefront‘s thermal imploders for having the coolest sound in Star Wars; the silence and delay before the full weight of the bass creates one of the most interesting sound effects ever engineered.

  • With their powerful blasters and high durability, bombers are balanced by their lower speeds and manoeuvrability, as well as for the fact that they require more reinforcement tickets in order to spawn into if one is playing as a Rebel. The TIE Bomber makes its first appearance in a modern Star Wars game and I use it to great effect; they’re most useful against the Blockade Runners that appear to reinforce Rebel fighters, but can most certainly hold their own against X-Wings and A-Wings.

  • TIE Bombers were first seen in The Empire Strikes Back, seen dropping proton bombs on the asteroid where the Millennium Falcon was concealed. Players do not have access to the proton bombs for assaulting ground targets, but bombers get access to dual proton torpedoes and missiles. While they have a guidance system that can lock onto enemy ships, secondary weapons can be fired dumb by double-tapping on the button, making it possible to rapidly use them against slow moving or stationary targets.

  • The Rebellion’s workhorse bomber, Y-Wings have been in operation since the Clone Wars, being acquired by the Rebel Alliance before the Empire could scrap or decommission them. The last time I flew a Y-Wing was in Rogue Leader during the “Prisoners of the Maw” mission. In Rogue Leader, the Y-Wing is equipped with proton bombs rather than guided torpedoes, and the ion cannons were forward-facing, only affecting targets in front of the Y-Wing. In Battlefront II, they’re fun to fly, but the cost of spawning in makes it imperative that one focuses on objectives rather than dogfights.

  • TIE Fighters reflect on the Empire’s adherence to Soviet military doctrine: they are inexpensive to produce and the engines are incredibly effective despite their simple design. Lacking shields, a hyperdrive, life-support systems and landing gear, TIE Fighters are incredibly lightweight, and in Star Wars, are shown to be quite fragile compared to Alliance starfighters. However, the TIE Fighters of Battlefront II have a bit more durability and can fire proton torpedoes, making them remarkably fun to fly. TIE Fighters are equipped a laser barrage function that allows the cannons to be fired rapidly to deliver a blistering hail of blaster fire.

  • The Slave I requires only 2500 battlepoints to unlock; it is armed to the teeth, as all of its abilities are offensively driven: besides a concussion missile and seismic charges, it also has access to ion cannons, which slow down enemy ships. Somewhat hard to manoeuvre, it is nonetheless quite durable, and here, I managed to get a kill using the seismic charges. The blast wave is not visible, as I’ve flown from it, but the effects are clear.

  • Light and agile, the A-Wing is the fastest starfighter available to the Rebel Alliance. It is capable of extreme speed, can maintain unbreakable locks onto enemies and is armed with concussion missiles as its secondary armament. I ended up playing the interceptor class far more than I’d expected: the speed of the A-Wing and its Imperial counterpart, the TIE Interceptor, make them incredibly effective in dogfights. Overall, each of the classes have their own merits and are fun to play: they’re versatile to be used in every role, but their abilities and unique strengths allow them to excel at particular tasks.

  • X-Wings gain access to an astromech droid for providing repairs and the power to fire all four laser cannons at once in addition to the standard proton torpedoes that Luke used to destroy the first Death Star in A New HopeBattlefront II brings back the fun I’ve had flying X-Wings in Rogue Leader: for their general all-round performance, I would choose the X-Wing as my preferred starfighter in the game.

  • The visual effects above Fondor are absolutely stunning: space battles haven’t been this immersive since the days of Rogue Leader, and with the Frostbite Engine driving Battlefront II, I find myself wishing for a remastered version of Rogue Leader more than ever. Criterion has done a fantastic job with Starfighter Assault, and looking at the other maps available, it appears that rather than re-living the most famous moments of Star Wars, players will be treated to campaigns set around familiar locations for other Starfighter Assault modes.

  • The battle around Endor will be set in the ruins of the Second Death Star, and players will have a chance to fly Republic and Separatist starfighters in battles set during the Clone Wars. As well, the skirmishes between the First Order and Resistance will also be available in Battlefront II. One of the things I’m hoping to see in Battlefront II will be the appearance of Darth Vader’s TIE/x1, whose innovative designs would lead to the development of the TIE Interceptor and TIE Bomber. One cool feature from Vader’s TIE/x1 would be the inclusion of cluster missiles seen in Rogue Leader, which can lock onto and attack multiple targets.

  • The second phase of Starfighter Assault over Fondor involves Rebel ships attempting to drop the shield generator around the Star Destroyer. Rebel players must fly into a narrow passage way where the generators are held and bombard them. Imperial forces have a simple task: prevent the Rebels from getting into this corridor and damaging the equipment. In the close quarters, I’ve had considerable fun locking onto Rebel ships and, in a manner reminiscent of A New Hope‘s trench run, blowing said Rebel ships away with the TIE Fighter.

  • It suddenly strikes me that I don’t get very much time off elsewhere in the year, making me very appreciative of the extended break. The long weekends also allows me to enjoy a quieter day at home: I spent the morning drafting this talk and reading about overflights in the Cold War, before settling down to a home-made burger with lettuce, tomato, pickles and cheese, along with freshly-made oven fries. Unlike last time, we were more careful with the cooking process, so the whole of the upstairs does not smell like grilled burger. By afternoon, the weather remained acceptable, if somewhat windy, so I spent it hanging out with a friend. After enjoying some cheesecake when I concluded the walk, I continued with my quest to get all the intel in Modern Warfare Remastered.

  • Dinner tonight was a tender and juicy prime rib au jus with mashed potatoes. The pleasant smell of prime rib persisted into the evening, which saw the Calgary Flames best the Anaheim Ducks 2-0 at the Honda Center, bringing a 25-losing streak on their ice to an end. Earlier today, in speaking with a friend, we’ve now set aside some tentative plans to watch The Last Jedi: a new trailer has come out, and I’m rather curious to see what the film will entail, for Rey, who will begin training with Luke, and also for Kylo Ren. At this blog, I don’t usually talk about Star Wars, but it shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that I’ve got passable knowledge of Star Wars lore. I’m quite fond of the films even if the dialogue can be a little poor (especially in the prequel trilogy, where it was downright atrocious) and if the narratives are a bit thin: the scope and scale of the special effects are always fun to watch.

  • While they never co-existed, having disappeared while being transferred to the Jedi Council for investigation, Darth Maul’s Scimitar is included at Fondor. Its most novel ability is being able to cloak and conceal itself from all enemies: I recall shooting at a player with the Scimitar, only for them to disappear. When reappearing, its blaster cannons gain a boost in power. In the thirty seconds I flew it (the match ended shortly after with a Rebel victory), I did not make use of its abilities to shoot down any players. However, the fact that I was becoming sufficiently proficient in Starfighter Assault to acquire the top-tier Hero ships shows that the game mode had been very immersive.

  • This was probably one of the best runs I had in Starfighter Assault: after spawning in as a Y-Wing and going on a seven-kill streak, on top of helping damage the Imperial Cruisers and equipment, I amassed an obscene number of battle points. I was blown out of the sky shortly after but had accumulated enough battle points to spawn in as the legendary Millennium Falcon, Han Solo’s signature ship throughout Star Wars.

  • Being Han Solo’s highly modified freighter, the Millennium Falcon is one of the most recognisable ships from Star Wars that goes on to play a major role in helping the Rebel Alliance toppling the Empire. Besides an afterburner that proved fantastic for escaping pursuing fighters and concussion missiles, the Millennium Falcon’s other ability is called “special modifications”, which temporarily boosts weapon damage and reduces overheating. Incredibly durable and agile for its size, the main disadvantage about the Millennium Falcon is that its large profile makes it a highly visible target on the battlefield.

  • One of my favourite features about the Millennium Falcon is not its combat performance, but for the simple fact that after some kills, Han Solo will say something amusing, reflective of his hot-headed, confident personality. The planet and its shipyards were first introduced in a novel for the Extended Universe and accepted as cannon with the 2015 novel Tarkin, although the name Fondor is, amusingly enough, also a brand of German vegetable seasoning.

  • Late was the hour when I managed to spawn into Poe Dameron’s Black One, a T-70 X-Wing that acts as the successor to the T-65B that the Rebel Alliance operated. Requiring more battle points than the Millennium Falcon, I had not intended to fly this, only doing so when I realised I had enough battle points to do so and because the Millennium Falcon had already been taken. Only a few minutes remained in the match, but I made use of Poe’s X-Wing to score a few kills on other players before the game ended. Similar to the standard X-Wing, players can instantly repair with BB-8, and mirroring the T-70’s upgraded weapons, Black One has access to dual torpedoes. There’s also a Black Leader ability, but I never looked into what it does.

  • The Battlefront II open beta ended this morning: it’s a quiet Thanksgiving Monday, and while it would’ve been nice to play a few more rounds of Starfighter Assault, I ended the beta off on a high note: I’ve flown all of the Hero ships in this game mode to some extent. With the open beta now over, regular programming resumes, much as it did two years ago: there’s no GochiUsa to write about, but there is Gundam Origin‘s fifth instalment, which I greatly enjoyed. We’re also a entering the fall anime season now: with Yūki Yūna is a Hero‘s Hero Chapter airing in mid-November, the only shows I really have on my radar for the presernt are Wake Up, Girls! Shin Shou and Shoujo Shuumatsu Ryokou. I also should write about the Call of Duty: WWII open beta, which, I should note, was note quite as enjoyable as the Battlefront II beta.

The words “pure fun” are the most suitable for describing the Starfighter Assault game mode of Battlefront II: the mode feels a great deal as though Criterion applied the lessons learned from Rogue Leader. The game modes are well-structured into distinct phases, but seamlessly woven together. Instead of purely AI opponents, players now have a chance to engage one another, adding a new degree of challenge; gone are enemy fighters that can be shot down, replaced with superior AIs and human opponents, the ultimate challengers. Because players can be assigned to different sides of the story, there is a fantastic opportunity to explore “what-if” scenarios. While I don’t think any of the most iconic missions from the trilogy or prequel appear in the full Starfighter Assault, the concept has proven remarkably fun in the open beta, coming the closest since 2005’s Battlefront II to re-creating the experience that players experienced in Rogue Leader. Coupled with authentic aural and visual elements from Star Wars, Starfighter Assault has proven to be the remastered experience of Rogue Leader that I’ve been longing to experience again since the days when I played the game on a GameCube: I am greatly looking forwards to seeing how the other maps play out, and through the open beta, it is evident that Battlefront II has made a serious effort to bring a critical component of Star Wars into the modern age. If the version we’ve seen in the open beta is an accurate representation of how the game mode will handle in the full game, this is a very compelling reason for buying this game closer to the Christmas season, when the spirit of Star Wars will be in full swing as Episode VIII: The Last Jedi premieres in theatres.

Star Wars Battlefront II: A Reflection of Galactic Assault and Infantry Gameplay in the Open Beta

“Roger roger” –Any B1 Battle Droid, Star Wars

Compared to its predecessor, Star Wars Battlefront II is said to feature substantially more maps, weapons, vehicles and a more involved progression system. In addition, Battlefront II also revisits the Clone Wars in addition to the Galactic Civil War and the latest conflicts between the Resistance and First Order. Having caught my eye back in June, the open beta became available during the Canadian Thanksgiving Long Weekend, and I’ve put in some hours into the game’s available modes during the beta. The first of this is arcade, a simple primer into the game mechanics. I subsequently jumped into the incredibly entertaining Starfighter Assault, before switching over to the two available infantry-focussed game modes, Strike, and Galatic Assault. Strike is similar to Halo’s Bomb mode, which pits two teams against one another; one team must grab an objective and carry it to a destination, while the other team must stop them. Galatic Assault is a variation of Battlefront’s Walker Assault mode: two teams slug it out in a larger, objective-based game mode. In the open beta, the Republic clones fight the Separatist droid armies. The latter are aiming to capture Theed Palace on Naboo to force Amidala to sign another trade agreement, while the Republic must stop the MTT from reaching the palace, and failing this, drive off waves of battle droids. Like its predecessor, Battlefront II possesses a different set of mechanics compared to the shooters I’m familiar with. Blasters do not handle as projectile weapons do, and their low damage results in a longer time-to-kill (TTK) than I’d like – players can duck behind cover once I open fire on them to regenerate their health, and overall, getting kills in Battlefront II feels more difficult than it did in Battlefront for folks starting out: I’ve heard that star cards can boost one’s ability to score kills immensely, but I’ve never been too fond of the system.

Looking past the difficulties I’ve had in scoring kills, Galactic Assault turned out to be much more enjoyable once I understood that kills do not seem to matter in Battlefront II compared to other shooters. In the open beta, Battlefront II certainly seems to be emphasising team play over kills, and it seems that kills are less relevant compared to helping one’s team out. In the scoreboard, the number of deaths a player accumulates over the course of a match are not shown. Assists count for as many points as kills, and the simple act of spotting can yield a large number of points, as is playing objectives. Thus, with this knowledge, I took to the specialist class regardless of which team I was with. Armed with a longer range DMR and a pair of macro-binoculars capable of revealing enemies even through physical obstructions, I settled into a pattern of starting Galactic Assault matches with the specialist class, spotting enemies for my team and picking off the occasional foes from a distance. Once the MTT reaches the Theed Palace, I would switch over to the heavy class, which is equipped with a repeating blaster that is excellent for close quarters engagements, doing my best to either push onto the capture point in the throne room (as a Separatist) or defending the throne room from the droids (as a Clone). By sticking close to my teammates and playing objectives, Battlefront II becomes significantly more fun: towards the end of the beta, I was doing much better, but I find that matches always seem to end too quickly before I can spawn in as a hero. The Strike game mode is oriented around closer-range combat, and I’ve found it modestly enjoyable, similar to drop zone in Battlefront II‘s predecessor, although the mode seems to favour the Resistance: I’ve never lost while playing the Resistance, and I’ve never won as the First Order.

Screenshots and Commentary

  • My immediate impressions of Battlefront II are that it runs surprisingly smooth: I did not configure my game and used the automatic settings, which set everything to the “ultra” preset. Even with everything on full, the game ran at around 80 FPS: considering that my machine’s four and a half years old now, this certainly isn’t bad. Like my original experience with the beta, the first few hours in the game were met with a bit of a learning curve, as I was trying to figure out the game and scoring mechanics.

  • The specialist class is Battlefront II‘s counterpart to Battlefield 1‘s scout class, equipping a semi-automatic marksman rifle and being able to spot enemies with macrobinoculars that can see through walls. These long range weapons are the only viable weapons for engagements beyond 50 metres, and Battlefront II definitely does not reward long range precision shooting over playing the objective with respect to how points can be earned.

  • On the other hand, assists are worth as much as kills, so throughout my time in the Battlefront II beta, I got numerous points for damaging an enemy that was subsequently finished off by a teammate. Battlefront II takes the “Assist counts as kill” mechanic and goes one step further: kills don’t seem to matter as much, and I recall an instance where I got 1200 points simply by helping clear one of the control rooms and then proceeding to unlock the palace doors. I got maybe one kill from it: the grenade I threw slightly damaged the players inside. Here, I sit inside the composite laser turret of the LAAT/i gunship and managed a lucky kill on someone down below: the weapon’s surprisingly challenging to use owing to the laser’s pinpoint precision.

  • I’ve long wished to fly a Naboo Starfighter in a game that isn’t the Nintendo 64 incarnation of Rogue Squadron: after taking to the skies above Theed, I saw an enemy fighter and spent a good three minutes dog-fighting with them before taking them down. The MTT reached the palace shortly after, and the game kicked me out of the Naboo Starfighter elegantly, re-spawning me as a heavy class driod.

  • I’m not sure what the powerful medium range weapon that specialist classes can equip while using infiltration mode is called, but it is quite capable of close range engagements, offering specialists a fighting chance at ranges where faster-firing blasters dominate. The only class that I did not make use of extensively was the officer class: armed with a blaster pistol and able to buff players, it’s a style of play that I’ll need more time than the open beta has available to become familiar with.

  • While providing an infinitely smoother and more enjoyable experience than the Call of Duty: WWII open beta, there are still a handful of UI issues that linger in Battlefront II. The first is that the score feed sometimes displays that I’ve killed a player twice even though I know there was only one target to shoot at, and secondly, the heat metre can sometimes persist after death and not accurately reflect the weapon’s state. Beyond these two minor issues, Battlefront II‘s open beta has been silky smooth to get into.

  • The heavy class gains access to repeating blasters (Star Wars terminology for “automatic weapon”), which are fantastic for clearing out rooms and dealing out a large amount of damage quickly. Accompanying their base loadout is an impact grenade, a turret mode that exchanges mobility for firepower, and a front-facing shield that can absorb incoming fire. It’s the perfect choice for close-quarters combat inside the palace, and the heavy class is surprisingly effective even outside the palace.

  • Here, I manage to shoot a clone trooper off the AT-RT he was piloting to bring his killstreak to an end. The Battle Point system in Battlefront II is a straight upgrade from the battle pick-ups of Battlefront by removing the random chance of finding a power up on the battlefield. Instead, playing the objectives and skill is how to get to the upgraded abilities. However, my gripe with the new system is that matches do not always last long enough for players of decent skill to get to the hero unlocks before the game ends.

  • Over Theed, the amount of detail in the cityscape is incredible, and if this is how Theed looks, I am very excited to see how the rest of the maps look: besides Naboo, Battlefront II will feature Kamino, Takodana, Yavin IV, Kashyyyk, Starkiller Base and even the Second Death Star. Returning from Battlefront are Tatooine, Endor, Hoth and Jakku. I wager that Bespin, Geonosis, Utapau and Mustafar could also come with the DLC.

  • While great for laying down destruction against the MTT and strafing infantry, air vehicles in Battlefront II move a bit too quickly to be effective in a close-air support role. It would make sense to lower the minimum speed for some starfighters to make them slightly more effective for an anti-ground role; care must be taken here to ensure that they do not become too effective, otherwise, game balance would evaporate.

  • The Strike game mode is set on Takodana in and around Maz’s castle, which was destroyed during the events of The Force Awakens. However, I’ve never been able to replicate the First Order victory in this game mode: every game I’ve played with the Resistance, I won. Here, I’m equipped with a faster-firing blaster for the assault class, which has access to a thermal detonator, shotgun and a tracer dart gun. While Battlefront II has proven enjoyable, I sorely miss Battlefront‘s thermal imploder, which has one of the coolest sounds of anything in the Star Wars universe, second only to the Slave I’s seismic charges.

  • I soon jumped over to the specialist class when it became apparent that First Order soldiers would always be coming from the woods and so, I could sit back a distance and put down pot shots. Strike is an infantry-only game mode, and battle points go towards unlocking more powerful infantry units, rather than heroes of vehicles. Like Naboo, Takodana is beautifully rendered. While fun from the Resistance perspective, Strike has been less than amusing when I’ve played as the First Order, whose white armour causes them to stand out from the forest, and whose spawns leave them open to attack from the Resistance.

  • Scope glint is still very much a thing in Battlefront II, helping players quickly ascertain the presence of an enemy sniper and duck for cover. In the long, open spaces in Theed, the specialist class is a great way to open things, allowing one to spot other players and put them on the mini-map. Overall, I’m not too fond of the way the mini-map in Battlefront II works: it highlights the general direction an enemy is in if they fire or sprint, requiring a specialist to manually spot opponents. One of the things that I succumbed to frequently in this beta and the Call of Duty: WWII beta was accidentally mashing “Q” trying to spot enemies.

  • Most players will suggest playing in third person mode, as it offers a bit of a tactical advantage with respect to spatial awareness and in allowing one to peek their corners. For the purposes of discussion, I’ve chosen to stay in first person so that the weapon models can be seen. Iconic weapons, from the Battle Droids’ E-5 blaster, to the Clone Trooper’s DC-15 series, appear in the beta, and one must marvel at the detail placed into rendering them.

  • Frustrations gave way to fun once I slowly began learning Battlefront II‘s mechanics, and what was originally an “unlikely to buy” verdict turned into a “I’ll buy it if there is plenty of content available at launch”. Looking back, I similarly had a bit of a learning curve going into Battlefront‘s beta back in 2015, and it was only after I unlocked the repeating blaster that the gameplay changed. Battlefront II is a bit more skill-based than its predecessor, and after some eight hours with the beta, I’m a bit more comfortable with all of the functions and controls.

  • The MTT assault on Theed is only one of the galactic conquest game modes, and one of the things I’, most curious to see is if iconic battles from the original trilogy and prequels made it into Battlefront II: while Battlefront was stymied by limited content and a low skill ceiling, walker assault proved to be immensely fun, allowing players to re-live the most famous battles of Star Wars in an environment that was of the same scale as those seen in the Battlefield franchise.

  • The only thing left on the schedule for tonight is chocolate cheesecake, and Thanksgiving Monday will afford me with a rare opportunity to sleep in. The Battlefront II beta ends tomorrow morning, which marks a return to Far Cry 4. For Thanksgiving this year, I give thanks for great food and family, warmth, and the fact that there is good in the world worth preserving. Things do look quite grim, but it is my aim to work my hardest and contribute in what manner that I can to things that are for our benefit.

  • With a bit more familiarity in the game, I switched over to the assault class and performed moderately well during one of my last matches, earning enough battle points to unlock Darth Maul. The match ended before I could spawn in, however, and one of the things I’ve noticed while taking on Hero classes is that they’re noticeably weaker than they were in Battlefront. In the close quarters frenzy of Theed Palace, I’ve encountered both Darth Maul and Rey before. In a blind panic, I opened fire on them along with my teammates, and they promptly died before they could retaliate: their lightsabers are no longer one-hit-kills.

  • I feel that the Heroes should have at least fifty percent more health, but the health should not regenerate, and the Heroes with lightsabers should be able to one-shot opponents since they are entering melee range (whereas Heroes like Boba Fett and Han Solo can stay back to engage in ranged combat). Overall, the Battlefront II beta’s infantry combat isn’t terribly difficult to learn, and there are some fantastic set-pieces. I look forwards to seeing what the full game will entail, and wrap up by remarking that the other game mode, Starfighter Assault, was so exhilarating that I’ve got a separate post on it.

The infantry gameplay in Battlefront II is above average on the whole: movement is quite smooth, and I’ve had fun playing in both third and first person mode, but the long time to kill and dependence on abilities over steady aim means that Battlefront II is ultimately less about good shooting and more about who can best manage their abilities, using them effectively during the right times to turn the tide of battle in their team’s favour. The larger maps and spawn system also can make getting back into combat after death a frustrating experience: one can go for long periods without seeing anyone, then die unexpectedly and be sent back to a far corner of the map, resulting in yet another long walk into things. With this in mind, the walk certainly is a visually impressive one: the graphics in Theed, from the large piles of leaves blowing about, to the fantastic architecture and colours, are breathtaking. On several occasions, I’ve wasted some of my battle points spawning in as a fighter for the sole purpose of flying over Theed just to admire the cityscape. One thing is for sure about Battlefront II: it captures the sights and sounds of Star Wars as effectively as its predecessor did. While an absolute audio-visual treat, perhaps even more so than 2015’s Battlefront, the multiplayer infantry gameplay seen so far, while entertaining, alone does not inspire a purchase of Battlefront II at launch price. However, it is still early to be making a decision – we’ve not seen some of the other modes available yet. In addition, the beta does not provide a chance to try out the campaign or single-player arcade modes; if these turn out to drive replayability to a reasonable extent, Battlefront II could very well be worth the price of admissions at launch.