“Real luxury is customisation.” –Lapo Elkann
DICE’s latest addition to the Battlefield franchise brings with it many new changes; despite a rocky marketting campaign and launch, Battlefield V handles much more smoothly than its predecessor, bringing with it a host of modifications that were intended to emphasise skill and team play even more so than previous Battlefield games, alongside major visual improvements. Now that Battlefield V is launched, and following my purchase of the title, I have a more solid understanding for what works and what requires reconsideration in Battlefield V. Like Battlefield 1, which took me some time to get used to, Battlefield V offers enough of a change to mechanics so that getting used to weapon handling, map layouts and other nuances so that it will take a bit of commitment to get used to the way things work here. The current state of Battlefield V is such that this is both a positive and a negative; on one hand, with eight maps at launch and a comparatively small selection of weapons, jumping in and getting familiar with everything won’t be a challenge, but on the other hand, this does not leave for much variety once one begins unlocking everything. The limited content is a consequence of the Tides of War system that replaces the Battlefield Premium system, providing continuous support and updates for the game during its lifespan, free of charge, to all players. Over time, Battlefield V will have more maps, more weapons and more options for players, along with bug fixes, that will almost certainly see the game improve, and given how DICE continuously improved previous Battlefield titles, it is no surprise that Battlefield V will see the same treatment. Some mechanics are fairly quick to acclimatise with, such as the attrition system, which has been balanced now to encourage team members to help one another out, without restricting players to one firefight, or weapon characteristics, which are much more consistent. Others are indicative of poor design choices: my biggest gripe about Battlefield V is enemy visibility, which has encouraged the practise of camping. Being killed by enemies concealed in foliage or masquerading as a downed player is immeasurably frustrating, detracting from the skill aspect (anyone can stay in one spot and rack up kills at the expense of helping their team out), although as with Battlefield 1, I expect that with time, acclimatisation and possible updates could mitigate this.
Battlefield V has its frustrating moments because enemies are near-impossible to see, but when things connect, there are also plenty of Only in Battlefield™ moments, as well. Successfully completing a flank and blasting unaware opponents, spawning onto a beacon on a contested capture point to surprise enemies or landing headshots from a distance are immensely satisfying, offering a hint of what can be accomplished with improving skill and knowledge. The weapons feel heftier than they did in Battlefield 1, and watching shots connect is rewarding. More rewarding is when one joins and contributes to a good squad: reviving and being revived by squad-mates is immensely fun, as is constantly throwing around ammunition and receiving ammunition from squad-mates. The scout class also gains access to a spotting scope that can pick out concealed enemies and make them stick out. Sniping is also incredibly satisfying, even more so than in Battlefield 1, since the bolt-action rifles have been made more difficult to wield. For the most part, my best games involve me playing the objectives in a much more defensive approach with teammates, steering clear of open areas and waiting for the team to make a push before advancing. Battlefield V also marks the return of a meaningful progression system, providing incentive to use every class, weapon and vehicle available. Levelling up confers different benefits, including new equipment and weapons, specialisations that impact the weapon’s performance, and access to cosmetics. More unlocks will be provided with the Tides of War updates over time, so the relative lack of content now will be rectified as the game matures. While the mechanics are largely solid, especially surrounding the gunplay and progression, Battlefield V still has quite a ways to go yet before it is as smooth and polished as Battlefield 1 – Battlefield V is still very early in its life and therefore, the game is likely to receive many changes over the course of the next two years.
Screenshots and Commentary
- After picking up Battlefield V, I skipped over the campaign and immediately dropped into a match of conquest. Fjell 652 was the first map I got, and is said to be Battlefield V‘s Argonne Forest. While an uninspired map, its focus on infantry gameplay and the occasional aircraft gives the map a cleaner feel than Argonne Forest. I scored my first kill with the Sturmgewehr 1-5 (Volkssturmgewehr) here: the base weapons available to each class are useful and effective, and we would go on to win this match.
- I’ve never been much of a pilot, and so, it is unlikely that I will have the chance to unlock more of the specialisations for aircraft, but in the few moments where I have hopped behind the driver’s seat of an aircraft, I’ve found that planes in Battlefield V handle very well. With beginner’s luck in my corner, I flew behind a bomber and destroyed it for my first double kill of Battlefield V proper. Flying can be fun, although because of my preference for other modes of combat, I’m generally not too effective when in the air.
- The V-1 Rocket (and its Allied counterpart, the American JB-2) are the most powerful reinforcements available to players in Battlefield V: they are accessed by carrying out squad activities and provide support to a squad. The airstrike option is most reminiscent of the kill-streaks of Call of Duty, but in Battlefield V, must be earned through team play. Reinforcements come in several forms, and for the most part, squad leaders tend to save their points up for airstrikes. A successful airstrike is immensely satisfying, and have the effect of clearing out capture points for a squad to then take.
- Having played Sinai Desert to death during Battlefield 1‘s beta, I was never particularly fond of the other desert maps in Battlefield 1: Fao Fortress and Suez were dreary, dull-looking maps. By comparison, Battlefield V‘s Hamada is beautiful, offering ruins and foliage, gullies and ravines to fight in. Set during the day, the map is very bright, and its open spaces make longer range weapons useful. It’d be a great map save for using the conquest assault mode: other game types on this map are generally enjoyable. Back in the alpha and beta, the Gewehr 43 was one of my favourite weapons for its precision: it’s since been balanced to have more spread if fired repeatedly, but at range, it remains effective.
- Because random bullet deviation (alternatively known as “Kantai Collection-style random chance and luck”) is gone from Battlefield V, the assault rifles can be made to reach out quite far and still remain accurate if one tap fires. One of my challenges now is to dispense with the Battlefield 1 mindset of emptying magazines at enemies, and return to making short, controlled bursts to hit enemies from a distance, a technique that was superbly effective in Battlefield 4.
- From an aesthetic standpoint, Devastation is extremely well done, capturing the feel of a completely ruined urban environment. With burning buildings, charred brick walls and the twisted skeleton of steel structures, Devastation’s layout is similar to that of Tsaritsyn. The dark environments and clutter convey a sense of ruin, but also makes it incredibly difficult to see enemies clearly. On the plus side, there are not unskilled players spamming gas grenades every other moment; excessive use of explosives have been dramatically lessened compared to Battlefield 1.
- The medic class in Battlefield V has seen some improvement, but a bit of a downgrade from its Battlefield 1 equivalent: medics are now more valuable because they can provide allied players with a single use health kit for restoring their health fully. Players can no longer fully regenerate their health after sustaining damage and must use health kits to do so, forcing them to either find a medical crate or ask friendlies to toss them health kits. This is the medic’s real utility, besides being able to revive allied players quickly. With their medical syringe being equipped separately, medics can also equip different gadgets, but these have been underwhelming so far.
- In Battlefield 1, the AT Rocket Gun was a well-balanced anti-tank weapon: dealing good damage to armour while forcing players to use their bipods and compensate for a slow projectile speed, it took skill and teamwork to use these in concert to destroy armour. The Panzerfaust, on the other hand, can destroy vehicles with too much ease. Two players can quickly ruin even the Tiger I, and the Panzer IV can be destroyed by a single player: if Girls und Panzer worked the same way as Battlefield V presently, a squad of three players (two assault and one support) could solo the whole of Black Forest.
- When the opportunity arises, I’ve largely used the Panzer IV in an anti-infantry role: having come to enjoy how machine guns for tanks operated in Battlefield 1 worked, I took a similar approach to Battlefield V and found a moderate degree of success: compared to their performance in the beta, the machine guns no longer spray out tracers and have a slower firing sound, allowing one to lead shots better without wasting excessive ammunition. The main cannons on tanks, on the other hand, are not so effective: I’ve gotten into protracted exchanges with other armoured vehicles where neither of us were able to destroy the other without at least five direct hits.
- Besides the bolt-action rifles, scouts have access to self-loading rifles now. Once a part of the medic class in Battlefield 1, self-loading rifles hit harder than the semi-automatic rifles of the assault kit and are a solid choice for medium range combat. I typically run with the 3x magnification on these rifles, since I expect to encounter enemies closer up than I would if I were playing with a bolt-action rifle, which are most effective with the high-powered scope.
- For my first few hours, I was unsuccessful in finding a server running the Arras map. Easily one of the most scenic maps in Battlefield V, it’s got wide open fields of canola and a town at the map’s centre. Soldiers often hide in the canola and camp the capture points, coming from unexpected angles to surprise those trying to push onto a point. The point in the town itself is the most heavily contested, and changes the most hands in a match. Here, I call in a V-1 and watched as it impacted one of the capture points to score a double kill before the match ended: the explosion itself is spectacular.
- Twisted Steel is another map with solid visuals: the foliage and swampy terrain is superb. Fighting is most intense on the damaged bridge that crosses the map, and thanks to the numerous trees, teams that control the bridge cannot simply snipe players down below. Again, a good medium range weapon on this map is useful, since there are open spaces between the capture point. One aspect of Battlefield V that indicates good design is the fact that weapons all have various optics immediately available for use, allowing one to not be restricted to the iron sights. Battlefield 4 required players get kills with a weapon before the sights could unlock, and since Battlefield has never done an adequate job with making iron sights usable, I tend to avoid them.
- Being heavy tanks, Battlefield V‘s Tiger I and Churchill Mk VII are incredibly slow to manoeuvre, making them easy targets for Panzerfaust-wielding assault players. While heavy tanks traditionally had heavier armour and more powerful main cannons for anti-armour combat, the damage model present now means that even heavy tanks are not too effective against enemy armour, and their slow turret traversal makes them ill-suited for dealing with infantry. This is why I’ve chose to run the Panzer IV, whose setup makes it much better for supporting allied forces.
- Aerodrome is set in a large, dark desert area reminiscent of Fao Fortress, but with one critical exception: there’s a large aircraft hangar at the center of the map, and fighting converges here. This is an excellent map for long-distance shooting, and Battlefield V has absolutely nailed the sniping mechanics. With no sweet spot and slower bullet velocities, the skill comes back into sniping as it had for Battlefield 4, so landing headshots becomes even more rewarding than it was previously. At present, my longest headshot is 198 metres.
- The inside of Aerodrome’s main hangar is superbly designed and looks amazing. The planes in here can be destroyed over the course of the battle, and I love the lighting. However, I typically avoid fighting here, either on foot or in a vehicle, since the chaos makes it very easy to die to stray bullets. However, there are occasions where, with enough infantry support, I’ll push onto the point to help capture it, and a tank can be useful on such a push.
- One of the most unusual features of Battlefield V isn’t a gameplay mechanic: the text chat will automatically censor out profanity and words deemed offensive, and the biggest problem with this is that it captures non-offensive words, such as “assault”. Ironically, the player characters themselves spout profanity when they are downed. I’m not sure why game developers feel compelled to bend to the will of virtue signallers, or how a few social media posts from virtue signallers can have such an impact on entertainment in general: for now, I’m glad that at the very least, virtue signallers have not negatively impacted the core gameplay of titles like Battlefield V.
- The AT rocket gun was a fun weapon to use in the event one needed a longer-range weapon for picking off distant foes: because players needed to use a bipod, the weapon demanded situational awareness and map familiarity. By comparison, the Panzerfaust can be fired with reasonable accuracy from the shoulder and takes next to no skill to use: players of all experiences use it to score kills to an excessive degree, and I hope that this weapon’s destructive power is reduced to be more in line with the AT rocket gun, forcing assault players to stick with their squad if they wish to destroy vehicles.
- The customisation I miss the most from Battlefield 1 is the emblems, which allowed me to run with the Ooarai logo or anime faces. I’ve heard that this feature will return with a later update, which will allow me to really run Girls und Panzer: Dream Tank Match in the Frostbite Engine. There is a certain satisfaction to listening to complaints about them in the text chat, and here, I blast another player with the Panzer IV in the wheat fields of Arras. Thanks to my completing the Road to Battlefield challenge some weeks ago, I have a variety of Arras skins and two special customisation sets.
- The starting bolt action rifle, the Lee Enfield No. 4 Mk I has a good magazine size and fire rate, but slow bullet velocity and damage. These characteristics make it a solid weapon for beginners who are learning the ropes: the magazine size and fire rate allows for follow-up shots to be made, while the low muzzle velocity really forces one to account for bullet drop. I’ve had success in lining up and landing consecutive kills with this weapon, an all-around excellent teacher for the scout mechanics.
- The ribbons of Battlefield V are a mystery to me: their appearance may or may not correspond with a scoring bonus, and there’s no display in the menu system to indicate what ribbons there are and the number that one has unlocked. One noticeable bug with ribbons is that they appear when certain criteria are not satisfied yet, and overall, it’s a little strange as to what purpose the ribbons serve. By comparison, medals have a clear unlock pattern and per community request, are always active. The only downside is that they presently can only be unlocked once, so I’m hoping they will be unlockable as many time as one earns their criteria (save the campaign medals).
- The light tank Axis players access is the Panzer 38(t): while effectual against other light tanks, the 38(t) was inadequate against medium and heavy tanks. Production stopped in 1942, but the chassis would be used as the basis for the Hetzer. Battlefield V‘s light tanks are best suited for anti-infantry roles: having the fastest top speed and quickest turret traversal, they can be used to engage infantry effectively, especially if the right specialisations are selected, but their mobility comes at a cost; their light armour and 37 mm cannon makes them unable to take damage and deal damage to armour.
- While the various Witches of Strike Witches and Brave Witches tend to run with iron sights, I prefer having a good set of optics on my weapons. Depending on the availability, I run with the Nydar sights, a simple but effective equivalent to the Coyote Sight of Battlefield 4, or the holographic sight. Here, I run the MG 34, a medium machine gun (MMG) that must have its bipod deployed in order for one to aim down sights. The idea of MMGs is a fun one that extends the support class’ usefulness, allowing one to hunker down and lay down serious suppressive fire to help a team hold a position.
- Replicating the Hanna-Justina Wallia Rosalind Sieglinde Marseille loadout with the corresponding play-style (aggressive rushes) won’t be possible in Battlefield V, since the MMGs have terrible hip-fire accuracy. WIthout Hanna’s magic, players simply won’t be able to adopt a run-and-gun the same way Witches do: the MG 42 similarly cannot be used this way, so one will not be able to play the same way Gertrude and Erica roll.
- The Panzer IV and its Allied counterpart, the Valentine Mk VIII, are excellent all-around tanks that I’ve performed consistently well with. I’d love to operate the M4 Sherman and T-34 at some point, as well. Having tried some of the Panzerstorm gameplay for myself, the scale of the tank battles on this map are inadequate, and I hope DICE introduces a new game mode for armoured warfare involving only tanks.
- Here, I operate a Sd. Kfz 251 Pakwagen and used it to shell enemies from afar while waiting for a losing match to end, having entered one after a squad mate abandoned it. The Allied counterpart is theT48 57 mm Gun Motor Carriage, and these are among the less expensive of the reinforcements, providing squads with impressive firepower and unlimited ammunition at the expense of durability. For the most part, these are not brought into the game often: squad leaders end up saving up their requisition points to call in the rocket strikes.
- There was a bug I encountered where the game would drop me from a server at random. This was my biggest gripe with the game, and the latest patches appear to deal with this. Here on Devastation, I run the M1907 SL, the fastest-firing assault rifle available in Battlefield V. Unlike its Battlefield 1 counterpart, the M1907 SL is a close quarters weapon with a high damage output at the expense of accuracy at range. It’s much more fun to use than the Battlefield 1 version, and the same can be said of the Lewis Gun, which is a beast.
- Returning to Rotterdam, I’ve found my performance here to be solid, thanks in no small part to the fact that I know where everything is and can anticipate where enemies are coming from. It’s been two months and some since I last stood in Rotterdam, and things in real life have changed considerably. With all of the documentation and formalities wrapped up, I’ve taken the past few days off to rest, before taking up a new post. On my down time, I decided to visit the new Central Library that opened last month. It’s a clean, elegant building with plenty of open spaces and abundant lighting. The ship-shaped building reminds me of those modern European structures I saw in books from the library, and I’ve long been fond of modern architecture in this style.
- It was a joy to spend a whole morning reading books, just like the days of old, and when noon hour arrived, I went to the OEB Breakfast Company. Here, I sat down to their Chunky Lobster Scramble, a breakfast poutine topped with Maritime lobster and shrimp scrambled eggs, shallots, green onions, American asiago and brown butter hollandaise. Hearty and rich, the lobster was sweet and flavourful, balancing the seasoning in the herbed fried potatoes. It’s one of the pricier poutines I’ve tried, and for good reason: OEB is generous with its portions and the amount of lobster. A red tea finished off lunch, and I made my way back home.
- The trick to Battlefield V really ends up being patience: instead of camping, one should move around in a strategic manner, from cover to cover, and ideally, with squad mates. After a rough start, it’s time to slow things down and then see about getting my KD ratio back up. My win-loss ratio has levelled out now. I still think that suppressed weapons should play a role in the game: presently, players are automatically spotted on the mini-map after a kill to alert enemy players to their presence. This is counted a bug, but I would think it is acceptable to keep this as a feature, and then add suppressors as a weapon specialisation that exchanges firepower for stealth. Players running suppressors would not show up on the map, but then, this could come with the tradeoff that the weapon is slower to draw and raise up for ADS.
- Battlefield V‘s medal system is fabulous; I earned my first medal within twelve hours of play for capturing a hundred objectives, standing in contrast with Battlefield 1, whose medal system was difficult to work with. Despite the initial setbacks and difficulties, I think I’m slowly getting the hang of Battlefield V now. Pushing through the ranks, I am looking forwards to seeing what there is to do in Battlefield V outside of the conventional progression system: Tides of War is live now, and there’s so much to unlock and focus on. With my limited play time in the future, I’ll have to balance my time between watching anime and living the Girls und Panzer and Strike Witches in Frostbite Engine experience.
With new content to be consistently delivered over time, along with new activities and objectives, Battlefield V could stand to provide very solid entertainment. The current maps and content introduce players to more obscure aspects of World War Two; noticeably absent are iconic set-pieces and weapons. There is no Normandy Landing, Stalingrad, Iwo Jima or liberation of Hong Kong yet, nor the M1 Garand. While I appreciate the coverage of lesser-known battles and weapons, a World War Two title would not be complete without these elements. The Tides of War has the potential of including these events and weapons, and in particular, I am hoping that DICE includes the Pacific Campaign as a part of their Tides of War update. For the time being, however, my aim is to go through the progression system and unlock as much content as I can that will allow me to replicate the various Girls und Panzer and Strike Witches loadouts. Out of the gates, iconic weapons such as the Bren Machine Gun and MG 34 are quickly unlocked, allowing players to run as Perrine and Hanna (in a manner of speaking). Erica’s MP 40 is also available for use. Battlefield V‘s setup will not accommodate faithful replications of loadouts: the PIAT is a part of the assault class, so one cannot run the PIAT with the Bren, and with melee weapons being a little less diverse, no sabres are available at present. On the side of armour, I’ve taken to focusing on levelling up my Panzer IV: beginning with the Ausf. D version that Miho operates early on, one can push the Panzer IV to its Ausf. H configuration (as seen in Girls und Panzer Das Film) with the 75mm KwK 40 L/43 anti-tank cannon and Schürzen skirts. Should DICE release the appropriate customisations, I could decorate my armour in Ooarai colours: at present, a dark brown vehicle skin and custom emblems are unavailable. Battlefield V certainly did take a risk with its audience – whether or not it succeeds now will depend on how well post-launch content and updates are handled; there is definitely the possibility that Battlefield V could include enough content to make it memorable in terms of both gameplay and customisation, and this is an encouraging thought as I push through the game.