Battlefield 1 Authenticity

Here’s a timely post written about six months ago, which sat in my Drafts folder lacking not only a picture, but also some links.

I started playing the Battlefield 1 single-player campaign on a Friday evening, and finished it the next day, on Saturday night. There were six missions. I recorded 12 videos, averaging about 35 minutes each, for a grand total of about 7 hours of gameplay. Let’s be extremely generous and say I cut out an hour of video, so let’s round it up to 8 hours.

I paid $60 for that.

But I won’t dwell on that. My main reason for getting the game was to examine the historical accuracy of it. World War I is my “favorite” war, so I’ve read a lot about it. I’m not an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but I could probably answer a lot of trivia questions.

TL;DR – It’s not very accurate and I give it a big fat F. But it was kind of fun to play.

Some spoilers about the single-player stories below.

Storm of Steel

The first mission is sort of an introduction, and dealt with the Harlem Hellfighters. I think. It’s never actually said, and I only recall seeing a single African American. The story is very disjointed, and you’re supposed to die. When you die, you jump to another person’s POV in another part of the battle. In that way you get to see a sort of potpourri of “front line combat.” It was very confusing and I didn’t like it.

It didn’t specify where that mission takes place so I can’t say anything about the historical context of it. (The Hellfighters apparently fought mainly with the French so maybe the mission was in France.) The only thing I can comment on is that your average soldier in WWI did not walk around with fully-automatic rifles and automatic pistols as depicted in the game.

After the very, very brief introduction mission, in which you are largely a spectator, you get to choose the order in which to play the remaining 5 missions. (This is also the point when you yell at your monitor, “Is this all there is???”)

Most of the stories seemed to be set in 1917 or 1918. I imagine they did that because all sides had figured out how to break through trench lines by then, so more diverse technology was available to use in a game. Unfortunately it means that like 90% of the war goes unrepresented in the game.

Overall I thought the storylines were reasonably good, however there was nothing particularly surprising about them. They followed well-trodden war story tropes. If you’ve seen a few war movies in your life, you’ll probably recognize the plot lines.

The Runner

The first war story I played followed a pair of ANZACs in the Dardenelles.

As I came to realize was normal, there was very little historical context given for the Gallipoli story, except in the broadest possible terms. (There was no mention of Winston Churchill’s role.) It wasn’t clear to me exactly where in time and space the events were taking place, but I think it was the Landing at Cape Helles.

The player’s mission was largely a personal one, and didn’t involve any of the larger events of the battle. There was only a casual mention of the British failures in conducting the battle. Mostly this mission involved, well, running–back and forth, delivering messages.

Avanti Savoia!

I’d never heard of Italian Arditi troops before. The only thing I knew about Italy’s role in the war was their collapse at the Battle of Caporetto in 1917, due to some Italian general’s massive incompetence.

After playing the game, I did a bit of research. The Arditi existed, but I don’t think they operated in the way depicted in Battlefield 1.

According to Wikipedia, Arditi were armed with knives and grenades and were employed as shock troops against enemy trench lines. From what I can gather, they would run up to the enemy lines during an artillery bombardment (possibly getting hit by their own shells), wait for the shells to stop falling, then jump in the enemy trenches and try to stab everyone to death. Sometimes it worked, but mostly it didn’t.

The player in the game, however, is dressed head-to-toe in heavy bulletproof steel armor and carries a big machinegun. Even if such an armor design existed (which it probably did, at least in prototype form), I have a very hard time believing it would be practical in a real battle the way it’s shown in the game. All you’d have to do is knock the guy down and he probably wouldn’t be able to get up again. The difficulty of walking around for long periods of time in that outfit, especially attacking up a mountainside, seems too far-fetched for me to believe. That set of armor plus a machine gun must have weighed like a thousand pounds. Also, I think WWI machine guns required more than one person to operate anyway.

Historical inaccuracy aside, it was fun to play. :)

Oh, then there was the moment when a bunch of (presumably) Austro-Hungarian biplanes flew in, shot rockets at a mountainside, and caused a landslide. I’ll have more to say about the depiction of WWI aerial combat later, but this earned a highly skeptical raised eyebrow from me. For one thing, according to Wikipedia, the Imperial and Royal Aviation Troops were very short-handed in 1917. But more importantly, biplanes couldn’t blow up mountains with rockets.

As for the historical context of the Italian story, there was none given. I don’t even recall hearing the name of the place where the fighting took place. I’ll have to double-check. Story-wise, this was probably the least interesting of the bunch for me.

Nothing Is Written

Lawrence of Arabia is another one of those World War I topics that I’m aware of on some level, but haven’t investigated much. The Arabian theater doesn’t interest me as much as the European theater, to be honest.

The mission was fun to play right up until the final battle against the train, which was about as not fun as a game could get. I slogged my way through it, dying over and over again. I probably died more there than anywhere else.

The story was okay I guess. It’s a pretty standard rebels-versus-empire story, only notable because the Arabian protagonist in the game is a woman.

I don’t know about the historical accuracy of this mission. By which I mean I don’t know if that battle train thingy existed or not. If it did, it seems like the best strategy for combating it would be to, you know, stay away from the train tracks.

Through Mud And Blood

Next we go to what was probably my favorite mission of the game, the British tank assault. We play a tank driver who shows up at the front, never having been inside a tank before. Roughly ten seconds after we arrive, we have to get in a British Mark V tank and drive in an important attack on Cambrai. Okaaaaaay. Given what I imagine was the enormous expense of building a tank, it seems like they would give tank drivers some opportunity to practice driving before going out on the battlefield, but let’s give them some dramatic license on that one.

Driving the tank around, over, and through the rubble, shell holes, barbed wire, and trenches in the first part of that mission felt reasonably authentic to me. That was the WWI that I know. I don’t think an actual tank at that time would have been quite so fast and agile, though, and probably wouldn’t have been able to crash through buildings. Tanks in those days were lucky to make it across flat ground, let alone across the cratered, muddy surface of No Man’s Land.

I thought it was kind of funny that they made me wait for the infantry to run ahead before moving up with the tanks. I’m no military strategist but I kind of thought the whole purpose of a tank was to clear the way for the infantry. Especially in World War I.

After getting through the trenches we went behind the German lines and entered what almost looked like a rain forest to me. For some inexplicable reason they make you (the driver) get out and scout a path for the tank. Luckily someone else can drive the tank while you’re doing that, making your entire role on the team redundant.

Still, that part was fun because it reminded me a lot of the Far Cry games. My favorite part of those games was stealthily picking off people in outposts one at a time until you’ve gotten everyone, and basically the same gameplay happened there in the foggy forest.

After leaving the forest your tank breaks down so you have to get parts from a nearby village. Then there’s a final tank battle. There weren’t any “tank battles” in WWI, but let’s pretend there were. (I only found one instance of a tank battle, in the Spring of 1918, in the Second Battle of Villers-Bretonneux, some months before the events of Battlefield 1 took place.)

By the way, it was the First Battle of Cambrai in 1917 which is popularly known as the first successful use of tanks on the battlefield. (It wasn’t the first, but let’s pretend it was.) The Second Battle of Cambrai was just another ho-hum day at the office for tanks.

Friends In High Places

Finally we come to the last mission I played, the one with the planes. I saved it for last because I’ve never been particularly interested in World War I “Flying Aces” and whatnot. Still, it turned out to be kind of fun to dogfight in Battlefield 1. I can’t even remember the last time I played any kind of aerial fighting game. (The last one I can remember was an Amiga game!) I had to switch to using a controller. I had a hard time handling the vertical stick with a mouse. (I blame the fact that I gave up my “invert mouse” habit some years ago.)

As for historical accuracy, I’m pretty sure no WWI flying planes were equipped with forward-firing rockets of the kind depicted in the game. They had machine guns, and they had bombs, usually dropped by somebody tossing them over the side. Even that meager weaponry was only available later in the war. In the early days, the only weaponry a pilot had was a pistol.

One of the most striking parts of the whole game (for me) happened in the middle of this last mission, when you ditch your plane behind enemy lines. You have to make your way (stealthily) through several German trench lines and then No Man’s Land. That was what I expected to see more of in this game. It was pretty creepy to go through that muddy, blown-up hellscape, at night, especially after all that I’ve read about the conditions of the Western Front. Yuck.

Then, back in London, you’re involved in flying fighter defenses against German Zeppelins and massive bombers. While I was playing, I questioned whether such bombing raids ever took place over London, but it turns out they did. Kind of. Another part of the Great War I hadn’t explored much. (It was a big damn war y’all.)

I didn’t care for the resolution (or lack thereof) in that story. It was one of those “you have to decide whether you think the protagonist is a good guy or a bad guy because we’re not going to tell you and it could go either way” kind of deals. Sometimes that works as a storytelling device, but it didn’t work for me here.

And that’s about all I have to say about Battlefield 1.

But as a reminder, don’t buy it at full price if you’re only going to play the single-player campaign. And, uh, don’t buy it at all if you want an authentic WWI simulator.

Top 10 Videos From 2016

I know blog readers don’t care about videos, but I wanted to record my Top 10 game videos from 2016 for posterity.

One day I decided to click on that Analytics tab on YouTube and found there was actually some information there, like which videos people watched. YouTube ranks videos by watch time, not views, which I suppose indicates that these are the videos that people actually stuck around to watch the most, for some inexplicable reason.

10 – Battlefield 1 – Pt 1 – Intro and Gallipoli. First of my Battlefield 1 playthrough, and first of four Battlefield 1 videos on this list, uploaded in 2016. I guess people like shooters. Interestingly, the “traffic sources” for these videos show a lot from “suggested videos.” I’ve no idea what that means or how that happens.

9 – Battlefield 1 – Pt 9 – Cambrai. More Battlefield 1.

8 – Dark Souls II – Part 15 – Ruined Aflis. This one was from 2015. A really action-packed episode in my epic Dark Souls II blind playthrough series. Starts with our first look at the Ruin Sentinels boss (from which we ran screaming), then goes to our first look at the Heide’s Tower dragon (from which we ran screaming), then ends up with us summoning Ruined Aflis to kill skeletons and turtle knights.

7 – T-Day Stream – Age of Conan, Questing in Eiglophian Mountains. A super oldie from 2014, when I tried streaming regularly for a month, and the only MMORPG in the list. A rare webcam appearance, from back when I used a headset, for the worst possible sound quality.

6 – Dark Souls – Sorcerer to Oolacile Township 2nd Bonfire. Another from 2015, and another rare webcam appearance. At least I had a condenser microphone setup by then.

5 – Battlefield 1 – Pt 8 – Cambrai. More Battlefield 1.

4 – Battlefield 1 – Pt 3 – Italy. More Battlefield 1.

3 – Dark Souls II – Part 17 – The Pursuer Defeated. Part of my epic blind Dark Souls II playthrough from 2015. This is the one where I finally beat that !@#$! Pursuer. Not shown in this video is the 500 times I failed in a previous episode of the series.

2 – Snap Judgment – Novus Inceptio. First (and only) 30 minutes of trying out Steam Early Access survival game Novus Inceptio. I guess people wanted to see it before buying it and apparently I was the only person willing to play it. Has the honor of getting 2 dislikes!

1 – Dark Souls – Sorcerer vs. Sif the Great Grey Wolf. From 2015. Me killing Sif in one shot with a sorcerer, very early in the morning, long before I cared about audio quality. I can only speculate it got a higher watch time because it’s only 3:30 long so people didn’t mind watching the whole thing.

By the way I’m debating uploading a Morrowind playthrough next.

The Prestigious Endgame Viable Awards 2016

It occurred to me that the end of the year is approaching, and it’s time to do one of those year-end posts that bloggers love to do. Unfortunately I kind of hate doing them. It’s a lot of work. You have to actually look things up and think and count and multiply and divide and things like that. That goes against my normal principal of blogging by “just typing words into a text editor.”

Here are the 2015 awards. This year I’m going to award Biggest Disappointment of the Year, MMORPG of the Year, MMORPG Expansion of the Year, Game of the Year. In another post I’ll also be revealing my Most-Played MMORPG, and Most-Played Game.

2016 Contenders

As I defined it last year, my selections are based on the best game that I bought and played in 2016 which was also released in 2016. I also consider Early Access releases, to punish developers for releasing their game too early. You can have money, or you can have an award, but not both. :) Anyway since I only buy a handful of new games every year, the pool from which I can pick is often very small. Based on my extensive research of Steam emails, these are the 2016 released games that I’ve bought and played:

Battlefield 1
Black Desert Online
Blade and Soul
Civilization VI
DarkMaus
Dark Souls III + Ashes of Ariandel
Devil Daggers*
DOOM
Far Cry Primal
Riders of Icarus

* I can’t find out if there was an Early Access version available before 2016. Steam does an admirable job of “hiding” that games were released in Early Access before they were actually released.

Note: I could conceivably add The Division, but I only played an hour of open beta, so I’m discounting it. Same for Overwatch. Neither would have won anything anyway.

And these are the MMORPG expansions I’ve played this year:

Rift, Starfall Prophecy
World of Warcraft, Legion

These are some games I bought and played in 2016 but were disqualified from contention:

Bastion (Released Aug 16, 2011)
Black Mesa (Early Access Release May 5, 2015)
Immune (Early Access Release March 25, 2015)
Miasmata (Released Nov 28, 2012)
NEO Scavenger (Early Access Release Dec 15, 2014)
Novus Inceptio (Early Access Release Oct 5, 2015)
Salt (Early Access Release Aug 22, 2014)
SOMA (Released Sep 22, 2015)

On to the awards!

Game of the Year: Dark Souls III

I mean, come on. Not even a contest. Other games on the above list are play-once-and-forget-about-it games (yes, even Civ 6, in which I have not even completed a full game, and kind of wish I’d waited for a sale), whereas I could replay Dark Souls III an infinite number of times and not get tired of it. I’ve played it through at least six times already.

MMORPG of the Year: Black Desert Online

Riders of Icarus barely rates a mention. It was between Blade and Soul and Black Desert, and to me the easy winner is Black Desert Online. I had a lot more fun with BDO. I’m not sure I even made it out of the tutorial area with Blade and Soul.

MMORPG Expansion of the Year: Legion

This was a tough one because I played both Legion and Starfall Prophecy for roughly the same amount of time: Less than a month. Both expansions are basically more of the same in their respective MMORPGs. It’s a toss-up, but I gave the edge to Legion. Legion had less bugs and an impressive array of cut scenes, while Rift had more friction with some frustratingly difficult gameplay.

Biggest Disappointment Of The Year: Far Cry Primal

I was really hoping that Far Cry Primal would have more survival elements. I was hoping it would be the first AAA survival game that wasn’t just a rushed-out-the-door indie train wreck. But it wasn’t a survival game. It was a Far Cry game, set in prehistoric times. It was fun, and they have a good formula, but it was essentially “more of the same.” (I have the same expectations for Conan Exiles now: That it will be the first AAA survival game.)

Battlefield 1 and (not) Civilization 6

Fridays are the worst days of the week for me, in terms of being bored. Usually half of the workforce is gone on Fridays, so it’s abnormally quiet and I have to spend eight solid hours trying to entertain myself in library-like silence. Using only my phone, mind you, because god forbid we have access to anything “fun” or “entertaining” on our work computers. The most interesting thing I can manage on my work computer is reading Wikipedia articles. My personal favorite is the On This Day page.

And no, I refuse to think about doing work on a Friday. Come on. That’s just crazy talk.

Anyway, one other thing I can do on the work computer is write, so here I am.

bf1

I ordered Battlefield 1 a while back and pre-loaded it a couple days ago. I noticed right before I left the house this morning that it has unlocked, so I’ll be playing that tonight and this weekend. (Right after I publish this post, most likely.) I’m planning to record the single-player campaign and put it up on YouTube because why the hell not.

I learned from my Doom recordings that it’s a terrible idea to record a blind playthrough on the hardest difficulty, so I think I’ll stick to the normal difficulty this time. It turns out that repetition, such as that which occurs when you die over and over again in the same area, is boring to watch. Also kind of frustrating to play. Not to mention the challenge of thinking of something uniquely entertaining to say after the 20th time you’ve died to the same mobs. The only good option is to edit the video into an amusing death montage, but I’m usually too lazy to do that.

Anyway, as I mentioned on Twitter, my only real interest in the game is to criticize the historical inaccuracies in their depiction of World War I, the war I know the most about. If I see a French Renault tank driven by a British soldier, you better believe I’m going to have something to say about that!

Since I’ll be playing Battlefield 1, I won’t be playing what it sounds like everyone else in my circle of the Internet will be playing: Civilization 6. (Or is it VI?)

civvi
It’s VI.

I’m sure I’m in the minority here but I didn’t like Civ 4 or 5. I wanted to like them, because I loved Civ 2, but I don’t think I ever made it into the AD years. It just felt soooooo sloooooow in those initial stages when you explore with your Warriors and Scouts and Settlers. (And that exploration didn’t feel very satisfying.) It felt like it took hours and hours and hours (ie. days and days, for me) of drudgery to get to the fun parts of the game that I remembered enjoying the most. For whatever reason, I just don’t have the patience for it anymore. Still, I’ll probably get Civ 6 eventually. In a sale, probably.

But first, Battlefield 1!