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What Other Games Need To Learn From Battlefield 5

Released in October 2016, Battlefield 1 breathed new life into the Battlefield franchise, winning awards and receiving high marks from critics. Just over two years later, EA DICE released Battlefield 5, building off the solid framework established in its predecessor. 

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Inspired by events from World War II, the game is a thematic sequel to Battlefield 1. Highlighting lesser known locations and stories, it captures historical warfare in all its (embellished) gore and glory. Primarily focused on massive multiplayer conflicts, the game also features a single-player campaign. 

Despite releasing at less than 100%, Battlefield 5 has a lot going for it, including several important lessons for other online shooters. It is a prime example of squad-based gameplay supported by a smart development team, even if its most anticipated features are late to the party. Tense, chaotic, and sometimes unforgiving, Battlefield 5 is a beautiful, challenging game wrapped up in a somewhat untidy package. It's a game that other studios should pay attention to, because there's a lot to learn from here.

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Incentivize team play by making each class crucial

One of the best features of the Battlefield franchise is its team play. Battlefield 5 builds upon this legacy, encouraging players to squad up to achieve victory. A diverse selection of playstyles are on offer, letting you wage war across land, air, and sea. You can explore a variety of roles, while going it alone places you at a severe disadvantage. Battlefield 5 offers four distinct classes: Recon, Assault, Medic, and Support.

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With the game's limited health and ammunition, the Medic and Support classes hold the keys to victory or failure. Both can only resupply teammates when they need the resources and health does not automatically regenerate. This forces you to consider your actions rather than charging into combat with gun blazing.

Only the Recon class can spot enemies in a variety of ways; the game confines the other classes to using the spot button. This change makes stealth a more valuable tool than in previous titles. Recon is less about sniping than tactics and map control, including awareness of the best hiding places and retreat paths.

The Assault class, perhaps the most straightforward style, remains a core part of the team. Their gadgets let them destroy vehicles and other environmental features such as buildings. The two combat roles flavor the experience, but playing assault is all about diving into the action and clearing out enemies.

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Different classes, each awesome on their own, but only realizing their full potential when used in concert with each other: other studios should take that philosophy to heart to make their games as tactical, yet rewarding, as possible.

Create an atmosphere players want to get lost in

With Battlefield 5, developer DICE has created a visually stunning world inspired by some of the most brutal battles in history. Each of the eight maps provided at launch excite the eye, from idyllic villages to cities reduced to rubble. Fantastic weather and lighting effects add to the experience as does the sheer scope of destruction. 

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Whether you're fighting in the cramped streets of Rotterdam or the snow-strewn landscape of the Arctic Fjord, you feel as though you're reliving the pivotal conflicts of World War II. Each theater features different terrains; some have houses to hide in while others force you to push across open land. All have their pros and cons, demanding that your team adjust their strategy or risk defeat.

The attention to detail in Battlefield 5 shines through, further immersing you into the setting. Grass parts as you pass through it, guns overheat, and snow falls off of roofs when disturbed. Buildings fall according to physics rather than using a stock-and-file animation. 

Responsive movement is one of the best improvements you will see in the game. Players can crawl while prone and jump in and out of windows in a much more realistic manner. The game also shows character entering and exiting vehicles rather than instantly moving in and out. 

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These small details, coupled with the epic environmental effects and well-researched map design, make Battlefield 5 a joy to play, despite its unfinished state at launch.

Choose inclusion over 'historical accuracy'

EA's decision to include women in Battlefield 5 met with overwhelming criticism following the release of the game's trailer. The bulk of the protesters hid behind the argument that featuring women is a historically inaccurate portrayal of World War II. This argument does not hold up under scrutiny as even a cursory Google search will reveal. Women took on a variety of combat roles during the conflict, serving as spies, resistance fighters, and night bombers, among other accomplishments.

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Examining the game reveals how paper-thin the complaint is. While Battlefield may take inspiration from historical battles, the maps, gameplay, equipment, uniforms, and cultural representations take a great deal of liberties. DICE executive producer Aleksander Grøndal acknowledged this on Twitter, saying, "We will always put fun over authentic."

Patrick Soderlund, EA's chief creative officer, stood his ground, pointing out that several women fought in World War II. EA also made the decision to be inclusive of the increasingly diverse gaming community, like Soderlund's own daughter. 

Soderlund attributed the criticism to ignorance, commenting, "Those people who don't understand it, well, you have two choices: either accept it or don't buy the game." 

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Though Soderlund hits the mark, there is more than ignorance at play. The historical inaccuracy argument is nothing but a thinly veiled attack among the ongoing sexism and war on diversity within the gaming world. Other developers would do well to model their own games on DICE's stand.

Campaigns should be more than a tutorial

Often, single-player campaigns in multiplayer shooters feel thrown together, serving as little more than demonstrations of how to use the game's mechanics. The Battlefield games have fallen into this trap in the past; however, Battlefield 5's War Stories set a new bar for the franchise.

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The game's launch missions take about two hours each. While on the short side, DICE has stripped away the filler, presenting campaigns free of unnecessary drag. Complemented by spectacular visuals, clever level design, and evocative storytelling, Battlefield's single-player campaign is the best the franchise has seen so far.

"Nordlys" centers on the Norwegian resistance as its main character attempts to rescue her mother and shut down Germany's nuclear weapons program. High-stakes stealth, set against the snow-strewn backdrop of Norway, make this story a beautiful and tense experience.

"Under No Flag" follows two freedom fighters during a sabotage mission in North Africa. The pair, a young recruit and grizzled veteran, banter as they pursue their objectives. Their relationship, while a bit of a cliche, is strengthened by the strong script and voice acting. Though you have little time with them, it's easy to form a connection.

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"Tirailleur", a more traditional Battlefield campaign, has its own gems to offer. Following French-African recruits during the allied invasion of France, it offers a subtle commentary on race while throwing you into high-stakes fire fights. The protagonist shines throughout as a compelling paragon of reckless actions inspired by noble aspirations.

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it"

Battlefield 5 stays true to the strong foundation set up in previous games, instead making a series of small adjustments to fine-tune the experience. 

Conquest, Battlefield's version of capture-the-flag, returns, allowing up to 64 players. Battlefield 5 focuses more on dynamic action than its predecessors, removing much of the frustration of playing on foot against tanks and increasing the pace. The game has also expanded the customization options and made improvements to weapon-handling. While already known for its destructive environments, Battlefield 5 ups the ante. Walls shatter and buildings crumble; you can also construct fortifications to provide cover. 

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Many of these changes were minor, but have made a huge difference to the overall experience. The game is a great example of how small changes can upgrade an existing framework and take a franchise to the next level. These features continue to distinguish it from other first-person shooters and battle royale games.

If it is broken, talk to your audience

At its launch, the number of glitches and missing content made Battlefield 5 feel unfinished. Despite pushing back the release date, game-breaking bugs and placeholder screens highlighted the absent pieces. Tides of War, the game's live service, wasn't released until almost a month after the initial launch. Firestorm, Battlefield 5's battle royale mode, doesn't go live until March 2019.  

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Rather than pretending otherwise, Electronic Arts acknowledged the issues and laid out a schedule of updates. Before the launch, EA shared their planned release schedule, breaking the game into three chapters: Overture (early December thru January), Lightning Strikes (January thru March), and Trial by Fire (starting in March). 

DICE continues to incorporate player feedback as seen in their patch notes. One of the biggest complaints involved problems with TTK (time to kill). To put players at ease, the developer provided an official update on Reddit, sharing their vision for the mechanic and their plans for fixing it. Once again, they emphasized their desire to involve the community in this experimental process.

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While the release of an unfinished game was unfortunate, Battlefield 5 is a great example of how to use transparency and community involvement to create a positive experience overall.

Unify the community

Unlike Battlefield 1, Battlefield 5 doesn't utilize a gameplay-affecting premium pass. Instead, it features a living service called Tides of War, delivering new maps, modes, and content to all players upon release. DICE has also separated gameplay from cosmetic unlocks, with all performance-altering features earned only through play.

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By ditching the premium pass, EA has removed barriers that previously fractured its community. Friends no longer have to worry over having the same maps if they want to squad together. This move also ensures the player base has full access to new content.

Beyond making players happy, this change is also a smart business move. The lack of gated content ensures the game will not lose momentum, keeping players engaged in the multiplayer portion of Battlefield 5 over an extended time frame. Whenever new content is released, it reignites the game's buzz. 

With dozens of games released every year, availability and exciting updates can make or break the success of a title.

Provide a variety of game modes

Beyond its campaigns, Battlefield 5 offers an impressive array of game modes, ensuring there is a playstyle for everyone. 

As noted before, Conquest has returned. Conquest Assault offers a twist on the original concept, with one team holding all the bases at the start of a round. Frontlines is a hybrid, using elements from Conquest and Rush from Battlefield 1. Domination is a scaled-down version of Conquest, focusing on infantry combat. The standard Team Deathmatch is also available.

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Joining its signature lineup of battles, DICE has introduced a new multiplayer mode: Grand Operations, consisting of 64-player, multi-part battles that unfold over a series of in-game days before culminating in a brutal final stand. The Attrition system gives Grand Operations especially high stakes, emphasizing squad tactics and resource management. The final stand on day four is a sudden death round, with each player receiving one life. If you're not revived or healed by a medic, then you're done.

Offering a variety of experiences helps encourage repeat plays, a key component for multiplayer games, online shooters, and live campaigns.

Embrace your niche

While trends in multiplayer shooters have evolved, as evidenced by the popularity of Fortnite, Battlefield 5 continues to distinguish itself by providing an experience unlike any available elsewhere. The series makes you feel as though you've been thrown into the thick of historical battles; planes fly overhead, firefights are intense and lethal, and customization options are (somewhat) era-appropriate. Impressive scenery and well-researched cityscapes transport you back in time. This blend of historical elements and modern gameplay create a hybrid experience previously absent from the market. 

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Battlefield 5 launched with eight playable maps, immersing you in locations in Belgium, France, Holland, North Africa, and Norway. The game tackles well-known narratives, such as the Fall of France and British retreat, alongside lesser-known conflicts like the Battle of Rotterdam in May 1940. By focusing on historically inspired battle simulations, the Battlefield series serves a need previously unmet in the gaming community. Though other games have toyed with this concept, nothing pulls it off quite as well as this franchise. DICE has embraced this identity, and, in doing so, secured a repeat customer-base.

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