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Is Battlefield 1 The Start of a Worrisome Trend?

Battlefield 1 is one of most immersive games I’ve played in 2016. It’s brutal, gorgeous, sounds incredible, and is just plain fun. However, as I play more and more of it, I’m coming to a scary realization. One that may worry me more than it should, but one that I feel should start being talked about.

This foray into World War 1 feels very similar to a game I played not too long ago. In fact, it was even made by the same developer, DICE. That game goes by the name of Star Wars: Battlefront. At first, it was a passing suspicion. They are developed by the same company so there are going to be similarities, no? But this is a case of more than just a few similar ideas and mechanics. This is damn near a copy and paste in many ways, and that’s a big problem.

Say what you will about Battlefront, but that game played smooth as butter. Older Battlefield games (even as recent as 4) were always a bit rough around the edges when it came to gameplay. Everything had a slight delay to it, almost as if the entire game was a bit drunk. This is not a complaint, but rather a “feeling” that we eventually considered part of the Battlefield experience. With the most recent iteration, that Battlefield feeling seems to have been diminished, as DICE took a bit more DNA from its attempt at Star Wars than from its own past. Some may argue that the smoother feeling is a good change, but in this case, it’s a stray from franchise roots, and one that I strongly feel comes from a desire to use Battlefront’s template to save time and money instead of creating something more unique for the World War 1 experience.

This still from Battlefront may as well be Battlefield with Star Wars skins over it. Can you not see yourself prone in that trench, fending off the enemy with your rudimentary weapons?

However, the similarities stretch beyond just the gameplay feeling. There’s a missing sense of progression (an issue Battlefield has never had) largely in part to the smaller amount of weapons and attachments included – and don’t you dare say that is due to the time period. Hero units such as Darth Vader or Han Solo show up in the form of the Flame Trooper or Tank Hunter, as well as others. AT-AT’s and AT-ST’s make their debut as the Zeppelin, Armored Train, or the Dreadnought, and only on certain maps just like the former. Planes are much easier to fly and feel more arcadey just like Battlefront’s air vehicles, and they don’t take tens of hours of dedication to learning like the jets and helicopters of yore.

Hell, even the menus and the fonts are carried over. Really DICE? One of my roommates who doesn’t even play video games noticed how similar the two are, and he has only watched us play either game in passing. That font doesn’t even fit the damn time period. I have to commend DICE for creating a game that works and looks great, even on console, – also, no micro-transactions! Yay! – but I guess with all that reskinning they had more than enough time to focus on the technical side of development, no? Maybe if the creators of ReCore just reskinned the Xenoblade series that game would have been devoid of technical issues too. Speaking of the technical side, it seems the destruction has taken a step back. When a zeppelin crashes into a building, why doesn’t it completely disappear? Where are the “levolutions” introduced in Battlefield 4? They may have been a bit gimmicky but they were still fun. Did they bring so much over from Battlefront that even those core mechanics of Battlefield are toned down?

Battlefield 1 UI. Compare it to the one below.
Star Wars: Battlefront UI (Photo from MassiveG YouTube channel)

In fact, with so much taken over from Battlefront, I wonder why Battlefield 1 still lacks content. There’s a decent package here, but still not enough to justify the asking price if you ask me. People criticize games like Overwatch for having a lack of content, yet a sixty dollar asking price, however, I can bet you that people will be playing that game for years to come due to building it around the players as well as all updates being free. I want a game I can invest a lot of time in, and while Overwatch may not be worth sixty dollars yet, I know I will be able to play that game for a long time, and that it will constantly be a changing experience that is worth my investment. I don’t want all of my time in Battlefield 1 to just be useless only one year later when Battlefront 2 is basically the next game in the series. 1 will likely lose a lot of its player-base if that’s the case.

That may sound a bit cynical, but I really do fear that the recently announced Battlefront 2 will go the Call of Duty route and be a reskin of Battlefield 1, and then the next game will continue that trend and so on and so forth. There’s a difference between learning from your previous game and just taking from it. If Battlefront 2 takes from Battlefront 1, that makes sense, as it’s a sequel in a franchise, and sequels are supposed to improve on their predecessors. But when Battlefield 1 is basically a sequel to Battlefront 1, with just a different skin, instead of an improvement on its own roots, I tend to start worrying about the future of both franchises. If they are to become interchangeable, one in the past and one in the future, why should I spend my money on the next one coming? Make each game unique in its own right. The time period gimmick may have worked this time, but mainly on the account of EA and DICE being smart enough to jump on the complaints about all of the modern shooters nowadays, but if the games don’t stand apart from each other then what is the point?

EA and DICE may have made a standout shooter by jumping back in the past, but if individuality begins to take a step back as well, I want no part of it.