The release of Battlefield V has been met with a mixture of acclaim and disdain. While it’s an extremely well-crafted World War II shooter from a design standpoint, it’s also a product mired in bugs and in desperate need of some rebalancing. DICE has taken this seriously, releasing patches to smooth out the issues and balancing play to make for a more exciting experience. While doing so, they are also releasing additional content via the Tides of War for free to all players. The first of these, Overture, has hit, and it adds a huge amount to the game.
It seems pertinent to tackle the big bullet points for the expansion first. The Last Tiger, a new War Story to explore, comes bundled in, offering players to take control of a German Tiger tank in the waning days of WWII’s battle in Europe. Starring the stone-faced Müller, the player is tasked with attempting to push the battle lines further while contending with the Allied advance. It’s a battle with long odds, one meant to showcase the might of the Tiger while in the face of an overwhelming enemy. The conventional wisdom (of debatable historical merit) is that the Tiger is as good as four of the Allied Sherman tanks. The problem is that the Allies have five. The one hour long story puts in the work to evoke the tension of the situation, leading to some tense battles against a veritable swarm of armor.
There are a couple of issues with the chapter, though. The goal of the tale is to showcase the power of the Tiger and give a brief glimpse into the feeling futility of a losing war in the closing days while sidestepping the distaste the player might have filling the shoes of a Nazi. It’s extremely possible to have it both ways. Garth Ennis’ comic, also called War Stories, has done exactly this with Johann’s Tiger, shining a light on the bravery of the front line soldier while condemning the cause for which they were fighting. The Last Tiger comes close to this, brushing up against the brutal tactics that German leadership used to keep their troops in line. The problem is that, much like the other single player War Stories, there isn’t enough room for the tale to breathe. We’re barely introduced to the crew before the actions are taken and the story is over. By the end, the player knows some bad stuff went down, but without being given a chance to make a connection with the characters, it feels like a an excuse to do some (excellent) tank battlin’ with the tantalizing substance of a tale along for the ride. It’s worth playing, but I still want to see DICE focus on a full campaign with this quality of writing.
The other immediate addition is a new multiplayer map, Panzerstorm. To be completely honest, the first couple of matches this writer experienced on this map didn’t leave a good impression. The focus for this field of battle is on armored warfare. This means wide open spaces between control points to drive across. Those who don’t end up in a tank or a plane end up hoofing it, making for long periods of running while vulnerable to snipers and tanks on the ground and strafing runs from above. Something clicked in the third match, though. The tension of on foot travel, the massive amounts of machines lumbering across the field, the variety of terrain that’s perfect for stop and move play suddenly made more sense. There are so many potential ways to make a stand, lead an assault or just frustrate the enemy packed into this sprawling field that this might actually be the best map in the Battlefield V package. Reasonable minds can argue about that.
While the new map and War Story are large additions, and what is being touted, Overture makes one more, gigantic contribution to the experience: Chapter Progression. Each week a short “quest tree” style challenge is released. Finishing each quest down one of the branches yields a reward, such as a new cosmetic item or brand new weapon. None of the challenges appear to be unreasonable, usually asking the player to do things that they should be doing already, such as reviving a teammate, throwing supplies or gunning down fools. The system adds a couple of things to the proceedings: they push the idiots into playing the game correctly instead of trying to lone wolf deep into enemy territory and leaving the squad a man down, while rewarding players for with a real sense of progression. Think of them as mini-Battle Passes without the ability to buy levels.
Since all of this isn’t even factoring in the newly-added vehicle cosmetics and balancing, as well as a Practice Range to improve shooting and piloting skills, it’s safe to say that Overture does quite a bit to improve the Battlefield V experience. The game is now in a state where one can feel comfortable recommending the title to anyone interested in a WWII shooter, with the worst of the bugs seemingly squashed and the issues with balance evening out to where skill and teamwork are the most important thing. With future free Tides of War updates to come, adding even more modes and things to do, Battlefield V is becoming one of the best current packages available for multiplayer shooters.