Battlefield 1 takes the series to somewhere it, and video games as a whole, have never really explored in-depth. Games have a fascination with World War II, but up until this point, World War I has stayed largely untouched. DICE decided to tackle The Great War with their new game, and one worry leading up to Battlefield 1’s release was that the subject matter may not be handled as tastefully as possible.
It’s true that World War I was a dark and terrifying time, filled with senseless violence and primitive weapons. However, Battlefield 1 surprisingly manages to handle the subject with grace and respect, while simultaneously providing a fun and engaging experience. Multiplayer is another thing entirely, and definitely one of the best offerings in a Battlefield game to date, but what’s truly surprising about Battlefield 1 is its campaign. With the exception of the Bad Company games, Battlefield isn’t exactly well known for having great single player offerings.
Battlefield 1 really changes things up, however, providing a campaign that’s structured in episodes known as “War Stories,” instead of telling one concurrent story. This really plays to the game’s strengths, and lets it tackle the themes of World War I without getting dragged down by having to create an overarching story within the framework of history.
Five stories in total focus on different gameplay elements, as well as different characters and sections of the war. There’s a member of a British Tank Brigade, an Italian shock trooper, a conniving trickster that works his way into the British airforce, an Australian Runner and Scout, and a member of the rebels in Arabia fighting off the Ottoman Empire.
Each story has a distinctly different feel, and by making these short “episodic” kind of stories, the team was free to work with emotional storytelling. Before everything else, the characters are the focus of the campaign, not the battles and set pieces, although those do come along, as well. None of the War Stories last more than two hours, although some are more fleshed out than others.
Basically, what these stories do is give you enough varied gameplay and emotional moments, to make them completely stand out from the others. While it only takes about six hours in total to beat all of them, it makes the experience that much more memorable.
For example, the tank War Story puts you into the shoes of the driver along with the rest of the crew for the tank named “Betsy.” A few mission have you blasting your way through villages and countryside in the tank, before you have to jump out and scout ahead to take out enemy encampments. The tank crew ends up getting cut off behind enemy lines and has to fight their way out, with some of them falling into desperation more than once.
Even the main character of the story, who’s been stalwart the entire time, completely breaks down before the end after he can’t get the tank restarted. Battlefield 1 loves to remind you of the humanity of its characters, how they’re flawed, and the terrible inhuman situation they’ve been put in.