I had a lot of great things to say about the first half of the Turning Tides DLC for Battlefield 1. After the bitter taste of Battlefront II—broken in more ways than just the looming threat of the reactivation of monetised loot crates—it was great to see that DICE hadn’t jumped the shark and forgotten how to make great FPS experiences.
But the second half of the Turning Tides DLC steers the righted ship back in the wrong direction, though the new content is only half of the problem. The other half is the long-gestating and finally released time-to-kill patch. This isn’t a universally applied update that lowers the time to kill for every class in Battlefield 1, which would bring it closer to the lower TTK values of Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4. Instead, it’s a tweaking of certain weapon types with the intention of reinforcing their ideal engagement ranges by boosting effectiveness. At least, that’s the theory.
In short, self-loading rifles (Medics) should be more effective at every range outside of CQB, with an emphasis on mid-range engagements. Light machine-guns (Support) are less effective in close quarters but should outshoot Assault players (SMGs and shotguns) at “longer distances”, and should be more effective at longer ranges, including against Scouts. Sniper rifles (Scouts) remain unchanged. Shotguns and SMGs (Assault) have been tweaked, too, with shotties no longer having a randomised pellet spread and SMGs now kill faster in close quarters. That’s all according to the patch notes.
DICE was slow to release these patch notes, but there is a hell of a disclaimer at the start that may disprove some of my gripes below in the long-run. “These changes are far-reaching, across the breadth of Battlefield 1 weapons, which may be difficult to feel when trying them out for the first time. There are a lot of changes, which may not be noticeable immediately and may only become apparent with time. Players should find a faster time-to-kill (TTK), be more capable in out-numbered scenarios, and find greater distinction between different weapons and weapon types.”
There’s a lot to chew through there. First, let’s back up for a second to the shotguns. Why they were initially designed with randomised pellet spread within the crosshair is anyone’s guess, because it’s seriously odd. What it did was create shotguns that could miss at point-blank range (or not provide a killing shot when it should) and kill at longer-than-intended ranges. The risk/reward of using a shotgun should always be in ensuring your aim is 100 percent on point, and that you have to get in close to score a one-shot kill.
From the handful of hours I’ve played of the new patch and DLC maps, shotguns are a lot less common, and deaths at longer ranges from shotguns are less frequent. Those two things are probably related. That particular fix appears to be a win for update 1.18.
Now, let’s revisit those quotes.
The disclaimer is interesting because it seems to be pre-emptively addressing what I’m about to say. The TTK patch does not work as intended. The weapon changes I’ve broken down above (based on DICE’s patch notes) do not appear to be accurate to my experience with the patch, with the exception of the shotguns. To put it kindly, there’s definitely a learning curve post-patch. To put it less kindly, Battlefield 1 feels worse post-patch than it did before the TTK ‘improvements’.
DICE’s claim that I should “be more capable in out-numbered scenarios” is not at all reflective of my experience. The opposite is true. To put that in context, I recently unlocked and discovered the incredible power of the Parabellum MG14/17. At the moment, I only have the telescopic variant, because the prospect of landing the last hits on two separate occasions against planes is ridiculous to unlock the Low Weight variant which, admittedly, I’d prefer because it’d better match the way I play. Still, pre-patch, I dubbed the Suppressive Parabellum “the trench clearer” for its ability to melt entire squads (and then some), even in head-to-head fights.
There were certain maps it was better-suited for (which is how it should be), but it became my go-to Support LMG because it was a great compliment to my aggressive, frontline-loving, PTFOing tactics. Fast-forward to post-patch time, and I’ve had to ditch it. The recoil feels even more extreme, which is fine (given how effective it used to be), but this supposed damage boost to LMGs is not reflected at any range for me. The Medic rifles feel weaker, not stronger, and I tested this across multiple SLRs (including the ones that deal the most damage). I also tested this with the highest-damage LMG (the Chauchat, which is a terrible gun) to prove the point and found TTK to be higher across ranges.
And the same was true of my tests with SMGs. This particular gripe is hammered home by the design of the two new maps, which seems to favour long-range weapons and engagements. The main fighting space for infantry on Zeebrugge is a long straight line, with three levels of elevation (towards the centre), occasional bunkers, and sparse cover at certain points between flags. For flag-capping players like me, it’s tricky to close the gap against entrenched long-range classes because of the map design.
Furthermore, because of the open nature of the majority of the centre flags, you’re ill-advised to hang around to defend points after you’ve captured them. There’s a tonne of vehicular ordnance that can and will ruin your day on this map, across sea and aerial options. If your team’s vehicles aren’t up to the task of taking out these threats or are simply kill-farming instead of targeting other vehicles, the balance of the map quickly falls apart.
This is even more evident on Heligoland Bight, where your enjoyment of the map will, at least initially, be determined by whether you’re attacking or defending. Attacking is bloody tough and made all the harder by how open it is between an easy frontline the defenders can form, and your default spawn location. It’s quite intense if you make it ashore, but the admittedly fun infantry battles between the rocks are regularly ended by ships or planes.
It’s a recurring theme that punishes the infantry player which, as far as I’m concerned, is illogical in map design for a Battlefield game because not only are the majority of players infantry, they’re also usually the flag cappers. Seemingly in an effort to address this, these two maps also have some huge capture radiuses, which means you can cap from the sea, but that comes at the risk of being taken out by sea or air (and losing your precious boat).
When the attacking team does take some points, it’s a hike for defenders to shift across to defend. There are some great chokepoints on Heligoland Bight, which make for intense battles, but you can also game your way past any enemy defences with a solid grouping of Medics. That’s exactly how we stopped the attacking team from holding any of their capped points for longer than a few minutes.
You can see the intention in design for these maps: infantry combat over the main points, sea battles around it, aerial combat above, and the occasional bombardment/strafing run from sea or air. That sounds great on paper, but in execution on public servers it quickly falls apart. Taking out fighters is already tricky enough, and it doesn’t take dedicated pilots long to memories the AA flak points, and either avoid them, or bomb them into pieces before they’re used.
Not that it’s exclusive to post-patch BF1, but there’s little fun to be had when every other death is from above. Especially after a bad respawn, which is, unfortunately, a recurring theme that hasn’t been fixed in 1.18. In fact, I’ve died to some of the worst spawns I’ve ever had in the game, most notably on Zeebrugge. Then there’s the unshakeable feeling that the TTK parts of the patch have actually broken crucial things like hit registration.
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I’ve been on the sending and receiving end of it, with hit markers that are dusted for no damage, bullets that fly through enemies without even registering a hit marker let alone damage, and inconsistent damage relative to where the enemy is being hit (combined with the range of the weapon and damage drop-off). The best example I can give is a head-glitching Assault player who I had to shoot three times in the head to kill, except each hit marker wasn’t my customised colour for a headshot. I could only see this player’s head, so it stands to reason the only thing I could have been hitting was their head. Yet that wasn’t the case. I was also shooting with an SLR, which should kill in two shots if one of them is a headshot), let alone three unregistered shots to the head.
On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve died to super bullets. This is a netcode phenomenon where it appears you die instantly from a single shot that shouldn’t have been able to kill you. The player who’s killed me has a weapon that’s incapable of doing it, and either the firing sounds/animations were busted, or the netcode stuffed up and I received damage from multiple shots that had not been transmitted to my client. That’s odd, because I only play on 60Hz tick-rate servers. It’s important to note that I haven’t had any of the UI indicators on screen that suggest I’m suffering lag or packet loss, so I’m at a loss (outside of blaming the patch) for what could have changed things so drastically.
It doesn’t help that the maps have bugs, like floating objects, or a myriad of sticky corners and/or foot-high objects that apparently require mantling to get over. Then there’s the killcam which, more than ever, seems to highlight evidence of a death from a player who couldn’t have possibly had an angle on me. Either Battlefield 1 has some hardcore bullet-penetration mechanic that I don’t know about (and one that seemingly wasn’t used by hackers who would be trying to shoot me through walls in the past), or something isn’t right. Then there was the time I unloaded into a guy behind a door, only for no hits to register and my death from them; later on, I was killed through a similar door. Go figure.
A recurring gripe that’s only been hammered home since 1.18 is the apparent client-side smoke, gas, and fire propagation. DICE changed the weather effects to server side after launch, but this logic apparently hasn’t carried through to smoke, gas, and fire, which are arguably more important because they’re way more common. This means I’ve been killed a bunch through smoke, gas, and fire from enemies I couldn’t see because I was screwed by client-side propagation that wasn’t favourable for my line of sight.
I’ve also been killed on more than one occasion by players who are head-glitching to the point where there’s apparently no visible muzzle flash or smoke to help identify their positions. I’ve killed my fair share of head-glitching players, but to see the dodgy tactic rewarded without position-identifying visual clues is disappointing. In fairness, I can’t say for sure whether that’s been introduced with 1.18 or it’s been there all along. It takes a particularly inaccurate head-glitcher to notice this.
Additionally, the menu lags again (it started like that, then was seemingly fixed, now it’s back) whenever I hit escape. Taking the above into account, I’ve not had a great time with Battlefield 1 1.18. Part of that is definitely disappointment created by high expectations for the long-gestating TTK patch. Now that it’s finally here and isn’t working as intended, I’m enjoying the game less. I’m happy to adjust tactics to match gun tuning between patches—I’ve done this a lot in the past across shooters—but when my tactics have to devolve to the opposite direction of what is being suggested in the update notes, just to consistently score kills (when the hits actually register), well, that’s a bad thing.
Worse still, I can already see both of these new maps being voted out of rotation, which has already started to happen with the first two maps from Turning Tides (which are both better that these latest two, in my opinion). But considering that the final Apocalypse DLC drop is scheduled for later this month (which is just odd), I’m hoping DICE can fix what’s broken with 1.18 to, at the very least, ensure this particular Battlefield fan keeps coming back for more. I’ll add an update to this article if I do, as DICE has suggested in the patch notes disclaimer, discover that they “become apparent with time”.