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.