Nachos: That’s a positive noise, right? Because I’m digging it.
Joaby: It's not a positive noise at all, Nachos. Naval Strike seems like a mode that they barely play-tested, a haphazard shit-show of 'wouldn't it be cool?' concepts thrown together in an unbalanced mess of game modes, maps and weapons. Carrier Assault is by far the biggest culprit, but the maps themselves do nothing to encourage me to put time in on them. They're bogged down with attack boats on rolling waves that are difficult to hit and too many... I'm getting ahead of myself -- what about Naval Strike are you digging exactly?
Nachos: I’m a big fan of the recent (since Battlefield 3) DICE trend of developing its Battlefield DLC under a theme with a play mode that embraces that theme. It shows the scalability of the gameplay formula. In Naval Strike, the maps are extremely open, which forces players to adapt their play style. Anti-air mines are a fantastic option for taming skilled pilots that tend to dominate such maps, while boats are easily countered by my always-deadly RPG-7. I’m particularly enjoying the merging of Conquest and Rush modes in Carrier Assault.
Joaby: I'm glad you brought up Carrier Assault, because it's my biggest gripe with the new DLC. It doesn't seem like much thought was put into how it was balanced, because the second phase of the ship has far too little health and affords attackers far too many options. Simply put, once a team enters phase two they are all-but guaranteed victory.
Let me give you an example -- we have two teams, Team A and The Fighting Mongooses. The Fighting Mongooses have played quite well for the entire game, capping the majority of the points on the map and dealing significant damage to the enemy carrier. Eventually the carrier opens (entering Phase 2) and suddenly the Mongooses are presented with two options: they can enter the ship and blow up the rush objectives, or they can continue to hold the conquest points to allow the missile silos to blow up the ship that way.
The carrier in Phase 2 has so little health that the best bet for the Mongooses is to send a small group of players to attack the Rush objectives while the majority of the team continues to hold the missile silos. Those attacking the ship itself will draw defenders from Team A, allowing the Mongooses to better hold the island and eventually the missile silos will do all the necessary work.
With more health Team A would have their own options. A small defensive force could stay and hold the hangar on their ship in Phase 2 while Team A itself concentrated on busting open the Mongoose carrier. Once open the game is effectively even again (though the Mongooses have a slight advantage at all times thanks to their speed in Phase 1).
The current problem with Carrier Assault is the same as it is in MOBA games. A bad team just means you'll spend a lot of time inevitably losing, and because of the way the game is set up you're able to identify when you're on a bad team fairly early. There's little opportunity for redemption, and most players will just switch teams (if available) or leave the server -- further widening the gulf between the teams.
Nachos: Up until recently, I would have agreed with you on the balancing problems of Carrier Assault, as every game tends to end with the first-breaching team almost automatically winning. I played a match the other day where it came down to the wire. In fact, their team planted B before we did, but our defenders on our carrier defused the bomb, which allowed us to win. It was an incredibly tense experience.
I’ve never actually experienced a Carrier Assault victory/loss by way of a team using Conquest tactics to hold down the points for continued damage on the enemy carrier. What’s cool is that it tends to split a team in three: the first group rushes to attack/defend a carrier; the second group continues doing Conquest flag capping; the third group rushes to defend/attack a carrier (only if both carriers are open at the same time, as tends to happen in my experience).
What stops it from descending into carefully delineated Conquest-then-Rush mode is the possibility that your team could crack the enemy carrier. Terrible friendly players notwithstanding, this has happened more often than not. You then get a balance switch as the enemy team has to decide between sending more people to defend their carrier, or pushing the offensive angle.
As for defending, it’s quite tricky. Unless you’ve got a well organised group of attackers, there are multiple angles the enemy can attack from. I was incapable of finding a single easy spot that would cover all options, while protecting my teammates' backs. I would like to add that there’s an abhorrent glitch that allows attacking players to gun down defenders through steel doors. Not cool, DICE. Fix that shit, stat.
Unfortunately, bad players are the bane of any team-based multiplayer experience. I would hope that, this long into Battlefield 4’s shelf life, players have learnt to play objectives and work together, but that doesn’t always happen. That’s hardly the fault of the mode, though. I find that I can still be rewarded in Battlefield 4 -- whether playing individually or with friends -- as long as I play objective because of the way the scoring system works.
Joaby: That was sort of my point, Nachos. With more Phase 2 carrier health the series of events you describe -- the three-pronged approach to the battlefield -- would have more of an opportunity to occur because the flag-capping strategy wouldn't be the fastest path to victory.
Nevertheless I think it is a fault of the game mode. Rush and Conquest aren't the two most popular modes by accident. They're both fairly competitive modes which allow players to enjoy themselves despite shitty teammates, and I don't think Carrier Assault shares that trait. If you find yourself stuck on a crap team in Conquest (as you and I were today, in fact) you can still have a good time by compartmentalising your goals. Instead of trying to win the match you can try to cap and hold a single objective. Or you can try to drag your squad to the top of your shitty team's Leaderboard. You have options, and it's rare that you'll resign yourself to your mediocre fate.
When your team is crap in Carrier Assault, you're going to lose and there's very little you can do about it. With more health and the opportunity for your team to breach you could compartmentalise and focus on rushing the objectives; but if your team can't even manage to hold a single point on the island without your direct input, it's hard to remain hopeful.
I noticed earlier that you both deflected my complaint about the attack boats and took a pot shot at my skill level. Can we talk about how hard it is to STOP THE BOATS now, or do you have more to say regarding Carrier Assault?
Nachos: It sounds as though you haven’t had the opportunity to play any balanced matches of Carrier Assault, as I’ve had more than a couple of games where the three-pronged approach has happened. Organically. On a public server.
Joaby: Ok, obviously I was a little harsh. I have enjoyed some close matches -- a few have gone right down to the wire with one team blowing up B moments before their carrier exploded. I feel that these matches aren't as regular as they should be though -- the main thrust of my argument is that with more Carrier Health in Phase 2 they would be the norm, instead of the rainbow after a storm.
Nachos: I absolutely agree about the popularity of Rush and Conquest modes, but I’ve yet to encounter another example of a team-based multiplayer game that rewards playing objective and supporting teams. Hell, DICE has almost all but nullified the cries of kill stealing that usually plague team-based games by the ‘Assist counts as kill’ mechanic’. To respond to your point more directly, you and I ended up at the top of the Leaderboards on our shitty team because we compartmentalised our goals. I’m okay with that. I don’t get shitty at shitty teams anymore; I just do my bit to ensure I’m as high as possible on that Leaderboard. If I’m playing with an awesome team, I don’t care where I fall on the ladder.
Attack boats are still a tad OP, but this means I have a whole lot more respect for them. In practical terms, this translates to me perpetually playing Engineer in Naval Strike maps, because boats harass the coast and choppers own the centre of the maps. Of course, on those rare occasion that I get to fly a chopper, my main priority is destroying boats... and other choppers. I will say that DICE has unfortunately continued the trend of having an absence of vehicles on open maps. I’m not talking about more attacking vehicles, but it would be nice to have more jet skis or hovercraft to get between the points that are farther apart.
Joaby: Dear lord I'm glad you said it, because it drives me crazy. These little archipelagos are a nightmare to try to cross if you don't have a jet ski. If some dickhead on my team goes zipping off alone on one while I spam "I need a ride" it's usually just easier to stay at the cap point than to try to swim for it. The regularity of these circumstances just further reinforces my belief that nobody at DICE play-tested the game.
I have to be honest, Nachos, it seems like you've identified a lot of the same problems I did and have just decided to deal with them. I don't have a major problem spamming Javelins at people who use attack boats the way some used APCs near the hotel spawn in BF2-era Karkand, but I don't want the game to force me into one particular role.
On Hardcore, the attack boat situation is significantly pronounced, but I still don't like how they force me into a single role in Normal. That's not what Battlefield is supposed to be about. You're not supposed to play a role because you have to -- you're supposed to exercise your options in new and interesting ways. You can't even C4 the boats, something you can do to tanks and APCs, because you move very slow in the water and you're a sitting duck.
The worst part about this is that I don't really have a solution for the problem -- not off hand. Maybe if the pilots of the attack boats weren't armoured you could snipe them off the deck, but that would raise all sorts of other issues. I don't know, Nachos. I hate the attack boats. I hate driving them, I hate trying to fight them as infantry and I hate trying to fight them on the open ocean.
Nachos: The lack of vehicles is particularly troubling considering how the capping logic tends to work for your average team: namely, capping points in a certain quadrant of a map. The result is that points are often all captured in one part of the map, with the others being held by the enemy. Super-frustrating when you have to trek it from A to E only to be killed in a jet fly-by. I would like to believe there’s a logic behind the lack of vehicles, but I can’t figure it out.
I guess my mentality is more to do with how I approach team-based multiplayer. When I use to play a lot of Counter-Strike and Day of Defeat, I got used to playing with terrible teams, so I’d switch my weapons/play style/role accordingly. The same is true of Battlefield 4, even outside of the Naval Strike DLC. I tend to prefer to play Engineer anyway, because it means I can stop both infantry and vehicles from a distance. I understand that’s not the same for everyone, but every class does have a way of doing damage to vehicles with the right equipment.
As for C4ing boats, that still tends to happen the kamikazi way: jet skis, RHIBs and hovercraft strapped with explosives. It’s a tactic that works in the main game, and even more so in Naval Strike. My experience with enemy attack boats is they tend to clump together and hunt infantry, which means they’re usually sufficiently distracted from a high-speed injection of C4 into their afts. You never want to be caught in the water at any stage in BF4, though: I love killing swimming infantry from the shore, so it’s not like attack boats are the only mortal threat if you’re afloat.
I really enjoy cruising around in attack boats, but I honestly don’t tend to survive for too long. Selfish boat captains tend to stay still for too long if you’re on the side guns, which results in my head being easy target practice for snipers. They also don’t seem to understand that the boats work best when pointed straight at an enemy so both side-gunners can unleash at a target, too. It seems to me that players are wary of attack boats now to the point where each squad has at least a couple of Engineers to deal with them. That’s okay by me.
On the topic of solutions, I really want DICE to bring back some of the equipment from older games. Jetpacks would be the perfect navigation option for open maps, and would also allow for classy C4 dispatching of pesky helicopters. I’d also love to see the zip line make a return, but that’s mainly because I have a weird thing for zip lines.
Joaby: I would play the hell out of a DLC along the same lines of BF2: Special Forces, with zip lines and small, infantry focused urban maps. Instead they give us a half-hearted Carrier Assault and a bunch of maps with way too much water.
I get what you're saying -- you adapt your play-style to fit the landscape of the game, regardless of how that landscape is formed. Still, I remember when players were able to experiment with goofy solutions to problems (that's how the C4 Kamikaze strategy was born, after all) and I feel like we're all stuck playing the same game now. The space for experimentation just isn't there in Naval Strike, and that kinda bugs me.
Nachos: Going back to my earlier point about theme, I love that DICE entices players to try out play-styles they hadn’t considered before. Close Quarters for BF3 encouraged players to use shotguns and close-range weapons; Armored Kill pushed players to learn the specifics of armoured combat; and it’s a similar affair with Naval Strike. I’ve never been big on the boats, except to get from carrier to land, but now I’m being encouraged to use them in different ways. The idea is to then take back what you’ve learnt from DLC to the core experience: I’m now more skilled at using boats and choppers from Naval Strike because I’ve had them offered as primary combat options.
Joaby: That's where we differ, Nachos. You look to Battlefield's DLC to find something to supplement whereas I look to it to replace. For you the DLC acts as a handy addition, a learning tool designed to open your mind to something you hadn't experienced before. For me it's supposed to supercede the core experience, because all-too-often that's exactly what DLC in a competitive game does.
I guess, in that cop-out to end all cop-outs, neither of us is right or wrong, though it does seem like your perspective allows you more opportunity to enjoy DLC. I'd like to know how others feel about the Naval Strike DLC -- what is it that people love or hate about DICE's final piece of Battlefield 4 DLC?