Battlefield One's first expansion pack is nearly upon us and it brings with it a brand new way to play, Frontlines. Let's take a look.
Dice has taken a shine to the idea of mashing up their two most popular modes, Conquest and Rush. Operations, for example, emphasised a Rush Style march across the map while removing the necessity for teams to plant bombs on objectives - instead capturing points the conquest way, via proximity. It still wallows locked behind matchmaking, BF1's best new mode
played by very few in regions where player numbers don't always play nicely with less than transparent MM.
Frontlines again takes the ideas from Conquest and Rush and mashes them together — although Frontlines mercifully has a place in the server browser as well. The mode uses Conquest points to dictate a sense of progress across the map until finally allowing one team to finish off their opponents using the Rush style explosive system, where they plant bombs on A and B respectively.
For example, the game begins with a battle over point B. Your team captures the point, so we move to point C. Being strong of spirit, my team captures point C, and then quickly takes B, so the front shifts to point A. An entire squad on your team rage quits, and the numbers advantage allows my team to capture A. Your team now defends two Rush objectives A and B (denoted by different icons) while mine attacks. We blow up objective A but we run out of tickets before we can destroy B — the front is pushed back, and my team needs to Capture A again to make another push on the objective. This back-and-forth persists, until eventually my team, with its superior numbers and having the advantage of my presence, wins the game.
This creates interesting tactics and strategy as teams attempt to take the entire map off their enemy. Even during our short amount of playtime — 12 ish hours — we still saw teams actively gaming the system when they knew they had the advantage. Sometimes when capturing point B and knowing that they would immediately then need to capture point C, squads with linger at point C while the rest of the team took point B. This means as a defender it's also in your interest to clear out the next point — especially if the other team has all but captured the zone.
During the zoning phase of the game mode the back and forth was as involved as it ever is in Conquest although it follows an entirely linear progression. The frantic traversal across the map as both teams battle over a single point is classic Battlefield — the only thing missing is the option to abandon an offensive that isn't working and try something different.
The Rush phase is also classic Rush, as it should be, and the defenders are forced to hold out the attacking team until they have bled all the attackers tickets. Last ditch, all or nothing defences seem par for the course here, which is also classic battlefield. A few times I switched to support to bombard the Rush objectives with mortar shells — forcing the attackers to come find me so they could secure the plant.
In execution it feels uniquely Battlefield, even if I know it isn't as a mode. Other games, like Homefront or… well, Frontlines: Fuel of War, obviously leaned heavily on the concept of the moving front. The truth is, I was a fan of this in both of these games — I think the moving front is a wholly compelling concept, even if I'm obviously a fan of the conquest model as well. It works well in Battlefield because it leans on familiar concepts — the core of what I think Battlefield 1 has done so well is lean on ideas meted out over the course of the game's history and then combined it in satisfying ways.
If it has any drawbacks, it's that it is pretty susceptible to one team tilting and the game being over too quickly. It can definitely feel lopsided, especially if one team outnumbers the other. The other issue is that with singular objectives, snipers have even more excuses to pitch tents — there are even fewer places they need to look at across the map than usual.
All up though, it feels like a very satisfying addition to a game I already thoroughly enjoy, and I'm looking forward to playing it when the DLC drops — which is tomorrow for Premium Pass holders — a business model I'm very much not crazy about — and two weeks from tomorrow for the rest of us.