Battlefield 1’s World War I Setting Saved the Franchise

By | 5 months ago 

Find out why one writer thinks that DICE’s decision to have Battlefield 1 set during World War I was ultimately the right move for the Battlefield franchise.

After Battlefield 4‘s rocky launch and the somewhat mixed reception to Star Wars Battlefront, I had lost a lot of my anticipation for DICE’s future projects. I found myself disinterested in whatever the next Battlefield game was going to be, and assumed that it would just be another spin on the tired modern warfare formula. However, when Battlefield 1 was revealed to be set in World War I, my attitude quickly changed from apathy to hype.

Personally, I have been calling for games like Call of Duty to return to World War II, but I think Battlefield 1 being set during World War I is an even better idea. World War II games, while somewhat scarce nowadays, had once flooded the market, whereas many other historical armed conflicts have been largely ignored in the video game space. There have been games in the past set during World War I, sure, but nothing really on the scale of Battlefield 1, which is partly why I’m now so excited for the game.

I don’t even know all that much about World War I, so part of the reason why I dig the setting is that it gives me an opportunity to learn more about the conflict, while also (hopefully) being entertained. Of course, Battlefield 1 isn’t 100% historically accurate, but even so, I learned a lot about World War II playing video games – and I think it’ll be the same case here.

Of course, I am relying on DICE to produce a quality single-player campaign to capitalize on the World War I setting and the fresh storytelling potential it brings to the table. Rumors point to Battlefield 1‘s campaign being only six missions long, and while that is somewhat troubling, as long as each stage explores different parts of the war in different areas around the globe, I think that the short length can be forgiven. To that end, DICE has said that Battlefield 1‘s campaign levels will be sandboxes, which could help with replayability and make the low mission count a non-issue.

Battlefield 1 Historically Accurate

Another reason why I am psyched to experience World War I in Battlefield 1 is that there are so few shooters with historical settings nowadays. In fact, there’s such a shortage that Battalion 1944 was funded through Kickstarter by fans desperate for a current-gen FPS set during World War II. Despite there being obvious demand for FPS franchises to return to their roots, it seems that most of the major franchises are resisting this – with the exception being, you guessed it, Battlefield 1.

Battlefield 1‘s chief competition, Call of Duty, has gone in the exact opposite direction. The next CoD, subtitled Infinite Warfare, is set in the far future, and trades any semblance of realism in favor of mech suits and spaceships – though it stops short of having alien enemies. This is a really bad move in my eyes on the part of Infinity Ward, and I think that Infinite Warfare may be a game that doesn’t wind up with an overly positive critical reception.

The reason being that fans are sick of Call of Duty games having futuristic settings. Advanced Warfare was set in the future, Black Ops III was set in the future, and now Infinite Warfare is set so far in the future it might as well have a Halo ring to blow up. The core Call of Duty fan base latched onto the series during the days of Modern Warfare and Black Ops, and I think even Activision realizes that Infinite Warfare by itself wouldn’t be enough to beat Battlefield 1.

Battlefield 1 campaign cover

That’s why a remastered version of Call of Duty 4 is being sold with special editions of the game, to entice Call of Duty veterans that are sick of the franchise diverting so far from its origins. I think there’s a distinct possibility that those disgruntled fans will gravitate to Battlefield 1 and its World War I setting instead when the games go on sale this fall.

And when I say that fans aren’t excited about Infinite Warfare and people are more interested in Battlefield 1, I’m not just blowing smoke. On the contrary, there’s actual evidence of this if one just compares the Call of Duty and Battlefield 1 reveal trailers. Not only has the Battlefield 1 reveal trailer been watched more times than the Infinite Warfare trailer, but it also has millions of likes on YouTube. Meanwhile, the Infinite Warfare trailer has millions of dislikes, and I think that the game’s futuristic setting is largely to blame for that.

To me, it’s clear that FPS fans are ready to return to historical settings – all of which can feel new thanks to the added power of the current-generation consoles. Battlefield 1‘s take on World War I will feel even fresher as it is a time period that has rarely been explored by games in the past, and I think that the sales of Battlefield 1 versus Infinite Warfare may reflect that consumers want historical conflicts in their video games, especially for franchises that built their legacy on them.

Battlefield 1 will be available on October 21st for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.