Battlefield 1 wastes little time in conveying the savagery of World War 1. The inevitability of death is the focus of the bleak story prologue. A burning man’s screams can be heard at the start of every multiplayer match in the Argonne Forest. It’s ruination on a multi-continental scale, a conflict so large that its location menus showcase a large portion of the Earth. EA DICE splendidly interprets the early 20th century as a world in technological transition while humanizing the war’s participants through well crafted, albeit fictional, narrative vignettes. Combined with an enthralling multiplayer component, the overall result is the studio’s best work since Battlefield: Bad Company 2.
The horrors and heroism of The Great War are well told in War Stories, Battlefield 1’s campaign. It’s a more focused experience compared to prior Battlefield story modes of globetrotting and one-note powderkeg narratives. These new tales are organized in a non-linear anthology format that doesn’t need to be played in any particular order. You are exposed to a variety of perspectives from the characters you play, each with their own motivations, from altruistic to self-serving. And each tale is presented with distinct narrative flavor. The exploits of the mostly unlikeable Clyde Blackburn, for example, represent the stories that get mixed up in the chaos of war. This gambler and swindler leaves the events of his alleged adventure open to interpretation. His tale is an effective contrast to the somber post-war account of Luca Vincenzo Cocchiola, an armored Italian soldier tasked with protecting his twin brother from everything from bombers, shock troopers, flamethrowers, and more.
Beyond these heartfelt tales of brotherhood and solemn reflection, War Stories gracefully complements the multiplayer scenarios as a glorified yet effective training mode. Along with practice time commanding vehicles and heavy artillery, it provides an opportunity to learn melee combat, as well as how to survive against high concentrations of enemy forces. It also presents scenarios that you wouldn’t find online, such as valuable lessons in the ways of stalking enemies and how best to move wounded allies to the safety of cover.
The vehicular sections of War Stories introduce you to the first generation of tanks and fighter aircraft that were the advanced warfare of their time. In “Through the Mud and Blood,” a Mark V tank is its own character, endearingly nicknamed Bess by its crew. Short on space though tanks may be, a carrier pigeon joins you for the ride, and proves to be a valuable passenger during one of the campaign’s most touching scenes.
Battlefield 1’s multiplayer stays faithful to the series’ roots of open-space combat, now marvelously tailored with World War 1’s weapons, vehicles, and terrain. Its centerpiece, Operations, finds one side pushing forward while the other holds them back in conflicts that can last an hour. It’s not an emotionally draining endurance match, however; the changes in environments as the battle progresses keeps the fight fresh. A match can move across up to five areas across the same region, which is analogous to playing five different small maps. As a cavalry-inspired twist, the losing side gets two last ditch opportunities to win with the help of an airship, attack train, or a dreadnought.