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DICE's Great War: classes, horses and more in Battlefield 1

"This is the genesis of modern warfare..."

Last week EA unveiled Battlefield 1, DICE's new first-person shooter, with an explosive new trailer. It takes the series to World War 1, a war that saw the old clash with the new. So, from the muddy, mustard gas filled trenches we'll see sword fights and bayonet charges and horse combat alongside tank battles, swooping biplanes and warships.

At this early stage of the game's life, DICE won't go into detail on how Battlefield 1 will play, exactly. So, we know nothing of multiplayer game modes and campaign story. But we do have snippets of information that are already setting tongues wagging.

Battlefield 1, for example, revamps the series' melee system, with the addition of a variety of different weapons each with their own stats. There's also a class-based soldier system in play that even extends to vehicles. And what of the campaign? How is it different?

In an interview with Eurogamer, DICE producer Aleks Grondal was willing to answer some of these questions, and explain DICE's decision to use World War 1 as a setting in the first place. Oh yeah, and why is it called Battlefield 1? Let's find out.

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Why did you decide to set the game in World War 1?

Aleks Grondal: We wanted to provide some really new gameplay opportunities. And we wanted to challenge ourselves. We had made a few games set in the modern era, quite a few in a row. We thought this setting had so much cool stuff in it, and it fit our needs. Also, it shouldn't be a secret that this is for some people in the studio an idea they wanted to do for at least 10 years.

How will having a World War 1 setting enable different gameplay?

Aleks Grondal: There are new experiences. We'll have furious cavalry charges on horses next to tanks, next to bi-planes. There's this juxtaposition of the old stuff and the really new things, which creates interesting gameplay flavours for us.

The other part is the hardware this era provides are all very unique. They were all created for a specific purpose. We can use that to create some cool gameplay. For example, the light tank versus the heavy tank, where the light tank actually had the rotating turret, and another tank is just on tracks and it has turrets on the side. All that creates different types of gameplay flavour on vehicles.

And the same thing applies to weapons. All the light machine guns were very different. We can create unique gameplay flavours with light machine guns and heavy machine guns, that people probably didn't carry but we will allow them to carry them anyway because it's really cool.

Why are you calling this Battlefield 1?

Aleks Grondal: We wanted to portray the dawn of all out war. All out war is what the franchise is all about. That's been the case since Battlefield 1942. We also wanted to say this is the genesis of modern warfare. We felt that was an appropriate title for it.

Given you're calling it Battlefield 1, is this a reboot?

Aleks Grondal: I wouldn't call it a reboot, because we're building upon what we built before with Battlefield 4. Technically and gameplay wise we're building upon Battlefield 4 and Battlefield Hardline, and the technology Battlefront has. That just keeps on rolling forward.

So I wouldn't call it a reboot. That seems like an overstatement, because that assumes we would require a reboot, which we don't. The franchise is really healthy and we want to continue growing it.

Battlefield 1's key art leaked ahead of the announcement. It sparked plenty of Doctor Strange comments.

When Battlefield 1's main image was leaked some thought it looked like a fantastical representation of World War 1. Are you going for authenticity or are you taking artistic license?

Aleks Grondal: We are going for authenticity to some degree, but there's always fun over authenticity. That's always what we do with Battlefield games. We do take creative liberties.

But speaking about the key art, that actually recreates something very authentic. The stuff he's wearing is all authentic to the era. We wanted to make sure when you see it that it felt like something different, I haven't seen this before, what is this? That's what that image is supposed to do. You can start de-constructing the image and finding little details about what this game is about. I've been following it on Reddit. It's quite interesting to see all the theories.

We also wanted to signal that this is a fresh take on The Great War. We're not making a documentary on The Great War. This is a fresh take. This is a take we're applying our DICE flavours to the era and the setting. That's really just a backdrop for what the game is in the end. The game should be awesome by itself. It just happens to be World War 1.

So we're not talking about alternate history then? This is grounded on earth in actual countries and places and times and events we're familiar with?

Aleks Grondal: Exactly. And the places you go and the scenarios you get to play are inspired and sometimes even based physically on the location where they took place. We're using technology to capture the actual locations and use them as a baseline for creating our maps.

You get to "be there". We wanted to paint as believable picture of those events as we possibly could, within our own restrictions of what Battlefield is.

You have a class-based structure now. Why did you go down that route?

Aleks Grondal: Yes, we have Assault, Medic, Scout and Support classes. And then we have the additional vehicle classes, which are dedicated classes for the type of vehicles. We have a Pilot class and a Tanker class.

The idea with those is that you should be playing the main weapon of the tanker, which is the actual tank. And that's the weapon you pick for it. We want you to dedicate yourself to being in the role you choose to be. We think there's a strong fantasy in that. That allows us to create more unique flavours on the different classes and the gameplay around them - what kind of equipment they bring with them into the battlefield compared to the other classes. They have their unique weapons and gadgets they bring in.

What we're facilitating is teamwork. Playing as different classes - it doesn't have to be like one is playing Support, one is playing Medic, one is playing Recon. That's not really the point. The point is you should construct your group towards the type of situation you're in. Some situations, there might be a lot of vehicles. Okay, you need a lot of explosives and maybe you need a Medic to support you.

It's all about making those choices when you deploy. It's all about that. Making the choices and adapting to the situation. We want you to feel like you're contributing.

The horses are getting a lot of attention. Do they act like vehicles on the battlefield?

Aleks Grondal: This is the first mount we have ever built in a Battlefield game. So we're bringing a new dimension to the vehicle selection. This is something quite new for the franchise. That's as far as I can take that right now! But it's pretty exciting. You can speculate a lot from what you've seen. The answers will become clear. Yes, they will play a central role.

I have an image of 64 players all on horses, charging into each other. In my mind it looks hilarious and fun.

Aleks Grondal: Yes! Yes, absolutely. Yeah. Yep! I can't say right now whether that's the case. But I agree with you. That is an awesome picture.

It looks like you're putting a big emphasis on melee this time. The bayonet charge is a case in point, but are there any other changes?

Aleks Grondal: You can choose from a wide selection of type of melee weapon, everything from shovel to trench maces to swords. And all of these have different types of gameplay effects. They have various different speeds. They can break through different types of material when you use them. Certain weapons break through doors, but other weapons won't. Some of them are slower but more deadly. Some of them are faster but less deadly.

That's the flavour you can play around with. The idea is you'll find one that matches your personal taste. And of course it's cool to take people down with a bayonet charge.

How does that work, exactly?

Aleks Grondal: Firstly, you've got to put the bayonet on your weapon. Basically, you charge up and run. Anyone who gets stuck in your way is probably going to have a hard time. You commit to a charge and off you go.

But if you miss?

Aleks Grondal: If you miss, you really miss. That adds another type of flavour when it comes to the close quarters combat. I don't know what's going to happen around that corner. I'm going to charge around that corner. That's something we haven't had before. The most efficient way would have probably been going around the corner with a shotgun. But now we have a different type of choice to make with these weapons.

And you can hit people on the head with a shovel.

Aleks Grondal: Yes! That is a fun thing to do. They had all kinds of weird, bizarre and really brutal-looking melee weapons they used. Players will be able to choose from all of those.

They made their own and they utilised things that weren't meant to be a melee weapon. Like most of these weapons, they came to be out of necessity. They created them out of necessity, which I think is cool. It's a unique flavour.

You've talked about the game telling multiple characters' stories. But how exactly will that work? Will we switch between the characters?

Aleks Grondal: We're changing it up this time. I can't go into too much detail, but the goal is for you to be able to explore multiple different stories from multiple different perspectives. Think about it like this: if something cool happened over here, and something cool happened over here, we'd rather not have a story that jumps from all around the world. We want to have personal, relateable stories we can tell in a space where they actually make sense to be.

For instance, in the trailer you see one of the characters - actually you see a few of them - but one of the heroines we have is on the horse. Her story takes place in Arabia. We provide different gameplay flavours and also thematic flavours. So it should feel different than our previous campaigns.

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