Battlefield 5’s last update is coming, marking the end for a poorly handled game

Battlefield 5 is a textbook case on how not to develop a AAA game as a service. The title launched with little fanfare and was quickly put on sale. Unlike with Star Wars Battlefront 2, DICE never really turned opinion around on Battlefield 5. The game has languished as a result, and now DICE is finally pulling the plug on new content after the last update in June.

DICE and EA seemed content to set Battlefield 5 up for failure even before it properly released. The companies leaned into the nontroversy concerning in playable female characters and historically inaccurate cosmetics in multiplayer by making statements like “If you don’t like it, don’t buy it,” and mocking troll statements made on social media during the launch party. Well, it seems like players took those statements to heart, but not because of female avatars.

Battlefield 5 failed because it never found its identity, which is strange as it’s the 11th game in the series. This was obvious from the reveal trailer where EA and DICE portrayed the game as Fortnite: WWII then two weeks later completely dropped that tone for a “solumn” aesthetic in the multiplayer trailer. However, BF5’s worst misstep was arguably the Firestorm battle royale mode that was introduced months after release and immediately flopped. However, excepting the terrible, disjointed reveal and Firestorm, the game still had a lot of issues finding what it wanted to be.

Battlefield 1942 is one of the OG WW2 FPS multiplayer games (scoring a 4.5/5 when we reviewed it in 2002), and fans of the franchise were expecting an updated version of that iconic title. However, Battlefield 5 continued the focus on “unknown battles” that began with Battlefield 1. This worked with BF1 because most people aren’t too familiar with World War I to start with. However, a game set in World War II brings with it certain expectations.

Battlefield 5 received six chapters in its Tides of War live service (the June update won’t include a new chapter). It was intended that Tides of War would take players through WWII in chronological order from beginning to end. Instead, the mode has been a confusing and mediocre assembly of somewhat related content.

Unfortunately, the base game and Tides of War didn’t quite make it through WW2:

  • Original Maps:
    • Aerodrome: Libya, 1941-1942
    • Arras: Arras France, May 21, 1940
    • Devastation: Rotterdam, Netherlands, May 14, 1940
    • Fjell: East of Narvik, Norway, May-June 1940
    • Hamada: Halfaya Pass, Egypt June 15-17, 1941
    • Narvik: Narvik, Norway, May 28, 1940
    • Rotterdam: Rotterdam, Netherlands, May 10-14, 1940
    • Twisted Steel: Escaut River, France, May 18-21, 1940
  • Chapter 1 – Overture
    • Panzerstorm: Belgium, 1940
  • Chapter 2: Lightning Strikes
    • No maps added
  • Chapter 3 – Trial by Fire
    • Mercury: Battle of Crete, Greece, May-June, 1941
  • Chapter 4 – Defying the Odds
    • Al Sundan: North Africa, Sometime between 1940-1943
    • Marita: Operation Marita, Greece, April-June 1941
    • Lofoten Islands: Operation Claymore, Norway, March 1941
    • Provence: Vichy France, 1943
  • Chapter 5 – War in the Pacific
    • Iwo Jima: Iwo Jima, February-March, 1945
    • Pacific Storm: Marshall Islands, January-February, 1945
    • Wake Island: Non-historical scenario
  • Chapter 6 – Into the Jungle
    • Solomon Islands: Solomon Islands campaign, January 1942-August 1945

Now that Tides of War is being abandoned by DICE, we’re left with maybe the most uneven representation of World War II ever presented in video game format. We have two maps set in Greece, two in the Netherlands, and two in Norway, but not a single location on the Eastern Front. The Soviet Army is entirely absent in Battlefield 5. That’s right, the Soviets have more representation in Battlefield 1, despite the October Revolution occurring only a year before the end of WWI, than they do in Battlefield 5.

I don’t expect DICE to include every battle that every nation fought in WWII. However, the Battlefield series hasn’t been set in WWII since the first game in the franchise, so why did the devs hyperfocus on the European Theater in 1940-1941? DICE could have pulled from any point in the conflict because Battlefield hadn’t visited the time period in 15 years.

As it stands, we got a WWII game missing staples like:

  • Battle of Britain
  • Battle of the Bulge
  • Battle of Berlin
  • Battle of Leningrad
  • Battle of Midway
  • Battle of Guadalcanal
  • Battle of Kharkov
  • Battle of Kursk
  • Battle of Moscow
  • Battle of Normandy (D-Day)
  • Battle of Okinawa
  • Battle of Stalingrad
  • Operation Market Garden

If DICE really cared about “telling untold stories,” they could have gone with any number of battles that would have given players a broader scope of World War II. Like:

With the last two Tides of War chapters, “War in the Pacific” and “Into the Jungle,” DICE seemed to have finally started to hit its stride with BF5. We got some good maps and the introduction of the Pacific Theater and the Japanese. However, it was obviously too little too late. It seems like the devs realized that players were more interested in playing known battles in diverse environments and sped up development on the Pacific-centric content, but it didn’t stick.

Unfortunately, Battlefield isn’t Star Wars. While DICE and EA couldn’t afford to let Battlefront 2 sink and potentially lose the Star Wars license, but that’s not the case with BF5. We’ll never get to see this game live up to its potential, and DICE and EA have shown they’re not particularly concerned with fan opinion. Gameplay issues like Time-To-Kill have persisted off and on from launch, and Battlefield forums are rife with complaints of hackers and bugs to this day.

It’s disappointing that Battlefield 5 only had a lifespan of a year and a half. Tides of War is a really cool concept that could have been an excellent way for players to experience World War II. We’ve heard no substantial rumors of a Battlefield for 2020, so we’re likely going to see a new title in late 2021 at the earliest. That would have given DICE time to have taken us through some of the most iconic battles of WWII. Instead, we got modes no one wanted, bugs, and a little over half the maps Battlefield 1942 had.