Full-scale war at small-scale size.
I’m already bad at Battlefield 1 (I often find myself wishing there was War Poet class who earned tickets for sitting down in a barn and writing sadly as the bombs go off) so to find out that the brand new mode I was playing was a 5v5 match-up that puts a premium on skillful teamplay was worrying. To subsequently find out that the opposing team was full of eSports pros, and that I was the only English speaker on my team was positively frightening. The match went as you’d expect – but in its own cruel way, that teaches me everything I need to know about Incursions.
The mode twists series staple Conquest into a tight, fraught sport. Getting a kill, destroying a tank or capturing a point earns you one point. Earn 10 points and you win a set. 5 sets brings the match to half time. World War 1 has a half time now – that’s weird. It’s clear then, that this is Conquest, amplified. There are two certainties in Battlefield: death and tactics, and they mean more than ever here, making teamwork key.
Teamwork itself is amplified by the addition of more distinct classes – Squad Leaders are the only friendly unit that can be spawned to directly, there are units who can spawn tanks (devastating weapons, yes, but they can end up offering extra points for the enemy in less skilled hands), and medics, who become absolutely crucial. There are subclasses within each type, allowing for some flexibility with team composition, too.
I was playing a Mortar Support, whose role is pretty self-explanatory. My loadout was designed for staying back, using friendly spotters to fire off shells from a distance – equally, it means I’m poor for movement, and vulnerable to attack from behind. Every class seems to have a clear flaw, specifically so that the rest of the team can compensate or assist. Unfortunately, I don’t know the German for, “hello, I’m on the little hill behind a hay bale, I can hear a tank coming, could someone deal with that- oh wait he ran over my legs, never mind”, so I wasn’t running at 100% efficiency.
Then I saw the enemy team. Players working in tight groups, combing through buildings and taking us out one-by-one, while their squad leader sniped from a nearby hill, acting as a deadly spawn beacon for the few deaths they incurred. A player in a tank took a capture point single-handedly, allowing for the rest to roam between the two others and, eventually, begin pushing my team at our spawn.
It was a literal schooling, and a deft demonstration of what Incursions could offer. I’m unsure whether your average player will play with quite the same finesse, but it’s self-evidently a more team-based experience. I’d suspect that, like the hero shooters Incursions draws on, playing with a full or near-full team will be the only way to guarantee victory. There’s also the question of whether Battlefield players actively want a mode that pares down the epic scale of the series’ trademark battles, but it’s unlikely to be an unwelcome addition to the choices of how to play.
Joe Skrebels is IGN’s UK News Editor, and he’s sorry to all his nice German teammates. Follow him on Twitter.