They Shall Not Pass has a lot to prove. As the first of four planned expansions for Battlefield 1, this DLC carries the weight of its Season Pass on its shoulders. It’s the standard setter. After spending hours dodging gas grenades, playing scout-sniper in my hilltop hideaways, and rushing control points like the little Bullet Sponge That Could, I’m pleased to say that DICE has set the standard high.
They Shall Not Pass is focused on the role of France in World War 1. Each of the four new maps takes place in a French locale, some quaint and even beautiful before the fighting begins. There are two new operations, Beyond the Marne and Devil’s Anvil, a new game mode called Frontlines, a new Trench Raided elite class, a speedy new French tank, a siege gun, a new firearm weapon for each class, and four new melee weapons, on top of the expected medals and dog tags.
The maps are the real draw here and, for the most part, they deliver. Verdun Heights is easily the best map of the bunch. Half afire with a recent bombing and utterly wrought throughout, this map feels like a war scene. It is a map about rushing hills and rapid descents, makeshift sniper holes and quick turns to one-two the enemy around the next corner. But what makes the map is more than the spectacle and intensity and excellent design, wide-open Battlefield design: it’s the haze. Play long enough and smoke descends on everything, obscuring your vision, orange-lit by the perpetual burning. It is by far the most “realistic” theater of war in Battlefield 1 and an absolute rush to play on.
The other maps work hard but never approach Verdun Height’s stunning design. Fort de Vaux takes places in a fortress that’s been reduced to rubble. Above ground, trenches reign supreme but daring to climb out reveals an incredible vista of desolation. In what remains, entrances to underground tunnels lead to intense close quarters battles.
Rupture and Soissons both retreat to the countryside, though Rupture is easily the more remarkable of the two. Both maps are centralized around little towns and farmland. Rupture is, frankly, prettier with its swaying poppy flowers, but it’s also just a more well designed map. Elevation plays an important role in any Battlefield map. Both maps feature plentiful hills, but well placed buildings, trenches, and trees keep Rupture more consistently interesting. The central bridge (which can completely collapse) draws firefights like a bear to honey. In comparison, Soissons feels rather bland with essentially just farmland to fight over. All of the maps are interesting and solid additions to the BF1 roster, but the highlight is without question Verdun Heights.
Apart from the two new operations on these maps, the other bigger addition is the Frontlines game mode. This mode combines Rush with Conquest to create something reminiscent of both. As you play, you’ll capture a series of objectives that progress through the map. Once you’ve captured them all, the final objective, destroying two telegraph posts at the enemy’s base, unlocks for the final win condition. Frontlines is a lot of fun and combines the best of both modes, but desperately need a timer. Matches easily run upwards of an hour with two competent teams. Match length by itself isn’t an issue, but when they’re unnecessarily drawn out by a stalemate at the final terminal, the fun completely leaves the match. Soissons is particularly susceptible to this.
The new weapons are a mixed bag with a couple of standouts. Only the assault class gets two unique weapons, the Sjogren Inerial Shotgun and the Ribbeyrolles 1918 automatic rifle. The Ribbeyrolles is easily Battlefield 1’s closest analog to an assault rifle. The medic gets the RSC semi-automatic, which can kill in two solid shots but is slower than I’d prefer. Scouts get the Lebel Model 1886, a fairly middle of the road sniper rifle, and Support receives the Chauchat LMG, the highest damage, lowest rate of fire LMG seen so far in the game. My only criticism would be that some of the assignments may be difficult for casual players to achieve.
Six new melee weapons are also featured in They Shall Not Pass. Three of these can be unlock by completed “50 kill” assignments with other melee weapons. The other three, including the brutal Billhook, are locked behind puzzle pieces discovered in battlepacks you can purchase or earn in-game. The new kill animations accompanying these weapons can be absolutely brutal.
That brings us to the new elite class, The Trench Raider, and it is a flat out blast to play. Trench Raiders are melee based and have an extra large health pool, allowing them to jump right in amongst their enemies and essentially one-shot kill them with their spiked club. They also have a supply of grenades to take on clusters of enemies at a time. I have never been one for melee rampages, but the extra health of the Trench Raider finally makes that style of play accessible to the masses. It’s visceral and fun.
They Shall Not Pass is a solid addition to the base game and a welcome introduction to the breadth and quality of content DICE is known for packing into their expansion packs. The weapons and maps expand an already excellent sandbox with new opportunities and challenges to push you into fresh styles of play. Though, in my opinion, Verdun Heights alone would justify the cost of this expansion. Everything else just makes the this DLC all the more worthwhile.