First Impressions - Arma Reforger
Before I start rambling about Arma Reforger, I want to make something clear: it’s really hard for me to remain objective when talking about Arma. See, the thing is that I’ve played 4,000.7 hours of Arma 3, 755.5 of DayZ and just under 200 of Arma 2 and Arma 2: Operation Arrowhead. I have maps of Chernarus and Takistan hanging on my walls, am currently talking to a friend who I met while running a unit in Arma 3, and I even installed Arma Tactics for a week back in 2015. Bohemia Interactive may as well be my dad, because its titles raised me. And now that Arma Reforger is out…well, I guess I should say goodbye to my real dad, because I have a new one, and it doesn’t ask me to pay bills.
With that out of the way, I want to clarify that less than half of the previous paragraph was a joke. It’s true that I consider Arma 3 to be mankind’s invention, and that if I didn’t grow up sitting in virtual chatrooms while planning out intricate missions for other teenagers to play in a video game, I’d be a lot better off as a person, but it’s not hard for me to give my honest opinion about Arma Reforger because, well, I’m an objective (video games) journalist who doesn’t have opinions unless they’re about Not for Broadcast. And my objective opinion of the latest and technically greatest Arma (which has been mentioned 12 times in 250 words, by the way) is that it’s honestly not that great.
In case you aren’t a supernerd who enjoys spending most of their life walking across virtual maps while holding virtual guns in a super realistic virtual environment, the gist of the franchise is that it’s designed to simulate actual military life. Unlike Squad, Hell Let Loose or even Battle Cry of Freedom, the point of the titles is to experience what combat actually is like to the best of anyone’s knowledge. The majority of your time in any of the series’ titles is spent marching from one objective to the next, and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to take one or two pop shots at enemies from 500 metres away before getting insta-killed by an artillery strike. It’s all but required to play in clans run by 13-year-olds who insist you call them “sir”, aeroplanes are unabashedly overpowered, and you’re more inclined to die of boredom than from an actual bad guy while playing.
And that’s probably what Arma Reforger will be like in a few months, but for now it’s just a glorified tech demo. See, Arma 3 is just under a decade old, and in that time Bohemia Interactive has developed a new engine, undergone some staffing changes and have been (mostly unsuccessfully) trying to figure out how to employ modders without making it seem exploitative. These things have made plenty of people forget about the franchise, and Arma Reforger is, essentially, the developer/publisher trying to make people remember it before Arma 4 launches in the near-ish future.
This is all to say, then, that Arma Reforger isn’t really a game in its present state. Bohemia says on the title’s Steam Early Access page that this entry is simply a step towards Arma 4; it’s a place for dedicated players to tool around with the new game engine, the movement/shooting/customisation mechanics and the classic map of Evron. There’s only 12 months of support planned for the title, after which Arma 4 will presumably launch into Early Access and the series will develop from there.
So, if you’re not interested in experiencing the development process second hand, you should steer clear of this specific half-entry into the franchise. While you technically can pick up Arma Reforger just to dick around with a handful of guns/factions for a few months and have a good time, this isn’t something anyone should buy if they want to experience the series for the first time. You can, for the first time, play it on Xbox (with crossplay and mods, too!), but the soul of Arma isn’t included in this title. The community, mods, mission editor and flying vehicles have yet to be added, and without those things, Arma Reforger just plays like a quasi-forgettable shooter.
If you are an Arma fanatic, though, there are certainly worse ways to spend your money. The improvements this “entry” is making over Arma 3 are astounding; the new game engine means that it looks, runs and plays like the franchise always should’ve. There’s a detailed VOIP system, better movement, extensive gear/gun customisation, AI that isn’t totally braindead, and the ‘80s setting is absolutely sublime. Over the next 12 months, as modders get to work and Bohemia does whatever it does, the game will undoubtedly transform into an unparalleled pinnacle of the industry that will leave previous entries in the franchise in the dirt, and it’ll certainly be advantageous to get used to these things before Arma 4 releases.
But it’s going to be a long 12 months, and the price of entry is a bit steep if you’re short on cash right now. The improvements Arma Reforger makes over its predecessors, both with its crossplay compatibility and core engine elements, are fantastic. However considering that it’s little more than a tech demo dressed up in some cool ‘80s garb, anyone interested in the title should seriously consider whether or not it’s worth it. Or you can always do what I did and impulse buy the game, what’s the worst that can happen?
Arma Reforger is currently in Early Access. Check back on Jump Dash Roll for the full review whenever it releases!
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