Arma Reforger First-Look Preview: An Early But Promising Return For A Milsim Great
Arma Reforging is a work in progress. This point was hammered home again and again during a recent preview event hosted by developer Bohemia Interactive. It’s been almost a decade since the release of Arma 3, and while an official sequel is still on the horizon, the company is releasing a smaller, scaled-down version of their traditional combat precision first. The goal, says Bohemia, is for Reforging to be a “bridge” to Arma 4; use the platform as a test bed to gauge community feedback throughout the development cycle. That makes a lot of sense considering how Reforger and the upcoming Arma 4 are both heading to consoles for the first time in the series’ history. The studio must now answer questions it has never had to ask before. Can a gamepad fit into the complex logistics of a military simulator? Does the console audience even have an appetite for Arma’s many quirks? You can understand why Bohemia wanted to dip her toes first before diving.
Arma Reforger is, in some ways, a reimagining of the first game in the series – Operation Flashpoint from 2001. A fictional Eastern European island from that game, Everon, has been completely remastered in the new Bohemian Enfusion Engine, and players are cast as Americans or Soviets during the late 80s heyday of the Cold War. I got access to a preview build, which gave me a tutorial and a few multiplayer servers that were otherwise abandoned by other real human players, and it was immediately clear that Bohemia’s graphical modernization had paid off. Pastures bloomed with dewy grass, trees lined the horizon for the impressive draw distance, glassy water lapped against the shores. Bohemia mentioned that the development of Reforger was difficult, probably because importing systems to brand new game infrastructure is always difficult. But this new chapter of Arma is both beautiful, functional and in line with other triple A shooters on the market.
Reforge plans to keep Arma’s vibrant modding scene alive. The main menu includes a link to the Workshop, where players will be able to upload their own bespoke creations directly to the game’s servers. Reforging also includes a new game mode called Game Master, which is touted as a way for a player to effectively lead an Arma multiplayer match through the ebb and flow of battle. (It sounds like a DM in Dungeons & Dragons.) This should be a godsend for diehards of the series; finally, a chance to play with the tools of Arma using modern technology.
Some PC lifers might worry that Bohemia’s console pivot means the studio won’t be emphasizing some of Arma’s trickier, more hardcore mannerisms. I’m by no means an expert on milsim, but from what I’ve seen, these anxieties can be safely put to bed. Reforging retains both hectic firing mechanics and all administrative overhead; you’ll absolutely be transporting supplies to different checkpoints in order to build vehicle depots and armories, and it’s still a waypoint-free experience. This means Xbox players are going to get used to their compass and coordinates, as they triangulate where exactly enemy lines are.
But anyone who spends $29.99 on the early access version of Reforger should know that as of this writing, the game appears to be in its early stages of development – especially when compared to how previous games in the series are fleshed out and rich in content. Reforging has a gigantic map and only two modes so far. One is the aforementioned Game Master suite of tools, and the other is a capture-and-hold rigamarole, which means that currently Reforger lacks single-player content outside of the tutorial. Compare that to Arma 3, which released an expansion focused on a literal alien invasion three years ago. It’s becoming clear that Bohemia has a long way to go before Reforging achieves feature parity with the rest of the series. (Right now, the studio says Reforger will be in Early Access for about a year, with frequent updates throughout the cycle.)
Unsurprisingly for an Early Access game in development, I also encountered a number of bugs during my playthrough, including psychedelic visual glitches and a number of crashes when attempting to load matches. Bear in mind that I was playing on empty servers, so I can’t speak to stability once everyone is cramming into Everon at the same time. I can only imagine Bohemia is eager to see how their backend holds up.
But hey, those are the growing pains of any new fearless rig. New Arma games are treated like seismic events in the milsim community, and Reforger – with its new engine and new console debut – is one of the boldest ventures in Bohemian history. We will continue to check as the war rages on.