If we were to describe Rainbow Six Siege with just a few words, we would probably choose: strategic, dynamic, and methodical. But it's probably the case that the most important word would be "balance". Operators must offer strength and weakness in equal measure. Arenas must offer a balance between dynamic locations to more straightforward areas. Attacking teams and defenders should offer equilibrium. If the scales were to lean over to one side, players would no longer be playing against each other - they would instead be trying to overcome a mechanical advantage or disadvantage. And with Rainbow Six: Siege's entrance into the esports arena this balance, if it's possible, will be put under even more scrutiny. Therefore it's always exciting to see how a new expansion or content addition will change the momentum of a game like this. It's with one eye on these hypothetical scales that we take a look at the new expansion, Operation Dust Line.
When the game starts and the new area - Border - emerges, an oppressive and dangerous sense of foreboding starts to kick in. A black and dense column of smoke climbs into the sky in the background while we quickly move towards the ramshackle, Middle Eastern house. Playing in the first instance on the attacking team, we must now fight our way past the defending team. If you want a point of reference, this new area is about the same size as Hereford Base.
Perhaps because of the very sandy colour scheme, most of the rooms look a lot like each other. However, it won't take long before you'll get to know the map pretty well and can concoct your own strategies. The goal that the developers had with the new stage was to make it one of the most dynamic maps in the game, and frankly they managed to do that really well. They achieved this by making it the most destructible arena respective to its size. As soon as an attacking team discovers an interesting alternative route into the building - of which there are quite a few - it forces the defending team to come up with a counter. And precisely thanks to this destructibility and because of the many possible tactical approaches, it certainly looks like the new map won't get boring any time soon. It'll be interesting to see whether Border will be used in Pro League Tournaments Season 2, as we reckon it could offer opponents plenty of chances to surprise one another, so teams won't know what to expect whether attacking or defending.
Another thing that Ubisoft has promised us with each new DLC or season, in addition to giving players a new map, is that they'll offer up two new operators. This is very much the case this time around. In the defensive corner we find Valkyrie. Playing as her gave us a delicious sense of control. We had access to four stationary Sticky Cameras, which we can place right where we want them. This meant that while we sat and hid safely in a room, we could keep an eye on the roof, a hallway out front, and even third and fourth location via cameras that are hard for opponents to spot immediately. We knew exactly when we'd get a visit from the attacking team, and could therefore welcome them with a spray of welcoming bullets. With the shoe on the other foot, in one game three members on our team fell for Valkyrie's trap, and all three of us were killed in what seemed like milliseconds. She feels like a very strong character, one that can give the individual player (and thus their entire team) access to essential information, keeping the player informed and allowing for thoughtful decision making.
On the other hand, in the offensive corner, is Blackbeard. He has his trusty rifle, and at the expense of a little speed he can put a small shield on top of his weapon. This means that he can stick his head into unexplored areas with vital protection in place. When playing as Blackbeard it's hard not to feel what a powerful operator he is. This is especially true when peeking over a windowsill or when a shoot out took place in a small alleyway; during these moments we felt invincible. However, whenever we've played against Blackbeard, he forced us to make some unconventional choices. Because he is so strong when outside looking in from cover, to defend against him it sometimes pays to move a little out of one's comfort zone, and surprising Blackbeard out in the open where he is unprotected can be very effective.
We had the feeling when playing with the two new operators that they compliment each other very well. Valkyrie is going to help the players source vital information that can be used to take down Blackbeard. The pair will also no doubt quickly settle into their roles in the older arenas too; thanks to their new abilities it will once again be necessary for all players to rediscover these maps and find new tactical approaches both with these new characters, and against them.
In this DLC reveal livestream one of the developers outlined their concern regarding the potential creation of operators that are too overpowered. The two new characters both felt insanely powerful, and they even mentioned during the broadcast that they are probably going to be a must-have on each team, if that team wants to stand a chance of winning. Since Rainbow Six: Siege is a game with a meta that evolves in the hands of its players, it's difficult to say whether a particular operator is going to be seen as too powerful, as it also depends on how the players themselves will choose to use them.
Something else they talked about while unveiling the details of the DLC, were some of the major tweaks and adjustments that have been made to the game. Rainbow Six Siege will keep evolving over time, with players finding new ways to attack or defend on each arena and with each operator. Therefore it's important that the devs continue to tweak what's already there so that the balance is maintained. One of the fixes that will certainly have an impact is that older and less popular operators have been reworked. For example, Montagne is lucky enough to get a broader shield, so he can sneak in through the doors, retrieve information for the rest of the team, and at the same time protect the person behind. Another example is Cachanga, who now has a more manageable machine gun that's easier and faster to place. And that's just two of the changes coming.
Operation Dust Line seems very well balanced. While we've enjoyed playing with the two fresh-faced operators in the new Border map, we also look forward to seeing how these characters affect other, less dynamic parts of the game, and how they help evolve the meta. Both new and old content has received some attention, with the relationships between the individual operators updated and refined. It will be really interesting to see how the players will take to the changes, and then how they will shape the game with their ingenuity. Finally, we can't wait to see how the professionals use Valkyrie and Blackbeard, and what comes of the unpredictability of the Border map.
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