I’ve put about 15 hours into ArmA II and I haven’t even touched the main campaign, much less multiplayer. I already talked about the game’s massive tertiary armory mode. After that came its extremely flexible and easy-to-use level editor.
The editor in ArmA II isn’t one of those things they built specifically for modders who already know the game’s code. It’s pretty much a straight graphic user interface that any common player can use once they figure out how the logic of the AI and mission objectives work. The funny thing is, I haven’t even really been making my own missions, but rather doing everything else the editor makes possible.
If you want you can use it to just explore the entirety ArmA II’s massive world using whatever vehicle or aircraft you want — and there are some interesting locations to see. It’s also a great way to test or practice every weapon, vehicle, and aircraft the game has to offer without having to unlock all of them in the armory. I’ve been using the mode to set up battles.
By simply putting groups of opposing characters in the world you can get them to fight, and you can put them in whatever town, forest, or other location you want. You can even choose to play as any one of these characters which brings about its own interesting dynamics. A big part of what makes ArmA so impressive is how dynamic and complex its AI system is. Every squad spawned into the editor has a leader who gives the others orders according to the mission objectives he’s been given. These orders change fluidly in response to whatever’s happening as they all call out enemy positions and other information to each other. You can play as the leader and take control of the squad, but you can also play as another member and simply receive orders form an AI which kind of feels like a Call of Duty game but far more dynamic.
Knowing this, I was able to set up multiple squads around certain areas and give them objectives (like “seek and destroy”) that would bring them into contact with enemies, and the AI would just handle the rest. It was pretty amazing the first time I saw a squad leader begin automatically assigning targets and maneuvers as soon as he came into contact with the enemy. Before long I’d set up a battle with possibly close to 100 characters fighting for control over a castle on top of a forested mountain. Sometimes the battle would take place in the castle, sometimes in the forest. That’s possibly the best part of all — no battle in ArmA happens the same way twice. You can replay the same scenario over and over and get a different experience each time.
If I spend any more time with this I might be able to figure out how to get squads into helicopters and drop them off into battle zones while other aircraft are going at it above them. Or I could just check out all the missions people have already made with a lot more experience with the editor. Someone already recreated Ghost Recon Island Thunder.