Home Strategy Arma 3 beginners guide: enter the sandbox

The Arma 3 Alpha’s out on Steam, and while it’s buggy, slowly filling with hackers, and poorly optimized, it remains one of the most satisfying games in this, the spring game release doldrums. I’ve spent a fair bit of time in-game, especially the Wasteland mod pulled from Arma 2, and I’ve got a few strategies for new players, regardless of their history in the shooter genre.

This isn’t your little brother’s shooter

It doesn’t matter if you come from Battlefield, Call of Duty, Crysis, Halo, Team Fortress 2, [insert shooter here], you’ll find Arma 3 to be a very different beast. The focus is on large maps, limited player counts (the average max is about 50), and realistic weapon handling. If you’re used to being able to go full auto at most distances and succeed, you’ll be in for a surprise when you jump into Arma. Every shot creates significant recoil, and you’ll find yourself aiming at the sky pretty quick if you can’t control your trigger finger.

More importantly, Arma is significantly slower paced than most FPS’s released today. You’ll spend much of your time moving from place to place, and comparatively little shooting at other players. Vehicles are essential not as weapons but as transportation, as running three kilometers isn’t nearly as fun when every hill might hold a sniper or, worse, nothing at all.

When combat does happen, it’s visceral, chaotic, and quick. Most combats end within a minute of first engagement, and the victor is (almost) always the player with more skill. In those cases where it isn’t, there’s one of two factors involved. 1. Alpha build hit detection/lag, and/or 2. A sniper.

Lastly, because of the large maps and time spent between battles, when you do come across another player/group of players, they’ll be a fair distance away. For this reason, they may or may not know you spotted them, and the engagement is on your terms. To control recoil, fire in single shots. You’ll want an ARCO/RCO scope, a dual 12x and red dot sight. Guns kill quickly, even at long range, so if you’ve got decent aim and can gauge the bullet drop, you should get at least one kill out of the deal. There are no hit markers in Arma, but there is a faint thunk sound signifying a successful hit. If you did manage the kill, a message will pop up saying “[Enemy Name] was killed by [Your Name].”

Your first kill is very satisfying. Enjoy it.

A note on the wasteland game mode

Full disclosure: I’ve not played the base Arma 3 game. I understand it’s very much a military simulator, where objectives and war games are set by the players in the server rather than being spawned automatically. However I want to touch on Wasteland for a moment.

In a wasteland server, there are several things to watch out for.

  1. In the current alpha build of Arma 3, weapons and gear only spawn inside vehicles, the best gear being in military hardware and the gun stores scattered around the map. After spawning in, search your immediate surroundings for military grade vehicles and search them. The pistol, while useful as an emergency backup, will not serve you at the distances you’ll need to be fighting at.
  2. At intervals of five minutes, provided there is no current objective, crashed helicopters and weapon caches will spawn, surrounded by AI controlled NPCs. Your faction, OpFor, BLUFor, or Independent  succeeds in the mission if you are the first to clear the objective of NPCs and claim the site as your own. If no team completes these tasks, everyone fails.
  3. The aforementioned caches come in two varieties: explosive and small arms. RPGs, anti-air missiles, mines, and grenades spawn in big yellow cache boxes. Weapons, sights, attachments and ammunition spawn in big gray cache boxes. You can either leave the caches where they lay or put them in a vehicle large enough to carry them.
  4. When you need a quick re-up on ammunition or can’t find a suitable attachment for your gun, there are several gun stores scattered around the map. Using money taken from dead players, you can buy just about anything you might need. If you’ve come from TF2, worry not, there are special hats, and they are interchangeable.
    • Gun stores are hotbeds of conflict, regardless of an objective. Never expect that you’re safe while purchasing from the creepily stationary gun store owner. Keep in mind said owner can move about, so if he isn’t in the proper building, check the area around the shop.

Words of caution, because I’ve been there

There are a few issues that still need major ironing in this alpha build. I mentioned hackers, poor optimization, bugs. You’ll find all of them here. Don’t expect your monster rig to pull 120 frames, and don’t expect to always come into a server and have fun. Sometimes it’s better to join, scope the scene, and leave to avoid frustration than have the whole game crash on you. Which happens.

A lot.

I’ve heard rumors of a development build that runs far better than the widely distributed code. I’ve heard too that servers currently run on an individual’s home computer as opposed to a dedicated server box. While I’ve no evidence supporting either theory, enough people have told me that I believe it.

Finally, you can never be too careful in Arma 3. If you won a gunfight or surprised your opponent, beware the sniper that was looking right at him. People love finding suppressed battle rifles and posting up on good traffic lanes. If they’re smart, you’ll never see them, and it’s best to run the other way. You are never safe.

Remember that.



2 replies to this post
  1. Well, actually, ArmA 3 does not crash too often for an Alpha. I’d say it’s not that different from Minecraft Alpha, which was already pretty stable. But the last two things about servers and dev build are true, even though dev build often runs less smooth than default one, just because they don’t test it as much.
    But the part that’s great about arma is the editor, if you haven’t tried that out, you haven’t tried arma out.

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