Dreadnought is the recently announced aerial armada action game for PC from Spec Ops: The Line developer Yager. Players are thrust into the role of a mercenary spaceship captain, commanding their massive crafts in a futuristic battle up against other epic battleships.
Players are charged with looking after their ship's power management, sub-systems, weapons, armor, visual aesthetics and abilities, all of which are customizable. The developers' inspiration for Dreadnought drew from its favorite pop culture sci-fi, such as Battlestar Galactica and the ship designs in Star Wars. The result is plenty of beautifully, and originally, designed spaceship eye-candy of all varied shapes and classes.
Before jumping into the class-based multiplayer game of team deathmatch, we were presented with a hangar full of the beautiful craft to choose from. There are currently five classes with each ship sporting primary and secondary weapons and four abilities. There was one ship available to us in each class during our demo.
The hulking Dreadnought is the heaviest and slowest class. It is equipped with nukes and fires auto turrets that can take down smaller enemies. Its warp jump allows it to jump near enemies, fire broadside and warp out again. Hit and run strafing Corvette class is the smallest and lightest. It features the most agility with its 180 degree loop maneuver but it is also easily destroyed.
The Destroyer class is a well-balanced all-rounder with long range primary weapons and torpedos as secondary weapons. The class performs well by sitting back out of the heat of battle and letting its mid to long-range to the dirty work. The support class is the Tactical Cruiser, a glossy white ship that fires a green energy beam to recharge teammates.
Artillery Cruiser is a long spindly sniper class where its long-range primary weapon deals a lot of damage. It also sports a stealth mode and fires secondary projectiles. From just playing the lighter class and the Destroyer, there was a tangible difference in how they controlled, their limitations, perks and tactical responsibilities on the battlefield.
The title will launch with 12 ships, with heavier and lighter versions available for each of the five classes. While we didn't see it in an action, players can change their ships abilities and secondary weapons and carry out visual customization such as paint jobs. There is a progression system that enables players to unlock visual customization, new options and abilities but the developer couldn't delve into this at the time.
Each armada always meets in orbit above the planet before dropping down for battle, giving players a nice view of a lush planet below. Once loaded to the battlefield, players can navigate their battleships using the WASD keys, space bar is used to elevate the craft and shift lowers it down. Numerical keys 1-4 cycle through weapons and abilities. Players can cycle through weapons and shield as they deplete to give respective weapons or utilities time to recharge.
Unfortunately, there was no pitch or yaw available in the craft we got hands-on with, which felt severely hobbled for a spaceship battle game. Also, the map we played was within the atmosphere of a planet so we didn't have the freedom of dictating our own positional axis.
An energy management system lets players govern how much energy is directed into certain systems. Power can be directed to certain sub-systems by pressing the middle mouse wheel and moving the mouse front directs power to the engine, left overcharges the weapons and right equips the shields.
During our playthrough there were lots of communication from teammates in the room on who to target, cries for support on strafing runs, pointing out incoming enemies or crying out for more health from a support ship. The developer plans to incorporate more communication tools along with lobbies for online players to collaborate and strategize.
The battle was slow and takes a large degree of strategy. It is isn't a fast-paced dogfighting game and, according to the developer, certainly not a twitch based superfast reflex trigger game. It is more tactical and it takes modicum of patience for those used to faster titles.
Dreadnought will feature a single player campaign mode and multiplayer modes currently announced include team deathmatch. More are in-development but the tricky part, Yager says, using game modes from other games like capture the flag comes off as just awkward. The game we played involved five-versus-five players and the developer has plans to expand that player base out. Its development philosophy is to make a really strong core to see if it works and see how they can expand upon it without damaging the core. As it is a slow paced game in essence, putting that player number too high may throw its gameplay balance out.
The Berlin-based studio approached independent publisher Grey Box to help bring Dreadnought to like-minded sci-fi aficionados, a chance the publisher jumped at.
"Everyone who was involved with this has put their heart and soul into making this fun and lets worry about if it makes money second which was super fun for us," Grey Box head Matt Ballesteros told Polygon. "And the developers are no longer feeling that pressure about making deadlines and make that Christmas rush. It is more about making it fun, and if it isn't fun, then it isn't ready. We are also not getting in their grill in regards with how the publisher wants to do it, we are keeping them at arms length."
The Unreal Engine 4-powered title is slated to enter public testing in early 2015 and will launch as a free-to-play game. While the developer couldn't share details on its monetization model, it is excited about it "because it feels right" and it is taking a different approach that no one has implemented in a game before. Publisher Grey Box explains that the free-to-play approach was Yager's idea.
"They came to us and showed us a prototype and we flipped out. And even then at the onset, it showed a lot of promise," Ballesteros explained. "And we said, ‘believe it or not we think that this is going to work.' Because there is a stigma with free-to-play, obviously, we were concerned that this might not be taken well.
"So we are taking an enormous amount of time making sure that there is a balance there so you don't feel like you are getting hosed while playing," he added. "Again, it is has to be fun, it has to be transparent. But not to sound cliche, I think that if we make it fun they will come."