The PlayStation 4 version of Dreadnought, the free-to-play space shooter featuring massive capital ships, is expanding with a third gametype: a “horde”-style mode called Havoc. It’s the first PvE-type offering to come to the game on PS4; that version, which is currently in closed beta, features two PvP modes at the moment.
As in any cooperative experience, teamwork is essential to your survival in Havoc. And the way that Dreadnought is designed makes that cooperation particularly strategic.
Havoc will be released exclusively for Dreadnought’s PS4 version in an update this week. On PC, the game already features three modes: Team Deathmatch, Team Elimination and Onslaught; the first two are the only modes available on PS4.
We asked Yager Development and Six Foot, the studios behind Dreadnought, about the disparity. They said that they’re keeping Havoc exclusive to PS4 for now because that version isn’t as far along as the PC version — in essence, it’s a make-good for PS4 players. The companies are looking to get the PS4 version in line with the PC version eventually, a plan that includes bringing Havoc to PC at some point (and Onslaught to PS4).
Havoc plays out similarly to other horde-style modes that you may be familiar with. Three human players team up to take on waves of endless foes. As you blast enemy ships out of the sky, you earn experience points that can be used to buy upgrades between waves. The goal is to stay alive for as many waves as possible.
We were lucky enough to have Peter Holzapfel, game director on Dreadnought at Yager, on our team. Without him and his suggestions, we probably wouldn’t even have made it as far as we did — wave 3 — in our first attempt. Holzapfel explained the importance of coordinating with your teammates to figure out your squad’s setup, which includes not just the class of ship that each person chooses, but also their individual loadouts.
Dreadnought offers five classes of ships that roughly correlate to traditional roles in a military shooter. As you would expect, the larger the vessel, the more slowly it will move. The biggest class of ship — and accordingly, the one that can take the most damage and can dish it out as well — is the Dreadnought, your flying tank. Then there’s the Destroyer (assault), Tactical Cruiser (support), Artillery Cruiser (sniper) and Corvette (scout).
While the game allows for full customization of ships, both with cosmetic upgrades like decals and loadout upgrades such as weapons, we didn’t get the chance to mess around with that feature. Instead, we could only choose from vessels in Tier II, the second of five groupings of ships (higher tiers offer better ships).
For our first Havoc run, we chose the Trafalgar, a Destroyer, equipped with a special attack called a Drain Torpedo. Abilities like these are added to ships’ loadouts with modules, and they’re mapped to the PS4 controller’s face buttons. The Drain Torpedo takes down a vessel’s shield, so the idea is to use it and then start focusing fire on the unprotected enemy ship.
Holzapfel gave us another tip by pointing out the power management tool in Dreadnought. The game lets you shift power between your weapons, shield and engines. On the PS4, this is controlled with swipes in various directions on the DualShock 4’s touchpad, which might sound annoying but worked very well in our experience. So for an extra boost to firepower, swipe to the right; if you need to get out of a jam, swipe up for a speed boost; swipe left to absorb incoming fire.
The first wave is simple enough. But each successive wave brings in a modifier that throws a wrench into the proceedings, like Achilles’ Heel (ships take more damage at the rear) or Power Plants (energy regenerates much faster, but the overall capacity is reduced). In addition, enemy difficulty increases every few waves — enemy damage and health both get a 5 percent boost starting at wave 3, and a 10 percent boost starting on wave 5.
Thankfully, the aforementioned modifiers only last for a single wave, while any upgrades you buy will stick around for your entire playthrough. And since the post-wave screen tells you what you’ll be dealing with on the next wave, you can minimize a modifier’s effects by buying an upgrade that will counteract it. (When we saw that Power Plants was active, we spent 350 XP to raise our maximum energy.) Of course, you can also save your XP so you can afford something more expensive later.
For our second run, we went in with a Tactical Cruiser, while our teammates both chose Destroyers. This gave our team a lot of firepower, and although we didn’t have a lot of health in our sniper vessel, the floating space station that comprised the Hekate map offered plenty of cover. One of our most satisfying engagements was hiding behind a structure, then poking our ship’s head up and zooming in for a precise plasma cannon blast after draining an enemy’s shields. And in the Destroyer, it’s a lot of fun to pull up alongside a vessel and unleash a broadside.
With Holzapfel’s help, we made it all the way to the fifth wave before time ran out. Unfortunately, that wasn’t far enough to see the first “boss” wave, so we’ll have to try Havoc mode in the Dreadnought closed beta on PS4 this week to check that out. Next week, publisher Grey Box will begin selling Founder’s Packs in the PS4 version, allowing players to buy into the free-to-play game if they want unique cosmetic items, hero ships, in-game currency and more bonuses.