Civilization: Beyond Earth


BattleCry is an online multiplayer action game for PC in which up to 32 players battle in team-based combat. It's heavily stylized, class-based and full of colorful characters.


Bethesda's stylish World War I game without gunpowder

What if war was civilized? What if it was structured, ritualized and — though still brutally violent — maybe even a bit romantic?

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Bethesda Softworks and developer BattleCry Studios attempt to answer that thought exercise with BattleCry, a stylish multiplayer combat game that's less your typical online shooter and more of a melee-focused brawler.

BattleCry is an online multiplayer action game for PC in which up to 32 players battle in team-based combat. It's heavily stylized, class-based and full of colorful characters. For shorthand, think Team Fortress 2, but instead of rifles, rocket launchers and miniguns, players battle each other with swords, crossbows and beefy metal fists.

BattleCry is also a free-to-play game — Bethesda's first — but "very different from what a lot of other people are doing in this space," the developer promises.

'We've created a strong, distinct multiplayer experience, a new type of action game with fast frenetic multiplayer set in a beautiful world," said Lucas Davis, design director at BattleCry Studios, at the game's unveiling. The developer is aiming for a balance between ranged and melee combat, drawing influence from third-person action games and brawlers — genres not often exploited in the online multiplayer space.

BattleCry is the eponymous debut game from developer BattleCry Studios, which Bethesda established in 2012. The Austin, Texas-based studio is led by industry veteran Rich Vogel, who previously led development on Star Wars: The Old Republic and Star Wars: Galaxies at BioWare Austin and Sony Online Entertainment, respectively. The game's creative director is Viktor Antonov, who previously helped define the art direction for Valve's Half-Life 2 and Arkane's Dishonored.

The set up for BattleCry is that in the early 20th century the world's superpowers have come to an agreement about how they kill one another. Gunpowder is banned in war as a condition of The Black Powder Treaty. That means no guns, at least in the traditional sense. It also means no chemical weapons and no bombs; soldiers fight each other in up close and personal battles using the technology of the time.

Instead of fighting chaotic wars that wreak havoc upon civilization as each side trades bullets and bombs, conflict is settled in designated WarZones. They're the compartmentalized spaces in which highly trained, specialized soldiers fight for power and glory for the faction of their choosing.

In BattleCry, players will have access to a minimum of five classes. There's the Enforcer, a melee-focused tank of a soldier who wields a massive sword that, using the game's retro-futuristic tech, can transform into a protective shield. He charges into combat and empowers his teammates with his own battle cry. He's joined by the Duelist, a comparatively lithe dual swordsman who's designed to sneak behind enemy lines, thanks to her cloaking ability. The game's first ranged character, the Tech Archer, fire bolts and arrows from afar, and tosses daggers at close range.

Two more classes, which we didn't have the opportunity to play at a recent hands-on demo of BattleCry, were detailed by the studio. They're the Gadgeteer, who's armed with a magnetic gauss gun and "a host of sophisticated gadgets," and the Brawler, who boxes with mechanical arms and does "brutal damage up close."

As players engage in online battles and kill other players, they'll earn iron, the game's currency. That can be spent on various unlocks: skills for your character, crated items like helms, armor and skins. Players' contribution to the war effort will also be factored into a persistent online game mode — called The War Effort, naturally — that you can play with friends, your guild and your faction. Players will earn rewards for their participation in the global war, which is planned to be updated on a weekly basis.

Given the game's free-to-play nature, it's easy to see how those rewards could be at the heart of BattleCry's monetization model. The option to buy some extra iron, a particular suit of armor or an unlockable gender for your character class might be more appealing than grinding for the same things.

While defeating your enemies and fighting a global, bloody war are at the heart of BattleCry, the game's developer is hoping that players will treat each other with respect and positivity after each match. Once the victor has been decided — along with a handful of MVPs from each team — players will have a few moments to congratulate each other on their accomplishments in-game with salutes. They can even award each other medals for valor. This feature, Davis said, will help the team develop a strong community behind BattleCry.

BattleCry's positive community aspirations are certainly encouraging. The game's bright, gorgeous atmosphere, clearly influenced by Antonov's stylized work, may help foster that warm, cheery feeling of camaraderie.

"We really wanted to contrast the brutality of our combat with the beauty of this gorgeous world," Davis said.

The developer says the game's aesthetic — a mix of neutral tones and primary colors, with a dash of cel-shading — is heavily influenced by comic books and turn of the century illustration, with a dash of mysticism, Antonov said.

Describing the game's look as a "fairy tale romantic perception of war and death," Antonov said to expect some level of storytelling to be delivered through the game's environments, which alter slightly depending on whether you're winning or losing. It's a reference to the trench warfare of the time, he said, when "everything got out of whack" for soldiers affected by the horrors of war.

Bethesda and BattleCry Studios say to expect BattleCry to appear in beta form on PC sometime in 2015. The game is slated to be playable at this year's E3.

Those five will be playable in the game's multiplayer beta, but expect more, the studio says, to join BattleCry's "ever-growing list" of classes.

Adding more variety to the classes are the game's factions. Two have been officially revealed: the Royal Marines and the Cossack Empire. In addition to offering each class a different aesthetic and animations, the faction players choose appears to alter how each unit plays. The Tech Archer, for example, wields a longbow if she's on the Royal Marines side. On the Cossack side, he's armed with a pair of crossbows.

Each class is outfitted with a trio of special abilities. These include explosive or electrified attacks, the ability to turn invisible, the option to see your enemies through walls and so on. And each class has his or her own ultimate ability, a super power that is fueled by adrenaline — the energy that accumulates as players attack. Unleashing your special and ultimate abilities at the right time, managing their cooldowns and exploiting your adrenaline meter are all part of what makes BattleCry feel a little bit more interesting than your standard team-based multiplayer shooter.

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