Every time I played Descent Freespace I wanted to pilot those huge ships, but instead I was relegated to my smaller crafts and I wanted more. Every time I watched Battlestar Galactica and saw those epic capital ship battles I wished there was a game that captured that feeling. When I would read David Weber’s Honor Harrington series I was fascinated with his take on ship-to-ship battles and wished there were a way to experience that scale and awe generated by these behemoths of space battling it out. Dreadnought, a new game from Yager and Grey Box, is that game. I had a chance at PAX East 2015 to try a couple of modes in its current build, and it delivers on all fronts.
Dreadnought is a game that is all about scale and the majesty of varied capital ship types as they battle it out in 3D space. There is no story in place as of yet to flesh out the universe, but at this point the team is focusing on the multiplayer components and they are doing a great job as the game looks and places phenomenally well. At PAX East I was able to try two modes: Team Deathmatch, which has been shown before, and an exclusive mode to this conference, Team Elimination, which by far is my favorite mode.
Team Deathmatch is pretty much what you would expect: two teams of five face off against each other. But in this case instead of soldiers or other standard combatants you choose a variety of capital ship types ranging from Cruisers to Frigates and the eponymous Dreadnoughts. The ship types typically conform to class types you would see in a standard team multiplayer game. The Light Cruiser is the scout type, the Dreadnought is the heavy-hitting soldier, and the frigate is the long-range attack craft. There are also support ship types and medium attack ships. The variety is great and each ship type has its strengths that require a lot of strategy to use. For example the Dreadnought packs a mean punch, but it is very slow. Thankfully it has a special warp power that takes a few seconds to cycle up but lets the ship leap forward at a good pace to escape a tense situation or hop into the middle of a battle and start fighting.
Each ship has four abilities, two weapon types, and the ability to move power between speed, weapons, or shields to boost an attribute when needed. All of these different options are needed in battle as you pursue other ships and you yourself are being targeted. The weapon variants are typically long and short ranged options, and generally one of your abilities is a support one so you can adjust your tactics as the battles progress. While you battle, if your ship is lost you can re-spawn after a short wait. You can also switch your ship between re-spawns if you so choose to adjust your tactics further.
The other mode, Team Elimination, was a brand new mode, shown only behind closed doors and announced at the Dreadnought panel. In this mode you have only one ship and if you lose it you re-spawn as a small fighter craft that is only good for support and antagonizing the monstrous capital ships. This mode is one I really enjoyed as it gives a real feeling of ownership to your vessel. You get one ship and if you are reckless or rush in alone you will lose it and you are stuck with a tiny ship till the round is over. This mode really made me strategize how I approached battles, making me more aware of my surroundings and where my squadmates were. It is a great mode and one that I could see playing over and over.
The game itself is a wonder to look at even in this early state. The capital ships are distinct, incredibly detailed, and control in a way that just seems right for the class type you chose. For all the complexity possible Dreadnought is relatively easy to get the hang of. Typical WASD controls are used for moves, with other keys used to go up or down in the 3D space. Abilities are mapped to number keys and you can switch between your weapons with a quick button press. Cycling power to your components is really quick and intuitive which is good because power management can make a big difference in the heat of battle. The environments are stunning whether it be a base in the snowy mountains or in space.
My favorite aspect of the game though is the detail on the hardpoints and ship designs. Every ability is represented on the ship as are the weapons so your ships are bristling with dynamic, shifting weapon points. The ships in action are very cool to look at and add a great dimension to the game.
Dreadnought is well into development and the team told me they will be releasing the multiplayer version of the game as free to play later this year. They assured me that the game will not be play to win, they want to give everyone the same core experience and purchases will be for alternate abilities/weapons and customization options for the giant ships such as decals and mounted adjustments to the ships themselves. Following that release they are planning to release a narrative story-based mode in an episodic format. They have an accomplished sci-fi writer on staff who is creating the story and they will craft a deep experience based on that and the core engine they have created for the multiplayer modes.
As the developer showed off the game there were hints of things that will be around in the full release, such as pilots and crew and a hangar system to see your ships. Dreadnought is already a terrific experience with the two modes currently in place and it is obvious the developer Yager is passionate about this project and aims to deliver a top-notch experience, first as a free to play multiplayer shooter, then an episodic campaign to flesh out the story and universe. The game will be phasing in a Beta period over the next months, which is great because I cannot wait to get back into one of these huge ships again and cause some havoc in space as soon as possible.[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B0036EH3U2][amazon template=iframe image&asin=1476780579]