Dreadnought Review

Dreadnought is an upcoming free-to-play flight combat game from Yager Development that puts you in control of massive capital ships in 5v5 battles in some truly beautiful maps. Rather than letting you fly a small and nimble fighter plane as most flight games do, Dreadnought wants to put us in the captain’s seat of ships that are more like the Battlestar Galactica or the Starship Enterprise in size, which is definitely a nice change!

The game was first previewed back in 2014 and has since had a lot of gamers awaiting its arrival, and now that it’s in closed beta, we can finally get a decent taste of the game (albeit with a few bugs still, but it’s in beta, so what can you expect).

Yager Development are best known for the much loved Spec Ops: The Line, which presented players with quite a unique shooter experience with some intriguing plot twists and potentially scarring moral choices. Dreadnought is a far departure from that, but it’s clearly been given a lot of attention to detail, and the developers have stated that certain elements of the game are still liable to change considerably, such as the User Interface, which has already changed a fair amount from the game’s alpha phase.

I think it’s important to say straight away that this game really is stunning! The maps (albeit, there are only a few of them currently) are beautifully detailed, as are the ships. Of the maps currently available, only one is set in space, while the others are on planets.

The game modes are of course limited at this stage as well. A single-player campaign - or rather “single player experience” - is apparently in the pipeline, but as of writing, the beta only includes three game modes: team deathmatch, team elimination, and a mode to practise against the game’s AI.

Once you boot the game up, after a quick optional tutorial, you’re able to throw yourself straight in. And I really do mean throw yourself in. There’s currently no game balancing on the servers, so a team of fairly inexperienced players can at times find themselves up against some incredibly high levelled and highly experienced players.

The use of ships has to be purchased through in game currency, which you can earn by playing matches. Knowing that this puts new players at a disadvantage, the game also includes a selection of “Trader Ships” - mid-level ships, currently 1 for each of the 5 classes, that you can use at the cost of a small portion of your winnings. After your first game, you should have reached the first level, where you should have enough money to purchase one of the starting ships.

Ships in Dreadnought come in 5 distinct classes ranging from the nimble-for-a-massive-ship variety, to the driving-a-barn-with-guns types. There are: the Artillery Cruisers that are fairly fragile but irritate everyone because the whole ship is basically a big sniper rifle; the Corvettes which are also fragile but are primarily quick attack vehicles that can cloak to sneak up on enemies and deal masses of damage, then attempt to run away without getting killed; the Tactical Cruisers which can heal others and provide various buffs; the Destroyers which are good all rounders with a decent amount of armour, speed, and weapons; and then there are the Dreadnoughts themselves that are slow hulking masses covered in guns.

Each ship class has 3 available variants at the time of writing, each with their different strengths and weaknesses: some have better weapon damage or range, and others may have greater speed at the expense of armour. This can open up completely different play styles across a single class of ship, depending on which ship you choose to use. The Destroyer shown in the picture above for example (at the bottom left) doesn’t have much armour, but it’s incredibly fast (at least for a ship of its size), allowing for quick highly damaging attack runs usually reserved for the Corvettes, but with more significant weapons at its disposal.

Each ship then has various weapons, modules, and crew abilities that can be swapped out. The primary weapon can’t be changed, but you can then choose a secondary weapon such as flak cannons or rockets, 4 modules ranging from nuclear missiles to armour boosters, and 4 crew abilities that provide buffs such as increased damage resistance. The secondary weapons and modules available vary based on the ship type, but the crew abilities are available to all. When in a match, you also have an energy meter that you can use to increase your movement speed, weapon damage, or activate a shield. And the maps are designed to provide varied areas of cover. All of this combined means that one match can be completely different from the next with so many varying ships, loadouts, and play styles available.

Because many of the ships are so slow and large, teamwork is pretty essential. New players quickly learn that rushing straight into the middle of a group of enemies on their own may look great on Battlestar Galactica, but in Dreadnought it’s a brilliant way to get killed (and make your team hate you…). But when you end up with two fairly even teams (which does happen more often than not) it can make for a very fun and intense match.

For a game still in Closed Beta, there isn’t that much wrong with it (at least not that I’ve found). There are a few bugs of course - sometimes the UI overlay disappears for a few seconds, or the chat window fails to work after a match - but they’re very rare, and only occasional irritations rather than breaking issues. In a couple of rounds however, one team inexplicably ended up with 6 people which makes the entire game stutter as if suffering from severe lag, and it continues that way until a player leaves so there are only 10 again. I’ve not experienced this issue for a while though, so it may have been fixed now.

A slightly glaring omission though is integrated voice-chat; there may be plans for voice-chat to be included when the game is officially released, but currently players have to use a third-party solution. Messaging is at least available during matches, but only to either your own team or everyone in the game - messaging individual people when in a match isn’t possible (or I haven’t found out how to if it is). Other players can send you direct messages when they’re outside of a match, but if you’re in a match at the time you can’t reply.

Even with these problems, and at this early stage, Dreadnought is still very fun to play. It’s definitely worth checking out if you can get yourself a beta key (or you can buy a Founder’s Pack to get one). But if not you can always grab it for free when it’s officially released. And with the constant improvements being made by the devs, and lots of features and UI adjustments in the pipeline, it’s likely to be even better by then!

Posted: May 26th, 2016
Categories: video games, reviews