Hands-On: Dreadnought

* PS Nation was invited to a preview event in New York City with light food and drinks served. Travel (tolls and parking) were paid for by the reviewer. The game was played using a PS4 Pro.

Closed Beta Signup:
Closed Beta Link

Founder’s Packs:
Mercenary Pack $39.99
Hunter Pack $9.99

I had the opportunity to sit down with Peter Holzapfel, Game Director at Yager, and Mike Barr, Senior Producer at Six Foot and Grey Box to discuss the upcoming Free-to-Play game Dreadnought.

Currently in a closed Beta on PS4 and PC, the game is all about space battles with capital ships and it has an interesting lineage. In 1999, five friends from East Germany got together and formed a development studio called Yager. Their first game, a flight combat simulator also called Yager, was released on PC and Xbox in 2003.

This was followed up by another flight combat game for PC in 2005 and then Spec Ops: The Line in 2012. Yager and Six Foot wanted Dreadnought to build upon each of those games a for it to be much bigger.

A sense of scale was important and they referred to the original trailer for Roland Emmerich’s 1998 Godzilla as an example of that. They also wanted to evoke the qualities of some of their favorite fictional characters like Jadzia Dax from Star Trek: Deep Space 9, Commander Adama from Battlestar Galactica (2004), Marko Ramius from The Hunt for Red October, and Han Solo from Star Wars. The idea of the huge capital ship battles from Galactica was particularly appealing.

The development focus started with the ships themselves and the result was a game that was fairly complicated at first. This all switched up after a look at Team Fortress 2. The idea then became a focus on the shooter aspects of the gameplay with classes added in.

There were initially five ships and that’s now grown to fifty. There are five different classes analogous to your typical shooter: Heavy, Assault, Sniper, Support, and Scout. Within each of the classes there are a number of different ship designs and tons of weapons, modules, paint jobs, and decals to make each ship your own.

A rich universe and lore is being built up around the game which is set in our Solar System some time in the future where we’ve reached the point of colonial expansion. There’s a stable core, similar to Europe, which is moving outward towards the wildlands. Players will get a lot of the story during loading screens. With the core gameplay being the focus, narrative is mostly being layered in with PvE.

Once the game turned into a shooter, things started to fall into place. The idea was to focus on ease of use, and even on PC, development was limited to a controller layout from the start. On the PlayStation 4, the touch pad is used for energy management and it’s brilliant.

The gameplay is all about the team and the individual people in it. Each game can be completely different depending on the ship types your team brings into battle. To keep things competitive, there are three tiers of fleets: Recruit, Veteran, and Legendary.

As you accumulate XP and earn your way up through the ranks, your tech trees grow and the complexity and options available increase. The ships are faster in the lower levels and get slower and more tactical as you progress. New ships are available in each tier.

XP is spent on ship upgrades and once one fully fleshed out you’ll earn XP to spend on another ship. What’s nice is that all your ships get XP in each round. The one you’re using gets the most while the others will earn it at lower rate.

The development team wants to keep the PS4 and PC on the same level in terms of features and modes but they are doing a timed exclusive mode for each of them. “Onslaught”, which is PC only for now, adds AI ships into an 8v8 battle. The objective is to destroy as many enemy and AI ships as possible.

The PS4 exclusive “Havoc” mode is a timed three player co-op mode against enemy AI waves. This is one of the modes I had a chance to try out. Fortunately, I had Peter, the Game Director from Yager in my squad along with another journalist. Each wave is fully randomized and you’ll gain XP after each successful wave.

We quickly found out the importance of having a balanced set of ships so we could take on any challenge. Modifiers are also added after each wave to change up the gameplay. You’ll also face a Boss at wave seven but we never made it that far.

This isn’t really like a horde mode because you won’t necessarily be overrun by the enemy, at least not in the first few waves. It’s important to communicate and work as a team to figure out which ships to take out first or you will eventually get overwhelmed and lose the game. It’s a great mode to get a few friends together and get some practice in.

Team Deathmatch is the only other mode available right now and it’s exactly what you’d expect. Two teams facing off against each other in a timed match to see who can destroy the most of the enemy’s ships.

The controls take some getting used to but it all makes sense after a few rounds. Fortunately, there’s a good tutorial right off the bat and you can dive right into training missions to get your feet wet and try out a few different ships.

You have primary and secondary weapons along with a number of offensive and defensive countermeasures. Swiping around on the touch pad allows you to quickly pour more power into your weapons, shields, or maneuvering thrusters for a short time, any of which can mean the difference between life and death.

Becoming proficient with as many ships as possible will help make you a good team player but it’s also good to focus on one or two and become an expert with them. I tried out a number of different ships including the Corvette, the Destroyer, and the Artillery Cruiser, but I didn’t feel comfortable with any of them.

When I took command of a Dreadnought in Havoc mode everything clicked into place. Everything suddenly felt natural and I fell in love with the ship and its capabilities. Having played the closed Beta since then, I’ve become quite comfortable with the others as well and I’m enjoying the different playstyles each has to offer.

Founder’s Packs will be going on sale the week of May 22 and will consist of a Hunter Pack and a Mercenary Pack. Each will contain two Hero ships, extra credits, and invites for two friends.

Hero ships can’t be customized and their abilities are locked. They do however earn more XP and credits. The development team understands the pitfalls of Free to Play games and have gone to great lengths to ensure that the game won’t be pay to win, it’s all progression and cosmetics.

Elite status can be purchased but it only lasts for a set amount of time. With it, you’ll gain higher XP and credits but they’ll also go to your entire team at a certain percentage and it will scale. It’s a great way to reward everyone if people want to pay to earn things a little quicker but everything available can be earned without paying at all.

The development team is refining the gameplay based on feedback and is looking to expand things further down the line. More variety in the settings along with more narrative should be coming along with clan support and leagues depending on how well the game does. Objective based gameplay is also being looked into.

It was nice to see the enthusiasm in the room and it’s clear that Yager and Six Foot are committed to making the experience accessible to everyone. I love the idea that you can be away from the game for a long while and then use the training mission to ease yourself back into the controls and tactics again before jumping back into competitive matches. It’s the little things like this that can help the longevity in this type of game.

The team is hoping to reach an open Beta later this Summer. In the meantime, go to the website to sign up for the Beta or just purchase one of the Founder’s Packs for guaranteed access and a jump start on building up your XP and credits.

* All screenshots used in this preview were provided by the publisher.

Written by Josh Langford

Josh Langford

Josh has been gaming since 1977 starting with the Atari 2600.
He currently owns 26 different consoles and 6 different handhelds (all hooked up and in working condition) including all consoles from the current generation.

Josh is currently the US PR & Marketing Manager for Fountain Digital Labs and has recused himself from any involvement on PS Nation arising from posting or editing any news or reviews stemming from FDL.

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