Dreadnought is an online, multi-player class-based game about heavy ships and heavy firepower which is brought to us by the fine folks over at Yager, who gave us the spectacularly good Spec Ops: The Line and is published by Grey Box, who were also responsible for Rime and Grey Goo. In development since 2015 the game is currently still in beta and is planned to be released through Steam on PC and on the PS4. This review will be looking at the PC version.
In a similar vein to “Fractured Space“, you play the Captain of a giant slab of metal, bristling with guns, missiles and beams of all varieties, fighting in an 8v8 team made up of either other real players, bots or a mix of both. The game is made up of four different game types – Team Deathmatch, Team Elimination and Onslaught (my personal favourite). You also have the Proving Grounds which allow players to get to grips with the ships and weapons by only facing off against bots which are competent, but nowhere near the kind of threat you find facing human players.
There is a hangar of around 50 ships to choose from, from three different manufacturers, each with their own aesthetic. Of course, many of these are gated off initially behind in-game progression. You upgrade your ship with better tech using XP that you earn in matches and once you have enough upgrades you can look to unlock the next tier of that particular ship. You have a variety of different ships to pick from, depending on your playstyle. From fast, nimble corvettes to lumbering, heavily armoured dreadnoughts. Support ships for healing and buffing, artillery cruisers for sniping, and well-rounded Destroyers that blend speed and firepower for those Captains who like mixing it up.
Load times are decent enough, though sometimes there are few actual real players around, the game seeming to suffer from something of a low player count, which is rather a shame as it deserves more attention and a higher player count than it has. A beta it may be, but this is already a more solid and coherent offering than some Triple-A studios manage with their full releases.
The combat is solid, the ships beautiful to look at, the gameplay easy to grasp but difficult to master. This is not a game where you go charging willy-nilly into combat as you will die. You also aren’t encouraged to stray off too far on your own as you will also most likely die. This is a game about team combat, encouraging players to know not only the abilities of their own ships, but those of their teammates to allow them to work as one cohesive unit. Because of this, matches tend to be fairly close-run things with no team openly dominating without any hope of their opponents clawing it back as the balance of power can shift very quickly.
Visually, the game is simply a sight to behold, each ship uniquely styled to allow for quick identification on the battlefield. Every ship is superbly detailed, with turrets tracking and firing, missile hatches flying open to disgorge their payload, control surfaces moving and adjusting to your motions, the areas you fight in alive with details, whether it be as you fly over a coastal city, or weave between the pylons of an asteroid mining facility. The ships all just feel RIGHT to play and that’s a terribly difficult thing for a game to get right. Too fast, too slow, too unresponsive, too floaty, there’s so many ways for a game to pull you from the moment but Dreadnought is spot on.
Your ships are as slow and lumbering as you would imagine something that size would be, but never TOO slow, just enough to force the player player to consider every move before they make it because as soon as you start moving you’re committed to that manoeuvre for better or worse, and if things go wrong each ship has some get-out-of-jail-free card to play to give you a fighting chance to stay alive and retreat to rethink your options.
Price wise, the game is currently free to play on PC and it looks like it will remain so. There are “founders packs” available for purchase for those who with to commit their money to supporting the game, and there is an in-game market though at the moment the prices for the cosmetics are somewhat on the steep side. The developer is looking into adjusting these at some point in the future.
Dreadnought is a game that deserves more love. With a friendly (but small) community of players, devs that genuinely seem to care about what they’re making, solid combat, great visuals and that intangible “just one more round” hook, this game should be more popular than it is and hopefully this review will do a little to drive some more players to it.
See you on the battlefield, Captains.