The free-to-play shooter market is quickly growing crowded, but developer Yager has a novel take on gunplay involving giant ships, big guns, and nuclear weapons that shake the pillars of heaven and earth.
Describing Dreadnought as a "shooter" isn't quite accurate. Though it features the control scheme that's been standard since the days of Quake and pits teams of players against one another in a rush to see who can rack up the most kills, these opposing forces are not populated by your typical hyper-macho space marines. Instead, you pilot spaceships. Huge spaceships. Battlestar Galactica-scale spaceships. The result is a shooter that's equal parts Team Fortress 2 and three-dimensional naval warfare. Dreadnought won't hit shelves until some point in 2015, and aside from the guaranteed PC release, Yager has yet to nail down which platforms will play host to the game, but the controls in the PC demo I played were certainly simple enough to translate to any modern controller.
Each of Dreadnought's ships - which range from the gigantic titular craft seen in the above teaser, to smaller, more agile support ships and long-range artillery cannons - feature four unique abilities. That aforementioned Dreadnought, for instance, can fire broadsides straight out of Blackbeard's worst nightmares, though instead of hardened lead balls, the gigantic craft launches gouts of green plasma. Unfortunately, the broadside requires your ship to be relatively close to enemies, but the Dreadnought can also engage foes from afar by launching a tactical nuke, which doesn't just destroy a single ship, but obliterates everything nearby in a sphere of apocalyptic hellfire.
Those who prefer a more passive role can opt for the smaller healer craft, which, while bristling with weapons, does its best work by repairing allies via healing beam. Want to play the sniper role? Steer an artillery craft to the edge of the map and take potshots at foes with your massively damaging blasts, but beware because that power comes at the cost of armor. Faster ships will quickly notice your artillery platform, chase you down and blast you out of the sky with rapid salvos of close-range weaponry.
Fans of traditional shooters may be turned off by the ponderous pace of Dreadnought's vehicles, though this is somewhat aided by the ability to move up and downwards, along with the typical cardinal directions. Dropping behind a rocky outcropping to escape a barrage of plasma is only slightly less satisfying than popping up on the opposite side and burning your enemies to ash with a few dozen shots of your own.
Maneuverability is likewise complemented by a convenient wheel which allows would-be starship captains to choose where their finite (though constantly regenerating) supply of energy might best be allotted. If you're taking fire, you'll want to shift your power toward shields, but if fleeing from battle, you're going to need all your reserves pointed squarely at your engines. It's not quite Kirk yelling at Scotty to work his pseudo-scientific magic, but it gets the job done and dropping all power into your weapons dismantles enemy ships at a very satisfying clip.
There's a lot that could go wrong with Dreadnought before its nebulous 2015 debut. Yager promises a number of additional gameplay modes, including episodic single-player content, will be added prior to debut, but those two matches I spent blasting the game's devs into airborne detritus made one thing very clear: The free-to-play shooter space sorely needs more creative efforts like Dreadnought.