Yegar Development/Six Foot/Grey Box
Space combat games have had a pretty long and storied past within the digital gaming realm. The first one to gain critical acclaim was the magnificent Master of Orion 2, which hit the gaming world like a hurricane way back in 1996. Although many turn-based space games have strived to live up to MOO2’s legacy, none have fully captured the same magic that venerated and classic title did, not even the great Galactic Civilization series.
On the real-time front, space combat games have fared…well…okay. But not since the now classic Sins of a Solar Empire (2008) has a game really had such a massive effect on the entire real-time space genre. SOASE was sort of the real-time equivalent to MMO2 in terms of having that “it” factor, although the exceptional Stellaris is a worthy contender to the science fiction RTS throne.
But I have always wondered—why aren’t there any games out there that allow you to take command of the fleets themselves? I’d always dreamt of playing out Star Wars-types of battles with other humans, each of us helming individual ships, or even entire task forces. Well, that question has recently been answered—well, sorta.
Although developers Yegar Development/Six Foot’s space combat title Dreadnought has been out since the beginning of the year, I actually tried Edge Case Games’ Fractured Space first. That’s probably because Fractured Space did have at least a little bit more hullabaloo surrounding its launch, this past September. If I hadn’t done an online search for other capital ship combat games, I would have never learnt of Dreadnought’s existence.
I reviewed Fractured Space upon its release, and talked about how it was a pretty decent game, but lacked several things that could have made it much better. Therefore, I had high hopes for Dreadnought, especially after watching several gameplay videos that were put out on YouTube by its creators. The videos made the game look so super-strategic and immersive, that I thought—this might finally be the capital ship game I’ve been looking for!
Well, having played a good number of multiplayer matches in Dreadnought, I can tell you that although it does do several things right, like Fractured Space it also has some things working against it. First off, Dreadnought is a multiplayer-only affair, and there are only two game modes available right now—team deathmatch, where whichever team reaches one hundred points first, wins, and a last-ship-standing mode where whichever team outlasts the other, wins (with only one life apiece per ship).
Since I tend to favor having one life in a game, since that usually forces people to play much more strategically during a match, I couldn’t find a single match available—even with the game’s matchmaking set-up. So, I sauntered into team deathmatch, a mode which I detest, in order to get a sense of the game. I was presented with a choice of few starter ships; a destroyer, which has decent armor, weapons, and speed; a siege vessel, which is a lightly armored sniper ship; and a tactical ship, which can heal other ships. I chose the siege ship, and after a short tutorial explaining the game’s control scheme, dove right into my first few matches.
One of the things that I noticed right away was that each ship had such ponderous movement speed. In other words, compared to Fractured Space, where it feels like you’re controlling a bunch of oversized toys, in Dreadnought, each ship (besides the speedy corvettes) feels like it has some serious gravitas. You get more of a sense of their grand-scale size as they slowly lurch forward—their smoldering thrusters ejecting particles of energy. They really nailed the speed department.
My initial strategy consisted of hanging back towards the rear of each map and getting a wider view of the battlefield, while pelting targets of opportunity when I spotted them. Well, pelted might not be the right verb. Artillery ships carry massive cannons that can quickly erode an enemy’s hull. So much so, that I managed to destroy quite a few within just a few hits. Then it struck me—ships tend to get destroyed a little too quickly in Dreadnought.
Indeed, when I’d been under attack, I barely received any warnings before being blown to smithereens. There were no damage alerts that various peripheral systems were faltering, no loud sirens, no on-board fire alerts, nothing—just a large orange fireball. Speaking of which, when these massive capital ships explode, they literally just disappear into clouds of orange flame and you never get to see their gigantic hulls falling apart. They more or less vanish within a couple of seconds. For me, that mitigated any sense of immersion that had been built up.
Dreadnought has five ships types, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. You have the aforementioned destroyer, siege, and tactical ships, and then you also have a speedy and fragile corvette, which can dash in, cause massive damage, and then vanish; and the titular dreadnought, a hulking, slowly moving massive target, bristling with weapons systems. I was disappointed that, as with Fractured Space, there were no carriers. Also, much of the game is pay to win, so I never got to try out one of the dreadnought class ships since I never feed pay to win business models.
Another thing that irked me was that there weren’t any separate factions present within that game’s universe—so each team is comprised of the same exact styles and models of ships. I’d have liked to see at least several different factions being represented, duking it out for faction supremacy, instead of everyone using the same pool of ships.
To its credit, Dreadnought’s graphics are exceptional, and suit its far-future science fiction setting to a tee. Not only are the ship’s models themselves super-impressive, but the game’s weapon and ship ability effects are stellar (no pun intended). The only drawback to the game’s beautifully crafted environments is that there are only four or five of them, and each one is tragically small. Luckily, your ship can take cover behind each map’s gorgeous mountains, stardocks, or spaceports, but even then, you feel like you’re in a tiny, boxed-in arena, hardly the epic sense of scale a game like this deserves.
Dreadnought is a decent capital ship combat game, however, it has some curious design decisions that will hold it back, should it move forward with them. If the developers make the maps a lot larger, improve the ship damage system, and offer more multiplayer modes, I’d gladly revisit it in the future. But as of right now, I’ll chalk it up as a great looking, temporary distraction, but nothing more. It’s also free, so I can’t complain too much.
Dreadnought offers beautiful visuals that suit its science fiction theme. However, you have to have an equally fast gaming PC in order to play it at a decent framerate. So, you may just want to invest in a decent gaming rig:
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