Everyone has their captain fantasy.” That’s what Greybox ‘s Mike Donatelli told me as we were waiting to play the current PS4 build. He’s not wrong. Whether it be Kirk, Harrington, Raddus, Adama, or Janeway, there’s nearly always someone whose boots we’ve dreamed of stepping into and shouting “Fire Everything!” Dreadnought aims to give us those dreams.
Coming from developer Yager (Yager, Spec Ops: THE LINE), Dreadnought is aimed as a free-to-play PvP ship combat game, and the spiritual sequel to Yager that the developer always wanted to make. Currently nearing the end of its closed PC beta, where it’s an 8v8 battle, it was recently announced that it would also becoming to PS4, where it is currently entering closed beta as a 5v5 battler.
The PAX South demo was set up on PS4 hardware, with 5v5 battles in a fairly open planetary map. Visualize the Imperial-class Star Destroyer hanging over Jedha in Rogue One, or the Galactica entering plantetary atmosphere in Exodus: Part Two. Now imagine four more ships taking that side, plus five more on the other, and you have Dreadnought on PS4.
Ships come in five classes: Corvette, Destroyer, Tactical Cruiser, Artillery Cruiser, and Dreadnought. Each has its own strengths and weaknesses, and each then subdivides down to Light, Medium, and Heavy subclasses. Each class also has five tiers; ships are unique to each tier. I was told that there are over fifty unique ships in the final game.
For the PAX South demo, we were set up in teams of five with a preselected roster of Tier 4 ships to choose from. Players enter battle with a fleet of five ships, allowing for a good amount of flexibility during respawning: if the enemy is bringing all Artillery Cruisers (basically snipers) and your Dreadnought is getting pulverized before you can bring your weapons to bear, try grabbing a stealthy Corvette to get behind their firing line and wreak havoc. Alternatively, if you happen to be a savant with Destroyers, fill your fleet with nothing but and go to town.
I found the controls to be fairly easy to pick up, with the Left Analog Stick controlling fore/aft/port/starboard movement, the Right Analog Stick controlling the 3rd person camera, and Up/Down movement being accomplished by the Left/Right Shoulder Buttons. Right Trigger fired your primary guns, Left Trigger zoomed your aim, the letter buttons used your ship’s various special abilities/weapons, and the PS4’s Touch Pad controlled distribution of power to Shields/Weapons/Engines in a way that should be familiar to any old school X-Wing, TIE Fighter, or Starfleet Academy fans.
Our PAX battle saw me mainly using a Tactical Cruiser class ship, which with a variety of missile special abilities is focused on offense, to engage the enemy team. I also dabbled with a stealth focused Corvette class, and an Artillery Cruiser. While I was hampered by the inability to invert my Y-Axis controls, a feature I was assured is in the regular versions, just not in the PAX demo, I found that I could be quite effective in attack, and in my one battle, racked up a better than 1 to 1 KDR. This despite having my hands-on on Sunday afternoon, when many players had already been through the demo one or more times.
As an F2P game, Dreadnought must also walk the line on being profitable, but not taking advantage of its player base with accusations of Pay To Win! What I was told is that they have a model based on selling cosmetic items, and also on a basic Time/vs. Money approach. If you have the time to grind, you can get there. If you don’t (like, for example, if you’re a dad who has a decent job and just wants to feel like DS9 Season Six Captain Sisko and blow up a bunch of enemy ships a couple times a week), then you can purchase the ships you’ll need, but ultimately, it’s still going to come down to skills: skills to construct a good fleet group going into battle; skills to outmaneuver and out think your enemies; and skills to work with your teammates.
For me personally, I absolutely loved my time in the demo, and am looking forward to when Dreadnought hits Open Beta on the PC. This may well be the game that tears me away from my current MMO focuses. Dreadnought is currently in Closed Beta on PC, and is expected to hit Open Beta “Soon”. It’ll be in closed Beta on PS4 in Spring 2017.