Dread­nought

Yager stream­lines the city-sized craft at the heart of its epic war game

EDGE - - CONTENTS - Developer Yager De­vel­op­ment Pub­lisher Grey Box Games For­mat PC, PS4 Ori­gin Ger­many Re­lease 2017

PC, PS4

While for­mu­lat­ing its vi­sion for

Dread­nought, Yager put to­gether a list of beloved fic­tional cap­tains to sketch out the game’s dif­fer­ent ship classes. Jean-Luc Pi­card en­cap­su­lates the spirit of the gen­er­alised de­stroyer class, for ex­am­ple, while the rel­a­tively zippy corvette ships evoke the Mil­len­nium Fal­con and Han Solo. But among this line-up of space­far­ers, it’s the ap­par­ently in­con­gru­ous in­clu­sion of Marko Ramius – the sub­ma­rine cap­tain por­trayed by Sean Con­nery in Hunt For The Red Oc­to­ber – to rep­re­sent the snip­ing ar­tillery class, that best sums up

Dread­nought’s char­ac­ter. “We wanted the game to have this naval feel to it – these big ships that take a while to turn,” game direc­tor Peter Holzapfel tells us when we note the ab­sence of a strafe but­ton. “We didn’t want the ar­tillery cruis­ers to be a class where you just strafe in and out of cover – we wanted play­ers to have this feel­ing of ori­ent­ing a gi­ant gun to­wards a tar­get.”

That sense of pi­lot­ing an enor­mous, lum­ber­ing ship is pre­sent, to vary­ing de­grees, in all five classes (corvettes, de­stroy­ers and ar­tillery cruis­ers are joined by the tank-like dread­noughts and re­pair-fo­cused tac­ti­cal cruis­ers). It’s a re­mark­able sen­sa­tion: the lack of speed ini­tially makes you feel vul­ner­a­ble, but your ar­se­nal of moun­tain-lev­el­ling ord­nance helps re­dress the bal­ance as you be­gin to mas­ter switch­ing en­ergy be­tween shields, en­gines and weaponry, and us­ing en­tire land­masses as cover. It all takes get­ting used to, how­ever, and in the con­text of mod­ern shoot­ers – or even RTS games – the lethar­gic pace at which the larger ships move is a shock when you first take the helm.

“That was one of the most in­tense chal­lenges on the cre­ative side,” Holzapfel says. “It was like, ‘Why has no­body done this be­fore?’ And then, ‘Oh, be­cause it’s not easy to pull off!’ [Laughs] But what we’ve seen is, be­cause most play­ers are so used to faster move­ment, they ini­tially choose the corvette class. In that, we’ve cre­ated a space where new play­ers can feel at home, and they [are weaker and] re­quire lots of en­ergy man­age­ment, so you have to get re­ally good. Then, as play­ers get into the game more, they fig­ure out how every­thing works and be­gin switch­ing over to the slower classes be­cause there are all these huge ships that do way more dam­age.”

Around 50, in fact, at cur­rent count. The game has ex­panded sig­nif­i­cantly since we last saw it, tak­ing on a dizzy­ing se­lec­tion of ship de­signs, cus­tomis­able com­po­nents, and up­grades. Ev­ery ship has slots for pri­mary, se­condary, internal and perime­ter weapons and kit. The pri­mary weapon is de­fined by the ship’s class and can’t be changed – within that, how­ever, you might find one ar­tillery craft with 360-de­gree aiming while an­other has a nar­rower aiming range but more fire­power – although you can switch out the se­condary weapon ac­cord­ing to your play style. The internal slot, mean­while, al­lows you to tinker with move­ment speed and weapon power, and perime­ter de­vices pro­vide AOE op­tions such as shields and mines.

But while the scope of the fleet has broad­ened, Yager has also stream­lined en­ergy man­age­ment, pi­lot­ing and com­bat sys­tems to pre­vent fly­ing any of these ships be­com­ing over­whelm­ing, but without sac­ri­fic­ing tac­ti­cal depth. “With space­ships, it’s re­ally easy for de­sign­ers to go crazy,” Holzapfel laughs. “You have a key­board, you have a space­ship, and it’s like, ‘Al­right then: I have all of these but­tons and I’m go­ing to use them!’ The more you can do, the more fun it be­comes for you as a developer – but that’s not nec­es­sar­ily the same for the player. So as a frame­work we kept con­trollers in mind. The D-pad has four di­rec­tions and there are four face but­tons, so you nat­u­rally limit your­self to four abil­i­ties, and we made en­ergy a bi­nary thing where you ei­ther as­sign it to some­thing or you don’t. Now it’s much eas­ier to con­trol.”

Holzapfel is con­fi­dent the re­fine­ments made to Dread­nought over the past year rep­re­sent marked im­prove­ments, and from the time we’ve spent with the PS4 ver­sion of the game, we’d be in­clined to agree.

“We wanted the game to have this naval feel to it – these big ships that take a while to turn”

TOP Ships bris­tle with weapons, each of them in­di­vid­u­ally an­i­mated. Some weapons can only fire in cer­tain di­rec­tions, mak­ing com­bat a slow­mov­ing, deadly dance.

ABOVE While Dread­nought will be free to play, Yager is mak­ing all the usual noises about how it won’t be pay to win. It’s hard to shake thoughts of Dust

514’ s dif­fi­cul­ties, though

Dread­nought direc­tor Peter Holzapfel

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