With just 30-minutes of gameplay under my belt, there are only a handful of things I can accurately relay regarding the Battlecry experience. But these are fundamental components to the competitive multiplayer space, and so far ahead of even beta, they speak volumes about the studio’s mission statement and the level of quality we need to start expecting from Battlecry Studios and their inaugural opus.
It’s probably most important to effectively not think about this as a free-to-play game yet. It’s certainly being developed with that model in mind, but it’s also being handled like any other multiplayer title in the Triple-A space and there’s nothing budget about what’s on offer so far. So one of the first things to emerge is style. And this is a coalescence of all the early defining factors I’ve alluded to so far, but front and centre is the game’s art-style. If you thought it looked a bit familiar, that’s because it’s pulled from the design sensibilities of Viktor Antonov who is most famous for his groundbreaking work in Half-Life 2 and Dishonored, and here he’s been given an opportunity to let his painterly style run free resulting in a wash of vibrant colours, solid lines defined spaces and larger-than-life avatars.
While detail certainly isn’t lacking, it’s the embrace of the game’s visual palette that elevates it to another level. Blood flows, ribbon-like, from inflicted wounds and given the nature of melee combat here, your playspace can quickly becomes a red mess. But less is more, as they say, and the openness of the first map we played worked supportingly in this idea. Structures are support environments designed to give you respite without giving you a place to camp -- you can move freely through the space, and your method of movement -- another strength I’ll get to in a second -- works brilliantly off this. You have a line-of-sight that is conducive to play and competitiveness, but it’s done with with an easy-on-the-eye directive.
Animation, too, is silky smooth and this works to bolster two factors -- one is as another pillar in the game’s visuals, but secondly it makes the aforementioned movement aspect all the richer. As a melee title (with ranged combat as well), it was obviously very important animations and a sense of impact were nailed early, and as Battlecry Studios’ Rich Vogal revealed to us in our interview -- it’s an aspect they spent some eight months iterating. The end result is a game whose combat feels rewarding and inflictive without ever being cumbersome, even if you’re playing as one of the more heavy class characters.
This also translates then in traversal, and moving through a multiplayer map hasn’t felt this reactive and natural in a long while, and we’re moving into a competitive multiplayer period where map movement is constantly being expanded upon.
Players can double-jump, with the second spring of your jump being a dive to also act as either an evade maneuver or a way to close space more quickly. But you also have contextual vaulting, invisible grapple points and powered ramps. The speed and sleekness at which you can move through a map is only matched by the ferociousness of coming face to face with an enemy combatant in true melee conflict, and it’s in this space Battlecry rounds out my walkaway with components.
Like most games of this nature, with 32-players slogging it out across myriad maps, there’s always going to be combat dynamics, and the balance so far feels pretty spot-on. You have the usual suspects in support/ranged, parry/agile and heavy/tank but none of them feel more superior to the other. It will be interesting to see how character and level progression works in the final game, and if any pay-methods will be tied to this, but we’re being pushed into believing the monetisation here will be cosmetic at best. What was perhaps the most enjoyable component though was how quickly I picked it up, and how rewarding the combat felt across the map, available classes and in the style of game this is.
It’s early days yet, and there’s a serious amount of depth lacking in the initial reveal. The trailer you’ll see for the game is a CG one that accurately reflects Battlecry’s tone, but as a shiny pre-rendered piece it actually does a disservice to the unique and inviting art-direction I waffled on about in the first place. We also only played a few rounds of TDM, and we’re being told there’ll be a lot more by way of game-modes on offer, and given the dynamic case where movement and melee are concerned, this is an area I want to know more about, more quickly.
Rich also happily pointed out that the mod community is great, and that user-generated content is great, but that they have nothing they can actively say in that conversation… yet. In fact all we were all really left with was more burning questions. You earn iron and other goodies for playing, but how are these applied to you, your character and the long-game experience. Will Bethesda allow for player-driven trading and could this include real-world money? A cloud was mentioned as their networking delivery service, but which one and would it be Aussie-friendly was also a zip-lipped conversation. But that it’s silky smooth movement, gorgeous artstyle and perfectly nailed melee combat have me champing so hard for more information ought to sell you on its entry point in the gaming landscape.
Battlecry is looking like a thoughtful free-to-play multiplayer experience that borrows from the right games, and ignores the ones it should. Making an impact and a mark in such a field is no mean feat, but the measure in which both companies are doing it with is enlightening and somewhat progressive. We just want, and need, more information. But for now, it’s already a game on my 2015 radar which, when you consider the growing field for 2014, is a pretty solid way to emerge.
The game is currently only slated for PC and will release in beta in 2015. Learn slightly more by checking out our Battlecry game-page.