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Unleashing the Broadside

Coming off the back of my Battlestar Galactica Deadlock fascination, I decided to re-install the free to play game Dreadnought, I’d previously played it a little when it was in closed Beta, and wanted to see how the full release turned out.

In beta, I used to play the horde-like mode known as “Havoc”, where you saddle up in a capital ship of your choice with up to three people (including yourself) and you would take on wave after wave of hostile fleets. It was always a good way to test out new ships and new loadouts in a more controlled co-operative environment.

I recorded this snippet of a Havoc game, because it sort of captures the “weight” and “feel” of the game. I have an Akula Vektor built Dreadnought called a Nav, with a slightly modified loadout (a couple of upgrades on the abilities and the main cannons). This ship is built with defensive shelling in mind. It is kitted out with heavy plasma cannons, slug torps, anti-missile lasers, armour amplifier and a plasma broadside!

 

The Dreadnought is slow and tough, can take a beating and shred lower class ships at closer ranges. Couple it with a beam turret tactical cruiser like the Cerberus, that has repairing beams and stationary repairing pods and you’ll be a tough nut to crack. If another ship can leech the shields, the Dreadnought can punch a hole through the armoured hull in pretty quick time. Especially if a plasma broadside is readied, locked on and unleased!

To begin with, I always head for cover, diving as deep as my top loaded cannons will allow. Your thrusters can get you up and down, in and out of cover fairly speedily. Staying just above the cover line is preferable, to present a much smaller target for the enemy ships to get at long distance. Up close and personal they will sweep in above you. I use the medium range on my heavy plasma cannons to chip away at enemies manoeuvring or engaging other ships in my fleet. Setting up my side as best I can ready for when they take an interest in the Nav.

I keep the cannons hot, constantly landing heavy blow after blow, till they’re within my side weapons arc, punch drunk and trying to get out of the constant gnawing of their hull strength, and then locked on, it is time to unleash an almighty salvo from my broadside, if landed correctly, without support ships helping them it can devastate a ship to the point where a couple more prods with the heavy cannons and boom, lights out!

The Broadside is a stunning display of firepower.

If the rest of the enemy fleet start towards me, I have to deploy my counter-measures in a timely fashion so that I don’t end up with a recharging timer when I need those anti-missile lasers, or when I need an amplified boost to my armour. So ability rotation is key to survival. And fleet co-operation comes high on the list too.

After a successful elimination of a wave, there is time to upgrade before the next onslaught. If you have enough XP from the kill, or collected XP from the enemy ship debris, you can often boost one part of your setup, either offensively or defensively. Then it’s right back in.

Keeping a keen eye on where the enemy fleet spawns is very important, because if you haven’t set up, and readied yourself, with enough cover, you will be chewed by multiple assaults happening all around at once. That’s a quick way to be slagged fast.

Know where they are, anticipate it if you can (after playing Havoc for a while you sort of know the areas the enemy come from, vaguely), and get into cover.

After Wave 3 you will have a choice to upgrade the ship to a better version, or change to different class of ship. With dreadnoughts it usually means more armour, more firepower and I get an extra heavy plasma cannon to throw at the enemy.

Ships can have temporary shield and armour boosts, and have tac cruisers in support to give them longevity. They can field artillery rail gun ships sniping from long distance. They can push out fast corvettes that harass the larger slower ships and mess with their slow tracking firing arcs. Or you can simply slug it out with another Dreadnought. The skill lies in combining your abilities with your team mates into a cohesive and supporting fleet, that can adapt to the different forms of attack the enemy AI fleet adopts. This can be tricky playing with two publics/strangers without comms.

I went into this fight with a Dreadnought, a supporting Tac Cruiser and a nippy attack Corvette. The Corvette didn’t last that long, and when you lose your main ship, you drop in to a fighter (either in attack, with guns and low yield bombs) or a support fighter ( in defense, with guns and a repairing beam). I think the player in the Corvette bailed on the game once dead. Which left two ships against the 4th wave. Two ships spatially apart, communications down.

The Dreadnought hunkers down and unleashes what he can. But it can become overwhelming. Especially given some ships have the ability to warp short distances and drop in at your rear as you’re engaging the other fleet members. Unfortunately I go up in smoke on Wave 4.

 

Dreadnought is a free to play game from the ground up, so ships and loadouts and upgrades and vanity styles are all built around a grind till you pay style model. I’ve had some very good gaming experiences with free to play games (Star Trek Online, Planetside 2, Neverwinter, Warframe etc) so I’m not overtly concerned. If the core gameplay is good enough to suffer the microtransactions then I don’t mind.

Dreadnought has 4 modes, team deathmatch, team elimination, onslaught and the proving grounds with Havoc mode only available to the PS4 players.

  1. Team Deathmatch: Compete to rack up as many kills for your team as possible. Once destroyed, you can respawn and select a new ship. This ability gives you the freedom to be aggressive and experiment with new tactics, without worrying about losing your only life.
  2. Team Elimination: Destroy all capital ships on the opposing team. This mode follows a best-of-three-rounds format and respawns your ship as a small fighter jet each time you’re destroyed. Since you only get one life as a full-size ship, victory favors strategy over reckless aggression.
  3. Onslaught Mode: Fight against captains and AI-controlled vessels in a massive, all-out battle. Shoot down other players’ capital ships as well as their team’s Command Ships, Assault Ships and Fighters to rack up points and reach the score limit first.
  4. Proving Grounds: Sharpen your skills and try out new ships. The Proving Grounds follow a similar format to Team Deathmatch, except you only face off against AI-controlled ships. Depending on matchmaking, you will have other players and / or AI ships fighting alongside you on your team. Each battle gives you Credits and XP (although it is less than what is awarded in PvP game modes).

I think if you like slow moving big capital ship combat, you’ll really enjoy Dreadnought, with one caveat, this is the World of Tanks style Battlestar game, where there may be a lot of “grind” before you can fully realise your ships potential. But from the brief sessions I’ve had with it (mainly on the PS4 exclusive Havoc mode), I’ve enjoyed the grandiose natures of capital fleet combat.

If you prefer your tactical combat to be less deathmatch and more MOBA, then also take a look at another free to play big spaceship battles games, namely Fractured Space. This is only on the PC at the moment. It’s a 5 vs 5 capture the zone space MOBA.

Since you can play these games from the off, for free, they serve as action packed palette cleansers before you step back into the Commanders role and take on the Cylons again in Battlestar Galactica Deadlock.

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Ian Bowes / spelk @sugarfreegamer.com