The gameplay in Battlecry is impressive. Battlecry has some of the most interesting and fun gameplay mechanics I’ve encountered recently, even with its pre-beta status. In the Battlecry demo at Quakecon, there were eight players each on the Cossack and Royal Marines teams (effectively red vs. blue), although Bethesda claims that this will increase to sixteen players later. Players can choose one of five classes in a team deathmatch. The five classes include brawlers, tech archers, enforcers, duelists, and gadgeteers; unfortunately, the brawler and gadgeteer classes were disabled for this demo, but the duelist, enforcer, and tech archer were available, and quite well-balanced.
I was able to play twice, after which I watched competitive CS:GO team “Hoagies” compete in the tournament (they ended up winning second), and interview them afterwards to hear their thoughts about Battlecry. The Hoagies players described the game as “amazing, competitive, fast-paced, and teamwork-oriented.”
One of the more unique elements of Battlecry is its inclusion of three abilities, an evade meter, and an “adrenaline mode” for each class, further encouraging teamwork as other classes counter and complement your abilities.
An example of this is of the Duelist and Archer: The Duelist can go invisible for a short time, but the Archer can activate a huntervision that allows them to see enemies through walls and even see invisible Duelists. The Archer’s abilities include huntervision, allowing them to see invisible dualists and enemy outlines through walls, sonic bolt, which is an arrow that knocks others back, and explosive bolt that explodes on impact. The Archer’s adrenaline mode allows rapid-fire, high-damage arrows. The Archer also has a long-range bow and short-range gun that are “basic” attacks.
The Duelist’s abilities include invisibility for a short time, lunge attacks, and a lighting bolt that stuns targets and arcs from person-to-person. The Duelist’s adrenaline mode greatly increases their damage. The Duelist’s simple abilities are slicing and lunge slicing.
The abilities of the Enforcer include whirlwind, a whirling dervish-like attack, battlecry to increase the armor of those around the Enforcer, and a lunging slice. The Enforcer’s adrenaline mode increases damage and health. The Enforcer’s simple abilities are basic sword swings and transformation of the sword into a shield.
The Hoagies team used these abilities together to form strategies that secured second place. In one strategy, the team would have the enforcers put up their shields and advance slowly while the archer stood behind them (for cover) while shooting at the enemy. Another strategy they invented centered on multiple enforcer battlecries at once, which stack, further increasing armor and for a longer duration than a single battlecry would allow.
Watching the Hoagies team play Battlecry really emphasized the team-based mechanics of Bethesda’s new game. One very notable part of the game is the map and its setup, focusing on a fast-paced game that needs strategy, teamwork, and quick reflexes to succeed. For instance, players have a grapple that can be used on certain parts of the map to jump quickly, allowing for fast rushes and retreats. Another distinctive mechanic is health regeneration; it takes a full 8 seconds of non-combat to regain health, and an additional 5 seconds to fully heal.
Battlecry’s gameplay was not without flaw, though, although it admittedly had very few. One feature that the Hoagies team enjoyed but want changed is the evade tactic. The evade tactic allows players to jump and then roll away to avoid attacks, but this is based on a timer -- unseen to the player -- causing evading to be awkwardly timed. Another criticism of Battlecry was its minimap -- something I didn’t even notice existed -- because it’s too small to be convenient to use effectively.
All in all, Battlecry’s gameplay is currently very polished and in no way feels like a game in beta or even alpha.
Based on the teaser trailer released by Bethesda, I was quite surprised at Battlecry’s graphics. I expected it to feature very high-end graphics similar to Metro: Last Light, but instead I was met with comic-book style graphics similar to Team Fortress 2 or Borderlands. That being said, the graphics certainly aren’t bad; in fact, the models are detailed and have their own unique appeal to them. The main advantage to having this simpler aesthetic is that even low-end PCs can run it without too much of a problem. The choice of graphics for Battlecry will definitely allow for increased player base.
Monetization and Free-to-Play
The issue of creating revenue from this game is solved by selling cosmetic items and small boosts in-game that won't affect gameplay significantly or at all, which is what the developers ensured would be the case. On-site devs specifically said “this game will be free-to-play, but will not be pay-to-win.” I very much hope that Battlecry Studios follows that path -- it’s a similar path to what Planetside 2 has followed.
Despite being pre-beta, Battlecry in its current form is something I would play and even pay for. With a beta release planned for Q4 of 2014, I only expect the game to improve and see popularity upon release. The competitive, fast-paced, teamwork-oriented, and balanced gameplay truly makes Battlecry an amazing game -- a breath of fresh air with the repetitive sequels continuing to be made elsewhere.
Don’t forget to tell us what you think of Battlecry in the comments!
- Michael "The Bear" Kerns.