Space games have made a bit of a dent in the industry lately. Between Star Citizen, Elite: Dangerous, Rebel Galaxy, Dreadnought, and others, we’ve seen the industry trend shift toward a revisit to one of the oldest genres. Dreadnought takes a different approach from its space sim counterparts, focusing instead on more FPS-styled obliteration of opposing teams.
We’ve previewed Dreadnought twice now. The first time – PAX South – the game had little competition in the way of other on-site booths, easily ranking it among the best games at the show. We then saw Dreadnought at PAX East about six months ago, where we reported on team elimination gameplay (see: Counter-Strike in space) and remarked that the game had gotten steadily better. That trend hasn’t stopped. Our PAX 2015 hands-on with Dreadnought reveals more gameplay, customization mechanics, and monetization avenues.
Our first hands-on with Dreadnought explained the game's positioning in what feels like a saturated space game market. Dreadnought, unlike many of its counterparts, is not a space sim and is paced more like an FPS. The game pits players against one another in 5v5 space combat using massive ships, each manned with hundreds of crew. To this end, the game moves away from the commonality of small-scale dog-fighting combat and plays more like a naval battle.
Space games are everywhere. The industry goes through waves of genre- or setting-specific infatuation, and this era of gaming seems to be obsessive about space sims and spaceship battles. The looming monolith is Star Citizen, as we all know, but there's also the recently-released Elite: Dangerous, indie newcomers Rebel Galaxy and Voidspace, and non-sim games like Dreadnought.
Space sims are notoriously learning- and time-intensive, making them somewhat inaccessible to gamers who seek nothing more than space-flight combat and the obliteration of massive capital ships. That's where games like Dreadnought come into play, developed by Yager and housed under Greybox alongside Grey Goo.
After our “where did RTS go?” discussion with Pat Pannullo, former Tiberian Sun designer and current Grey Goo Lead Designer, we got a hands-on play session with the upcoming RTS. Grey Goo – conveniently “GG” – seeks to bring the genre back to its more “beer and pretzels” origins of the 90s and early 00s.
The game still hosts a very real potential for a competitive scene, but it's specifically built to be an input-simplified RTS; the team wants to avoid the complexity of StarCraft – a game that uses heavy unit abilities, structure abilities, macro, micro, and meta play – and instead bring the focus back to core real-time strategy mechanics, the meta game, and epic battles. The resulting product is a game that scales to high competition just as well as it scales to casual LAN play (and Grey Goo does offer LAN), giving players a clear arc of progression if the desire to compete increases.
Command & Conquer may not have been the definitive “first” game in the RTS genre, but it was a milestone in gameplay and mechanics that paved the way for future titles. The 90s and very early 00s saw the rise of “strategy” as a genre, with RTS championing its market dominance. In a very similar fashion to the present-day flood of MOBAs, early RTS and campaign strategy once comprised what felt like the majority of popular titles.
Command & Conquer was just a small piece of that. We saw the arrival of Age of Empires, Age of Mythology, Empire Earth, Shogun: Total War, Ground Control, and the sleeping giants that spawned a decade of games – Warcraft and StarCraft; campaign games also grew, with large thanks to Civilization, Rise of Nations, Galactic Civilizations, and Hearts of Iron; city builders like Zeus, Poseidon, Caesar, Settlers, and Pharaoh also carved out a niche in the overarching “strategy” marketplace.
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