Commanding the remote corners of space at the helm of an elite fleet of battleships from heavy tanks called Dreadnoughts to fast healing support ships like the Cerberus, there is plenty to be found here. Epic space battles, floaty controls, and only those with the fiercest spirits will be able to become masters of the stars.
Dreadnought is the latest multiplayer title to come to the table and get my heart beating the moment I picked up the controller. I had the chance to try out the PS4 version in the Beta to see what it had to offer and it left me speechless. Normally I’d say I’m not the kind of person who’s all that keen on space battles, I’ve played a bit of No Man’s Sky and always figured attempting to pilot a spaceship wouldn’t be a skill to add to my virtual resume of achievements in the world of video games. After bumping around in walls for half an hour and dying in a blaze of glory in a kamikaze attempt to take out ships twenty times the size of my precious multi-purpose support vessel, I’m glad to say I’ve got the hang of it!
On the surface, Dreadnought seems pretty basic and for the most part, it is. Players command a ship and go in with a fleet to take out the enemy team, with the ability to choose a collection of spaceships to fit their play-style. In the tutorial, players are given the chance to pilot the Dreadnought that is the biggest of them all. Large and unwieldy, it’s meant to take the mother load of hits while dealing out its share of damage. The other ship class is the Destroyer, quick and maneuverable for dodging around the larger ships with the ability to deliver a debilitating assault.
While the Destroyer ship class comes as a close second, my favorite ended up being the tactical cruiser. Fast, maneuverable, and able to heal itself and allies while also delivering its own share of damage, I found myself hovering behind the big guns while I simply healed them or dealt out damage as required. Playing the support role while hearing the thunder booms of the enemy team bearing down on me and my fleet had my hair standing on end.
On the Edge of Space
This game had me shouting at the screen in frustration and the next minute giving commands to my fleet of ships – all played by AI at this point, mind you – while I was playing. I made the assumption that the moment I picked up my PS4 controller I would be able to pilot every ship without any issue, only to realize this game required not only skill but patience with the type of ship I chose to handle. Did I want something large and easy to maneuver or did I want something fast and quick the enemy would ignore? Play the supporting role in a battle or go in with plasma cannons a blastin’ with the Destroyer? These all sound like silly questions, but every time I sat down to play I felt as if I were piloting a real spaceship.
The controls are handled well here considering it’s space, and I have to give Dreadnought props for pulling it off so well. One of the hesitations I had coming into playing a game involving space battles is that I thought the controls would be floaty. My ship would be spinning in every which direction and soon I would end up upside down and sideways trying to attack the nearest enemy. Thankfully, this didn’t happen but it wasn’t easy either. The thrusters on each ship have to be adjusted when going forward, ascending or descending had to be done with patience and gaining speed required focusing precious power to the thrusters that in the same breath could be used to activate a shield to protect me temporarily from being blown up and going down in a ball of flames.
There’s a good balance here for players to use their abilities to their advantage, but they also can’t strong arm their way into taking out a fleet of ships either. I found this out when using my little Cerberus, the name of the Tier 1 Tactical Cruiser, when attempting to take on a Destroyer on my own. My role was to linger behind the bigger ships while they absorbed the damage, healing them as needed and helping to dish out my own share of hits. In between doing all this, I also had to weave in between my own fleet to stay out of the main line of fire while also running away from the enemy before they could zero in on my position. Floating still in mid-air to heal passively wasn’t an option, even if I wasn’t one of the ships dealing out buttloads of damage. I still had to actively participate in the battle whether I liked it or not.
And this is Dreadnought’s greatest strength, how well balanced it is when it comes to the majority of the ships and what they do. Every aspect of gameplay felt dynamic and nothing felt repetitive since I had to actively adjust my strategy for each new situation. One strategy I came across by accident was floating high above a fleet of large gunships called Artillery Cruisers that were meant for dealing a large amount of damage. The drawback being they were essentially glass cannons, they could deal the damage but they couldn’t take it. Being in a Destroyer and right above them, all I simply had to do was aim down and shoot. Once I started firing there was nothing the ships could do to defend themselves, they just turned tail and fled. I took out at least two with this strategy and managed to snag a third one before being taken out by an enemy Destroyer.
Don’t Stay Still
And that’s the thing, every battle is dynamic. Even if it’s just me and one other ship defending a point and taking on waves of enemies, it’s hard to sit back and be idle. Enemy ships can approach from above, below, the side, or come bulldozing in tight formation to pick off scattered ships one by one. Each battle is intense and requires the complete attention of the player or they’ll be picked off before they can throw their shield up.
And honestly, I think that’s what sucked me into Dreadnought in the first place. Just playing for hours and hours without stopping or even noticing the time. The battles keep me engaged and don’t bore me since just about any strategy in the book can be used. Players also have to balance their resources since if they shoot too long with their weapon it will power down for a few seconds, leaving them open to attack. Main power can be focused on either throwing up a shield to avoid a nasty blast or to power the thrusters to get into a better defensive or offensive position. There are constant factors of balancing the few resources you have on hand to take out as many ships as possible while also staying alive. Not to mention the fact you have to work with your fleet in order to take on the enemy team, you can’t just go in and take them all out on your own. You might take out one, two, or even three with good skill and maneuverability, but once all the enemy ships are focused on you, it’s game over.
Related: Beta, Dreadnought, Preview, PS4, Shooter, Space, Yager Development