A few years ago, I wouldn't have associated Bethesda Softworks with MMOs, but with the advent of The Elder Scrolls Online, it seems that the genre has become the publisher's newest action plan. The upcoming free-to-play Battlecry, developed by the titular Battlecry Studios, feels like a combination of two unlikely games: Team Fortress 2 and Dishonored. With the class-based action and humor of the former, and the shaded graphics and formal military aethestics of the latter, Battlecry hopes to rekindle our love of faction-based PvP multiplayer.
In a room with enough seats for several sessions of 16v16 team deathmatch, the developers showed off the first three of five classes available for Battlecry which represent the holy trinity. Enforcers tend to wield giant swords and serve as the rank-and-file protectors, whereas duelists can dish out the fastest DPS damage and can cloak themselves to separate tight enemy formations or flee from a dangerous situation. Tech archers, as their name implies, are pit in the role of a ranged attacker that can use explosive arrows and poke at foes just to lure them away. Some of the locked classes were the Brawler and the Gadgeteer, both of which will greatly change the group dynamic.
While the developers plan to have three factions in the final game, the early build featured two: the Royal Marines who represent the majesty and discipline of the Empire, and the yellow Cossack Empire which has an Eastern European feel combining elements of German and Russian regalia. Each team's roster of characters will have clear differences beyond gender changes in each class (for instance, the enforcer for the Cossacks is female by default), though their roles will be largely similar. The story-world imagines a time where gunpowder doesn't exist due to the Black Powder Treaty, spurring on the invention of "pansophic," transforming weapons such as the Enforcer's shield turning into a sword and vice versa.
The level available for play called Fracture was set in an English mining factory with numerous gray buildings separated by wide chasms and railroad tracks and framed by a gorgeous, painterly sky. With the camera fixed in third-person, players can leap across gaps or gain elevation by grappling onto various hook-points in the environment, much like how Booker's Skyhook works in BioShock Infinite except without any rails. Sprinting through the level with jumps and double-jumps is swift, to the point that I settled on the duelist after playing all the classes so that I could parkour around invisibly like a ninja.
The combat feels loose in its very early state, with players sticking in groups and then mashing each of the three class abilities when they clash. Eventually, it boiled down to having a group of eight enforcers just tearing through the other team, and then saving their adrenaline so that they can activate it in tight spots, granting them extra damage and health. The developers will need to figure out how to make combat more methodical than merely closing in a pack and mauling everything in sight. We'll see whether the locked classes will change this up and allow ranged and sneaky characters to carry more weight.
Luckily, no matter who does well, the game rewards fair play by allowing players to salute the best players (best kill-to-death, most points, most assists) at the end of the match. Each successful salute gives 100 extra iron which serves as currency for upgrades and cosmetic items.
Battlecry is slated to have its first beta available in 2015 on PC.