Battlecry doesn't pull its punches, and is a deliciously in-your-face alternate reality brawler with a beautiful art style.
During my brief play through of Bethesda Softwork's upcoming free-to-play third person brawler: Battlecry, at this year's PAX Aus, three games came to mind. Team Fortress 2, Chivalry: Medieval Warfare and Dishonored. The first two for their gameplay: Battlecry takes the frantic, colorful, class-based warfare of TF2 and splices it with the meaty, chaotic, melee combat of Chivalry: Medieval Warfare. Then, it wraps it all up in Dishonored's art-style.
When I was told that Viktor Antonov, the art director behind Dishonored and Half-Life 2 was the man painting the pictures of Battlecry, I wasn't surprised in the least. The game's alternate reality, steampunk-but-not-quite era visuals are superb to look at, and make for some really interesting character designs. You see, in the world of Battlecry, a treaty has prohibited the use of gunpowder in warfare, which has led to some very... interesting developments in battlefield technology.
Battlecry pits two teams of up to 16 players together in a control-point capture-style scenario that will be instantly familiar to anyone who has ever played a modern shooter. I was told that the final release will, of course, have more maps and game modes, but for now, this is what we played on. We could chose between three classes: The Tech Archer, who attacks from range and can track the movements of his enemies, the Duelist, who is your bog-standard "attacks-from-stealth" rogue character, and the Enforcer, who can transform his massive, sweeping sword into a giant, defensive shield.
Each class has three abilities they can activate (such as stealth for the Duelist, or a big sweeping whirlwind attack as the Enforcer), as well as a forth super-dooper "ultimate" ability that can be activated when you've racked up enough adrenaline from killing people.
From my experience, the Duelist and the Enforcer felt great, and I could definitely see the role that they were meant to fill on the battlefield. Fighting enemies in combat was meaty and satisfying - though it was occasionally hard to tell if I was winning a fight, and the lack of a block mechanic on the Duelist meant I was just spamming all my attacks as fast as I could.
The Tech Archer on the other hand felt quite a bit weaker. I couldn't really tell how strong my arrows actually were, as I was only able to kill someone with the aid of a melee ally, and when isolated I would go down quite quickly. Teamwork is really important in this game - if you don't stick together, you can very easily be overwhelmed by the enemy, and escaping a losing battle is not particularly easy.
Nonetheless, the game flowed really well thanks to the addition of a feature that I never thought I'd appreciate until I had it. Control points will occasionally vanish and reappear in a different area of the map, forcing players to not just set up camp in the one area all game. Movement was also quite fast, with the ability to zoom around the map using Bioshock-esque magno-hooks, and all characters having a kind of dive-roll dash ability.
The scale of the map we played on was quite large, and it didn't really feel cramped despite having 24 players on it (we played in two teams of 12, rather than 16).
The game was overall quite fun, but still felt really lacking in content. The weakness of the Tech Archer led to a kind of class blandness, as most players were sticking with the Duelist or Enforcer, with the Enforcer being the clear favorite. Bethesda is promising two additional classes in time for the beta, but I really hope there is a lot more other content to keep us sated when that does roll out (exclusively in Australia and New Zealand) next year.
Outside of the game, Bethesda told us that "Iron", the game's free currency that is earned from simply fighing battles, will be used to buy all gameplay effecting upgrades, while "Gold", which is purchased with real-money, will only ever be used to purchase cosmetic upgrades.
We'll have a lot more to talk about the out-of-game experience of Battlecry, as well Bethesda's plans for the future of the game, in an upcoming interview with lead developers Rich Vogel and Lucas Davis, so please stay tuned for that! In the mean time, be sure to check out the rest of our PAX Aus 2014 coverage.