Bethesda Softworks: Battle Cry Studios
Set for release in August, 2014, Battle Cry is a way cool, super-stylized, third-person, 32-player-team, maximum team action combat shoot’-em-up brilliantly designed by its veteran gamer producers. Under development since 2012 at Bethesda’s new studio in Austin, Texas, Battle Cry represents an explosive entry into the free-to-play sector. The team behind the game is something of a dream roster, including industry legend Rich Vogel, a veteran of genre-defining MMOs Meridian 59 and Ultima, along with Viktor Antonov, the art director responsible for the striking Half-Life 2 and Dishonored.
When I played the game during an E3 demo at CES last year it was a lot of fun. So much so that I had to stand in line to get a turn and was only allowed fifteen minutes because there was a huge line of patient folks behind me. It really is one hell of a shooter.
Actually, I’m not being altogether honest and correct, semantically speaking. The actual ‘shooter’ aspect is AWOL because Battle Cry takes place in a new world where guns are strictly banned because of the meddling of a political movement which has led to what is called the Black Powder Treaty. Gunpowder and bullets are strictly forbidden. This has caused the rise of the Pansophic Revolution, where a bloody new-world-type age of technologically-based manufacturing methodologies have altered the realities of street-fighting and the battlefield forever. War now involves elite groups of highly specialized warrior-assassins who fight with modernized daggers and swords.
Set in a shockingly colorful proto-punkish world, you enter a war between three factions fighting each other in designated war-zones. Two of the warring factions are pretty familiar. The Royal Marines Corps—very crisp and starched in Victorian attire featuring, colorful red uniforms—and the Cossacks—scruffy and undisciplined, yet far more athletic and frenzied in battle. The third faction are futuristic, ruthless shape-shifter types.
The key to Battle Cry’s gameplay lies in its different classes, which have wildly varying abilities. Most, although certainly not all, of the characters you play are geared for close-in, melée-type combat, and the close-up, third-person default view supports that style of play. There are five classes of player to choose from: Enforcer, a tank-like character whose huge sword transforms into a shield in its alternate form; Duellist, who launches quick attacks, is nimble and can hide himself for surprise attacks; Gadgeteer, who is more about support than actual fighting; Brawler, who has a powerful mechanical arm; and Tech Archer, a true assassination specialist, who can fire arrows and throw knives when up close and personal with enemies.
I tried out the Enforcer and the Tech Archer and had a grand time. You can even change class in mid-match. The action is wild, speedy and frenetic, with a hint of Team Fortress 2 to it, albeit with swords rather than assault rifles. The stylized look of all levels offers lots of vertical scale, although it will take time for you to get used to handling them.
A novel aspect of the game is the use of grappling hooks, which allow you to cover large swathes of land on the maps very quickly. You get to be a general and a lot of the game’s tactical element lies in the choices you make as to what and when choices are made concerning when to use the three special abilities each class possesses. There’s nothing like being the Tech Archer, killing in quick bursts, firing off short fusillades of explosive rockets. Along with each kill, you build up an ever-increasing score on your Adrenaline meter, which can be utilized in short bursts to cause extra casualties, or in one big concentrated blitzkrieg. Following each round played, you can wander the battlefield, earn ‘Iron,’ the in-game currency.
Battle Cry only plans for a PC release currently, but Bethesda is working on a conversion into next-gen consoles and will go into Beta in 2015.