In 2012, Bethesda opened a second gaming studio in Austin, TX, the same neighborhood as Dishonored developer Arkane Studios. The studio would be dubbed Battlecry Studios, headed by former Star Wars: The Old Republic executive producer Rich Vogel. While the studio had begun soliciting jobs, there was next to zero information given on the studio's first project, nor would anything be revealed through the entirety of 2013.
Today, Battlecry Studios has officially unveiled its first project: an animation-driven third-person class-based multiplayer action combat game, appropriately (if unremarkably) titled Battlecry. This free-to-play game is set to come exclusively to PC and Shacknews recently had the opportunity to try it out.
Battlecry is set during the dawn of the 20th century, following the events of a devastating world war. Up to 32 players can participate and select from among three classes. The twist to game's overall concept is that, following the events of the war, there isn't a single firearm to be found. The fighters may be ready for combat, but all sides have managed to agree on one unbreakable rule: Absolutely no gunpowder. This is the Black Powder Treaty and it adds a unique aesthetic that extends across the game's war zones and playable classes.
The game's three current classes include:
- Enforcer: A well-rounded class, the Enforcer carries around a giant broad sword. Besides slicing foes to ribbons, the sword is also good for creating a shield that can protect him (and sometimes teammates) from incoming attacks. He can also buff nearby teammates.
- Duelist: The only class that can dual-wield, the Duelist utilizes quickness and stealth before striking with twin blades, which can be charged for more powerful attacks. The Duelist can also use cloaking abilities to sneak behind enemy lines.
- Tech Archer: With no gunpowder in this world, the Tech Archer compensates with pure archery skill. The tech bow can charge up to four shots, making this class a deadly sniper. Throwing daggers are also available on the fly, for self-defense purposes.
Two more classes are also in the works for the game's beta. The Gadgeteer will work as a support class, using sophisticated gadgetry to aid teammates, while the Brawler will wield a metal arm for close-quarters combat.
Enlistees to the war can select between two different factions (with one to be added later): the Royal Marines and the Cossack Empire. Different factions will not be presented as simple palette swaps, as Battlecry's factions will have their own distinct personalities, movement set, and characters. Some, like the Royal Marines' Duelist, will even be female, presented on the battlefield as equals.
As I jumped into my first game, I looked around to see just how much effort has been put into Battlecry's maps. The environments are run-down, filled with objects like torn-up wall art, to help further the idea of a land at war. In particular, I played through Fracture, a coal mining facility that was converted to a combat zone. While much of the time was spent fighting outside, there was also a coal-burning area inside a run-down building, ideal for Tech Archers that wanted to get some sniping action in.
The developer hopes that the maps will be a standout aspect of Battlecry, since they'll be designed similar in principle to FPS maps. Memorizing map locations will be key to cornering opponents or catching them off-guard. The maps are fairly expansive, which does make me wonder if that could become an issue, given Battlecry's emphasis on melee combat.
There are different layers to Battlecry's maps, with many areas seemingly far away. That's where the game's grapple system comes in. Using the principles of magnetism, soldiers can utilize grapples at certain points to quickly travel across the map. Using the grapple system to sling across the map like 19th century Spider-Man is a keen idea and one that adds another dimension to combat, since grappling players could either escape pursuers or ambush goldbricking foes. Unfortunately, the grapple system can feel very imprecise and doesn't always function when desired, which is one of the aspects of the game that will likely be addressed in the coming months.
It isn't uncommon to find yourself outnumbered in Battlecry, as was the case every time I decided to wander off by myself. The Adrenaline system offers somewhat of a fighting chance, as individual adrenaline meters can be used to power-up attacks. If it fills up all the way, the full Adrenaline meter can be unleashed for ultimate attacks that can swiftly cut down enemies in seconds. Still, Adrenaline fills up slowly, so wandering off alone and facing three of four enemies head-on is not advised.
The post-game scenario is another of Battlecry's most fascinating ideas. Once each game ends, accolades are strewn about, revealing which combatants had the most kills and which stood out in other areas. The most interesting aspect of this is that players are then rewarded for tracking down these players of either team on the map and personally congratulating them. Saluting these honored participants will offer XP bonuses, in a rare instance that sees sportsmanship actively rewarded. To add to the jovial atmosphere, newspaper will fly across the map, reporting a match well-fought.
The overall Battlecry experience is shooting for longetivity with a guild system and robust customization options. Using iron as currency, players can upgrade their characters by unlocking abilities from a skill tree, potentially changing that character's combat style entirely. Cosmetic options are also available, including new helmets, skins, armor, and even new gender options. Iron will be handed out throughout multiplayer, but can also be earned by completing special guild assignments. Given that Battlecry is set to be a free-to-play endeavor, it's also very likely that iron will be available as a microtransaction.
Battlecry aims to be a deep and heavily-polished experience, with a number of experienced developers currently assigned to the project. With prior experience on such games as Half-Life 2, Halo 4, Team Fortress 2, and Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare, Battlecry Studios' team is aspiring to add their game to those esteemed ranks. However, it is not going to be a fast process, nor will the game be rushed. In fact, Battlecry is currently targeted to hit beta in 2015. Look for more information, including new factions and classes, to be revealed in the coming months.