Announced earlier this year, Battlecry is a new team-based arena combat game from Bethesda’s newly-formed Battlecry Studio. The free-to-play title takes place in an alternate history setting, where a devastating war at the beginning of the 20th Century led to the global banning of gunpowder. International disputes are resolved in special arenas where combatants fight to defeat their opponents and win for their nation.
At the PAX AUS demo, we were introduced to the game through a short trailer video that explained the setting, followed by another video that explained what was available to us to try out. This entailed three of the game’s five classes and two of its factions: the Marines and the Cossacks. Once done, we were put onto the computers to have a crack at the game.
I picked the Tech Archer class, a ranged combatant that relies on charging up bow shots for maximum damage. The other available classes were the Duelist and the Enforcer. The Duelist is a stealth-using melee combat class, while the Enforcer is a powerful tank class. Two further classes, the Brawler and the Gadgeteer, were not available. I was disappointed to find that each class is only available in a single gender per faction, so if you want to be a female Enforcer, for example, you would have to play as the Cossack faction.
The version of Battlecry available at PAX AUS was a relatively early alpha, and there were a lot of noticeable visual glitches with it. That aside, it does look really good. The art style reminds me a little of another Bethesda title, Dishonoured, although the inspiration this time is 19th Century frescoes and World War 1 naval paintings, rather than impressionism. Many people at PAX AUS compared it to Team Fortress 2, but close inspection shows that Battlecry is much more distinctive than that.
I found the game itself to be not unlike War of the Vikings, with the third-person camera and smaller arena style. The map I played on was a capture-and-hold style map with the unique twist that, every so often the capture points would change locations. This adds a bit more variety to the mode, and means that more of the map gets used over the course of a round.
The match I played turned out to be an exciting contest, with the lead changing a few times, and my team only losing by a few points at the end. Bethesda offered the option of both XBox 360 controller and mouse and keyboard, and I briefly tried the controller before switching to the latter. The mouse controls took a little getting used to for the archer, who charges shots before firing them, and the camera zooms in while charging. I was able to do alright once I got used to this, and the class is capable of some devastating attacks.
It’s hard to form an opinion of a game based on a couple of videos and a several minutes of play in a noisy environment, but I liked what I saw of Battlecry. The booth was packed out, with a queue wrapping around it most of the weekend, so it’s fair to say there’s a lot of interest in the game out there. Bethesda have announced that the game will go into beta in Australia and New Zealand first, before the rest of the world gets the game in 2015. As a free-to-play game with clear e-sports potential, it’s entering a pretty crowded market, but the backing of Bethesda should help out.