General game information
Game name: BATTLECREW Space Pirates
Release date: 31 Jan, 2017 (Early Access)
Price: US$ 9.99 (the developers have announced that the price may increase as new content is added)
Store page: Steam
Genre: 2D multiplayer shooter
Developer: Dontnod Eleven
Publisher: Dontnod Eleven
BATTLECREW Space Pirates is a 2D competitive multiplayer shooter in which players get to choose between four different characters before heading out to fight other human opponents in team based modes such as Gold Rush (an objective based mode featuring gold chests that must be plundered in order to fill your team’s safe and win the match) or the always present Team Deathmatch (which, ironically, isn’t active right now)
BATTLECREW‘s basic gameplay loop won’t win any awards for originality, but then again, it’s hard for a 2D multiplayer shooter to innovate on this front. Players can move freely along the X axis, and there is a double jump mechanic. Every character has their own unique movement ability, as well as an offensive ability and an ultimate (named Fury) Shooting or slashing is accomplished with the right trigger (if using a gamepad) or the left mouse button, and we can also use the right stick or the mouse to aim. Currently, the keyboard and mouse control scheme feels inferior to using a gamepad, but that may change in the future, as the developers are still working on new features and polishing what’s already there.
Launching the game loads a hub map titled Tortuga in a nod to the 17th Century buccaneer hideout, which lets players choose their favorite character (and test their abilities without having to worry about an unexpected bullet/sword to the face) redo the tutorial, check out the current Bounties (Pirate bounties are a community feature that requires players to score quest points, so the aggregated score of the community can reach a specific goal which may unlock a new map, for example) and enter the matchmaking system. The hub map is well designed, with multiple paths leading to each hotspot, and it can serve as a sort of extended tutorial, since almost all the abilities can be used here.
The game’s cast of misfits is quite varied, and we can choose between two melee oriented alien warriors, and two human heroes sporting ranged weaponry. Newcomers will probably gravitate towards John Trigger, a human mercenary who carries an assault rifle with a rocket launcher attachment which acts as his offensive ability. Trigger’s movement ability lets him attach himself to a wall and move freely on the Y axis, and his ultimate is a time distortion effect which affects any enemy coming in contact with the hero’s ability aura. Next in line, we have Comet, another human sporting ranged weaponry, who uses a pair of wave emitting pistols, can run really fast when she uses her movement skill, and can drop mines as her offensive ability. Her Fury mode lets Comet send out a wave effect that causes damage to every player it touches, making her a great choice for hit and run attacks just before the enemy team has a chance to regroup and drop off the loot at their base. Tiburon and Janger are the other two characters available in the current Early Access build. The first of those is a melee hero who looks like a human/shark hybrid, wields an energy sword with limited range and can use a jetpack as his movement ability. Tiburon’s offensive skill is different from the rest, as it lets him build walls to separate enemy teammates from each other, or wall off the opposition as our teammates deliver loot to the friendly base. His Fury ability gives him control over an unlimited supply of grenades, something that can create mayhem in the blink of an eye, should the enemy team be in range. Last but not least, we have Janger, another melee oriented hero who wields two powerful blades, can protect himself with a shield generator, and has a dash ability to close in on his target/s. His Fury skill is an instant kill move which can be devastating in the right hands.
Although the four characters are quite different from one another, I felt that maybe there isn’t enough content to keep the game as alive as it needs to be. The developers are probably aware of this, as the hub map proudly states that a new hero will join the fray in the near future, but for now, the novelty of playing as each of the available pirates wears off relatively quickly.
Luckily, BATTLECREW‘s featured game mode (and the only one available until the 2vs2 Team Deathmatch mode gets added to the Early Access build) is quite fun, and heavily relies on teamplay. Playing as two squads of four characters each, gamers must reach gold chests and loot their contents before making their way back to their home base. Along the way, various hazards and tricky platforming sections will ensure that lone wolves won’t last long in the lead, and teams that cooperate with one another to get past traps and fend off enemy assaults will have a significant edge upon their counterparts. In order to foster teamplay, the game features several easy to access emotes which can be extremely useful when playing with random squadmates (a voice chat option is also available)
Both the graphics and sound effects are serviceable (BATTLECREW runs on Epic‘s Unreal Engine 4) and I didn’t have too many connection problems. The elephant on the room right now is the player count, as it may be a bit hard to find matches unless we plan on playing during the weekends only. Hopefully Dontnod Eleven will be able to add content at a fast enough rate so the game doesn’t die shortly after launch, a fate that has already sunk other promising indie multiplayer projects.
Overall, BATTLECREW Space Pirates is a fun multiplayer offering, although it currently feels a bit light content wise. It’s definitely a step above most multiplayer Early Access titles, but Dontnod Eleven will need to work hard in order to keep it relevant in the crowded Steam ecosystem.