Thursday, 7 September 2017

Dreadnought vs Fractured Space (PC spaceship game faceoff)

Space games have seen a bit of a revival lately. With the perhaps-never-to-be-completed sims Star Citizen and Elite: Dangerous (more on Elite in later post) leading the charge, there are also a few more casual space games for those who want to spend more time pew-pewing in their spaceship rather than travelling about.  I dismissed Star Conflict as a typical Russian "freemium" and so tested two arena-style space shooters: Fractured Space and Dreadnought.

Fractured Space has potential on a tactical level, but it's ultimately boring steering your blimp spaceship around and pew-pewing; it's a reskinned ARPG.
Fractured Space
It's also a "free-to-play" game, but this is not my main objection. It's that it's boring.  For some reason most space games treat spaceships with the flight model of blimps, ignoring vector movement and Fractured Space is no different. There technically IS 3 dimensions of maneuver; but as all objectives are on the same plane it's not terribly relevant. It has an interesting tactical level; where 5v5 you can contest 3 "objectives" to collect resources, levelling up your ship before attacking the enemy base.  Sadly it's slow moving and about as engaging as an ARRPG; park alongside, click on targets and spam the occasional special attack.  Whilst the tactical level was interesting (which cap to attack, when to warp out, etc) the actual ship combat was dull and the ships felt generic and similar. You could replace the ship with a fantasy hero and it would be similar to games like Diablo. It seems well balanced and fair, but it's basically a slow, generic RPG-esque game with a space "skin." I can see there is room for tactical skill, but ultimately it's slow and dull, and does not feel very "space-y".   
Not recommended. 

 
 Here's someone else's opinion of Dreadnought, with gameplay. Ultimately just a very slow paced shooter, lacking depth.

Dreadnought
Another "free-to-play" game, Dreadnought was a tad less boring to play, but tactically shallow.  The massive scale of motherships-duelling-in-atmosphere in the trailer was lost due to poorly scaled terrain.  The "star destroyer" size ships reminded me more of flying submarines rather than gigantic motherships; like Mechwarrior Online the buildings and terrain are too large; making the ships feel small.  You need tiny trees, cars and aircraft buzzing around, skyscrapers SMALLER than the spaceships. If you make terrain gigantic to match your gigantic unit...  ... the unit doesn't seem so gigantic anymore. The gameplay is more engaging. There's more to do; ships move faster, you can channel power to shields, lasers or thrusters with a wider range of weapons and modules; the ship classes are more distinct; lumbering dreadnoughts, support (healer) or sniper cruisers, all-rounder destroyers or speedy ambusher stealth frigates.  The classes again seem inspired more from traditional ground shooters/RPGs but they do give a distinct feel.  Seems less balanced and it's progression system is not optimal. Also 5v5, in contrast to Fractured Space, the tactical side of things is boring; pretty much straight deathmatches which get old fast; leaving Dreadnought as slow, dull shooter where concentrating fire and blobbing targets seemed the order of the day.   
Not recommended either.

So the search for a casual multiplayer space game continues. There are RTS style games (Homeworld has been upgraded graphically, and Sins of a Solar Empire is a competent 4X-meets-RTS) but there's not much about where you can fly a spaceship with or against your mates.  Singleplayer, I can recommend Space Pirates and Zombies for top down vector maneuver, and Rebel Galaxy (channeling Firefly) for 2D Freelancer-esque play; the X-3 series (aka EvE Offline) seems so promising but isn't worth the learning curve; I keep trying to play it and tend to quickly lose interest. 

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