We got hands-on time with BattleCry Studios' inaugural free-to-play multiplayer action title, and walked away impressed.
Bethesda announced BattleCry as a 32-player free-to-play action game back in May. Set in an alternate pre-WWI universe where gun powder has been banned by the world powers, BattleCry blends fast-paced swordplay, melee, and ranged combat in frenetic team-versus-team matches. Players choose to support one of three factions (the Royal Marines and Cossack Empire were available in our demo) which will feed into an overall meta-game conflict.
BattleCry will offer players five character classes at launch, but our hands-on demo only featured three. The Enforcer is a tank character and wields a massive sword that can also transform into a shield. The Duelist is a speedier dual-wielding sword master, who can temporarily cloak herself and perform a deadly phase strike. Finally, the Tech Archer can power up her ranged bow attacks and throw out daggers at nearby enemies.
I tried out the Enforcer and Duelist classes during our team deathmatch demo, and was struck by how swift and agile characters are on the battlefield. Every character can perform a rolling dodge move to help evade attacks during combat, and can also use grapple nodes and jump pads to quickly traverse the map. The hack-and-slash sword combat is broken up by the three unique abilities each character has. The Enforcer moves and swings at a slower pace, but can close the distance to enemies with a powerful lunge attack, and can fend off foes from all sides with a spinning whirlwind attack. The Duelist moved considerably faster, and I quickly came to rely on her cloaking ability to sneak up on unsuspecting foes before launching into a volley of attacks.
BattleCry also sports a unique art style, thanks to the design of Viktor Antonov, who worked on Half-Life 2 and Dishonored. The developer says that the team is inspired by graphic novels, but there's also a subtle brushstroke effect that appears on characters, and blood sprays out in thick, bright spurts.
I'm always skeptical of multiplayer-focused free-to-play action games, but I enjoyed what I played of BattleCry. The action is fast-paced but also felt fair, and required less twitch reflexes than cover-based shooters. Players can check the game out for themselves when BattleCry enters beta in 2015.