BattleCry: let slip the dogs of war

At the turn of the 20th century, 200 years after gunpowder has been outlawed in combat, the world’s armies are embroiled in all-out war. With no guns to speak of, soldiers use advanced melee and basic ranged weapons developed during a period of peace known as the Pansophic Revolution. This is the world of BattleCry, where the archetypal “bang bang” of the battlefield is replaced by the near-silent swish of cold, hard steel.

Bethesda has setup an entire studio to handle BattleCry aptly named Battlecry Studios and their free to play brawler embraces fast, fluid and frenetic gameplay. If you follow lone wolf tactics or charge in all swords blazing, you’ll likely wind up overwhelmed and brutally slayed by one of the 32 players running around trying to stab the bejesus out of one another.

There’s your typical tank, ranged and stealth classes but the Pansophic context puts a unique spin on the melee weapons. The Enforcer, for example, wields a gargantuan sword which can instantly expand into a shield. So far only one ranged option is available, the Tech Archer, but its weapons and attacks felt a little more by the numbers compared to the melee classes.
In terms of strategy, BattleCry forces you to plan in the heat of the moment. There’s no time or room for long burn strategies, largely because everyone and everything is always on the move, such as the zones in the game’s version of capture the flag called Land Grab. While it seems that controlled chaos is the aim of the game, more often than not it stumbles into a button mashing battle of attrition with nary a hint of strategy.

What makes this game stand out is the animated, almost graphic novel art style of Victor Antenov (famous for his work on Half Life 2 and Dishonored), and the unique historical setting.

According to Lead Designer Lucas Davis, during this time the world’s greatest warriors were superbly stylish and dressed to kill, which is why Battlecry Studios went with this particular period “It’s the last time that all the armies had these really distinct uniforms, after this period everyone went with olive drab and it just become homogenous,” Davis enthusiastically explains. Other periods were considered, but the globalisation that resulted from World War I had a big influence on their final decision.

“We looked at a period of history referred to the general crisis [early 17th to early 18th century] where the entire world more or less broke out into war. So then we imagined putting gunpowder in that situation and the kind of explosive fight you’d have there,” he continues. “[But] the results of World War I really did break the isolation of those countries, real alliances were formed it was really kind of the first time the world became unavoidably aware of one another.”

So as you can imagine, lore plays a huge role in BattleCry, and allows for plenty of contextual touches that make the game stand apart. BattleCry studios have fast-paced fluidity down pat, and the combat is good fun, but they haven’t quite worked out how to keep the chaos under control which may discourage players From employing any real strategic thinking .

You can sign up to the beta now which will launch exclusively in Australia and New Zealand in 2015.

According to Davis, BattleCry’s paid content begins and ends at cosmetic items (dare we suggest hats?), and there’s a good reason for that. “That ties into the beautiful art style, we’ve put the time and effort into making such a beautiful world so there’s a lot of value in getting new animations for your character [and] getting new looks for your armour,” he explains.

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