Battlecry gameplay preview: 32-player brawler ditches the guns for close-quarters combat
Battlecry isn't your typical multiplayer deathmatch title. There is no gunpowder and therefore no guns in this parallel universe, so instead the game is all bows, blades and massive brawls.
This free-to-play world, which fades into graphic novel style the further the draw distance, is one that you'll need to run through and navigate in cooperative teams - up to 16 vs 16 for 32-player mayhem - in order to survive.
At the demo session it was possible to select from Enforcer (hefty chap with massive blade), Duelist (nimble chick with two smaller blades) and tech archer (the ranged weapon character). There will also be Brawlers (the concept art looks so much like Tom Hardy with a mechanical arm that it's uncanny) and Gadgeteers (no further info here just yet). Different factions - we were shown the Royal Marines and Cossacks (the latter complete with a David-Beckham-a-like, funnily enough) - will also be available to choose from.
In the pre-beta version of the game we played a 10-minute first-to-75-kills team deathmatch where the madness ensued. The game is easy to pick up and play: your character runs around without the need to hit a sprint command key, while jumping and diving or grappling onto specific sections of the terrain will further accelerate your path through the arena. It's not Batman: Knight or Titanfall in terms of its deftness, and sometimes it took longer to sheathe our weapons than we'd have liked to get back to sprinting again, but the stylised environments are well crafted.
As a solo player you'll no doubt get mobbed and mauled by the opposition, which is when the tactic of allying with your team comes into essential play. If everyone on your team is an Enforcer then you'll end up operating as a slow and cumbersome clan that will likely get picked apart from a distance by a more varied mix of opponents.
Combat is a fairly simple fare of slash, swipe, dash (or the equivalent) - which has the capacity to get old quickly, but it is possible to change your character to respawn as a different selection, providing versatility to play. Melee, dodge and shield reactions are all essential too.
There's also adrenaline in the game, which acts as a booster to attack and resistance which earned through play. The more you maul the opposition the more your four-part meter will fill until it maxes out. It's possible to use a single adrenaline unit as a booster or press-and-hold the button to use all four (if you have them) to step into a 30-seconds of ultra-charged madness. It this mode you'll be considerably more powerful, glowing a golden red colour, and far more capable of despatching the opposition.
It's all rather blood soaked, with single-shade spurts of the red stuff flying liberally around the arena. Heads will roll, arms will fly off - but despite its ultra violence it doesn't twist the knife to the point of ultra grim. Or perhaps we're just too used to violent video games these days.
As a free-to-play title, the introduction of pay-to-upgrade gold - to fashion armour and make your character look distinct - alongside earn-to-upgrade iron received from your co-players if they choose can help buy armour and weapon upgrades. The studio confirmed that there will be no pay-to-advance route through the game, so you can't throw cash at it and become invincible. To earn you'll need to acquire medals and salutes from your co-players to translate into iron.
Take the guns out of a multiplayer and you're left with a very different experience overall. It's one we're not as keen on as the shoot-to-kill madness of first person players, but hats off to Battlecry for trying something different.
Battlecry will be available in 2015 for PC, PS4 and Xbox One.