Dreadnought gets deeper, more tactical with new Elimination mode

The five-on-five multiplayer action in Dreadnought, the free-to-play space combat game from Yager Development, is straightforward — or at least, as straightforward as a multiplayer space combat game played with a mouse and keyboard can be. Five players face off against a squad of five other players, and the two teams attempt to blow each other out of the sky. Yager announced a new multiplayer mode, Team Elimination, during a panel at PAX East today, that the studio is designing as a more strategic offering than simple team deathmatch.

Yager expects that most Dreadnought players will start out with team deathmatch to familiarize themselves with the controls and basic match flow — it’s the “easiest entry point,” said game director Peter Holzapfel in an interview with Polygon during a hands-on demo. But while Elimination bears many similarities to the setup in team deathmatch, it requires more skill and more teamwork.

Elimination is also a five-on-five mode, except it plays out as a best of three rounds. You only get one life at the helm of the typical ship you choose, a ship from one of the five standard classes. If all five players on a team die, the round is lost and the combatants move on to the next one. But there’s a twist: When you die, you can respawn at the controls of a fighter jet.

The jet is playable only in Elimination, and it feels different from even the Corvette, the quickest ship class that’s normally available. It can’t take as much damage as the weakest standard aircraft, and unlike all of the usual classes, the jet doesn’t allow you to direct energy toward different segments of the ship. But boy, is it fast and nimble. If you can get a handle on its speed and maneuverability, including special abilities like the roll, you can be an asset to your team even after your original ship goes down. A single capital ship can hold its own if it’s accompanied by four capable jet pilots, said Holzapfel. We lost the first round of our match, but won by taking the next two.

With life at such a premium in Elimination, players really have to know their vessels inside and out if they’re going to succeed. The mode is meant to give people “more ownership of [their] ship,” according to Holzapfel, and it demands a higher level of cooperation from players than team deathmatch. That social element is key to Elimination: Yager wants players to figure out a strategy ahead of time and execute it, and then adapt between rounds if something’s not working. The studio hopes that kind of teamwork will encourage squads to stick together for, at the very least, an entire three-round match.

Elimination is only the second multiplayer game type Yager has revealed so far for Dreadnought, and Holzapfel said that’s because the studio had to get team deathmatch right before moving on to anything else. Yager tried a capture the flag-style mode early in development, but it just wasn’t coming together.

Holzapfel explained that the studio realized, “We don’t know enough about our own game yet to pull this off.” With that experience under its belt, the team is now edging toward more complex modes of play.