I’m quite a big fan of the whole “Early Access” initiative that game developers have been adopting for the past half-decade or so. While some—and by that I mean quite a lot—game developers on Steam use this as an excuse to sell people an unfinished product that they never complete, others use the service as it’s intended: to sell an in-development product that shows potential.
BATTLECREW: Space Pirates is one such in-development game. Coming from the newly-founded Dontnod 11, a side studio of Life is Strange developers Dontnod Entertainment, BATTLECREW is a fast-paced multiplayer side-scroller that is taking full advantage of the Early Access model.
For starters, in its current iteration, BATTLECREW is quite low on content. Its multiplayer-focused, character-driven theme is one that, like Overwatch or Paladins, can be constantly updated either in its current, unfinished form or after launch. The characters that BATTLECREW currently has on show are of the same “zany fun time” archetypes that the characters in most PC multiplayer games are currently aiming for to the same quality of the aforementioned Overwatch.
Thankfully, while the cast of characters at the moment is miniscule at best—just four—each one is surprisingly unique. From the gun-happy John Trigger to the dancing shark Tiburon, every character plays entirely differently from one another. While they’re currently split two-two between melee and gunplay, the abilities that each character possesses makes them a worthwhile pick over the rest.
Certain abilities owned by characters not only change the entirety of your playstyle but also change the way in which you navigate the map. The lovable "Speed Queen" Comet may have an ability which allows her to sprint rapidly across the stage but in some maps, Tiburon may have more of an advantage due to his jetpack. The same goes for attacks, with Tiburon being more of a high-defence character since he can literally create near impenetrable walls anywhere in the environment. However, other characters such as Janger have an insta-kill "Berserk" move.
While characters are extremely varied from one another, the rest of the game is surprisingly bland in its 1.02 state. Maps and their accompanying soundtracks are not only very similar to each other but are also very repetitive. With just four maps available, BATTLECREW’s level design feels surprisingly basic. While some maps implement teleporters and other obstacles, no map really stands out as much as it should.
The moment-to-moment gameplay of BATTLECREW is a competent ordeal, however, the game never seems to rise above its basic adequacy. Its singular mode at the time of writing, Gold Rush, gets old fast. Both teams have to find gold carts, some of which are in a set place while others spawn during the games. After tapping X as many times as your selected character allows—with each character able to hold different amounts of gold—you move back towards your base and pop the gold into your bank.
The biggest problem with the Gold Rush game mode is its lack of interaction. The simply designed maps are crafted around funnelling characters down through an A-to-B path, possibly stopping to pick up some excess spawn chests if they need to. Due to the game’s need to guide players down simplistic routes, they never seem to cross paths with other players that need to be dispatched.
This is because the majority of levels in BATTLECREW are more focused around speeding from the treasure to your goal which leads the majority of players to choose either Comet—because of her speed—or Tiburon—due to his wall-spawning skill. The faster you can move around the map or the better you can block the enemy from touching the gold then the easier it is to win. This is a shame because from the offset BATTLECREW shows a boatload of potential.
BATTLECREW is a game where the potential is all over the place. Graphically it’s quite nice, the controls are slick and responsive and Dontnod 11 clearly have a great creative spark when it comes to their characters. Sadly, BATTLECREW doesn’t accommodate the flow of its own gameplay into the environments that they let players experience. Hopefully, as time goes on, BATTLECREW can grow and evolve into a great game but, for now, BATTLECREW: Space Pirates fails to rise above its incomplete nature.
Our score: /10
Great - An excellent piece of kit that offers value for money and adheres to high quality standards.