More than a year and a half ago, Dreadnought was introduced and immediately received praise for its intense space battles featuring capital ships. Space combat games have been a sorely underrepresented genre for many years, with only a few noticeable titles coming out, which made it easy to see why so many people were eager to get their hands on Dreadnought.
I was no exception and was thoroughly impressed with my hands-on experience during PAX Prime 2015. Since then, the game has rescinded from its convention spotlight to work out the fine details and prepare for Open Beta, which has essentially started acting as an official release for free-to-play games.
Dreadnought has gone through many transitions during its development, and even some lackluster updates still kept the game in a fun environment with its excellent combat mechanics and spectacular visuals. Unfortunately, Update 1.3.1, or ‘The Shipyard Update,’ implemented a number of changes that were toxic to the game’s very nature.
The point of this article isn’t to bash Dreadnought but instead to bring about change to a system that seems like a grievous lack of judgement. I personally find the combat mechanics in Dreadnought to be top notch, and it would be a shame if it failed due to non-gameplay related mistakes.
So let’s break down the problems with Update 1.3.1.
First off, the most noticeable problem was Tier 1 Recruit ships getting matched against Tier 4 Hero ships. In order to obtain these powerful hero ships, players had to buy the founders packs, which initially pushed the game into a state of pay-to-win.
Technically, these hero vessels aren’t any better than what you can eventually unlock through playing the game. We’ll go into detail regarding progression later on, but matchmaking was essentially broken at the start because a Tier 1 isn’t even comparable to a Tier 4. Not only that, but hero ships had secondary weapons and officers unlocked, which aren’t available until much farther down the progression tree.
The reason this was allowed to take place was because player fleets were separated into Recruit, Veteran and Legendary categories. However, these fleets weren’t restricted to matching against one another. The game might bring in two Veteran players and three Rookie, or whatever it happened to deem balanced at the time.
The specific problem of matching hero ships against recruits was recently fixed due to restricting the types of fleets that can be matched against each other, but there’s still a tier disparity. One side could get five Tier 1 ships while the other gets five Tier 2, but every player is still considered a recruit.
Progression is a Mess
There’s currently nothing positive I can say about the ‘Progression 2.0’ system. It is boring, frustrating, and simply doesn’t reward players for playing the way they want to. In order to unlock a Dreadnought you have to level up Corvettes and Destroyers. Artillery Cruisers require unlocking Tactical Cruisers. None of these ships play the same way and no one should be required to heal if all they want to do is shoot.
The game boasts that there are dozens of different ships to choose from, but in reality there are only 15 that truly matter. Currently, there are three manufacturers in the game: Jupiter Arms, Oberon, and Akula Vektor. Each has their own array of ships, but eventually they all end with one Tier 5 for each class. Through the tiers, the only real improvements are stat based, which means that there’s no point in using a Tier 3 once the Tier 4 version is unlocked.
Finally, Dreadnought has now introduced three separate currencies. These are Credits, Research and Grey Box Points. Research is used to unlock new ships and modules and then credits are required to buy them. Grey Box Points only seem to be used for buying hero ships or unlocking Elite Status for a 50% XP/Credit bonus.
The biggest problem is that research is earned much quicker than credits. Until today’s patch, Tier 3 ships required a few thousand research points to unlock but a massive 50,000 credits (now reduced to 20,000) to purchase. Furthermore, research is acquired more quickly than credits and players are required to unlock everything in a ship tree before they can purchase that ship. Additionally, research is linked to the ship you acquire it on, unless you spend GBP to move it, so there’s no hording research on your favorite ship.
This essentially makes research points worthless because you can unlock an entire ship’s talent tree before purchasing the next ship. This is a problem at every tier and makes credits the only currency that even matters. This even discourages players from spending premium currency to convert research from one ship to the next when they know they’ll have all the research they need by the time they can spend their credits.
Not World of Tanks
Not only is the progression system itself flawed, but there’s simply no real point to it. Grey Box is attempting to recreate the tier system from World of Tanks, and that doesn’t work in Dreadnought.
There are advantages in World of Tanks to owning multiple tanks at multiple tiers. It’s been awhile since I’ve played WoT, but as far as I’m aware you need multiple tanks to keep playing after getting blown up in a match. Games tend to last on the longer side and destroyed tanks are stuck in battles until they conclude. MechWarrior Online also has a similar system, and these games reward having multiple vehicles available even if they’re not all top tier.
However, Dreadnought is a lobby-based shooter and only one match can be played at a time. Therefore, there’s no reason to use that old T2 once T3 has been unlocked for the same class. The same thing can be said about modules. Why would I want to unlock T3 torpedoes when I know I’ll have to buy T4 later on? That’s not fun and doesn’t support game diversity. It also pigeonholes players into certain roles. If you have a T5 Artillery cruiser, you’re not going to want to switch to a T2 Dreadnought even if your team needs it.
Instead of World of Tanks, Dreadnought is closer to something like Call of Duty, Titanfall or Battlefield. Progress should unlock more options, or complicated mechanics/game modes, but not power. Supply more ship, weapon, loadout, and officer options as you level up. Don’t simply give people more power. That is a terrible and boring idea.
Can it be Salvaged?
Hopefully, yes. And that’s one of my main goals with this article; to get the attention of the developers and put the thoughts of the players into a structured format. It’s unfortunate that the development team spent so much time on Progression 2.0, but it is so bad that it needs to be completely scrapped.
The progression system from the previous update was so much better, even if it was completely barebones. Simply reverting it would be a massive step in the right direction. New ships didn’t offer strictly more power, but they did offer different options. Of course there were less overall choices, but the choices now were only implemented to artificially prolong the grind.
Another symptom of the progression system also needs to be done away with. Currently, officers and secondary weapons are locked behind a grind wall. The idea is that these complicate things, but hero ships automatically come with these available and not having secondary weapons actually makes it more difficult to deal with certain classes. Don’t allow people to buy something that new players won’t have access to. Instead, limit their choices at the beginning and then add creative alternatives.
Finally, a more interesting way to expand progression would be with specialized roles. If you look at EVE Online, there are many classes of ships and each one has a few variants. CCP has managed to make nearly every ship feel and play uniquely through the use of different stats but also diverse hardpoints.
In Dreadnought, different stats are represented by the manufacturers. One might specialize in speed while the other focuses on damage. That’s a great start, but it only leaves so much room for diversity. That’s why we’ve ended up with a progression system that only rewards more raw power.
Currently, each class has the same four module slots available with different options for each class. This means that there’s no specialization besides what’s already assigned via each ship’s respective statistics. A better possible idea would be to create ships designed for specific roles.
Have a balanced Dreadnought with two offense, one defense and one utility slot and another Dreadnought that’s strictly focused on taking a beating with 3 or 4 defensive modules. This would give the developers more creative control and allow players to unlock interesting ships that fill niche roles instead of a slightly more powerful version of what they already have.
These are just a handful of ideas on why I think Progression 2.0 is possibly the worst thing to happen to Dreadnought so far and how the situation can be improved. I don’t mean for this to be a warning to current or future players to stay away, but instead I hope that the game can become much better than its current state. Gameplay wise, Dreadnought is a blast and it’s truly unfortunate that bad system mechanics are muddling the most important aspect of the game.Related: Beta, Dreadnought, Grey Box Games, Shooter, Space, Yager Development