It's odd covering conventions like PAX East 2015. When you step out onto the showfloor, there are just so many developers showing off so many great games. Outside of your scheduled appointments, everything else is jockeying for position. "That game looks interesting, I should check it out later" you think as you walk by. A developer stops your wandering eye and asks "Have you heard of our game?"
My time at conventions is rather valuable, so I prioritize playing games I haven't seen before over updated builds of games I've seen again and again. That said, there are some games I keep up with. Games I like so much that I play them again despite the general constraints on my time. Dreadnought is one of those games.
Dreadnought in its current playable form is a 5v5 deathmatch style game where players control huge capital ships. Like other team-based shooters, the ships fall into 5 categories with different strengths and weaknesses. The eponymous Dreadnought is the biggest ship class, a slow cruise ship with heavy armor and big guns. The Destroyer is the jack-of-all-trades ship class, decent in everything. Artillery is the game's sniper, using a long-range Tesla cannon to deal damage; unfortunately, its primary field of fire is a cone in front of the ship and the ship doesn't move all that quickly. Tactical ships have white armor, denoting their status as the medic. Finally, there's the Corvette, a quick ship with a cloaking device and some solid weapons. If you die in Deathmatch, you can choose another ship while you're waiting to warp in again, allowing players to adapt to the flow of the battlefield.
Combat in Dreadnought is slower and more deliberate compared to other team games. Even the fastest ship class turns slowly, with movement being closer to naval combat in Assassin's Creed IV: Black Flag. The thing is, that's what I enjoy about the game. You're given more time to get yourself into position and your planning is longer term. I like Dreadnought in a way that Team Fortress 2 and other shooters don't quite fulfill.
So I keep coming back to play it, since the game is currently in Friends and Family Alpha, and I'm neither of those things. Luckily, my appointment wasn't a complete wash, because the team at Yager was showing a brand-new game mode behind closed doors.
The second competitive game mode for Dreadnought is Team Elimination, a Last Man Standing style of game. Each player chooses one ship and gets one life. The winning team is the one that destroys all the opposing side's ships. It changes the overall tactics available, making Tactical ships more useful and causing players to run from combat situations that would kill them. You're liable to kamikaze for tactical position in Deathmatch, whereas you'll hang back if the situation is a bit too hot in Elimination. Being destroyed doesn't mean that you're out of the match though. Yager didn't want people sitting there bored in Spectator Mode, so they've found a solid middleground.
See, when you're in a match, there's small flying squadrons of fighters aligned with each side, dealing tiny bits of damage. In Team Elimination, when you flame out, you take control of a fighter. These smaller ships are quick and nimble. In a fighter, you're still a part of the battle and you have enough firepower to tilt the scales. In fact, a team of eliminated players can still help turn the tide of a battle if they focus their fire. Die in a fighter, and you're simply warped back into another after a short cooldown.
One great thing about the fighter system is it provides Dreadnought with a proper sense of scale. Some ships are larger than others, but other than the relatively slow movement, they don't provide any indication of how big things really are. In a one-man fighter though, you have a rough idea of how you as a person would fit into such a ship. Taking a fighter and strafing a Dreadnought with it shows how absolutely huge these ships are. It's surprising that it's just a side effect of giving players something to do after dying.
For me at least, Dreadnought is still full of those interesting intersections. It's a competitive multiplayer shooter that I look forward to playing every time the chance presents itself and that's rare for me these days. Hopefully, they'll have something new for E3 2015.