Rule 1: Don’t be a dick
The folks at Splash Damage have been busy over the last two years. Since the release of Brinkand a stint on Batman: Arkham Origins‘ multiplayer, they figured it was time to return to their roots with a heavy focus on PC-oriented competitive multiplayer gameplay. As the masterminds behind the legendary Quake 3 Fortress mod and the multiplayer for Return to Castle Wolfenstein, they were keen on rekindling the magic found in their earlier work for their shooter. With their upcoming title Dirty Bombhaving been in closed alpha for the some time now (since 2013) the developers are now ready to get the masses in on their return to form FPS title.
With a deep focus on free-to-play and pay what you want gameplay, the developers seek to keep Dirty Bomb fair for all with its “Free-to-Win” mantra. Published by Nexon, it’s one fo the rare Western developed titles for the F2P publisher. Though this one’s got quite a pedigree from the developers who’ve worked on Enemy Territory and the multiplayer for Return to Castle Wolfenstein.At a special event hosted by the publisher Nexon, we got to go hands-on with this over-the-top and self-proclaimed “hardcore” shooter, where we got to speak to some folks from Splash Damage about its development. With access to the game available now, they wanted to hit the ground running by showing what their title is all about.
Dirty Bomb(PC)Developer: Splash DamagePublisher: NexonRelease date: March 26th 2015 (Open Access)
“For us, we were kind ofaccustomed to shipping packaged products and retail games, so that within itself was a different mentality to production,”said Splash Damage co-founder and chief branding officer Richard Jolly while discussing their transition to developing a free-to-play title.
“So you essentially get the game to what is considered open beta, which is pretty much the final game in most cases, and then the players will play it, release a few updates and a bit of DLC, and then you walk away from it. But with Dirty Bomb, we’re kind of back to mod-making. It’s constantly evolving, and the game we had in the alpha with our fans is completely different than what we had now. It’s interesting to have that level of transparency with our fans, and that’s really helped us because we’re still actively developing the game.”
Set in near-future London, the city had been plunged into chaos after a mysterious “dirty bomb” released toxic gases and large amounts of radiation. In the years since, London is now an abandoned husk of its former self, and the only ones willing to venture into the decaying remains of England’s capital city are mercenaries who see the opportunity where others do not. With valuables and other fortunes to find in London, those crazy enough to set foot inside will have to fight for their riches in order to make it out on top.
While on the surface it feels like a grittier and more mature take on Team Fortress 2, there’s certainly a lot more going on with Dirty Bomb than at first glance. In total, there are several unique characters with their own arsenals and backstories. While many of them share a similar archetype, such as the sniper, medic, and assault classes, they each have access to their own particular set of skills and weapons that are specific to them. There’s a lot of humor and humanity found in Dirty Bomb, and the accompanying flavor text that describes each character and their motives for merc work did a lot to bring me in.
When in battle, you can select a squad of three characters. These three are the characters you can switch off from during the game, so you’ll have to choose wisely. I mostly stuck with Phoenix, Vassili, and Arty, a medic, sniper, and support group. Though I initially was confused on how exactly I could switch off between the character gear, I quickly picked it up after a few minutes of play. Essentially, the members of your squad are loadouts, similar to those inCall of Duty or Battlefield, and you’ll have need to switch between them in order to stay ahead of your foes.
During a match in the game mode Stopwatch, a neat mix between the standard demolition and capture the flag modes, I was able to switch off between the characters when they were needed. Set on the map Terminal, the attackers have to plants charges on a wall within the quarantine zone in order to gain access to the train station that houses valuable documents that the attackers need to destroy — but of course, the data is being protected by another group of mercs who aim to keep them intact.
Playing on both sides, I found that I needed to switch up my classes more often, as when I was attacking I had to stay healed more often. While on defense, I needed to pick off the oncoming threat from afar. I was really impressed with how the flow of the game motivated me to switch things up more often, as I usually just stick with one class in other titles. I felt I experimented more often in this title than in most other shooters. This aspect of experimentation was something that the developers wished they players would explore.
“Games are always an evolution, right? Especially since we were making this for ourselves, before the publisher stepped in,” said lead designer Neil Alphonso. “We wanted to really bring out the characters of the mercs. They look really cool, and we wanted to reflect that in the gameplay more. So far it’s worked really well, we’ve had players come up with combinations that we would’ve never expected in closed testing that we never would’ve expected, and of course we’re gonna have to keep adjusting to that.”
When you win matches and collect cash, you can purchase cases that yield merc cards that offer a different variation for each character. Spanning across different rarity types, each type of card will offer that specific character a new loadout and special perks. For instance, I found a found a bronze card for Vassili, which not only gave him a new sniper rifle with higher rate of fire, but also gave him the ability to throw his melee weapon. As you find rarer cards, you’ll gain access to new abilities and weapons for your characters. Though lead and bronze cards are very common, silver and gold cards really change the game for your characters, as they turn your merc into an elite badass decked out with perks and other special gear.
While it’s possible to the find much of the content on your own without ever spending a dime by combining junk cards and turning them into rare ones — there are many different options to take advantage of if you feel as though you want get content quicker. As credits can be acquired pretty easily, you can always be comfortable with what you have, and the developers were clear that Dirty Bomb is a game that will not be “pay-to-win.”
“If you’re making a competitive shooter, something that’s hardcore, then the first thing people want is a fair playing field,” said Alphonso. “The way I look at it, and it’s a bit idealistic, but you just have to make a game that people enjoy enough, that they want to give you money. Rather than they feel like they need you to in order to compete.”
It’s not too often that we see a F2P title with so much openness and transparency from the developers. Generally, the free-to-play genre has somewhat of a bad reputation because of poor practices from certain titles. And while it’s understandable that many players feel a bit apprehensive for upcoming ones, I can say that Dirty Bomb was a pretty rad title in the hours I spent with it. Though I kinda wished that the developers stuck with Brink‘s traversal system, because that’d be such a welcome fit for this game, I found the action in DB to be pretty hectic, bombastic, and super satisfying to take part in.
Not only did I feel like I got in some great action moments, going on a seven-kill streak was pretty damn great, but I also felt like I was a pretty integral part of the team as a healer and support unit. With the game available on Steam, now’s your chance to get involved with the game that’s been in the works for quite some time. And since it’s still an on-going process, the developers have continued plans to roll out new features and content in the coming months, such as new maps and other cool content. I had a blast (no pun intended), and the folks from Splash Damage haven’t lost their touch for fast and frenetic FPS gameplay.