Dropzone Preview: A Pilot’s Life for Me
A lot can happen in fifteen minutes. That’s the length of every match you’ll play in Dropzone, an innovative entry coming to the RTS genre. Gone are the days of online matches lasting anywhere between 10-90 minutes, immediately alleviating any pressure of fitting a game of unknown length into a tight schedule. Dropzone condenses an amalgamation of competition, entertainment, and strategy into a consistently convenient package.
Having spent some time with Sparkypants (developer) and Gameforge (publisher) at E3, a genuine sense of excitement seemed to be emanating from developer, publisher, and journalist alike. After talking at length about Dropzone and the team of industry veterans behind it, I was lucky enough to play a match against Gameforge’s PR Manager. I inevitably lost the match, but I was able to easily pick up the controls, skim through ability descriptions, and put up a good fight before I went down. Regardless of your experience or familiarity with the genre, Dropzone accommodates all. The deeper you dive into customization, however, the more deliberate your strategies must be.
Your team consists of three Pilots controlling their own Rigs – essentially massive combat robots. You are alone in your quest for victory as you control all three characters simultaneously, effectively eliminating the need for (un)cooperative teammates and the inevitable blame that ensues if the game is lost. You are the team. You are responsible for the actions and movements of three characters. You, specifically, are the one who wins. You, additionally, are the one who loses. This weight of responsibility intensifies the competitive nature of the game, resulting in some pretty tense matches and genuinely reflexive emotional outbursts.
Each player’s main objective is to gather cores and turn them in at the center of the map to score points. You’ll tend to find these cores nestled in the hives of the Kavash, an alien race trying to prevent you from taking the cores. Kill these hives to take their core, then protect your immobilized character while they turn it in. Victory is granted to the player with the most points when the clock runs out, replicating the structure most commonly found in physical sports. This provides opportunities to utilize comeback mechanics and strategies if you can manage to alter your priorities on the fly. Killing an enemy character carrying a core will allow you to pick it up, effectively “stealing the ball” from them while they respawn. Killing one pilot still leaves two available to tear you apart, so finding a balance between map objectives and battle is essential.
Two maps, Juggernaut and Mind the Gap, have been officially announced with more on the way. Each map will have a specific amount of map objectives that will give the players small side quests as an alternate means to gather points. These are randomly selected from a large pool of missions, preventing the game from becoming stagnant over time as each 15 minute match has its own set of circumstances.
Accruing kills and completed objectives will grant experience for your team. Upon leveling you will be given a single point to distribute among the trio. Leveling a character will unlock active and passive abilities for him or her (or it), ultimately boosting their effectiveness out on the field. There are currently three main classes of Rigs you can pilot: Gunners, Mechanics, and Tanks. Gunners are your main damage dealers, Mechanics primarily offer supportive buffs and heals, and Tanks, well, they can take quite a beating. Each character has their own unique identity paired with a memorable design while simultaneously providing exclusive perks and abilities. You are in absolute control over the composition of your team, which is the first of many options for customization in Dropzone.
Each Rig can be modified with hundreds of pieces of gear exclusive to the class of the Rig. Gunners, Mechanics, and Tanks each have their own sets of gear to fill the Weapon, Body, and Utility slots, and they can really change the way a character plays. Without much backstory thrown into your face, Sparkypants managed to retain the identity of Dropzone’s characters regardless of the visual and gameplay design swaps associated with different weapons and bodies – a respectable feat to say the least.
I walked into the Gameforge booth at E3 only having seen a trailer for Dropzone. Through great conversation and even greater presentation, Sparkypants and Gameforge showed some pretty innovative ideas that I would consider a breath of fresh air in its genre. Coming out of the booth I couldn’t stop thinking about Dropzone throughout the day, and I certainly couldn’t wait to sit behind the helm of a Rig again.
A lot can happen in fifteen minutes.
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