Battlecrew: Space Pirates is a Free-to-Play Online side-scrolling shooter from Dontnod Eleven. Don’t confuse them with Dontnod Entertainment, the team who brought us Life is Strange.
While a sister company to Dontnod proper, Dontnod Eleven is an indie team that focuses on developing cooperative and competitive games as opposed to story-rich RPG titles. Unfortunately, the stark difference between the studios doesn’t end with their genre differences, but also their quality.
Battlecrew: Space Pirates is a Free-to-Play title that might be that way for a reason.
Right out the gate, Battlecrew: Space Pirates shows its flaws. The game seems devoid of complexity. It’s a side-scrolling game, which is a genre that has infinite room to build upon, but Battlecrew didn’t seem to interested in that. There are two different modes: Team Deathmatch and Gold Rush. Team Deathmatch pretty much explains itself, it’s a mode where two teams relentlessly attack each other. Gold Rush has teams collecting as many treasure chests as possible. Collect the treasure, then run back to base before the enemy kills you and takes it. It’s slightly more fun than Team Deathmatch.
Gold Rush has this infuriating feature where a drone camps out in front of a chest. Touching the drone instantly kills you. So how does one take it out? Puzzle solving? Objective completing? Something we’ve never seen before? No. Just shoot it a lot. But it regenerates really fast, so get an ally to help you mindlessly hack away at it. On top of that, it’s not made clear at all that attacking it is the solution. In fact, the rapid regeneration makes it seem like you’re NOT supposed to do that.
The Free-to-Play genre always seems to have a payment option (otherwise, why would games be Free-to-Play?) But Battlecrew’s premium content seems more or less required to do much of anything. First of all, playing with friends is impossible without paying. Additionally, free users can only play 5 games a day, then they’re locked out. At least League of Legends has a huge roster that would cycle through availability for free users and players could buy to unlock their favorites. Battlecrew just lets you play 5 disappointing matches in a day, which is roughly enough time to decide that the game isn’t for you.
The team roster desperately wants to be Overwatch.
Okay, nobody can blame Dontnod Eleven for wanting to bank on Overwatch’s success by mimicking one of their biggest draws: the characters. Battlecrew: Space Pirates has a character customization screen where players can change their character's emotes, skins, and other features. There are even rare skins that not only change the character’s color pallet but gives them a totally different look, kind of like how Overwatch has different skins that are throwbacks to the character’s backstories.
The biggest difference here is… we have no backstory on the Battlecrew’s roster, nor a reason to care. The characters barely talk, have no back stories, and the lines they do speak are generic video gamey lines like “Got em!” and “Oh yeah!” Despite the cool costumes available, it was really hard to care about the characters.
Oh. Also, there were only four characters to choose from. Also, before you scroll back up to the article’s top image and say there are eight characters present: Those are the same four characters in alternate costumes that play exactly the same.
The game is somewhat pretty, but DontNod Eleven still didn’t take advantage of it.
Space pirates, as a concept, are cool. If the characters had cooler lines and some backstory, I would at least be complaining about wasting potentially cool characters instead of complaining about the entirety of the experience of wasting a couple of days trying out the game.
The visuals are neat, mixing gritty pirate motifs with the vacuum of space and brightness of lasers. The game’s Steam page even touts its nine maps per game mode (totaling 18 maps in all). But those maps are pretty much the exact same with some aesthetic differences.
As mentioned before, there isn’t much to do in the game. You cannot queue with friends unless you purchase the game. Those five free matches F2P players get is enough to get the gist of what the game has to offer if one were to cycle through different characters. If fun isn’t achieved in those first five matches, chances are it won’t be found by paying.