I have been thinking about starting a new series of articles on free-to-play games for a while now, and having put some hours into Dirty Bomb this week I said now is the perfect time to start (and hopefully continue) it.
The series is simply called Free Play, because I am crap at naming stuff, so if you can come up with a better name I’ll change it with a nod to you in the next article. It’s purpose? To talk about and review games you can just download right now and play at no cost to you, and whether they are worth your time. Simples! I will be fairer to the games here because they are free, but if something is shit, then I’m not going to give out complements it doesn’t deserve.
The first game to grace the Free Play series is [*Drum roll*] Dirty Bomb. This is an objective based multiplayer shooter brought to us by the developers of Brink and Quake Wars, Splash Damage. The game is currently in Beta, but having played it I know that it is pretty much what the final product will be like, so I don’t think it is unfair to review it in its current form, but I will be fair to certain elements i know will improve (which I will mention).
Dirty Bomb launched a few weeks ago, and has gathered quite the number of players already. Right now on Steam there are currently over 7,500 playing it and is in the top 30 games on Steam for user numbers. To put that in perspective, The Witcher 3 currently has about 8,000. Because of that, finding a game is a piece of piss. Just look for a free slot on any of the servers and start shooting, but before you do that you need to select what mercs you want to fight with.
Sorta like League of Legends, not all character will be available from the get go. At the start there will be 2 free, as well as whatever 3 mercs are in the current rotation. You can buy mercs in one of two ways. Real money, it is free to play of course, or with in-game currency.
You can choose up to 3 mercs to carry into games, so you would want to have ones you like and that are rather varied. It does help to have at least one of them a support to help the team out. When you choose a merc you will then be asked to select a loadout. At the start, you will have the base loadout, but you can buy more with real and in-game money as well as earn them randomly from cases (which you will get a load of. I have 3 different Rhino loadouts already).
All Mercs have different abilities too. Some only have one or two, and some share the same ones, but they are varied enough with weapons making each merc unique. Many of these abilities are shared between mercs while others are unique to that one, but they designate your role in the team. Ohh. And if you have ammo packs, please give them to your team-mates.
Over time more mercs will likely be added to mix things up a bit, but it won’t be a big deal either way.
While buying all these Mercs and Loadouts outright would cost a hefty penny, you miss out on nothing if you play it regularly. Also, like League you get to try before you buy so hold off until you give a character a go and the rotation is over or until you earned the dosh and you get loadouts regularly from the packs too. Even with the base loadouts that have no perks and basic weapons, you’re not at much of a disadvantage because of the team/objective focus.
In-game cash is earned in a lot of ways. After every match you will earn a small amount, then when you level up you will earn a few thousand. The main way to earn in-game money is by missions though.
Missions are pretty much goals, similar to quests in Hearthstone, that when you complete you gain the dosh allotted to completion. The ones you complete are refreshed every few hours, but you can always drop one you don’t like or find tough to complete for something you might have a better shot at in the next refresh. These missions range from earning a number of xp in combat/support to playing three games with a specific merc. So far I have seen missions handing out 500 or 1000 in game cash, but there could be bigger ones as you level up more.
Overall it is pretty much the standard Free-to-Play model you’ll find in most games, as it works well for both the player and the developers. Of course, there is room for improvement all the same, and some pricing adjustments would be good.
For the most part, Dirty Bomb is very similar to Brink due to its fast paced objective based gameplay, but I also can see some similarities to Counter Strike with its team focus and gunplay. My friend says differently, but they were the first things that came into my head.
Every map has its own objectives, about two or three each, where you are either in the attacking team or defending team. Regardless of whatever team you are on, team-play is a must. The game regularly rewards you for sticking with team-members and doing your bit with XP bonuses, so while you might not get a lot of kills you will always feel like you are helping, even if it is as a bullet sponge.
From the get-go you are encouraged to shoot from the hip, and only aiming down the sights when it is a long range shot or with a sniper-rifle. Guns are very accurate, and even at range you can pop a few rounds into their heads from the hip, and while it isn’t difficult to hit that pixel in the distance, it feels damn good when you do (kill or no kill). Going full-auto at range isn’t good though, so get used to burst firing to conserve ammo and hit accurately.
It will take quite a few bullets to take them down though, as the mercs are pretty tanky, but that is another reason why sticking with a team member plays to your benefit, because walking around with 50 instead of 25 bullets lodged in your spinal cord tends to make things difficult somewhat. Once an enemy is down, if you get the chance make sure that is the case as medics can revive, so you’d want to run over and knife them on the ground when possible, getting you a few more XP and making them have to wait until respawn.
If you are the attacking team, the objective is your main focus, so usually you would want to kill a few defenders then push the objective while they respawn. You have about 10 minutes to complete each objective, and failing means… well… you lose. The objectives themselves are my biggest bone to pick with the game though. At the moment there are only 3 different objective types. They are, blow that thing up, repair/defend EV (the robot yoke) and postman extraordinaire (deliver the package), all of which are pretty average objectives.
That is also something I see them improving on in the future too. At the moment there are not many maps, so hopefully as they add maps they will be adding some new objectives to mix things up too.
As anyone who plays shooters will tell you, level design is very important. You don’t want to be giving either side too much of an advantage due to map layout as that effects the balance, but this is one thing Dirty Bomb does really well.
While there are currently not many maps, they are pretty varied from one another, despite being mostly long and narrow. Unlike most shooters, they aren’t just one big map that you roam around, but it is sliced up between the objectives. Once one objective is complete you move onto the next section changing the layout and spawn locations. While you are on the same map, it makes things feel a little fresher since you are not running around the same place over and over again for the whole game.
Because of that, while there isn’t many maps it is something that can be forgiven in this early stage as it feels like there are a lot more. Again, more maps will be added in time, and hopefully they are as good as the ones currently there.
I’ll keep this short. They work. It is far from the prettiest looker, rather average actually, but it does the job and will run on the vast majority of machines very well. And that’s all we need right?
Do I recommend this?
Yes I do. While it isn’t perfect, it is fun, easy to get into, and quick to play. Get some friends to play it with you online or play a few sessions on your own. It isn’t something you’d get engrossed in for hours at a time, but rather something you’d play a few quick matches of when you get home from work and have that urge to shoot shit.
Overall I have been enjoying it a lot, which says a lot as I haven’t been into shooters that much over the last few years outside Battlefield 4 (when it worked). Some more game-modes would benefit the game, though the objective mode will be the favorite among players as the maps are just designed so well for them.
Most of the negatives I can find are things that will be sorted come full release, so if you would rather experience the game when it is complete then that shouldn’t be too far away. Again, the game is pretty much there already though, so it wouldn’t hurt to check it out when you get the chance.
As everything else in these posts will be, the game is free to play and can be downloaded on Steam here! If you have played Dirty Bomb, let us know your thoughts on it in the comments!