Note: At the time of this writing, Dirty Bomb is currently in beta. This review applies to the most current version as of July 30, 2015. Parts of this review may no longer be valid after this date.
Dirty Bomb is a free-to-play first-person-shooter game that takes a fresh look at the class based systems used in shooters such as Team Fortress 2. Developed by Splash Damage, Dirty Bomb was released to open beta on June 2nd, 2015. Encouraging fast-paced play, teams of players compete against each other to complete various objectives. Each map has its own unique set of objectives calling for different strategies and team compositions for each play session.
The first thing a player may notice is that a character selection menu replaces the traditional weapon selection screen. Each player may select up to three mercenaries aka “mercs”, before each battle and switch between those three between deaths. Each mercenary has a primary, secondary, and a melee weapon as well as a class specific and merc specific ability.
The definition of each class is a little hard to pinpoint for some mercs, but for the most part, the categories include: engineer, support, medic, assault, and sniper. Each player is given the mercs Skyhammer and Aura when signing up for an account. Skyhammer is an assault rifle wielding fellow who can drop ammo packs to his teammates. His unique ability allows him to call down airstrikes to clear out enemies. Aura is a medic who has the ability to revive fallen teammates (more on this later) and can deploy health stations to heal her team. Three mercs are also in free rotation (think League of Legends style) with the others requiring a purchase of either real money or in game credits. Each merc has a surprising amount of voice lines for different situations. This helps me feel more into the action, especially with the very good sound design in the levels.
Now that the basics are covered, let’s get into the actual review.
Overall, the game plays like you would expect any PC based FPS to. Normal movement controls, mouse to aim, and the Q and E keys allow you to use your abilities. For being a beta game, it is quite playable. The servers appear to be very stable and there aren’t blatantly obvious graphical issues.
One part of the game I actually like a lot is the knockdown system. When your health is reduced to zero, instead of instantly being killed, you are knocked to the ground defenseless and require a teammate to help you up. Medics have a special item that allows them to revive a teammate almost instantly. For other mercs it can take a few seconds to revive a fallen team member. This adds a new element of gameplay, as you really need to be sure that your opponent really is down, otherwise they may be revived and can then sneak up on you.
There are a few different game modes:
Objective: One team is the attackers, one team is the defenders. Attackers have a set of missions, usually involving destroying something and then delivering a package. Defenders have to stop them. If the clock runs out, the defenders win. If the attackers complete their mission, they win.
Stopwatch: The same as objective, except once the round is over, the teams switch. The other team has to beat the time of the first team. This can also mean that if the first team failed the first objective, the second team immediately wins if they succeed.
Competitive: Stopwatch is the mode that Competitive uses. Competitive has a form of ranked matchmaking to create a five versus five match. I enjoy this mode, and the most recent patch improved the matchmaking significantly. Before, I was constantly matched with people who would leave the game midway through, enabling the other team to constantly camp us for the entire round. The fairly easy communication system makes gameplay strategies simple to communicate to your team as well.
Extinction mode: This is Counter Strike. Attacking team has to blow up a point. Defenders have to stop them. No respawns. Sound familiar?
The core part of any class based game are the classes themselves. While I do like the model that allows you to purchase new mercs with in-game currency, the prices are ridiculous. The cheapest mercs cost 30,000 credits which is approximately six U.S. dollars. This would be fine if you didn’t earn so few credits after each game. I’ve noticed that I would average about 300-500 credits per game that I won, depending on my performance. I received as little as 90 credits for games that I lost. This isn’t the only way to receive credits, however. There are daily missions that you can complete that reward up to 1000 credits, however these missions tend to be a little tedious and the goals are rather high. For example, a mission I recently received had me strive to earn 12,000 Support XP in a day. Support XP is received by doing things that help your team, such as reviving a teammate or dropping ammo packs. These tasks tend to give you minimal amounts of XP, so these types of missions can take a long time. Thankfully, this was fixed in a recent patch. Before the update, these support missions would require players to earn something like 20,000 Support XP, which was more work than the payout was worth.
Instead of picking the weapon for each loadout slot, the mercs have a system of loadout cards that set things like weapons and perks. Cards can be found in equipment cases players randomly receive, or by purchasing them in the store. These range in rarity from lead (most common) to obsidian (most rare). The lower quality cards have one perk slot, and the higher ones can have up to three. Theoretically, the higher the rarity of the card, the better the loadout is. From my experience, however, the ultra-rare cards are more of a status symbol. Some cards may also have a cosmetic change that varies the appearance of the character models.
Honestly, Dirty Bomb needs a lot of work. The balance system is off at times, and Splash Damage’s solution to fixing these issues is to nerf weapons instead of mercs. Splash Damage’s pricing choices have me concerned as well. I understand that a free-to-play game has to earn a profit, but I can’t justify paying ten dollars for a character with flat base stats.
However, despite all the negative things I have to say about it, whenever I play this game, I enjoy myself. I genuinely have fun when I’m playing. I love the fast paced aspect of it, the slightly over-the-top voice overs and the overall feel of the game. I have played for almost twenty hours and I am quite happy with it. This won’t last forever though, if changes don’t come soon I am sure that a lot of the community will leave.
What do you think? Let me know in the comments below or hit me up on Twitter!