Disintegration Technical Beta Impressions

Posted on February 4, 2020

Multiplayer in Disintegration is fought from the cockpit of a gravcycle, the game’s futuristic and heavily armed hovercrafts. The multiplayer modes available in the beta were fairly standard zone control and capture-the-flag, but the gameplay is a more unique blend of vehicle flight combat and light RTS with AI squad-mates. So far there are seven gravcycles available, with one for each of the game’s seven factions; The Side Show, Neon Dreams, Tech Noir, Lost Ronin, Warhedz, King’s Guard, and The Business.

Each faction has a distinct visual style and different gravcycle equipment. For example, the medieval knights of the King’s Guard are armed with a powerful but slow-firing energy crossbow, while the flashy cyberpunk style of Neon Dreams is paired with machine guns that balance lower damage with a much higher rate of fire. Each faction feels different enough to play that you’ll likely settle on a couple of favourites and stick to them every round. Teams in multiplayer are five versus five, so while only two players can pick the same faction per team there’s a good chance you’ll get your second preference if your favourite has already been taken. Alongside your gravcycle, you also are assigned a small squad of AI drones on the ground. These squad-mates are mostly an easy way to deal some extra damage by assigning them to target the same enemies you’re shooting, but they can also accomplish more specialised feats such as laying down area of effect attacks that slow enemies or interacting with objects on the map.

As can be expected from a technical beta, there were some minor issues affecting gameplay. Despite playing on a 40Mb/s NBN connection, the main problem was lag. Matches sometimes suffered from teleporting players and jittery frame-rates that made player vs player combat frustrating and inconsistent. There was no indication of these issues in the offline training mode, so this was likely down to netcode or high latency reaching international players. The latter is an issue Australian gamers can be all too familiar with, but it’s an issue that should diminish significantly once more local players are online after release.

When these issues are absent, the gravcycles in Disintegration drift smoothly through the air and are satisfying to manoeuvre. Aiming its mounted weapons can be sluggish with default settings, but this can be tuned up by adjusting pitch and yaw as preferred. Their speed and agility is the most engaging part of piloting a gravcylce, but the two game types available in the beta, zone control and capture-the-flag, don’t seem to take full advantage of this. Zone control requires you to hold down one area for scoring or defending while capture relies on  escorting a slow moving AI unit. Both downplay the actual abilities of gravcycle flight, good only for brief periods of dodging enemy fire rather than the core gameplay. Hopefully the full release will have multiplayer modes that take better advantage of the gravcycle’s mobility; something like the death races shown in Alita: Battle Angel would be a perfect fit.

After each match, players see a summary of their points for that round and how they scored. This screen also tracks your progress towards the games multiplayer challenges; each challenge in the technical beta tracked your progress and unlocked a unique reward when completed. During the technical beta at least, these were purely cosmetic and earned solely through normal gameplay. There was also an in-game currency that could be used to purchase cosmetic items like emotes or gravcycle skins. Again, this in-game currency was so far earned solely through normal gameplay. A Store is listed in the game menu, but was inaccessible during the technical beta.

Disintegration is an impressive first-showing from V1 Interactive, a new studio with some well established talent. Given that the studio’s founder, former Bungie designer Marcus Lehto, is credited as instrumental in designing Halo it would have been easy for V1 Interactive to make a shooter that followed closely in those footsteps. It’s impressive in itself that the studio has instead endeavoured to create something new and more uniquely their own.

It’s difficult to judge the full game from limited slice included in the beta, especially considering there will also be a full single-player campaign when Disintegration releases some time later this year. What is clear is that V1 Interactive is a creative team willing to experiment outside the box. Disintegration is clearly not designed to mirror an existing multiplayer titan like the flood of hero shooters following the success of Overwatch. It has the feel of a cult classic; by trying something new, Disintegration is likely limiting it’s total player base—but the base it does attract won’t get this same fix anywhere else.