What is mainstream goes through a constant cycle, as is the case with RTS games, shooters, and MMORPGs. Granted, every trend is ephemeral. After a genre has reached its peak, it’s often cast aside until the cycle renews again. From the end of the 90s to the early 2000s, fast-paced FPS games have enjoyed popularity thanks to the unprecedented growth of the CPU market. Thought to have faded out without a trace, that genre has resurfaced yet again.
Overwatch released, and soon will Quake Champions with their own modern reinterpretation. These games are colorful and sophisticated rather than being barebones and unrefined. Despite the years that weighed down on the genre, the adrenaline rush still survived. For those seeking that rush and everything in between, there’s LawBreakers.
Cliff Bleszinski, the designer behind iconic series such as Jazz Jackrabbit and Gears of War, took to the roots of fast-paced FPS. Along with the co-founder of Guerrilla Games, widely known for Horizon: Zero Dawn, Bleszinski opened a new studio called Boss Key Productions to start the LawBreakers project. Its publisher, Nexon, recently held an exclusive closed beta for the Korean region. Here are my impressions from the three days I had my hands on the game.
▣ Visceral combat at blazing speeds
Vicious and fast are two words that sum up my first impressions of LawBreakers. Staying truthful to its “fast-paced” prefix, LawBreakers features rapid gameplay. All you need to know prior to starting a game is that there’s only one rule - win at all costs. Though there’s a generous cast of characters to choose from, it doesn’t become a barrier to entry because there are neither obvious counters or complicated skill kits. Just try out each character and pick the one that you feel best compliments your playstyle.
This is a departure from current team-based FPS titles. Games like Team Fortress and Overwatch have rigid and designated roles for each character and a minimum number of people required in each role for success. Though some highly skilled players ignore those rules and still do well for themselves, they’re mostly outliers. On the other hand, LawBreakers has means to recover health throughout maps and doesn’t have many situational characters, albeit there is some semblance of mild counters. That’s why you don’t have to pick a character with team comp in mind as much, and so you aren’t pressured to play a role you don’t enjoy.
Granted, some characters are prioritized in certain maps. Among the FPS titles that have been released to this date, LawBreakers stands out as a game that fully utilizes all dimensions of its battlegrounds. Maps in LawBreakers are never one-dimensional, as evidenced by the gravity-defying zones in the center. In these areas, characters float around in zero gravity, which means that those with hitscan weapons will have an advantage over those with melee attacks or rocket launchers. That said, there’s nothing more harrowing than having to face a sword-wielding Assassin in a map riddled with narrow passageways.
Since the battlegrounds have a multitude of complex environmental factors ingrained, any character can fare well if they pick a fight at the right time and place. At the end of the day, the game only asks players for their combat capability, appropriate reaction, and understanding of objectives and skill sets. LawBreakers is all about non-stop combat from start to finish.
▣ Parts that warrant future evaluation
There are certainly some parts of the game that require further polish. It may be because the game is still in closed beta, but LawBreakers’ UI seems disorganized and rudimentary. For starters, the UI’s color pallet lacks visibility and intuitiveness, making it difficult to see remaining ammo or know when a skill comes off cooldown. Some may say this is a bit nitpicky, but good UI design makes gameplay much more fluid.
Gravity-defying combat, the main selling point of LawBreakers, leaves much to be desired. In altered gravity states, movement has to be intuitive for it to work, because knowing which control does what helps maneuver a character at will and improves player proficiency in the long run. However, the game’s implementation of movement in zero gravity feels a bit clunky. This isn’t to say it breaks the immersion, but it is something that can be improved upon in future iterations.
The same can be said for abilities, since some of them don’t feel like finished products. For example, the Assassin can move around terrain using her grapple ability. If a newcomer uses this skill, he or she will end up landing in unintended places half the time. I can only attribute the underwhelming success rate to the unpolished representation of the wire’s winding speed and tension. Additionally, some abilities look very powerful, only to have no functional uses aside from poking. In fact, the game feels like it puts much more emphasis on individual skill and positioning than character ability and diversity.
Character balance is also far from perfect. As I’ve said before, gameplay in LawBreakers is face-paced. Because of this, bulky and slower characters are severely limited in what they can contribute to the team. It wouldn’t be a problem if you clearly outmatch your opponent, but dealing with fast characters as a slow one on equal skill levels can be quite frustrating. A polarizing example is the Assassin, whose main strength is her burst damage in close range. Since all characters are tuned to have generous health compared to their damage output, it’s not easy to focus Assassins down before they do their thing. Finally, the healing pads that are placed in literally every corner of the maps undermine the validity of the Battle Medic class.
▣ Standing tall against the competition
All in all, LawBreakers is a decent game that retains its own flare while closely resembling other popular FPS titles. I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the limited time I had with the beta, and it made enough of an impression on me to make me crave the open beta and full release. It’s difficult for games of the same genre to play completely different. Still, LawBreakers manages to bring some unique elements that help it stand out among the crowd and does a good job of conveying these elements to its audience.
LawBreakers is definitely a title worth looking at. Started by Team Fortress and succeeded by Overwatch, the hyper-realistic FPS market is still very much alive and well with huge growth potential. Along with the upcoming Quake Champions, LawBreakers has a lot to offer for core fans and newcomers alike.
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