“A tricky investment.”
When a single player game is released, it has one singular concern- to be a good game.
A good game may not always find critical acclaim nor is it guaranteed to sell well, but at the end of the day, that’s really all there is to it. However, when you release a multiplayer only game, you can’t just think about the quality of the game itself, there are a myriad of other factors that will ultimately determine how said game will be received and remembered.
One big secondary factor is the community itself as a multiplayer only game without any other players is simply unplayable by its very nature. That’s why as the developer, it is of utmost importance to foster a growing, stable community of players for their game, and it’s here where LawBreaker’s downfall begins.
Platforms: PS4, PC
Campaigns: Multiplayer only, no single player campaign.
Played: 7~ hours
At its core, LawBreakers is a hybrid between arena shooters like Quake or Unreal Tournament and hero shooters like Team Fortress 2 or Overwatch. Just like the arena shooters of old, it puts a strong emphasis on quick, high flying mobility, all the while promoting different play styles with multiple class characters like the aforementioned hero shooters.
It’s a blend of gameplay elements that works well in tandem for the most part, but the objective based nature of the different modes makes for an experience that feels as though it’s at odds with itself. After all, with all the crazy mobility afforded to me, what fun is there in me camping next to my uplink protecting the objective? I’d rather be flying across the map, slide tackling enemies or shooting them with rockets.
Despite borrowing heavily from other games, LawBreakers’ most interesting aspect comes from its use of zero-gravity areas, where combat takes on a whole new dimension. Jumping up and propelling myself forward by using backwards blind fire as I take careful stock of my fuel or using a hookshot of sorts to sling around a corner at impossible speeds to take the opposing team off guard is undoubtedly when LawBreakers is at its best.
However, learning the tools of the trade and actually doing any of the cool stuff is easier said than done, as the game does absolutely nothing to teach you how to play the game.
When I booted up the game for the first time, I looked around the different modes, delving into them one after the other, looking for some kind of a tutorial, matches with bots or even a training grounds where I could test out each of the classes to see what they were capable of.
Unfortunately, I quickly realized that there was no such thing, and the only thing I could do was quickplay. To be thrown into a random objective mode with other players, without even knowing a single skill of any of the classes. My first few matches went by rather quickly as I won and lost without any real consequences to what I was doing because I was looking up controls and trying out each class.
I spawned, then I died. I spawned, then I died and I learned nothing from those deaths as I was watching other players pull off maneuvers that I had no idea how to do and it was simply not fun to play at all.
To say that LawBreakers made a poor first impression would be quite the understatement as if I wasn’t reviewing the game, I would have given up on it right then and there. I have no tolerance for a skilled based shooter that doesn’t actually try to teach the “skill” aspect to its player base.
Not to say that the game is too overwhelming after the initial bump as it only has nine classes and once I settled on two classes I liked playing, I started becoming comfortable and was able to competently contribute to the team.
The characters themselves all looked like generic sci-fi special ops rejects, and I had a hard time singling out even one character that I thought looked interesting. Even after reading the short bio of each of the characters, I feel like didn’t have any real context on who they are or what they’re fighting for, making it feel impossible to connect with them in any meaningful way.
Like, what the fuck even is the Shura Corporation?
Wait, don’t answer that, I don’t care.
It also features only eight maps, which honestly wouldn’t be that bad if they didn’t feel interchangeable, and most of the time I felt like I was playing the same map. Worse yet, every play mode available was used on every map, and it made these interchangeable maps feel even more samey.
The most alarming thing about the current state of LawBreakers is its dwindling player base, which I’ve experienced firsthand as I had no issues finding matches very quickly starting in the 2nd week after release but now, a month after the game’s release, I find myself waiting over a minute at times and even when I would get into a game, it would remain at skirmish for even longer, waiting for players. Then, I would get matched with players of vastly different skill levels to the point where sometimes I felt like I was playing against masters and at other times, relative newcomers like myself.
It’s quite alarming to say the least, and even though it’s certainly possible that the community will see a resurgence at some point if the history of similar scenarios are an indicator, it rarely ever happens.
Despite my many grievances, once I actually learned how to play the game, I did have fun. However, getting to that level of competence was certainly not helped by the game in any way, shape or form and as it becomes more and more difficult to find matches online as the weeks go by, I can’t help but wonder if it’s even worth it to take a risk boarding what may very well be a sinking ship.
Fun Tidbit – Backwards blind fire, which is important in getting around in zero-gravity is mapped by default to the down d-pad which you can and should change immediately by switching control schemes.
Review copy of game provided by publisher.