E3 2016: Hands-on with Nexon’s LawBreakers

    
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Oh my gosh, did they try.

Going into E3 this year, I didn’t think LawBreakers would be something we’d cover at MOP. I also didn’t expect much out of it, even with CliffyB’s involvement. I thought focusing on an adult crowd while aiming at a diverse crowd in the lobby shooter genre seemed suicidal at best.

However, LawBreakers turned out to be one of the titles at the con that pleasantly surprised me.

Another multiplayer shooter with no singleplayer?

Overwatch may be doing quite well, but it’s still taken flak for being yet another lobby-based shooter with no singleplayer campaign… and charging a full $60. While Nexon hasn’t announced its B2P price for LawBreakers, I was assured it’ll be under the current AAA asking price from competitors. The game’s looking to be more mature (but with a swearing filter) since so many other recent shooters (SplatoonOverwatchBattlebornGigantic) aren’t going that route. However, like Overwatch, the plan is to avoid a progression system that unlocks content (like rocket launchers) or any kind of advanced stats in favor of cosmetic options.

Despite wanting to appeal to a broader range of players, Nexon says it’s simply hoping to attract fans from within the genre and hook them with solid gameplay mechanics and a deep mastery system. Classes are mirrored between the two sides (“Law” and “Breakers,” hence the title), so it’s easy to grasp the toolkit of the enemy. Apparently this is also to help the developers explore the world more, but as it’s totally possible to run a team full of Hellion clones, I’m not sure how much more successful that’ll be than the rest of the genre.

In a nod to MOBAs, the Nexon team hopes that players can find a playstyle that suits them, then convince them to dig into the class to master it via interesting gameplay design — and I’m not just talking about vertical combat and playing with gravity but about small adjustments that hopefully stand out.

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Tweaking the familiar

Everybody knows capture-the-node gameplay: Stand on something or click something, watch a timer, defend it. It can be fun but mind-numbing, right?

During my LawBreakers demo, though, captured nodes were locked into a point for the capping team until all nodes have each been captured. At that point, all nodes become neutral but uncapturable for a bit before simultaneously unlocking. Think of it as “murder intermission”: The match is still live, so you’re focusing on where you and your team need to be on the map the second the nodes are unlocked, but you can still kill or be killed while figuring this out. You repeat that several times and then the game’s over.

While that sounds simple, for me, it was a breath of fresh air. I’m one of those people who’s a terrible shot, but I love non-kill oriented goals. I tried each character for a few pushes but really took a liking to the “titan” role, a high HP character with a rocket launcher and high damage mid-range ultimate, perfect for my role as a node defender. The node lockdown mechanic allowed me focus on the objectives (when not experimenting with how to kill people) instead of getting caught up in off-node skirmishes in areas that didn’t seem strategically significant.

bombchelleGenerally, in an MMORPG with a pug group (or sometimes with friends who aren’t quite as competitive), capturing a base means everyone else runs away and I’m left to defend. While that still happened a bit in LawBreakers, it was generally only after the third point was capped. When nodes were hot, I could do what I’m good at: finding unguarded paths, sneaking in, or quickly killing the guard unaware of the hole in the defense, and taking it for myself. Smart players can’t simply figure out what I’m doing and stay a step behind me undo my work; they need to get ahead of me.

The intermission period allowed me some time to quickly scan the map to see which node was the least defended and which entrances people were using. For example, one node had a corridor leading straight for the middle node – easy for traveling, but not where you’d want to stand when the guy at the end of the hall (me) is able to fill it with a rocket launcher. It was incredibly satisfying for me since I’m usually stuck on guard duty, and my job is to cap, watch, and report when my node needs support. This was much more entertaining.

A good demo is a chance to see what the game is supposed to feel like, and I got that. While I did experiment, my goal was, naturally, to win (My score? Two out of three matches!). Apparently, both sides “got” the game pretty well, so much so that the devs backed off quite a bit. Perhaps my three teammates were bored of the game after our two wins, but I certainly wasn’t, so when I initially was the only one interested in a third round (which we lost), they seemed to come back out of pity so I wouldn’t get “stuck” with the devs. Perhaps they were hardcore shooter fans not impressed with what they saw, or maybe they had another meeting, but I was having a blast.

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The gravity of the situation

I really like physics in my PvP games, even if they’re broken. The way gravity is handled in LawBreakers is, to be blunt, nonsensical, but it does make for good gameplay, so I’m inclined to let it slide even if it makes the game lore more ridiculous for me personally.

So here’s the “problem”: While I may like finding the weird bugs that launch players literally into the game’s atmosphere, terminal velocity in the game has been capped. What that leaves us with at this point is a consistent, predictable vertical game. I’m far from perfect, but I was able to hit moving targets with my rocket launcher as we were floating in the air and going in opposite directions. Again, remember that I’m a poor shot (usually 30%-40% accuracy when the game measures it, and I rarely hear “headshot” unless I’m standing behind a non-moving target).

Moving vertically means that even a hulking character like mine can move across an entire room if my enemy forgets to look up. Feeling like a flying elephant dropping rockets on unsuspecting would-be defenders that had diced me up earlier in an enclosed space was hugely satisfying. Combined with “blind-firing” (taking a shot backwards) in gravity bubbles, I was able to speed up my girl-Hulk to speed through bubbles and capture nodes before my opponents realized they were already running in the wrong direction.

LawBreakers probably isn’t built for the MMO crowd, but it feels like one for MOBA fans more used to zerging can understand. You can get your kill on, but those focused on the objectives are currently freed up to get in and out with enough time to join in the slaughter for a bit.

Massively Overpowered is on the ground in Los Angeles, California, for E3 2016, bringing you expert MMO coverage on The Elder Scrolls Online, Black Desert, and everything else on display at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo!