By Michael Sagoe (mikedot)
From one test to another, Boss Key Productions has let loose yet another milestone to their upcoming gravity defying FPS: LawBreakers. For those that aren’t familiar with the game and the dev team behind it: LawBreakers is an arena style, team-based shooter where the laws of gravity have been royally screwed up due to some global event called “The Shattering,” and players can either side with Law officials or criminals simply known as Breakers in an attempt to abuse gravity to aid in the act of theft and glorious murder. The changes showcased in the first closed beta for Lawbreakers included the introduction of three new character classes, several new balance changes, new maps, a loot system and so much more, all topped off with integrated voice chat support with Discord and enhance support for Nvidia Shadowplay.
With all this, I managed to try out every little thing the beta had to offer during it four available days, and right at the end of it all, I was hungry for so much more. I will flat out say right here and now that I’m quite excited for LawBreakers, because it truly feels like something new and unique compared to many titles on the market right now. Cliffy B and his team at Boss Key have really gotten a gem on their hands, and with a few more tweaks and extra polish, I could easily see this become a smash hit.
That being said, however, there are a few things about some of the changes they’ve made from Alpha to Beta that does irk me a bit, but we’ll go over that a bit later. For now, let’s start off with the game’s first noticeable changes: The UI and menu screens.
Compared to the original, the starting menu screens were way livelier as it shows Maverick and Toska-9 dogfighting in midair as their character models slowly rotating from right to left. The lobbies have been given more options to choose from including the option to go customize your character, check your profile, access new settings and more. When entering into a match, you can also notice how some slight changes to the UI, as the game now showcases skill cooldowns, player kills and deaths in a way more stylized way. While I feel that some elements of the UI could be tweaked a little bit more, what they currently have in beta is good enough for me.
This beta then introduced two new maps, one known as Mammoth and the other called Station. While the Mammoth map serves as a spaceship hanger, the theme for Station is just as it sounds like, being a futuristic train terminal/shopping mall. Both of these maps have a very similar layout design just like all the other maps in the game, with one wide open area for zero-g dogfighting and several enclosed spaces for close quarters combat. Personally, I’m not completely fond of the various enclosed areas which players generally get funneled into, especially during overcharge matches as they generally turn into messy chokepoints that can be difficult to get around once the enemy team gets their feet planted after securing the battery. Of course, that isn’t to say that these chokepoints aren’t impossible to get around, but I’d much rather see the team at Boss Key focus their efforts on map design that focuses more towards the zero-g combat, because there’s nothing quite as satisfying as sailing through the air with blindfire and nailing your opponent with a well-placed shotgun blast.
Next, they included a new loot system called “stash boxes” as well as a customization system that works suspiciously similar to another popular FPS, Overwatch. As your character gains levels from completing matches, you earn a stash box that contains four cosmetic items including character and weapon skins. Occasionally, stash boxes will have coins that can be saved up to purchase skins directly from the customization menu. Now, I know that this game has been getting a lot of flak for being an “Overwatch Killer” when the gameplay between the two are radically different, people have been trying to draw comparisons between the two for some of the dumbest reasons ever, and I really wish people would ease up on those comparisons as the game is clearly trying to do its own thing. Still, the stash box and customization system is something that I can live with, since it incentives play well without having to go down the road of giving players power overtime with systems like stat perks and what not.
Lastly, the biggest change included was the addition of three new classes: The Gunslinger, the Juggernaunt and the Battle Medic, each of which tailor to different playstyles that one would expect from a team-based shooter. The gunslinger class was easily my favorite of the three new classes, as his moveset in specifically tailored towards dueling. With two pistols in each hand, the gunslinger can fire each pistol independently, attack while blind firing through zero-g and perform other unique tricks. And they also can be reloaded independently, too, so it’s quite possible for a gunslinger to always be firing at their opposition as long as they watch their ammo counts and use them wisely. Not to mention that the gunslinger has a few more tertiary abilities to round out their kit such as a throwing dagger that deals a small amount of damage while revealing enemies in a small sonar like proximity, a dash around to avoid big damage attacks, and even an ultimate that allows the gunner to melt enemies in seconds. I honestly like what they’ve been able to pull off with the gunslinger and see this class as a shining example as to how much Boss Key is trying to make their game stand out from the competition.
Now despite all my positives placed towards the game, I do have some issues with some of the other two classes introduced into the game. I’ll begin with the Juggernaut. The overall defensive gameplay style designed for this class does not fit well with the fast-paced nature of LawBreakers’ gameplay where offensiveness and mobility is key. Having a high health pool, shield ability to block incoming damage, and a damage reducing ultimate doesn’t mean much to me when the Juggernaunt’s slow, bulky presence alone is enough to make opponents want to focus fire them. The shield that Juggernauts can deploy does not seem to last very long under fire so it’s only good for blocking one big damage attack or two. Lastly, the Juggernaut’s only means of attack is a shotgun that’s (obviously) only effective in close range, and any opponent that isn’t completely braindead will simply know to keep their distance from a Juggernaut with relative ease so long as the Juggernaut doesn’t get the surprise drop on them from a blind angle. Basically, Juggernaunt is like a class that was designed for a completely different game (like Call of Duty Black Ops 3) rather than LawBreakers…
Same goes with the Battle Medic class which was also introduced as a clear answer to players that despised the game’s reliance on healing stations through each map. To be quite honest, I had a pretty big kneejerk reaction when I saw the Battle Medic in the game, thinking “Oh god, they’re going down THAT route with this game now…” But my feelings on this class were more favorable than I expected due to how effective they were at dealing damage and with how quickly players can rack up the damage counter. Also the Battle Medic’s healing ability wasn’t prominent as I feared. Still, I really hope that they tweak Battle Medic’s healing to only be effective in giving a friendly a small boost to help them with a scramble. Just introducing a healing class feels like they’re trying to appeal to the Overwatch crowd, and it’s something that I can’t really get behind.
I’d really rather not see Lawbreakers turn into a game where mandatory roles need to be filled, and with the inclusion of the Juggernaunt and Battle Medic, which are clearly intended to be played in a defensive and supportive way respectively, I can’t help but feel as if they are taking too many notes from other modern team-based shooters and digging itself into a hole that will ultimately force the game to carry a “just another Overwatch wannabe” label. I want to believe that Boss Key isn’t trying to achieve this with Lawbreakers original core design. The whole main reason why I feel in love with LawBreakers in the first place was to get away from modern team-based FPSes like Ovewatch, along with other “Hero Shooters” trying to ride off of Overwatch’s coat tails. If it were up to me, I would like to see the Juggernaunt’s mobility get a rework of sorts, and as for the Battle Medic, I’d probably trash that class completely. In my humble opinion, Lawbreakers needs to stay as a twitch-based shooter first and a team-based shooter second, and go with that angle for as long as possible.
Everything else about the game was awesome. The overall polish the game has from alpha to beta is a huge leap forward. Besides from the Juggernaut class, every other class feels good, unique and moderately well balanced. The music is nice and energetic, the visuals are grand and the gameplay is solid. While the game could use a few more maps and game modes, what they have now is a well-rounded package that made me want to play for hours on end. I have a lot of high hopes for LawBreakers and Boss Key Studios, and as soon as the next closed beta rolls around, you can bet your bottom dollar that I’ll be all over it once more.