LawBreakers First Impressions (Updated 4/30/16)
Update: Finally got the videos to cooperate, and have shared the versions with commentary.
Recently I was lucky enough to travel to Raleigh, North Carolina and check out the upcoming title from Cliff Bleszinski (well known for his work on the iconic Gears of War series) and his team at Boss Key Productions, LawBreakers. After playing a couple of rounds against other members of the press that were invited, we were given a studio tour, where we could see what various members of the team were working on.
First we’ll talk about the game itself. LawBreakers is based on a fictional Earth after a calamitous event known as The Shattering. Humanity managed to survive and rebuild, but neither the Earth, nor the Moon, are ever the same again. Here’s a quick “About”, as Boss Key Productions presents it:
A post-post-apocalyptic Earth after a severely damaged Moon throws off the balance of our way of life. Focusing more on the landmarks and locations of the United States, Cliff believes that it would be interesting to explore a society scarred by Armageddon, but showing what would happen when the rebuilding process is happening. What would Mount Rushmore look like? How about Santa Monica, California? That’s what LawBreakers wants to show in their world and the map design. A different type of future that changes the way that we look at the familiar.
We were only able to play one mode on one stage, however, but it it was a blast. The title uses the tag-line, “Pummel gravity into submission,” and it honestly fits quite well. The whole sensation of being in low-gravity and even no-gravity areas felt real, and not just like a gimmick. Check out our hands on below:
LawBreakers shares some things with current shooters, including being able to swap classes when you die, but as we played we saw whole teams swapping classes around. An example was when one side decided to go with four Assassins and one Titan to sweep in and cut the opposing team to ribbons with ease.
On the note of classes, LawBreakers is all about symmetry. What this means is that you will have two teams, and the game’s “classes” will function identically in every way on both sides, merely having cosmetic changes. The Assassin on one side can swing around like Spider-Man, dropping down to slice away at several enemies, and the Assassin on the opposing team can do the exact same thing. This actually works out quite well for the Assassin, and it makes it genuinely horrifying when you know there’s a whole crew of them on the opposing team, waiting to leap out and cut you to ribbons. On the other hand, it can be extremely fun to be the one swinging around and dropping in to take down your opponents as the Assassin, and this class ended up being my favorite of the ones available during the event.
Another cool feature is that, as you’re running away, trying to put distance between you and any pursuer, you can actually hit a button to blindly fire behind you. This isn’t very accurate, as you can imagine, but it can help you get away and, if your opponent is low or reckless enough, even possibly net yourself a kill.
Here are some more details on the game’s classes, as well as who takes on the role for each side:
Titan (Bomchelle/Chronos): The powerful Titan wields “Hammerhead” ballistic weaponry, utilizing a rocket launcher and lightning rifle to inflict massive amounts of damage to anybody foolish enough to get near them. They feature a chargeable mobility move known as Pulverize, which can allow the Titan to leap and break the bones of the enemy team. It is worth noting that you move quite a bit more slowly with it, so it is best used as a bit of a surprise move. Add in neutron mines and the ability to go berserk, and you have quite a powerful class.
Enforcer (Axel/Kintaro): The Enforcer brings a weapon known as the Aerator to battle, which grows more powerful as the ammo within lowers. The Enforcer also utilizes a close-quarters style weapon known as the Badger. They can manipulate the local gravity by creating a special field, increasing movement speed, firing speed, and the reload time of everybody on their team within the field. The weakness is the amount of time it takes to recharge, however it can really help turn a team fight around. In addition, they can disrupt enemy systems with the Electromag Charge and even fire a barrage of homing rockets into a target with the Bloodhound Launcher.
Assassin (Hellion/Kitsune): The Assassin utilizes a style of tanto known as Arc Blades, which gives them an extremely fast attack speed when compared to the other classes. They also utilize Romerus, a short-range shotgun that can be overcharged and utilized for quick surprise kills. As mentioned before, they can swing around the stage a bit like Spider-Man, leaping from building to building and to secluded spots as they prepare to launch a sneak attack. They can knock foes away with their Aux Blast, also putting them into a proper ganking position. Finally, the ultimate ability of the Assassin is known as Frenzy, which increases both damage and regeneration, and, while you are in this state, getting more kills prolongs the time you can remain Frenzied.
Vanguard (Maverick/Toska-9): The final class we were able to check out, the Vanguard, utilizes a Hydra Gatling Cannon, which offers a ton of bullets without sacrificing precision. In addition, the Vanguard’s suit utilizes Pulsar technology, allowing them to fire a blast forward, propelling them backwards and away from harm (unless used haphazardly) and can even be dangerous to your foes. The mobility skill is known as Afterburner, which allows the Vanguard to take flight, although both this and the previously mentioned Pulsar technology utilize fuel. Their grenade-like weapon is known s the Meteor Shell, which allows them to send a rain of death down upon their foes with a cluster of exploding projectiles. They can utilize their ultimate ability, known as Starfall, to leap into the air and crash back down, damaging anybody within the affected radius, and those that survive are caught in a low-gravity field, thus making them easy targets for the powerful Hydra Gatling Cannon.
For those interested in the title, you can rest assured that this will not be a full priced, $60 game. The team at Boss Key Productions is marketing it as a multiplayer shooter, and will most likely (as of the time of this article) have microtransactions for skins and cosmetic items, but you don’t need to worry; These microtransactions will not be in a pay-to-win system. If you purchase LawBreakers, you will get all of the characters, as well as access to new ones once they are released.
The team at Boss Key Productions inhabit a building in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina, that once contained a Justice of the Peace. This team, headed by Cliff Bleszinsky, is working on a revolutionary title known as LawBreakers. The team did remark that, although the headquarters is actually in one building, they consider the whole of downtown as their HQ, due to the fact that they live, roam, and work together in it as a team, as close as family, to produce the game. It was obvious that each member of the team was genuinely happy to be there, and they worked together closely as they made sure LawBreakers both looked and functioned as well as possible.
What was particularly interesting was that everybody gets together at least once a day and plays five-on-five matches of the game to see how everything is coming along. This allows each member of the team to see what the others are working on, as well as provide feedback on the game’s overall feel. All in all, I was impressed by the love of gaming, each other, and (of course) LawBreakers that every member exhibited. It feels like this studio can go quite far, especially if the team keeps up this sort of love and dedication on any future products.
During the tour, we received insight into the character creation process, as well as how important symmetry between the two sides is. In this vein, we were shown the upcoming class that’s going into the game, but, unfortunately, I can’t talk about it. That said, those worrying that there will only be four or five can rest assured that there will indeed be more, with more info to be provided soon.
The animation department showed us some of the work they were doing, such as how the body moves in low gravity, as well as how they emulate this. They are quite detail-oriented, so no matter how the characters may be floating, dashing, or even spinning through the air thanks to an explosion, you will still be able to see where the gun is pointed.
The art director also showed us how they highlight whether a character is visible or not in the light of the first area we were in. It’s hard to talk about everything that were shown, but suffice it to say that you’ll see some things we haven’t from any shooter thus far, and you’ll be able to see some characters at rather interesting distances, as long as you’re really paying attention. The game is quite a mature title, and everything, from the Zero-G blood spatter (when a character dies in an area with little or no gravity, they will spin and move in the direction they were killed) to the language and combat, shows it.
When all’s said and done, Boss Key Studios is certain to leave their mark and is likely, in this writer’s opinion, to become a rival for game development recruitment in the area, which is currently dominated by Epic Games in North Carolina, Hi-Rez (the team behind SMITE) in Georgia, and CityState Games in West Virginia.
The event was a great deal of fun, and, despite that I’ve never really been very interested in the team-based arena shooter, my time with LawBreakers has me eagerly looking forward to the full release, as well as what they’ll bring out next.