LawBreakers Review: Week 1 Impressions

LawBreakers is a new fast-paced team-based hero FPS that had released on August 7, 2017. It is being developed by Boss Key Productions and published by Nexon America. Through advertising and headlines, it has flaunted itself as the next and best fast-paced shooter with the addition of features such as blind fire and zero gravity zones. While the game has only been out for a week, many strong opinions on the game have already been thrown around with the verdict on whether or not this game will have any staying power in a world riddled with both hero shooters and fast paced arena games ranging from Overwatch to Unreal Tournament.

During week one of its release, LawBreakers has been received in some contrasting ways by the gaming community. While it does hold a “Very Positive” review rating on Steam out of 1,300 reviews, many players claim that it has been dead on arrival with not enough players. While it is unclear whether or not this statement will remain true throughout the rest of the year there is potential for the game to die out fairly quickly as we’ve seen with situations such as the Titanfall 2 release being overshadowed throughout the season by other game releases.

So after playing for a couple days, here are my first impressions on various aspects of LawBreakers and whether or not I enjoy the game.

Categorized Rating

Interface and Out-of-game Features (7/10)

Upon launching the game, a player is presented with a very familiar and accessible menu. It is fairly simple to navigate to finding a match, changing settings, or viewing other game features. However, the layout for profile customization does become a bit convoluted as you sift through various stats being thrown at you. Also, there are opportunities that could have been taken advantage of to make the interface more intuitive but are not put in place. This includes the option of clicking on your profile icon in the customization menu to change it, which would make sense, whereas you actually have to navigate to a separate tab of the profile customization menu to change it. Overall the menu isn’t too overwhelming and is modern enough for the visual appeal.

You can also access a set of tutorials from the main menu to practice skills and combos which is great for new players. It isn’t something I personally look around for in a game as I like jumping in and experiencing everything for the first time, but it is nice to see games include tutorials when their combat includes a bit of a learning curve.

As for other features presented throughout the menu, there is a decent amount of customization present in regards to changing skins and decals. Loot boxes with random skins are par for the course at this point in time though, so it is a hard system to mess up. The presence of skins and loot boxes isn’t necessarily a downside, though, as it does offer some interesting mechanics on the side for those inclined to collect rare skins and tune the look of various characters.

One major flaw which is more of a hindrance than anything is the inability to join a match based on game mode. I can see how this mechanic could be useful early on as it would condense a smaller player base into fewer playlists to make matchmaking quicker, but it is annoying having to play through less enjoyable game modes to get to the ones I actually wanted to play.

In regards to the lobby, it is a fairly basic and expected layout. You can change options, view connected players, and chat with others. There are a few neat touches such as a Discord icon next to player names or a “Live” tag for players who are currently streaming. There are also some neat tips that will appear towards the side of the screen in regards to game mechanics or options to tweak that a user may not have noticed if not for the tips.

The only other annoyance I encountered was having to leave a lobby in order to open loot, but it isn’t a complete dealbreaker.

Online Connectivity (9/10)

So far I haven’t had too many issues finding matches or staying in matches. There have been a few moments where it has taken a while to find a lobby, but this is likely just due to the low concurrent player count. Once you get in a lobby you’re good to go. I’ve never been disconnected mid-game or been struck with much server side lag either. Matchmaking can be a bit unfair sometimes, though this is likely also due to a low player count. My only other complaint would be getting into the game at match start. I’m unsure if this is a network issue or due to needed optimization in loading maps/player models, but sometimes upon entering a match you are unable to click the button to select your character and enter the map until a few seconds after the match starts. Problems like that can probably be fixed later on through optimization and polish, though, but should still be addressed. In general, finding matches and staying connected functions as intended.

 

Design and Visuals (6/10)

This is an area that has been criticized in other reviews repeatedly. Starting with visual fidelity, LawBreakers is by no means an ugly game as it is built on the Unreal Engine which has a reputation for driving beautiful graphics and crisp visual effects. It is somewhat unoptimized, though, as towards the beginning of a match I typically experience stuttering for a few seconds as well as long load times for character models on the character selection screen. Once the initial stuttering subsides the game does run fairly well and will maintain a smooth frame rate above 60 for the most part if you adjust settings to match your hardware. Throughout the course of a match, there are some quick moments where stuttering does occur due to speedy movement or intense particle effects. Stuttering does get annoying in a game about fast paced combat, but it isn’t bad enough to where it is a constant issue during gameplay. Hopefully, optimization is an issue addressed further down the line in updates.

The negativity towards the game’s design from most users is related more to the design of playable characters and the maps present in the game. LawBreakers does have a roster of characters to play as that has a decent amount of variety in terms of weapon loadouts and abilities, though they all lack the charm and liveliness that other hero shooters have nailed down such as Overwatch or Team Fortress 2. Even Paladins has some charm with their playable champions even if they are a bit cringy. In-game, LawBreaker’s characters do have voice lines that play when spawning in or capturing an objective, but most of it is just generic banter and edgy “kill them all” and “I will have my revenge” lines. There also isn’t much lore presented up front that connects any of the characters together and they don’t seem to have any other relevance to one another aside from being on the same team.

In terms of maps, they are functional and look good enough. They aren’t very inspired as combat seems to take place in the typical “science lab facility”, “factory”, and “old-ish are with buildings that were previously occupied by civilians” archetypes. For a game like this, I don’t really need a lot of lore and reason for locations so it isn’t a huge deal, but the settings are fairly generic. In functionality, though, the maps are pretty good. They offer areas that take advantage of the verticality that some characters possess as well as making sure the more ground-based characters are still playable. Maps also feature zero-gravity areas that spice up combat in some key areas.

Overall the design of the game is fine. It offers pleasant visuals and useful layouts but does severely lack the charm and lore that is injected into the design of many other games in related genres.

Gameplay and Combat (9/10)

I’m sure it is widely agreed that the most important part of a game is its actual gameplay. On this front, LawBreakers doesn’t really disappoint. It is indeed fast-paced and action-packed. The different characters available have some unique abilities and all have different play styles. Some characters fly around, slide around, use a grappling hook for killing and traversal, or are stuck to the ground with high amounts of armor and unwieldy weapons that dish out devastating damage. When hopping into zero gravity, all characters play a bit differently and it is possible to press a key to blind-fire behind yourself and use your weapon as a form of propulsion while floating. Getting kills is satisfying and matches with objective-based game modes can get tense between two teams of competent players. There are even some other small mechanics such as kicking which does decent damage as a melee attack and stamps the victims screen with a footprint decal. Overall, after getting used to the overall gunplay and becoming proficient with traversal mechanics the game does offer an enticing package of speedy traversal and skill-based gunplay. It is also possible to reach a higher level of skill as well by learning the timing and control required to pull off some very effective ability and weapon combo attacks.

From my time playing so far, the combat and gameplay are very engaging and satisfying. For users not adept in this type of ability based combat or the speed of an arena shooter, it may be difficult to get into. LawBreakers does tick the box of great gameplay in my book. With a bit more polish this could be a contender for some of the most exciting multiplayer combat.

Soundtrack (8/10)

This isn’t super important for this genre of game, but I just wanted to note that the music in this game does add to the atmosphere. While it isn’t necessarily the most unique or intricate video game score out there, it does fit the theme and has some pretty good hype tracks while in a lobby or at the start of a match.

Microtransactions / DLC (9/10)

Microtransactions as of now are purely cosmetic and are run of the mill for multiplayer games as of late. There are mystery loot boxes and varying tiers of skins for characters, weapons, profile icons, and other decals such as the kick kill decal. It is a bit annoying to see DLC at launch, but it is also purely cosmetic. However, $12.99 for a pack of exclusive skins, weapon skins, stickers, and a profile portrait doesn’t seem that enticing as full blown DLC simply for cosmetic skins isn’t that enticing. Nothing about the DLC/microtransaction is criminal in any way as it is purely cosmetic, so this game doesn’t deserve flak for that point.

Player Count

While the combat and gameplay are very fun for the most part, something that has been brought up many times is the low player count. There are only a few thousand people playing at any given time which isn’t great for a new release that has been hyping itself up for a while. Whether it’s due to the devs not pushing hard enough to have their game advertised more or some other reason is irrelevant; this game’s player base isn’t too large at the moment, so the longevity of its multiplayer community and its overall staying power in the gaming world is questionable, despite the fun gameplay. This has no effect on my overall opinion of the game as it is irrelevant when objectively looking at game design and gameplay mechanics.

TL;DR / Overall Verdict (8/10)

LawBreakers is a great experience overall that just needs some polish and needs to address some issues. Gameplay is both satisfying and skill-based with engaging combat and strategy. The main downsides are a somewhat small player base and a few quirks here and there that are unintuitive. If you like fast paced, skill based gameplay and chaining abilities then this is probably a game worth picking up and putting some hours into for its $30 price tag. If you just want a straight up arena shooter, look at Unreal Tournament 4 (in alpha), or the upcoming Quake Champions. If you simply want an objective-based hero shooter, go for Overwatch or Paladins. If you want something fresh with the best of both worlds, pick up LawBreakers.