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E3 Impressions: Breaking Balance in LawBreakers

A great time that still might need work.

lawbreakers

Arriving at the LawBreakers booth was like walking into the middle of a WWE championship match. A crowd watched as players came and went, all playing rounds in front of a stage where pro gamers did a better job than any of us. Amidst it all, Cliff Blezinski stood and served as hype man. It was pretty surreal. Myself and the three other Hey Poor Player operatives sat down and got a couple rounds in with the latest thing to crawl out of Cliff Blezinski’s brain. The two matches of LawBreakers we played weren’t exactly balanced, but it was the most fun I’ve had throwing a ball around since Rocket League.

 

No Rulebook Here

 

LawBreakers boasted a nice spread of characters to choose between, from the quick-handed Gunslinger to the devastating Titan. All of them were similar, each sporting some central firepower and a unique ability. Each also has a dash, all of which are part of LawBreakers‘s most important factor. Namely, the mantra of “screw gravity.” This plays with the other main mechanic, wherein characters can jump extremely high, and maneuver in relatively free 3D while in the air. The sensation is less like a prolonged jump, and more like you can turn your own gravity off at will.

lawbreakers

Simialrities are really just categorizations, though. There are a lot of dashes and slides that work differently. Some characters just sprint. Otehrs make it into a sort of dodge-slide. It’s really through other major abilities that the classes differ, though. It’s also where the game’s current balance issues showed through.

I was able to give every single class at least a brief spin in my two lengthy rounds. As our two robust teams fought over a ball in a sort of open-concept capture-the-flag match, I figured out what worked best for me. My favorite was the Wraith, a particularly nimble class that can throw a knife for a well-aimed kill, CoD-style. He also just…had a gun that was good. Staff told us that Wraith had been the most successful character in the game for pretty much the entirety of E3, and his sheer nimbleness and firepower balanced to show me why. My other favorite was the Juggernaut, who could throw down a riot shield wherever he was; even in the air. he also sported a combination knife and shotgun, making him perfect for holding down a close-range assault.

 

Resisting Arrest

 

There were a couple classes, though, that I was frankly surprised people were allowed to play in the game’s current state. The worst of the group is the game’s Medic.

Personally, I’m the kind of player who never minds playing healing or other support. I play a lot of Mercy in Overwatch. My Heroes of the Storm mains are Lt. Morales and Tassador. You get the idea. With a decent amount of experience with this type of play, I can say with certainty that the Medic in LawBreakers is the weakest character in the game by a mile. Her ability comes from healing grenades she can fire off, but the reach and speed on these don’t match up at all with how quickly all of my allies are zipping around at a given time. It’s a design choice suited for a much slower game.

The other major offender is the Assassin, a melee-centric warrior with a large sword, but not enough reach to make it count. Again, the issue I see is with the tools the particular character has versus the mechanics universal to everyone. Being melee-only, she needs a faster dash than most other characters. When everyone’s bouncing around like they’re in some kind of zero-gravity, the ranged classes step up as objectively superior.

That said, though, the time we spent was ultimately fun. Fun in the same way that people who still play Super Smash Bros. Melee have fun playing Fox on Final Destination, no items. When playing as the Wraith, I had an amazing time tumbling through corridors, attempting (failing) to grab the ball. We fought both matches on the same map, so I can’t speak for the way class usefulness can change dependent on where the fight is being fought.

LawBreakers drops into combat soon. The game hits PC and Playstation 4 on August 8. We’ll see how our cops-n-robbers lineup looks by then.

Jay Petrequin started writing at HeyPoorPlayer in the summer of 2012, but first got his start writing for It's Super Effective, a Pokemon podcast that happened to be a reflection of two of his biggest interests: pocket monsters, and making people listen to him say things.
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