Lemnis Gate Review: Let’s Do The Time Warp Again
I won’t lie: when I turned Lemnis Gate on and had played through the tutorial, I wanted to immediately uninstall. The head-spinning concept is so convoluted that it seemed impenetrable at first. However, with a bit of perseverance, Lemnis Gate, developed by Ratloop Games Canada and published by Frontier Foundry, is certainly capable of using its novel time loop concept to deliver an innovative take on the hero shooter, despite some frustrations.
A Mind-bending Concept
Lemnis Gate is an incredibly high concept. It’s a PvP first-person hero shooter, where players insert operatives into a 25-second time loop, with the aim being to complete more objectives than the other player over five rounds, in an effort to bag more points and come out victorious. Mixing things up even further is the fact that once you have carried out your actions with an operative within one 25-second round, their actions are recorded and play out in the next round as well. Still with me?
I don’t blame you if you’re already tapping out after reading the above, but once you wrap your head around how the game wants you to think, it’s actually nowhere near as overwhelming as it first appears.
A number of modes are available. Players can square off in 1v1 matches where they take turns inserting operatives into the time loop round by round. A simultaneous mode is also available, where players enter a map at the same time. 2v2 variants of both the turn-based and simultaneous modes are also there for those who want company in deciphering the madness that is Lemnis Gate. Unfortunately, though, despite crossplay being enabled, my attempts at teaming up tended to fail, which I hope isn’t a sign of an already dwindling player population.
Given my failed attempts at finding teammates for the 2v2 modes, my time with Lemnis Gate was largely spent playing 1v1, so this review will primarily focus on that side of the experience.
Hero Shooting With A Temporal Twist
I don’t blame you if you are still struggling to grasp what Lemnis Gate is, and perhaps the best way to convey the concept is to set the scene as to how a general round plays out.
If you’re playing turn-based, player one picks from their selection of operatives, Overwatch style, and immediately enters the map with the 25-second timer ticking away. Depending on the objective, player one then uses their character to either attack capture points, capture objects, then deliver them to their spawn or attack generators.
Once the timer hits zero, it’s player two’s turn to do the same. Only this time, when player two enters the map, the previously recorded actions of player one play out in real-time, having been recorded from the previous round. Let’s say then, that in round one, player one captured the A point in domination, when player two enters the map, they will see player one’s avatar darting across the map and capturing the zone. Player two can now make a choice; do they attack a different capture zone, or do they take out player one’s character to prevent them from capturing that point in future loops?
And so it escalates from there, each player taking turns to add new operatives into the map across five rounds, trying to complete objectives, whilst also being mindful of the actions that have previously played out, and will continue to play out in each successive loop unless disrupted. It becomes a game where you must have a razor-sharp memory. Remember that rocket your opponent launched across the map in round 1 to stop you from delivering an objective to your spawn? That rocket poses just as much of a threat in round 5, as I found out on many occasions when I would forget my senses and throw myself headfirst into a projectile that was fired four rounds ago.
When played correctly, Lemnis Gate almost becomes a game of chess. Do I prioritize capturing objectives, or do I start setting up shields that might protect me in later rounds? Do I ignore the opponent capturing a zone in round one, and prioritize setting up defenses on the other objectives that might assist in defending other capture zones in later rounds? Oh look, my opponent is now wise to me, and has used his sniper to sit at the back of the map to take out my unit that’s placing turrets; a demise they will continue to meet for the rest of the match unless I can disrupt the sniper in such a way that his actions are deleted from subsequent loops.
Play of the Game
A particular highlight occurred after banging my head against a wall for a few hours, completely unable to rack up a win. Frustrated at my lack of progress, I decided to try and base a match around the characters that are clearly focused on rushing objectives and playing aggressively in the early game. To try and cause the opponent some early trouble, I spent the first couple of rounds using Rush, an operative who moves quickly and has a special dash ability, and the teleporting character, Toxic, to rush in and nab objectives early.
My opponent soon became wise to my crafty ways and focussed on using his rounds to send in operatives who would take out Rush and Toxic before they could reach the objectives. With one round left, I seemed doomed. However, I used the final round to deploy Karl and his shield, who was able to deploy cover over the part of the map where Rush and Toxic both crossed paths and were taken out. This carefully placed shield meant that rather than die on the way back to deposit objectives at spawn, my troops were bought the precious few seconds needed to retain health and make it back, winning me the game. Needless to say, I was left grinning from ear to ear, my eyes finally open to what Lemnis Gate was capable of when thinking outside the box.
Tit for Tat
It’s moments like the above, where Lemnis Gate really sings. There is no denying that the feeling of seeing a complex play come together provides a thrill that is unlike anything available elsewhere.
The problem is, more often than not, matches quickly devolve into tedious slogs as a result of players simply using their turns to cancel out the actions of their opponent’s previous round. Capture an objective; chances are your opponent is going to just use their turn to take out your character before they get there. Put down defensive turrets; well, you can bet your opponent is going to make a beeline for them and destroy them straightaway.
Matches become frustrating cases of tit for tat, which inevitably means that whoever ends up having the last turn typically comes out on top. I had hoped that the simultaneous mode would alleviate the issue somewhat, however, my experience here indicates that when both players enter the map simultaneously, panic takes over and it becomes less of a game of strategy. Winning becomes more about having stellar twitch shooter reflexes than the superior game plan. This felt very unsatisfying as it doesn’t feel like how the game was intended to be enjoyed.
Fortunately, Lemnis Gate has launched with ranked play. So whilst I had issues with the flow of matches, I definitely think that anyone who has the patience to hit the higher ranks will have a much more robust experience. This is a title that has a high skill ceiling, and at higher levels, the possibilities for outwitting opponents will be endless for those willing to learn.
It’s a shame that in its current state, people seem unwilling to embrace the creative nature of Lemnis Gate, as the variety on show here across its characters is quite impressive, especially considering the budget nature of the title. You have your attacking classes such as Toxic and Rush mentioned above, to more defensive-minded types such as Karl with his deployable shields and others who can slow time and lay down defensive fixtures such as turrets and landmines.
Map variety is also more than serviceable. There are twelve available at launch, each with diverse layouts and an abundance of verticality, again opening the door for wonderfully creative plays for anyone willing to stick around and commit them to memory. Meeting a much more capable player than myself in one particular game, I was amazed at the ease with which he made use of the diverse character roster and locked down the map across the first few rounds.
Lemnis Gate firing on all cylinders can be a delightfully cerebral experience, its time loop concept and diverse character roster paving the way for some truly spectacular moment-to-moment gameplay. It’s just a pity then that at launch, the majority of the player base, at least outside of the higher ranks, seem unwilling to embrace the whacky concept. Given time, though, once a core of dedicated fans develops, Lemnis Gate has the potential to provide a truly novel alternative take on the hero shooter genre.
Final Verdict: 3/5
Available on: Xbox Series X/S (reviewed), PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, PC; Publisher: Frontier Foundry; Developer: Ratloop Games Canada; Players: 1-4 (online); Released: September 28, 2021; ESRB: T for Teen; MSRP $19.99 (also available via Xbox Game Pass for console and PC)