Lets be honest, LawBreakers isn’t off to the best of starts. It’s struggled with dwindling numbers since its release on PlayStation 4 and PC this past August. Developer Boss Key Productions – formed in 2014 by Gears of War creator Cliff Bleszinski and Guerilla Games co-founder Arjan Brussee – has been struggling.
While the game certainly has some amazing talents behind it, the frantic, gravity-bending multiplayer shooter is in hot water. Fans are giving up, they are getting pissed, and they are all, but done with the game. Some of them are looking to even get refunds, some are even declaring their will to continue on with the game while others are just moving on all together.
Three months post-launch, and we’re not looking at a good situation. Even as a fan of the game, I’ve begun to move on myself. I’ve picked up a few new reveal titles thanks to the publishers we’ve worked with and decided to focus my free time on those games, much as I did with Battleborn and even Evolve. Unfortunately, Boss Key Productions has another problem: their launch numbers are still lower than that of Battleborn.
That’s not a news headline you want going out. It’s not a news headline you even want to hear about. Unlike Battleborn though, Boss Key Productions hasn’t pulled all of their developmental support from the game, and left it to die. Boss Key is still doing whatever they can to keep LawBreakers alive.
What Went Wrong With LawBreakers?
If we’re going to be blunt, LawBreakers went wrong by trying to enter a genre that’s overpopulated with hero-themed classes, objective based modes, and hybrid-arena shooters. It’s a scene that is oversaturated. It’s one that LawBreakers should have avoided all together. Now it seems that LawBreakers is a title that released in Early Access, that the game is incomplete, and it feels super broken and even feels slightly mediocre compared to its competitor titles.
The biggest problem LawBreakers has, is the lack of story. We have no reason to care about the Law or the Breakers. There’s no story, there’s no foundation behind any of them, and none of us really care at this point. Overwatch nailed it. We love the characters. Many of us fans have figurines, posters, comics, shirts, hoodies, and other collectibles to help us show our love for the game.
So much so that both Brussee and Bleszinski have agreed that they haven’t even explored LawBreakers to its fullest. They even openly discussed this with GamesIndustry to a full extent in an interview, but the most important part is what is quoted below by Arjan Brussee, former Guerrilla Games co-founder.
“To be frank, we made a mistake. We have our symbol of the upside down happy face, Deadzo. A lot of the marketing banner ads led with that, which is the symbol you see when you die in the game – it’s kind of our version of the Gears of War crimson omen.
“When you don’t know anything about the game and a banner shows up… Even the name Lawbreakers, if you don’t know about the gravity-defying thing, you’re like ‘what is this?’. Basically if you look at that symbol outside of context, it says you’re going to have a bad time. We have a lot of really great characters – Sunshine the Harrier is as tough as she is loveable, so we’re going to be leading with her a lot more going forward so people will know who they’re going to get attached to.”
But even with that tidbit of info there, can they even save the game with a story, or a story mode of any sort? It’s hard to do so with an already released game. The mechanics are in place. There’d be a lot of trouble bringing such a formula to life in such a unique setting.
Where LawBreakers really went wrong isn’t as simple: they went for a competitive crowd, in an era of Twitch, YouTube, and other streaming services. They’d targeted a crowd that was already busy, a crowd that cares more about eSports, Twitch streamers, and YouTube personalities. None of these people talked LawBreakers, none of them really seemingly wanted to, and those that did care have moved on by now.
Streamers such as the extremely popular Summit1G is already back on PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds and on his off-time Assassin’s Creed Origins. Most Even though LawBreakers surely had Twitch in mind, it wasn’t going to catch on quickly, no matter how hard they tried.
The game modes were another problem. Overwatch already capitalized on what Boss Key was attempting to do with their hybrid-arena shooter. Had LawBreakers strayed away from such an approach, it is likely that Cliff and Arjan could have easily seen a huge resurgence in their playerbase. After all, Quake Champions would have been their primary competition, which isn’t to say a lot. There’s not a lot of arena shooters out there right now, which would have been a perfect element for Boss Key to explore.
Team Deathmatch Has a Lot of Potential
Recently, before it left beta, I decided to get my hands on the Team Deathmatch. Here I found myself riveting from joy. I was able to dart about the test map we were given. My character of choice was more-often-than-not the Battle Medic. Not because she can dish out damage (she can’t dish out damage quickly at all), but because he/she is a great choice.
They are vital to the success of their team, just as any class is, and it had shown quite well during my matches. More often than not, I found my points going to staggering numbers, and I found myself alleviated from the stresses of fighting for objectives. Why though?
At its Core, LawBreakers is an Arena Shooter
Lets be blunt, LawBreakers has all the elements in place to be a great arena shooter. The classes are solid. They just need some minor tweaking. The maps would all make great arenas. Each of them offering unique zones, corridors, and choke points. The zero gravity is a delight to enjoy. The game could emphasize upon this with future maps and even ride it out completely.
LawBreakers has a lot of potential, but it needs to demonstrate that. Even though Cliff Bleszinski has a lot of hope for the game, there’s still a lot of work that needs done, and the team needs to figure out what to do rather quickly. Sure it has an eSports arena already out there, but it’s a game that needs some tweaking.
My advice? Remove the objective modes, put them as an optional list, but focus on the Team Deathmatch. Take notes from id Software. Quake Champions is booming. Even though it only has 389 players at the time of writing just on Steam, I can guarantee there is more. My queue times are never more than 3 minutes at most, which is quite the opposite on LawBreakers. Why? The game invests itself as an arena shooter.
While it does have eSports objective based modes, the game focuses on its core modes: Team Deathmatch and Deathmatch. Those two modes are its key players, two key players that LawBreakers needs to embrace for its own. But there is one more thing Boss Key needs to consider if they don’t take those two options.
LawBreakers Needs to be Cheaper or Free-to-Player
I hate saying it. I’m not a fan of a lot free-to-play titles. Sure I spend a lot of time on Paragon and Warframe, but they offer unique experiences. They offer experiences I won’t get from other games of their types. Paragon isn’t scared to admit that it’s a third-person shooter MOBA. While it does incorporate MOBA elements, at its core it’s a third person shooter with objective based goals.
Warframe is the same way. It’s a grindfest. It’s a game that incorporates risk, reward, and time spent. It’s a game that takes the elements of RPGs, third-person shooters, and beat-’em-up shooters and melds them together perfectly. But their success isn’t just because of that. They offer a free-to-play experience. They offer unique experiences with paid options; options that fans enjoy; options that fans want to invest into.
LawBreakers could do this quite easily without fracturing their community. Lootboxes being the number one key. Sure, we can earn them, but what if there are limited time skins we want? We’d buy the boxes. We’d throw down $5, $10, maybe even $50 in order to get those very skins. Want premium skins? Sell them outside of the chests. Sell the high-tier skins just as Epic Games does with Paragon.
Cliff Bleszinski doesn’t have to worry about fracturing a community, if the community barely exists. There are plenty of gamers saying they would give LawBreakers another go were it $10-$20 USD or even free-to-play. But will they take advantage of that? Probably not. CliffyB doesn’t like the idea of free-to-play. He’s said it before and he would more than likely say it again, even if it meant bringing the game to life, and REALLY having a chance to drive the eSports crowd into playing it.
After all, Smite does quite well with the Smite League passes.
About the Writer:
Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on Twitter or Facebook.