Laser League Review
She broke right to attack head on. I went left to warp to the enemy side and get their flank. Our signature pincer move never fails in any game and we weren’t about to let it stop now. We both had our jobs, so with that, we went in. We activated nodes, we dodged, and we took note of which colors we could absorb, and which ones would promptly make this a bad time. After all, we have both played our fair share of Ikaruga, a shoot-em up with a strong emphasis on color coding attacks. Our hubris got to us, and she fell.
“Dude, I got rocked.” I heard over the game chat.
No problem, I thought. All I had to do was make it to where she died, stand on her body for a fraction of a second, and she was back in the game, and we would be back in full force. Buddy, I was wrong. I took my eyes off of my character to locate her on the other side of the arena, and in the instant I did one of the moving nodes of the enemy team color caught me. That’s game. We got our butts handed to us swiftly and efficiently. This is more or less how our evening went playing Laser League.
Laser League is a crazy fast light show developed by Roll7 Games, and published by 505 Games, makers of the OlliOlli games. This is a fast paced brawler where teams of two or three face off in an arena where only the team with players left alive are victorious. Laser League is simple enough, the aim is to win a series of matches, a best of three situation, by utilizing their specialized classes and the environment to outplay the enemy team. This can be achieved in a few ways, activate nodes to hinder your opponents, using skills to turn the tides, and by activating power-ups to dramatically change the balance of the arena. The first thing I noticed in Laser League was its highly stylized menus. To be fair, this is what I look for in any game, the Persona series has spoiled me. I always look for the most minute details that make the game different enough for me to talk about with my friends. A strong mix of style and execution are a make or break for me. This game did not disappoint in its rock solid gameplay and highly stylized interface.
Nodes in this game are essentially activated laser light walls that travel in the arena in pre-determined patterns, sometimes moving straight across, other times oscillating, and so on. These are color coded in one of two colors, represented by the teams color that activated the node itself. The team that activated the node can freely pass through it without fear of getting eliminated, while this is essentially a wall hindering the path of the opposing team. This all seems simple enough, just dodge and maneuver while activating nodes and hopefully the other team will slip up and hit the walls before yours does. Not so fast, we have not even scratched the surface. Here is where classes and power-ups come in.
There are several classes that all serve their own purpose. The most straight forward class is the Blade, the assassin of the team that has skills geared around taking out enemies without the need for activated nodes. The medic of the team is the Ghost. This class has abilities that let the player gain more reward from reviving teammates. Shock is the support of the team, loaded up with skills to nullify opposing attacks and hindering enemies ability to dodge. Smash is the assault class. Smash does not have any directly lethal attacks, however it can bash into opponents sending them hurling towards activated nodes, or even other dangers. The Sniper is a class that I had a hard time with. It is an extremely technical, high risk high reward, class. It has the ability to warp around the map and perform long ranged attacks. Lastly, my personal favorite class was the Thief. As self explanatory as it can be, the thief can actually use its ability to take enemy nodes and turn them to the user’s team color, very easily making the enemy team go on a full defensive.
If you thought that, along with the frenetic action was a lot to digest, then you’ll be overloaded when you realize that there are 15 different power-ups. Each power-up, if used strategically, can easily turn the match in your favor, and if used at an inopportune moment, can put a real damper on your plans. Yeah, Laser League is a game of juggling and praying that the other team messes up before you can, and that’s what makes this game so special. Yes, its tough. Yes, it’s fast as hell. That is why I enjoyed it and felt so satisfied everytime one of my opponents fell, or I picked up one of my teammates. The constant tug-of-war balance always being in flux was equal parts satisfying and draining.
In any good player versus player game you will want to utilize more than just your sense of sight to overcome the competition. Often times you will need to use sight, sound, and even smell(okay, not really smell) to get an edge up on the competition. This was my foremost complaint in the game. There seemed to be no stand out audio cues telling me when a teammate was killed, or activated any nodes. No cues may not be that big of an issue when you have a pre-made team that is able to communicate via voice chat. This immediately becomes a problem when you find yourself in team with people you do not know, or are unable to communicate. I had a huge problem even being able to look away from my character for fear of getting hit by a node or enemy attack in the split second I shoot a surveying glance across the battlefield. This is the point I usually would rely on my ears and nice headset to give me the information I need. That, I feel, is why this game could benefit from more audio cues. Additionally, and this one may be just a matter of personal taste, but this game could benefit greatly from rumble feedback, making that fast paced, frenetic action have that extra oomph of “Man, I just wrecked that guy!” and weight to each movement whenever you score an elimination. That, obviously, has no bearing on the solidity of the gameplay itself, and does not detract from the experience at all. However, it would be a nice touch, the cherry on top, of each elimination to really make you feel like you did something. Finally, the gauges and icons in the game are small. Like, really small. I sit relatively close to my television, and wear glasses to ensure its all clear as can be, but I still had trouble seeing when my skill gauges were full, or what each power up was supposed to be. This caused a good amount of confusion when I would pick up one power-up to wipe the arena clean of all nodes, just to reverse all the laser movements. Bear in mind, none of these complaints are game breaking, and I still think Laser League is a phenomenally well built game with immensely satisfying gameplay.
Laser League is a lightning fast arena brawler where only the ones with the fastest eyes and even faster reflexes make it out. This game handed me my butt over and over, and even when we thought we were about to clench the match, victory was never certain. This high stakes laser light show by no means is perfect, but it is a blast and one hell of a way to kill an evening online or locally. I will definitely be returning time and again to get destroyed over and over.