From the developers of Olli Olli and Not a Hero—two games that have been met with high praise—comes yet another game that is sure to earn its applause. Fresh out of Early Access, Laser League is already meeting with warm reception as it once did 4 months ago. I previewed it while it was in Beta back in January right before it hit Early Access on February 8. Laser League gained momentum during that time, even accumulating high traffic right now on Twitch! Does it truly live up to the hype?
Violence: The most violent part about Laser League is when an opponent is slashed in half by a laser sword or barrier. There is absolutely no blood, gore, or flailing of body parts of any sort. When a player runs into a laser, his body seems to disintegrate into a flash of brilliant neon light.
Right off the bat, Laser League is a simple, yet strong game. With only a joystick and one button needed to play, it’s “easy to pick up, but hard to master,” as spoken by the developers. It demands a focus unlike any other and is not a game one can sit down and unwind to. In addition, Laser League requires quick thinking and clever use of the movement of every laser, power-up, and ability. Just when you begin to think you’re skilled, you’re suddenly met with 4 back-to-back losses, but don’t give up! Practice certainly does make perfect.
The gameplay is ridiculously easy—the key movements being running around and activating your ability. To activate a dormant barrier, you simply run over it. To revive a fallen partner, run over them. The rest is well-timed moving. Run out of the way of barriers. Run to retrieve the power-up. The one advantage you can hold over your enemy—albeit confusing at times—is the ability to wall wrap. Run to the end of the right side of the field and you appear at the left side. Same works for top and bottom walls of the map. This can make the game tricky, forcing any player to maintain constant awareness.
The point of Laser League is to eliminate your foes before they do the same to you. Each of the sixteen different maps have a different laser sequence and cycle. Some maps shoot the barriers to the opposing side as soon as their color is changed while others simply rotate around the map. The barriers start off as colorless, requiring the player to touch the central post on each one to claim it. Touch as many as you can, dodge the opposing barriers, and force your enemies into a tight space. Best two out of three rounds wins.
There are six different abilities you can choose to start off a match. Each one allows for a unique advantage on the playing field and if paired well, they can become a game-winning strategy. One of the best combinations is the use of Smash and Blade. Since Smash knocks an enemy down and stuns them for a few seconds, the Slash player can then eliminate them with ease. Shock is also an ability than can stun, but it stuns in place while Smash will shove an enemy in the direction bashed and leaves them stunned on the floor.
Ghost allows for brief transparency and phasing through barriers of opposing color, much like the character Reaper from Overwatch, for those who have played it. It’s effective, but is mainly used for evading since it can also phase through attacks like Slash and Smash. Snipe allows a player to set a specific location on the field and can teleport back to that position at any time. Any player caught in that line will be wiped out. Snipe is used most effectively as a strategic weapon and can easily dominate the field if used well.
Last, but not least, Thief is my favorite. This one allows the player to change any opposing barrier to their own, throwing the enemy off and can lead to instant demise. Timing is everything with this ability, as a poorly timed steal can lead to instant death. Thief is paired well with Smash and Shock as it can allow for easy execution of enemies, leaving them on the floor in the path of an incoming barrier. In the end, all abilities can be mastered. I advise trying them all out and seeing what works best for you.
To add a note on the discussion of abilities, modifiers add some advantage to the game as well. When selecting a load out, a modifier must be selected as well, which allows for one of two choices: a faster recharge to be able to use your ability more quickly or longer duration of your ability. A longer duration allows the Thief or Shock ability to stay on for a longer period, allowing longer reach to other enemies. For melee attackers, this modifier changes to being able to instantly use your ability again upon successful execution of a foe. Choose your modifier wisely.
Power-ups appear on the field often, and you will not always want to get them. If you are dominating the barriers, Switch would be a foolish power-up to grab, since it changes all of your barriers to the color of your enemy’s and vice versa. The goal then would be to stop your enemies from picking it up, which is impossible and this is one of the few qualms I have with Laser League. It is difficult at times to stop your enemies from picking up power ups or even reviving their teammates – the only ways being either stunning them or eliminating them. Since you must wait for your ability to charge up after using it, it can be difficult to stop an opponent from gaining the upper hand.
If there is melee in the game, such as Smash or Slash, then there should be some sort of action that allows for a small melee punch or shove that does not eliminate, but stops your opponent in their tracks. This is not a stun, but it would be perhaps similar to stunning, just shorter and not as effective as Shock would be. This is a suggestion and their could be ramifications of course, but I dislike like running passed my enemies, not being able to do anything to them to stop them from gaining a power-up that changes the course of a round in seconds.
You can customize your character with different clothes, banners, background profiles and emojis, all of which you can unlock through play time and leveling up. There isn’t really much customization other than a change in clothing. When it comes to customization, the developers could have added more of a variety or cooler features, such as appendages like hats or glasses. Here’s hoping that they add some more in future DLC.
Online play is seamless and easy. Matchmaking is quick—the max time I have had to wait being less than two minutes. It seems that when the system is attempting to pair you up with someone, if no one is found in time, the game will substitute an AI in place of a real player. While it’s not another person, the AI players are still challenging and will give you a run for your money. It makes me wonder how 505 Games was able to make an AI that good.
For Laser League, the bottom line is that it’s a quick challenge that is good for a few games every now and then. While it has the potential for possible e-sports and tournament qualifications, there isn’t much depth. What you see on the surface is all there is. I am not saying it is a bad game, but that if you are looking for a game with deep gameplay, you will have to continue looking elsewhere.
In the end, Laser League is a great game with addictive gameplay and easy access. It shines in multiplayer and creates a highly competitive environment that will keep you coming back for more. Despite its lack of melee attacks or its empty customization, its a strong enough game that can hold its own and will definitely gain a lot of drive going forward. Twenty dollars is a great price for this game and I highly recommend it to fans of sports games or gamers looking for a quick challenge. I promise that this game will keep you coming back for more.
The Bottom Line