Block N Load

A cre­ative mul­ti­player shooter that’s des­tined for de­struc­tion

EDGE - - CONTENTS -

Dig down into Block N Load and you start to un­earth the tac­ti­cal depth re­sid­ing within this rather unashamedly naked homage. “I had four ti­tles in the orig­i­nal green­light pitch: Team Fortress 2, Minecraft, League Of Leg­ends, and chess,” ex­plains David So­lari, the game’s oddly ti­tled ‘VP’. “Chess is very much about the first move, be­cause it’s so im­por­tant. And the re­ally tight game ses­sion, that’s where the LOL bit comes from – and you have he­roes as well.” As for the other two in­spi­ra­tions, you need only look to the de­struc­tible cubes and comedic class­based com­bat for ob­vi­ous par­al­lels.

This sand­box mul­ti­player shooter sees two teams com­pete to de­stroy each other’s gen­er­a­tor. The num­ber of gen­er­a­tors varies, as does the player count, and un­pre­dictabil­ity is a cer­tainty by virtue of the abun­dant ways you can wreak havoc. Be­fore each match there’s a four-minute build phase, dur­ing which teams can set traps. You might scoop a block from a wall, shove in a radar unit, then cover it up for some covert surveil­lance. You could hol­low out a pit and fill it with glue to slow at­tack­ers; en­case your gen­er­a­tor in sand­bags and layer the un­der­side with mines for an ex­plo­sive sur­prise; or blow up key bridges, de­ploy tur­rets, lit­ter routes with fire traps, and plant ammo crates in­stead. There’s a stag­ger­ing ar­ray of of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive op­tions.

De­struc­tion isn’t just an an­cil­lary fea­ture thrown in to make maps feel re­ac­tive, but some­thing pur­pose­fully or­ches­trated. “What we re­ally liked about [ Jagex’s pre­vi­ous game]

Ace Of Spades was that peo­ple could build and de­stroy the bat­tle­field in re­al­time, and here we wanted to am­plify ev­ery­thing,” So­lari says. “We were re­ally into adding a build phase at the start… I was re­ally into not mak­ing the blocks just sand and gravel. Let’s do crazy shit like jump pads, speed pads, bombs, force­fields – all kinds of crazy stuff.”

Each character has two weapons, two skills, a dig­ging tool, and a spe­cial block to in­form their playstyle. As mad­cap AOE ex­pert Doc Doolally, you can lay mi­asma mines to block pas­sages with clouds of nox­ious gas and use the globe gun to launch blobs of lin­ger­ing cor­ro­sive acid. Gruff builder Tony Turretto re­duces build times for al­lies and can place tur­rets. Prov­ing the most popular dur­ing our hands-on was the mul­ti­pur­pose, mul­ti­punned OP Juan Shi­nobi, who can climb walls, launch throw­ing stars, swing a katana and tele­port. But lone wolves only get so far. Teams that work to­gether start to de­velop tac­tics that re­quire equally imag­i­na­tive coun­ters. If you’re fac­ing an en­trenched gen­er­a­tor, try plant­ing Cog­wheel’s mor­tars be­hind your base and pound­ing it from afar while scout Nigel Purdey-Long­shott pins foes down with ri­fle fire. Shi­nobi, mean­while, can take ad­van­tage of the dis­trac­tion and dig un­der­ground to gain ac­cess to the ob­jec­tive. Un­like stream­lined mul­ti­player games with pre­de­ter­mined tac­ti­cal tem­plates, Block N Load em­ploys a looser struc­ture owing to its jum­bled her­itage.

The mul­ti­tude of weapons, skills and blocks is ini­tially for­mi­da­ble. “What we tend to find is in the first game it’s a lit­tle over­whelm­ing. Sec­ond game, ‘Oh, yeah, I’m get­ting this now.’ Third game, they’re do­ing jump-pad/speed-pad com­bos, they’re fly­ing through the sky… It’s in­cred­i­ble how fast peo­ple pick it up.” But with Block N Load fus­ing to­gether four al­ready in­cred­i­bly popular games, will peo­ple even want to? This is a game that doesn’t so much wear its in­spi­ra­tions on its sleeve as fash­ion its own imi­ta­tion sleeve from bolts of its peers’ cloth. Still, there’s a solid class-based shooter here if you’re will­ing to over­look its fa­mil­iar­ity and mine its con­sid­er­able depths.

De­struc­tion isn’t just an an­cil­lary fea­ture thrown in to make maps feel re­ac­tive

Jagex’s David So­lari is the VP of Block­NLoad

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