With the ‘minecraftian’ base-building craze becoming one of the largest trends in gaming over the last few years; it was only a matter of time before it would be fusioned into as much territory as possible. With what may seem like an exhausted mechanic in the grand scheme of things, it’s clear that the joy of building blocks and wondrous structures is still going strong in the minds of both young and old. While directly competing with the likes of Minecraft is a very risky battle that’ll likely end in defeat, developers have turned to combining popular elements of the smash-hit with different ideas and genres. Brought to us by the guys over at Jagex, ‘Block N Load’ is a title that blends arcade-style FPS action with all those iconic base building mechanics that gamers just can’t help but love.
Centred on two opposing teams attacking their enemy’s ‘Cube’ objectives, Block N Load is a multiplayer-only PVP game that focusses on playing as a team around Attack/Defend gameplay. Though players must push ahead and try their hardest to destroy the enemy objectives, just as much care must be taken to ensure that their own bases are well defended throughout each match. Blurring the line between playing offensively and playing defensively, Block N Load is a unique FPS that requires players to think on their toes and constantly adapt to their situation in order to come out on top and destroy the enemy base.
With an arsenal of building blocks, traps, and devices at your disposal, the game is every bit about base-building as it is about attacking and filling your opponents with lead. Despite its cartoony aesthetic, Block N Load isn’t the simplistic arcade-style shooter that it may first appear. This is very-much a game that requires thinking and careful tactics in order to win. Spending the first five minutes of every game prepping your enemy base for the incoming attack, players are free to hack away at their surroundings and plant devious traps for the enemy. This time is particularly important, and it must be used wisely in order to maintain the fight as best as possible. It is here where a careful choice of loadout is key, where players must make creative use of their selections. While the more conventional objects such as bombs and bear traps can be placed around, there are plenty of unconventional objects such as blocks of glue that can be placed in order to slow down enemy movement, ‘Fake Blocks’ that disguise themselves as surrounding blocks and collapse when enemies step on them, and ‘Fire Traps’ that erupt when in close proximity to an enemy and set their surroundings on fire. Gadget-like objects can also be spawned in such as Radars that reveal enemy positions, ‘Respawn Pads’ that can be deployed anywhere in the field, ‘Bounce Pads’ that launch the player upwards, and ‘Speed Blocks’ that push players forwards at high-speed. Teams must find an equal balance between attacking and defending objectives in order to succeed, and if done successfully, players can expect these skirmishes to last up to an hour in length before a victor is crowned – making for interesting, but exhausting bouts of action.
With heavy emphasis being placed on the building-side of things, you’ll be thankfully to find that it all couldn’t be any easier. Performed in a similar way as to the likes of Minecraft, players simply select what they wish to place from their loadout, and then simply click + hold to spawn it in. It’s responsive, it’s quick, and it’s accurate meaning that players will have little room for error even in the heat of battle. Soon enough it becomes second nature and players will find it difficult to fumble around when swapping between constructing and fighting the enemy. Constructing doesn’t come without a cost, however, with a specific amount of bricks (in-game currency) needed to spawn each object into the world. While players do begin with a healthy sum to begin with, players must destroy the world around them in order to gain more bricks. Alternatively, players can also collect special Supply Drops that spawn in the environment; however these spawn infrequently and are risky to pursue.
Despite taking obvious influence from Minecraft within the gameplay department, it’s difficult to draw such a huge line in comparison to the games art style, of which goes above and beyond the simple voxel stylings of Mojang and Co. Though the environments are still made up of hundreds and hundreds of individually placed blocks, the style of this particular game packs a lot of punch and can often look pretty damn stunning considering the still simplistic art direction. Going for a heavily stylised approach, Block N Load swaps out pixelated textures for detailed ones with lashings of colour and personality. To inject yet more visual appeal, not all blocks are so uniformly rigid either, and blocks themselves are visually uneven and skewed – adding an extra sense of character to the game world. The effects of the in-game action naturally impacts on the visuals too, with damaged blocks showing evident cracks, and exploded blocks being shattered into triangular pieces.
With construction, deconstruction, and heavy weaponry playing such huge parts in this game, it’s only natural that the game maps themselves are totally destructible. It’s honestly astonishing how much these locations can be flattened and turned into barren wastelands over the course of play, and that’s part of the beauty of this game – you soon realise that nowhere is ever particularly safe. Structures, buildings, walls, and floors can all be blown into chunks drastically changing the way players approach areas of the map. In one particular instance over my course of play, both teams had completely annihilated every structure in sight leaving only the two bases left standing on either side of the level. It was here where the action shifted drastically and players became inventive – heavily utilising the ability to destroy the floor blocks and burrow underground to create tunnel systems as a means to approach not just the objectives, but the enemies too as the closed-in environment was a huge shift in style to the open waste above.
The ability to dig literally anywhere through the maps makes for a huge thrill, and really secures the promise that no two games are ever the same – a phrase that a lot of game developers are so eager to throw out despite their games having obvious limitations. Thankfully here, players have total freedom to approach their objectives at hand and it makes for joyously unpredictable gameplay that requires players to constantly think on their feet – particularly when defensive gameplay is concerned. How you decide to defend your Cubes is entirely down to you and your team, and naturally, enemies will always find a way of exploiting your defences. You are constantly required to adapt your ideas and defensive strategies in order to get one above the enemy and it is incredibly fun to be constantly batting away the enemy’s persistent attacks from all angles.
Spicing up the action considerably, Block N Load offers a growing cast of characters to play as, each with their own unique weapons, abilities, and block/gadget types. This is a game that can truly say that every character plays differently, with each one also providing an entirely colourful personality to boot and a selection of additional skins for those that went to inject even more appeal. With a wacky variety of Army men, Ninjas, Scientists, Robots, Genies and many more to play as, the cast of characters are as charming as they are fun to play. While ‘Sarge Stone’ (styled as a Rambo-like army Sergeant) is equipped with a machine gun/rocket launcher combination and is the most familiar character type to play as, ‘O.P Juan Shinobi’ is a ninja armed with a katana/throwing star loadout that can climb up walls and inflict high amounts of damage at the cost of being very susceptible to incoming damage. Naturally players must adapt themselves to the strengths and weaknesses of each character in order to be successful on the battlefield, with there being a healthy balance between offensive, defensive, and support roles. These characters can also be improved over time too, as XP gained from battle performance helps to level up characters and unlock passive bonuses to stats/abilities. Every character demonstrates stark differences between each other, and in turn there are always differences between both teams – ultimately making matches all the more interesting, and requiring players to adopt different strategies in order to defeat their foes.
Unfortunately for Block N Load, the action by itself isn’t very satisfying, and the weapons lack a much needed sense of impact and empowerment. Though damage counts visibly fall off your enemies as you attack them, there isn’t any substantial visual feedback or weight to any of the attacks. Particularly in the case of melee weapons, it can often be difficult to tell if you’re hitting the enemy at all because there’s very little to read from the onslaught. This general feeling of a questionable impact goes a long way to making the action feel rather unsatisfying and almost lifeless – making lengthy matches exhausting to play as aforementioned. The sheer variety of weapons and the amount of changing play styles between each character alleviates this issue to a degree, but the problem still persists no matter who you find yourself playing as.
The game’s lack of meaty content is another downfall, more specifically in regards to its disappointing lack of game modes. Outside of the traditional Attack/Defend objective gameplay, there isn’t anything else to see here. Though there are plenty of maps currently and there’s sure to be more in the future, after some lengthy sessions I started to tire slightly of the game modes formulae. It seems mighty odd for a game so creative to be lacking in game modes, and I hope to see the dev team concentrate on this area over the course of the active development.*
I don’t want to get bogged down in features that the game doesn’t have and never promised, but for a game to take such an inspiration from Minecraft and for it to concentrate so heavily on the idea of building and shaping the environment, it’s disappointing to see that there is no level builder/editor available in the game. I assumed it would have been a given to find such a feature available considering the style, and I do believe that this would be a big deal for this kind of game. But who knows, this could be a planned feature for the future?
Much like Nintendo’s recent release of ‘Splatoon’, Block N Load is a game that demonstrates a solid foundation that needs to be built upon further in order to do itself more justice. Though what is on offer currently will provide hours of fun, the lack of game modes does become apparent after the initial thrill. Thankfully, Jagex have shown no sign of slowing down their support for this game, and since its release in April have issued several free content updates that have added a new experimental mode and characters, as well as some general updates to tighten the ship. Launching in a sort-of early access capacity, Block N Load is certainly a game that is still being actively developed and will continue to be supported well after its core development has finished sometime in the future. I have a lot of faith in Jagex to push development and bring out the best that this title has to offer as it really does hold a lot of potential, and deserves a lot more attention by gamers and the press alike.
*NOTE: Though there has been an additional game mode entitled ‘Ablockalypse’ added in a recent update, I was not able to experience it after multiple attempts and it has since been disabled.
Despite being brought down by a current lack of meaty game modes to make things more interesting in the long run, it cannot be denied that Block N Load is a surprisingly refreshing multiplayer experience bursting with style and charm. Thanks to an ever growing roster of unique player characters, game modes and maps, Block N Load’s active development will continue to expand and only go to improve upon these exceptionally solid foundations. If you’re well aboard the Minecraft love-train, or alternatively want a unique arcade-styled multiplayer experience, Block N Load should certainly be added to your game collection.
- Charming visual aesthetic.
- Exceptionally varied cast of characters.
- Solid mix of attacking, defending, and building.
- No two games are ever the same.
- Active development shows plenty of promise.
- Combat isn’t very satisfying.
- Lack of any other game modes.
- Matches can become exhausting.
- Disappointed to see there’s no level editor/builder.
Disclaimer:All scores given within our reviews are based on the artist’s personal opinion; this should in no way impede your decision to purchase the game.