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Block N Load review – hands on with the Minecraft-influenced team shooter from Jagex

Takes the frantic multiplayer deathmatches and class-based gameplay from Team Fortress 2 and merges it with Minecraft mechanics and visuals

Block N Load is a major departure for publisher Jagex; unlike Runescape, which has been the company’s most well known property for almost 15 years, this new release won’t be browser-based, won’t be free to play and won’t be an MMORPG. It’s a class-based multiplayer team shooter which takes inspiration from Team Fortress 2, Battlefield Heroes, and above all else, Minecraft.

We got the chance to put the game through its paces at a pre-launch event last week, to bring you some first impressions.

Right off the bat, it’s clear to see the Minecraft influence; although the game looks a little more modern and refined than Mojang’s world builder, everything is built from cubes and the characters, weapons and objects are all suitably blocky. You won’t need a powerhouse of a PC to run it, but you’ll need quick reflexes; once a match gets going the acton doesn’t let up.

Rather than boil down to a simple deathmatch, Block N Load combines five minutes of base building at the start of the game with an objective-based attack and defend scenario. Players have to protect their power generator, using a combination of explosives, traps, turrets and block walls, before racing towards the enemy base to take down their own generator. The first generator to topple will end the game, but a solid defence can mean teams will need coordination and tactics in order to breach through.

Before jumping into a 5V5 match, players have to pick one of six diverse characters; there’s the usual mix of heavy weapons, sniping, AOE denial and turret defence, plus our current favourite, Mexican ninja O.P Juan Shinobi. Every character has their own set of skills and abilities, but Shinobi can climb walls – meaning he can reach areas otherwise inaccessible to the other players.

You only have a limited amount of blocks to build with, but collecting the ones already placed on the maps will refill your supply. That means striking a balance between laying down your best traps or turrets, then scrambling to collect more, or waiting until later in the match to turn the tide of battle in your team’s favour.

Cogwheel, the BNL equivalent of Team Fortress 2’s Heavy, might have seriously powerful mortars that can rain down explosive fire on an area, but he’s so slow that Shinobi can race past at breach his defences. Combined with his ‘secret shrine’ teleport ability, you can warp around the map in secret, completely avoiding direct conflict. Of course, the other players can do the same by tunnelling under the map.

Jagex promises that every match players join will be different from the last, as the game world can be morphed around each of the six characters before the (literal) curtain raises when the build period ends. Explosives carve massive chunks of blocks out of the earth, with each one potentially opening into a network of tunnels and traps.

The emphasis is definitely on the building, as gunplay isn’t all that satisfying; there are no one-hit kills, with every character having a surprising amount of health and weapons not feeling very damaging. We ended up relying on character abilities, as they could really dish out punishment depending on which character we picked at the start of each match.

It will be interesting to see how Jagex evolves the game in time for launch; the company admits it has much to add, including a time limit to help those tough-fought matches actually resolve themselves. It also remains to be seen whether total strangers will be able to coordinate together, or if each match will boil down to a mad scramble for the enemy bases.

If you want to try out Block N Load for yourself, you’ll soon be able to sign up for the upcoming beta test, schedules for later this year, at the official website. A full release on Steam will follow in 2015. We’ll be taking part, to sign up now for a chance of bumping into us on the servers once they go live.

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