This is an Early Access Review and as such opinions are based solely on the state of the game at the time of review and subject to change as development progresses leading up to final release.
My God, do I want a new Tribes Aerial Assault. I’d settle for a modern take on Unreal Tournament that has a larger player lobby. These are the vibes that I think of when I consider where LEAP sits in a crowded shooter market. While I think there is room for a new shooter as fickle fans bounce between battle royals and free-to-play arena shooters. LEAP has a tall order to fill if they want to eat up any of that market share. The mechanics and game design are here, but I fear this multiplayer shooter will struggle to find its footing if it cannot find an audience.
From one thumbnail you can accurately deduce what LEAP is all about. It is a large-scale, first-person, multiplayer shooter with a dynamic and fast-paced traversal system. You’ll capture and hold positions on a large-scale map while fighting off the other team of equally well-equipped mechanical super soldiers. The game features a hoard mode with PVE and a short but sweet tutorial. I will say I appreciated the tongue-in-cheek nature of the tutorial as it aligned well with the overall, “not taking itself too serious” nature of the game.
You’ll start leveling up a class and building a load out based on four class types: pathfinder, titan, wraith, and tech-ops. That is soldier, armored, scout, and engineer respectfully. Each class features a slot for a primary weapon, secondary weapon, ability, grenade, ultimate ability, and a vehicle/hoverboard. While there are only two or three options for each of these, it’s a decent start. Apart from your class loadout, you can also setup general taunts, graffities. and banners. Presumably, all these can be unlocked through experience or via the “black market” store with in-game currency.
There are the usual suspects in weapons with a rocket launcher, sniper, assault, and shotguns as well as some more creative supplementary weapons, my favorite was the sword for the wraith class. None of the classes are deep enough in customizability, and I wish it just a single character I leveled up. I’d rather make a character from scratch if there are only two primary weapons in a class. I understand it’s Early Access and I’d expect more customizability options to come in the future. However, all of that is a bit of a moot point as I won’t be able to unlock any of them because the servers are empty and the PVE mode is bare-bones and monotonous. The game advertises itself primarily as a PVP shooter, and while the mechanics are present, there are no players to fill the lobbies.
As such I cannot speak to how the game plays with full lobbies; I can speak to how I would change the messaging. The trailers and gameplay clips make the game appear to be more AAA than it is and draws unfair comparisons to larger publishers who can advertise and launch games with instant player bases. Blue Isle Studio and Publisher is made up of 14 people according to their Discord and Steam. I tried night after night to log on and see if I could get into a lobby with more than one person and the best I could do was play a round of co-op with three other people, who mostly quit halfway through.
While in-game, the traversal system feels great switching between a hoverboard soaring above buildings and jumping down to utilize the “Attack on Titan” grappling hook to propel myself through the air all while chasing and firing at someone. It genuinely feels fun moving in this game.
The co-op mode runs a team of four through waves of increasingly difficult enemies that spawn bigger and different enemy types. While there weren’t a huge number of different kinds of enemies, it did feel a bit more like Musou-Style combat where you mow down droves of simple-minded enemies. Wave after wave got old pretty quickly and served as little more than a way to test out the different class types and find the guns that you prefer.
All these disparate parts could make up a potential game were it not for one critical element; players. In the last twenty-four hours according to steamcharts.com the game has had 22 peak players today, and since the launch of Early Access on June 1st, it only had 172 at its peak. Furthermore, the server lists show only 6 players currently online and they are only in co-op modes. Given when the review codes went out, I can presume they are players like myself who are tasked with kicking the tires and are frustrated that the rest of the servers sit empty.
I can only hypothesize that because the structure of the game’s progression and store are too similar to free-to-play games the game isn’t sticky or attracting audiences. The premium look and feel doesn’t line up with the empty servers, clunky AI, and grindy progression. At this point why wouldn’t you go free-to-play and implement a new activation plan? To be fair, those changes can’t happen overnight.
Blue Isle’s posts on Steam assure players that they intend to build momentum through community events and continual updates. Likewise, it’s been announced that the game will come to consoles. Perhaps a cross-play feature would refill the empty player counts, but I’d say the team has a communications and marketing gap before they can attract people to a paid game and away from the free shooters that still eat up so much of the pie. It’s a shame, but I do wish the team the best and hope they can overcome their inertia. Until then, I cannot recommend paying $30 for it.