Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock you’re sure to have seen the rise of the hugely popular and addictive block construction game Minecraft. On the other hand there’s the completely opposite style, the fast paced action of the first person shooter, that sees a large number of titles being to the genre every year. Well developers Jagex and Artplant have taken a rather interesting approach in their most recent game by taking Minecraft and Team Fortress 2 and trying to fuse these two opposites together. The result is Block N Load a unique and addictive 5-on-5 tactical battler.
Gameplay wise all battles follow the same structure of taking out protective energy cubes first to lower a force-field surrounding the central base node giving you the opportunity to destroy it. The number of cubes can vary a bit from level to level but the overall objective is the same. After being dumped into the level your team is given 5 minutes to fortify your cube/base and then the rest of the match takes as long as required to reach the objective. Matches can therefore last anything from 15 minutes to over an hour depending on how well you or the enemy fortify your defences.
Before diving into your session you must choose from one of the game’s six wacky and diverse characters. Each one has their own unique weaponry, skills and block types. Sergeant ‘Sarge’ Stone for example utilises a machine gun/rocket launcher loadout and blocks include his signature C4 block, respawn pads and land mines. There is a little bit of a balancing issue between a couple of characters as some of the weaponry and skills seem rather under/overpowered. Every character can also be upgraded to improve their stats, gain new abilities and unlock costumes, with experience being rewarded through competing in ranked battles. All of this helps give a sense of progress after you finish each match.
As it stands there are only 2 gameplay modes ‘Friendly’ and ‘Custom’, with a ‘Ranked’ mode to follow soon in an upcoming update. Friendly is the main mode and pits you against enemy players in a 5-on-5 battle to destroy the enemy base, this can be tackled solo or with a team of friends. After your passive block you can only choose five other block types to carry over into the battle. This adds a nice level of customisation so you can organise your equipment based on the environment and loadouts of other players. Custom is more of a training mode as no experience is rewarded. Really the only reasons for using it are to basically practise some strategies or if you want to mess around with a couple of friends.
By hitting the ‘E’ key you enter construction mode. In this mode you enter a very Minecraft-like gameplay style. Destroying blocks awards the team with resources which they can use to construct more defences, taking out the foundations of larger constructions awards large amounts of points. This ability to be able to build defences and create traps helps give the game a good amount of replayability as you can alter the terrain so that levels are never the same the second time round. In one round you could opt to heavily fortify you defences to draw enemies into choke point filled with traps or create a series of underground tunnel networks to burrow your way around enemy fortifications.
Now onto the combat element of Block N Load. By pressing the ‘Q’ key you equip your weapons which obviously change from character to character. Weapons are primarily for engaging enemies and can vary from your basic machine gun and sniper rifle to your up close sword strikes or ‘Doc’s’ batch of chemical weapons. While they can be used to destroy blocks most’re fairly ineffective taking nearly 23 times longer than the construction tool. The combat is perhaps a little lacking as characters have a high amount of health, there are no headshots or one-hit kills and some weaponry just doesn’t feel powerful as it appears, such as Sarge’s machine gun.
Block N Load can only be played using the keyboard and mouse setup and these controls can be a little awkward to use. The problem is it’s an FPS but because of the whole construction aspect of the game its control scheme is quite a bit different. It can take a little getting used to this control scheme, I know it took me around 10-12 matches to really get the hang of it. Even then there are still some aspects that are a bit clunky such as the ability to climb over objects, which can be a bit awkward to control. In terms of visual appeal it blends the blocky Minecraft style with a solid cartoony aesthetic giving a crisp, polished finish to the textures.
Block N Load is an addictive fast-paced strategy game that is definitely worth checking out, and guaranteed to keep you entertained for hours. Despite the odd little control and character balancing niggles the addictive strategy element to Minecraft construction give this game loads of replayability potential and gives us a good multiplayer shooter that’s great fun
This review is based off a full release version of Block N Load provided by Jagex.
This review was originally published on the site GamersFTW which unfortunately has now been taken down. It’s been published on my personal blog, DanielVaughanReviews, out of respect for the developers/publishers that were kind enough to give me review copy of their game.