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    Block N Load: A creative multiplayer shooter that’s destined for destruction

    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 class based 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
    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.

    Block party
    There’s an initially overwhelming array of block types in Block N Load. In order of increasing durability, crates, bricks and sandbags are your primary building materials. Respawn pads and ninja nests cut out the trudge if you manage to drop them behind enemy lines, while caltrops, fire traps and miasma mines function best  as area denial. Tiki heads, turrets and mortars deal damage in your stead, and forcefields allow friendly players to pass through while holding back enemies. Fake blocks are the most versatile type, though. One tactic is to dig a large pit, fill it with bear traps, then lay fakes over the top to crumble away on contact. Blocks have a cost, however; to generate resources, you can either mine blocks from the ground, or grab the supply drops.

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