One of the most original first person shooters since Superhot’s “time moves when you move” approach, Lemnis Gate from developer Ratloop Games and publisher Frontier Foundry is out now for PCs and consoles.
Lemnis Gate takes the concept of a time loop and applies it to arena-based first person shooter combat while blending in turn-based mechanics as well. That’s the short version, but it’s a difficult concept to wrap your head around and it comes with a steep learning curve – but one that’s ultimately very rewarding when you start getting the feeling that you finally “get it”.
In a match, you control a team of five characters, all of whom have their own unique abilities. You send characters into the arena one at a time, and you only have 25 seconds to make each turn count. During that time you can choose to fire upon an enemy that’s also already on the battlefield, but you can also fire at a location where you think someone might be in an upcoming turn, taking them out before they know what hit them.
Things become increasingly complex in subsequent turns, where your actions coexist with those of the previous ones. If you put up defenses in an earlier turn, you can choose to move behind them in the next one – though you have to factor in that your enemy can take them out again in the next turn – leaving you exposed in your current one even if you don’t know it yet. Confused? Lemnis Gate does that to you.
And if the core concept doesn’t do it, then just wait until you have to wrap your head around applying it to some of its other gameplay modes, which include retrieving stuff while under fire, capturing strategic points on the map or completing objectives. Whatever mode you play in, the action is always turn-based, so you go in for your 25 seconds of glory, and then your opponent does. Going first regularly felt like a disadvantage because you get one less opportunity to react, but later on you’ll start devising strategies around it as well, because your actions during that turn keep replaying in subsequent ones and being the first to lay down a ton of fire on a strategic spot can make things very difficult for others.
One very interesting dynamic is that you can save yourself from death by killing the enemy who look you down in a subsequent turn. This means that a character who is mostly gone in turns 3 and 4 might save the day in the last turn when he reappears – although you can also choose to bite the dust early on in your turn as a strategy. In that case, you “die” but keep going for the full 25 seconds to record what you would have done had you not died. Take out your attacker in turn 4, and watch what happens in the last one. It can get very complex, but oh so satisfying when it comes together. We actually enjoyed making sure our characters got killed off early (all by the same character), only to really turn the tide at the end of the fight where a single killer triggers a cascading domino effect that feels truly epic.
Familiar character classes add unique qualities and abilities into the mix, and the order in which you send them in becomes a tactical choice. You can also “upgrade” characters in between fights, but because every buff comes with a debuff this is more about tweaking things to your personal style than anything else.
Lemnis Gate isn’t the kind of shooter that stands out because of stellar visuals, epic 64 player battles or set pieces, but the visuals look crisp, the controls are responsive and Ratloop’s given the character a bit of personality as well. The gameplay is what draws you in though, and although it’s certainly not for everyone with its complex time loop mechanics and possibilities, it’s something that you should definitely give a try. You’re going to be feeling lost and not in control, but when your plan comes together it provides a high that few shooters can provide.