Amazon Wants to Break in with Breakaway

Amazon Wants to Break in with Breakaway

HANDS-ON: Amazon Game Studios' (and Double Helix Games') upcoming multiplayer game is looking to be the Next Big Thing.

It's safe to say Amazon isn't the tiniest bit shy about making a splash in the game industry, Thursday night, San Diego held a gala event—wryly referred to as an "unboxing"—which formally marked the company's entry into formerly uncharted waters. But don't think they've only just started rolling up their sleeves: Amazon Game Studios has plenty to show to prove they aren't all talk.

Of the three games that debuted at Thursday night's event, Amazon definitely put their strongest push behind Breakaway—in fact, it served as the focus of their whole presentation. Though the company didn't offer a whole lot of context in terms of how the game actually works, that didn't stop them from launching into a 30-minute segment featuring popular eSports athletes playing a round against each other in front of a crowd of thousands. While the impatience of the audience was palpable during the preamble to this first look at the game—to the point that they nearly drowned out the presentation itself—this brief look at Breakaway definitely won them over. (And it also helped that Amazon had demo kiosks at the ready immediately following their presentation.)

At first glance, Breakaway may seem like a slightly cynical product, and that's because it kind of is. Amazon Game Studios is clearly trying to create the most popular game imaginable—those bastards—and Breakaway definitely comes off as an amalgam of what people are playing online most those days. To be a bit reductive, Breakaway feels like Rocket League meets Overwatch meets MOBAs, entirely because it contains a carefully curated mix of the elements people seem to love most from these games. Admittedly, it's not quite as friendly as Overwatch, and my whole ten minutes of post-presentation playtime mostly had me trying to wrap my brain around its slightly complex rules. But after a handful of multiplayer sessions at TwitchCon, it's safe to say Breakaway definitely clicked with me.

Breakaway's current status as a potentially huge eSports title makes a lot of sense, seeing as it's an experience that feels more like an actual sport than its competition. Essentially, you're fighting for control over a ball, and score a point when you bring said ball to your opponent's goal—the essential framework for most competitive sports. This being a video game, though, you gain control of the ball through cartoonish acts of violence rather than simple stealing. And control over the arena itself definitely amounts to a major factor: Each character has two different support structures they can place directly on the battlefield, which range from walls to turrets to speed ramps to trampolines. These items remain from round to round unless they're destroyed, so things can get more than a little hectic in those final minutes.

As an Overwatch player, I couldn't help but make direct comparisons when I first jumped into Breakaway—though that may be slightly unfair. Still, Blizzard's multiplayer phenomenon has caught on largely due to just how approachable it is without losing the complexity needed to sustain such a repetitive experience. Breakaway is only in an early alpha version, but what I played didn't click with me immediately like Overwatch did. In comparison, Blizzard's addition of a little "practice area" to test out your abilities feels even more ingenious, since stumbling into a match with a new Breakaway character can feel very intimidating. Of course, there aren't nearly as more Breakaway characters to learn, so players shouldn't take long to pick up on the cast's nuances. Even if jumping in fresh felt a bit overwhelming, it only took me a single session to learn the ropes of a particular character—but not to play well as them, mind you.

Even if it's way too early to tell what the future of Breakaway will hold, what's been on display at this year's TwitchCon definitely shows promise. Admittedly, I felt a little lukewarm about Breakaway until I found myself in a match where I was actually winning—and scoring the final point myself. That may sound a bit shallow, but it felt genuinely rewarding to stick with a character for a few rounds just to learn their potential, and then use this knowledge to my advantage. With just four matches under my belt, I'm afraid I didn't get a chance to explore the depths of the content this limited alpha has to offer, but thankfully, Amazon handed out codes to participants so they could continue playing at home. Feel free to leave any questions you might have in the comments below, and I'll be sure to do some follow-up coverage once I get home and spend some time with the alpha.

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