- ‘It’s a 3v3 game where you play as all 3 team members.’
- ‘What if Primer was a shooter?’
- ‘An FPS that takes its main inspiration from racing game ghost modes.’
- ‘What if the decoy holograms from Halo could kill you, and each other?’
- ‘A PvP game where your greatest weapon is time itself. Also a grenade launcher.’
- ‘Imagine if the photo from Back to the Future was of a laser tag team.’
- ‘Remember Looper? Well pretend Joseph Gordon-Levitt had become a murderous future-gladiator, instead of spending all that time in a boring f**cking farmhouse at the end.’
It’s become clear to me that a pithy sentence isn’t going to do it. Let me try and explain in a bit more detail, because Quantum League is absolutely worth the headache.In its 1v1 variant, here’s how a game of Quantum League goes: you begin the match by picking one of five weapons, and you have 15 seconds to kill the opposing player, end up standing on a control point, or both. Simple enough, yes? There’s one extra wrinkle in that, if your health bar is reduced to zero, you’re “desynced”, not killed, and can continue playing as a ghost, unable to affect the world but still registering actions. We’ll get back to that in a second.
After that first round, time rewinds to the beginning of those 15 seconds. You pick a weapon again, and play the same round again – except your first round’s play has been recorded, and you’re now a team of two alongside your past self. Now you know what your opponent did in the first round and can anticipate their movements – but the same goes for them.
Here’s the best touch: If your first loop was killed previously, you can undo that by using your second loop to kill their first loop before the moment where they killed yours. This is why you’re “desynced” on death, not simply stopped from playing – if you can undo your own death, your ‘ghost’ actions become real. The intangible bullets you fired can now kill someone, and standing on the control point becomes a meaningful way to win.
To add a further layer of complexity, there’s a full third loop, meaning you can re-influence the loops you’ve already influenced once before, leading to a push and pull between teams that can make for some incredibly exciting final seconds, as six potential combatants rush to keep each other alive and end up standing on the control point. Whoever has the most past selves standing on the point at the end of three loops wins (and if no one is, you get three more loops to find a winner).
I know it sounds complicated but, somehow, in your hands and on your screen, it feels more or less natural after a single round. And remember, one round can effectively take 45 seconds to finish. It’s incredibly moreish.
Even better, it quickly becomes clear that this is as much a strategy game as it is a precision shooter. There’s a constant mental tug of war between trying to take the point and stopping opponents from just killing your well-placed former selves. Time-to-kill is closer to Overwatch than Rainbow Six, meaning you’ll start thinking about how to eliminate other players over multiple rounds (“I took half his health off in the first loop, so if I can just get an early shot in on the second…”). Even the weapons become a part of the strategy – you might spend one loop using a grenade launcher to effectively block a route with explosions, or use a sniper rifle to stop a marauding player before they kill two of your past selves at the expense of moving to the point at all that round.It’s a game that, in its early stages, is a non-stop series of “aha” moments, as you constantly re-realise the potential of the mechanics. At one point earlier today, I accidentally blew myself up with an explosive barrel and cursed my way into the next loop. Except I then realised that if I could shoot that barrel early in the next loop, my past self would never have blown themselves up with it in the first place. I don’t think I’ve ever before had an online FPS give me the same thrill of success as a puzzle platformer.
Even while writing this article, I’ve come up with a plan whereby I use one loop to sprint a route to a control point that also takes me over a medpack, then purposely kill my own past self early in the next loop, effectively making them invisible to the opponent while in ghost form, only to revive themselves with the medpack and sneak onto the scoring area. I’m very excited about trying that one out.
I’m sure it’s clear that I’m excited about Quantum League in general, but I do have my worries. For one, this entire article kind of proves that it’s a stretch to make clear to others why it’s so exciting. On top of that, its visuals stray a little too far into the Fortnite-Overwatch toon-zone for me to be confident that it will be seen on face value as anything other than a clone itself. This is a game that will thrive on an active audience, constantly trying to improve on its own strategies, but I worry that it’ll struggle to find that audience at all.
This is anything but a clone – in fact, it’s the most unique proposition for an online competitive game I’ve seen for quite some time. Maybe all I can do is implore you to give this a go when it comes to Early Access – developer Nimble Giant doesn’t yet have a firm date for that, but it should be within the next few months (and I’ll be sure to be making a noise about it). When it does come out, create your own first impressions. I’m confident you, like me, will see quite how impressive this is.
(Oh, before I go, I should add that you can also play 2v2, meaning 12 players at the end of a third loop, but the thought of trying to explain the complexity of that in just words makes me feel sick.)
Joe Skrebels is IGN’s Executive Editor of News, and he is a committed Toure main, despite it making basically no difference. Follow him on Twitter.