Dragon Ball: The Breakers is over nine thousand times better than your average Dragon Ball game. Sorry, I just had to get that out of my system, and while I can’t prove that assertion, my foray into its closed multiplayer beta was over much too soon. The Dragon Ball: The Breakers beta made for an enticing preview.
Admittedly, I went in anticipating a fairly pedestrian Dead by Daylight knock-off, elevated only by the presence of Dragon Ball’s distinctive characters. What I got was a surprisingly deep asymmetric multiplayer outing with so much going on that I was pushed to experience it all in the beta’s meager two-hour chunks.
The premise is that, due to some temporal shenanigans, you and seven other players have been dragged into a place out of time. One player assumes the role of the Raider, one of Dragon Ball’s classic villains, (Only Cell was present in the beta.) and the others are survivors, who have to figure out how to escape or even beat the bad guy.
The survivors can, in theory, gather up keys scattered around the map and use them to activate the “Startup System.” If they successfully protect the system, they’re whisked away to their own time and win. If they fail, they have the option to summon emergency time machines, which throws up its own quandary – do you leap into the machine (Only one machine materializes at a time.) or wait for other survivors to make it to you?
I prefaced that section with “in theory” because all the matches I played ended with the survivors either dying or gathering enough scattered power-ups to transform into an established hero (like Goku) and beat the living daylights out of the Raider. And yes, I was on the receiving end of one of those beatings, having stupidly assumed I was invulnerable.
But Dragon Ball: The Breakers is not a game that leads you by the hand, and it’s all the better for it. It’s going to take more than a few matches to master, but no one strategy will guarantee success. The maps are suitably expansive, which means you’ll have to hunt high and low for the keys, but the merciful trade-off is that, even though they can fly, it’s harder for the Raider to find you than in Dead by Daylight.
The latter dials up the tension to ridiculous levels, even though it’s a green cartoon monster you’re fighting, not some skinless, hell-spawned abomination. Dragon Ball: The Breakers uses audio and visual cues to let you know when the Raider is in your area. That doesn’t mean they can see you, but that knowledge is enough to push you to flee.
My second biggest in-game blunder, after mistakenly assuming Cell was invulnerable, was letting fear get the better of me. The survivors have a “prop hunt”-style ability whereby they can disguise themselves as barrels or other inanimate objects, and unless the Raider physically attacks you, the Raider can’t tell the difference. Donning a disguise was exactly what I did when Cell drew near, and prior to switching form, I’d assumed I’d sit there smugly, watching my pursuer walk right past me, oblivious.
What actually happened was that I panicked, sure that he was going to reveal me with a single swipe of his tail. I ran and, seeing a piece of furniture suddenly spring to life, he was on me. There’s a brief time window in which you can rescue downed survivors, but given the map’s size, someone has to be really on the ball to come to your rescue. On top of that, there’s that moral (and practical) quandary – should you really risk your life for someone who couldn’t pretend to be a table?
And still, I’ve only scratched the surface of Dragon Ball: The Breakers and what the beta preview offered. Scattered around one map – the sole map featured in the beta – are little police scooters. Hop on a scooter and you can zoom across the map, but with no way to turn off the built-in siren, you’ve painted a target on your back.
Then there are the NPCs, found cowering around the map. As a Raider you level up from a relatively fragile form to more menacing, powerful incarnations by absorbing human survivors or NPCs. The NPCs are easier to net, thanks to their questionable strategy of cowering in abject fear. This, in turn, throws up another question for the survivors. Do you set about spiriting the NPCs away, knowing that it’ll put you at risk but potentially make the Raider easier to deal with?
You can state your play preference, Survivor or Raider, and prior to diving in, I expected I’d elect to spend most of my time playing as Cell. However, thanks to Dragon Ball: The Breakers’ complexities, it’s just as much fun running, or sneaking, around the map as a survivor as it is descending from the heavens to annihilate them. I suspect you’ll get more out of The Breakers if you have, at least, a cursory awareness of the series, but it’s by no means a requirement.
My biggest reservation based on the Dragon Ball: The Breakers beta preview is that it’ll take a while to get to grips with the game, let alone master it. You can quickly pick up Dead by Daylight’s basics, even if you don’t understand the nuances of each survivor and killer. But my initial explorations left me with more questions than answers.
Despite this bugbear, Dragon Ball: The Breakers’ anime-styled asymmetric action left me wanting more, much more. Provided the full release can build on the beta’s promise, it could well become the bane of my free time. It’s just a shame it’s taken so long for Dragon Ball games to do something this different.
Dragon Ball: The Breakers will launch sometime in 2022, Kamehamehaing its way onto Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC.