If you’re a Dragon Ball fan, you’ll be familiar with the following scene: the all-powerful bad guy, to show off how strong he is, is rampaging across the planet, indiscriminately murdering its inhabitants. The puny victims are no match for him, and at the end of the rampage whole cities have been wiped completely off the map and thousands are dead. This scene happens in each of Dragon Ball Z’s long sagas, with series antagonists Frieza, Cell, and Buu proving themselves a terrifying force for Goku and his super-powered friends to reckon with. This is why Dragon Ball: The Breakers is perhaps the most hilarious idea for an asymmetrical multiplayer game of all time. In a closed Beta event this weekend, we spent a few hours with the game to check it out.
In Dragon Ball: The Breakers, you play as either the Raider – Frieza, Cell, or Buu, though Buu was not available in this Beta – or one of 7 Survivors, who are just normal people trying to survive another day. The Survivors’ goal is to activate 5 power keys to summon a time machine that’ll get you out of dodge. The Raider’s goal is to prevent that from happening by slaughtering the Survivors.
In a setup similar to Dead by Daylight, Survivors need to navigate the map and activate 5 machines that will call the super time machine. The keys needed to activate them are hidden around the map in storage boxes, so the goal is to find them all without drawing the attention of the Raider. If you are forced to defend yourself, you can transform into one of the Z Fighters for a limited time only – enough to deal some damage to the Raider, while your fellow Survivors activate the machine. The seven dragon balls are also hidden around the map, and finding them all can lend you a serious helping hand.
Raider gameplay is a bit more self-explanatory. each raider starts on Stage 1 – that is, their first form. You have various abilities and attacks you can use to weed out and eliminate Survivors before they activate the time machine. If you ‘finish off’ downed Survivors and cowering NPCs, you can progress to your second, third, and fourth forms to increase your power and wreak more havoc. The most powerful ability allows you to wipe an entire area off the map, reducing the area and any players on it to molten slag.
This is all very classic Dragon Ball stuff. The character designs and animations capture Dragon Ball’s unique energy so far, and the character customisation options were surprisingly broad. It looks like there are plenty of cosmetic upgrades you can spend your in-game money on, like outfits for your survivor or voice lines for your raider.
A few things put a damper on my experience though: all to do with a lack of resources to teach you how to play the game. There is a beginning cutscene and tutorial, but this only teaches you the bare basics of Survivor gameplay. When you’re dropped into the main hub area, even the ‘training room’ doesn’t give you a chance to run around and practice on your own. Your only option is to try to create a training match yourself, which means waiting on 7 more people to complete the room before you can practice. It would have been far more useful to have access to a training match of NPCs that would allow you to practice to your heart’s content.
I lost all of my matches, all playing Survivor, but that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily unfairly balanced, or that it’s bad even if it is. The power imbalance is, at least for the brief few hours we were able to play, part of the enjoyment. It’s hard to feel frustrated at losing against one of the strongest beings in the universe. I mean, what else could I expect? At least I know Goku and his friends will avenge me, and (hopefully) wish me back to life with the dragon balls. We’ll see if the full game will manage to keep that frustration at bay.
It just looks like it will take practice (but a more involved tutorial would be nice, too). Dragon Ball: The Breakers is due to release on October 14 2022 for PS5, PS4, PC, Xbox, and Nintendo Switch.