The first time I watched the tutorial for Quantum League, I was a bit baffled. I’m not usually one to get confused when the plot of a time travel movie is discussed, though I wasn’t clever enough to follow Primer. Still, I never thought a video game, let alone a tutorial for a multiplayer arena shooter, would make me feel as dumbfounded. But I played a few rounds, and it started to make sense. When I tried to explain it to my wife, it was like trying to explain baseball to an alien: it’s really something you have to play to fully appreciate.
Quantum League is a multiplayer arena shooter for 1v1 or 2v2 action, but with a major twist: each match consists of several time loops, with each affecting the other. That sounds crazy, I know. But it works—somehow. That’s not to say there isn’t a bit of a learning curve. Each round consists of three time loops—in each loop you have a chance to fight your opponent(s), and make a play for the objective. These time loops aren’t very long, usually 15-30 seconds or so, but you can accomplish a surprising amount in that short time. Once the loop is over, time resets, and you start out on your second loop, with the actions of the first loop being played out by a past version of yourself exactly as you did the first time. Sound complicated for a multiplayer game? Yeah, a little—but stick with me here.
Your past self can be positioned to perform actions in the future in Quantum League. It’s not easy to visualize how at first, but with enough time practicing with time loops, you can actually begin to master the timey-wimey environment. Did you lose a firefight in your first loop? No problem, because once you “die” you merely “desync.” This gives you a chance to resurrect during that loop OR continue on while desynced with the hopes that you can prevent your previous iteration from failing the original firefight. Then whatever action you performed while desynced will be performed. This creates a mind-bending means of strategizing I’ve never seen in a multiplayer game before.
There are multiple game modes in Quantum League, which are tied to whichever arena you’re in. The game modes are pretty common fare, such as a king of the hill style point capture, a game mode where there are multiple points to capture, and a free-for-all mode. The capture modes are perhaps the most strategic of the game modes. Originally, I would sit my character on the objective in all three time loops if I was dominating my opponent. It wasn’t long before they wised up, however, and used their past selves to distract me while using their current self to snag the point at the last moment. Free-for-all is the most straightforward, and perhaps the mode that uses the time loops least. It’s just hard to effectively know when/where to kill an opponent in the future in a mode where you just fight, where you can use the future to your advantage by making smart moves in a mode with fixed capture points.
Sometimes I’ll end a round in Quantum League wondering “what the hell just happened?” Luckily, each round has a replay that shows you exactly what went down during the three time loops at the end. This allows you to get some sort of sense of what happened during the three time loops—something I greatly appreciate. I wish it were possible to replay the rounds more than once, however, or even change your point of view in the post-round view.
Quantum League might boost a unique time loop mechanic, but at its heart, it’s an arena shooter—just on a tiny scale. Matches are one versus one or two versus two, but the small arenas quickly fill up with fighters in multiple different time loops. Luckily, each time you encounter an opponent they have a number above their head, signifying which time loop they’re a part of—that way you can make informed decisions on which one to focus your fire on. Quantum League boasts the normal assortment of weaponry you’d expect, but I wish there were more. The SMG and shotgun are fun to use, but the grenade launcher feels almost useless. The laser gun is a great weapon to use, but it has an incredibly short range. You’re also equipped with a side arm, but I don’t think I ever used it much—the time loops are so short, it’s not easy to run out of ammo on your main weapon.
There are several different characters to choose from in Quantum League. These different characters not only have a distinct look, but they have different abilities that give them a slight boost. These abilities aren’t usually groundbreaking, but they do differentiate the characters slightly without making them more powerful than others. Abilities include damage resistant shields while sprinting, or the ability to see opponents when they’re desynced—which can be a pretty handy way to thwart sneaky strategies.
In a world that is overburdened by multiplayer games, it’s great to see one that stands so far ahead of the pack in terms of originality. Now, it just needs more updates, and a solid playerbase to keep the time loop fun going. As it is right now, most of my game time has been played with friends—finding a game, even after its recent full release, can be a bit difficult. Multiplayer games live and die by their community, and Quantum League deserves a chance.
Quantum League is out now on Steam.
If you like the video game, tabletop, or other technology content that Third Coast Review has to offer, consider donating to our Patreon. We are the only publication in Chicago that regularly reviews video games, and we cover lots of local Chicago-based events and more. If you want to contribute to our coverage of Chicago’s video game scene (and more) please consider becoming a patron. Your support enables us to continue to provide this type of content and more. Patreon.com/3CR
You can also catch us streaming games we’re reviewing and staff favorites on our Twitch channel