Lemnis Gate is a tasty time loop lasagna of a sci-fi first person shooter

Lemnis Gate is a bit of a trip. A first person shooter stuck in a time loop, an experience where you have to pull off split second headshots in order to win, where every second counts, but where you have time to stop, pause and think about your actions before you make them.

It’s a game that’s a bit of a sci-fi brain worm – like an ‘earworm’ of a song that gets stuck in your head, but for cool sci-fi stuff. It’s also a game that I feel is almost sure to overwhelm half the people that try to play it.

The premise of the game is pretty straightforward. In 1v1 and 2v2 objective game modes, you take turns to control one of your characters, setting in motion a chain of particular events that will last until the end of the match. Once a turn has been recorded, the other player can analyse what you’ve done and try to counteract it with their own turn. With one shot or an early intervention, they can wipe out all of your good work, giving them the upper hand.

Here’s the thing: your next turn can go and do exactly the same, wiping out their character and restoring your own one’s actions back to the game’s timeline like Marty McFly fading back into a Polaroid photo.

It is a bit mind-boggling, when you’re watching the actions of previous turns unfold on the map from your drone’s overhead view. You have choices to make for your go, ranging from which character to use, to which objective to head toward and whether you try to be objective focussed or aim instead to take out the opponent’s moves. You also need to be thinking three steps ahead. How is your opponent then going to react and try to cancel your own moves?

Then there’s simply the matter that you need to perform. Confidently step into the limelight and strut your stuff? Or will it turn into a nightmare where you realise you’re late for school, forgotten your homework and are (somehow) completely naked. This is just a torturous way of saying that you still need to be good at first person shooting. The best laid plans won’t help if you can’t then put them into action.

Thankfully, the winner of a match is determined by several factors. There’s a few different objective types, which include grabbing and returning capture balls (‘Retrieve XM’ as the game calls it), shooting capture points to take them to your side, and destroying objectives in an attack/defence mode. Each of these will give you a big bunch of points, but there’s also more points for offing the other side, and other actions. There’s also a pause in the action that resets the field of play at the midway point, so that you can try and make a comeback. It means that mistakes in the first few rounds won’t necessarily end your chances of winning overall – that doesn’t make it any less disheartening to mess everything up by, for example, running into a rocket you fired two rounds ago… Yes, friendly fire is very much a factor here.

That leads me to one of my favourite realisations, for how you could meaningfully reach from one layer of this time loop lasagna to help yourself out in the past. Karl is a friendly robot sort – the kind that’s become quite popular in video games of late, I feel – with an ability to lay down a shield bubble that can block bullets, rockets and everything else. I thought I was being super smart to chase after my first character and drop a bubble between them and the aggressor that cancelled them. Instead, my shield bubble was fired just as the enemy rounded a corner… attaching to and defending them.

That’s right, you can put shield bubbles on other characters, friend or foe. My eyes lit up as I realised I could try and bubble some allies in future (though this proved trickier to do that I’d like, partially through playing the demo via cloud gaming for this preview). It’s just one of countless strategies that I’m sure will emerge as people get to grips with Lemnis Gate.

New for this hands on session were a handful of new maps – Tectonic Wells in Retrieve XM pushes the size and complexity that the mode can really sustain, but opens up the more strategic side of things – as well as a new simultaneous 2v2 Teammates Play Together mode. This puts both players from a team into play at the same time, as opposed to making you all go one at a time, and it ramps up the pace to literally halve the time a match takes. It means there’s less time for discussing plans, and you might fall into a tactical rut because of it, but it’s a speedier, slightly more immediate alternative that I’m sure duos will love to dive into.

Lemnis Gate continues to delight one side of my brain, the hardcore sci-fi fan side, while smoothing over the other, the strategic planning side. It’s such a cool concept and one that I’m sure will appeal to many, but there is a pretty steep learning curve to get over.

Thankfully, Frontier Foundry has decided to try and get as many people in through the (Lemnis) Gate as possible. The game will be releasing on 3rd August across PlayStation, Xbox and PC, and it will have a thoroughly reasonable price of £15.49/$19.99/€16.79. Not only that, but it will be entering into Xbox Game Pass on day one.