Battleborn’s Battle to Merge MOBAs and FPSs
People told me that Gearbox’s Battleborn looked too chaotic to be any good. It did look chaotic, filled with countless fast-talking characters, neon lights, and flashy explosions. However, I wanted to test for myself if it could be any good. With that in mind, I rented the game. After installing it, I was quickly thrown into the brightly colored environment with a prolog.
My first hour of Battleborn gameplay consisted mostly of watching the introduction and that disappointed me a little, early on, because I very much wanted to hop right into playing the game. That being said, it was still enjoyable and gave an explanation to why I was shooting everything up. However, the constant jokes the narrator threw out made it hard to take the fact players are in the middle of a dangerous war very seriously. It took away the sense of urgency and weakened the plot.
The Tragic Tutorial
Once I got to play Battleborn, I found the tutorial to be lacking. I learned what I needed in order to play, but with a lot of unnecessary struggle. From not knowing where to go to not knowing how to jump that high, these problems continued to haunt me with every new level and character. The tutorial lacked directions. The tutorial does not encourage players to collect shards which are used as currency in the game to power turrets for defense or to activate power-ups that players collect. Trial and error played a large role in learning for me, as I chased after other teammates in an effort to learn new maps.
The Real Chaos
The prolog gave back stories to Mellka and Deande, making them a little more rememberable. And with the hope of getting to know the other characters a bit better, I found myself play the story mode cooperatively. Into matchmaking, I went. Sometimes I was placed into a team very quickly. Other times it took so long I wondered if it had broke. Sometimes I would get a full party. Another time I got just one other player and that went remarkably well. Mostly because the player was more skilled than me and rather good at healing. Had they not been, that match would have ended in a lot of frustration. Losing in Battleborn due to the depletion of the team’s shared lives can be pretty upsetting, even if the game’s healing process makes it fair. With each game lasting so long, losing feels devastating.
I found that the real chaos in Battleborn was not found in the overly talkative disembody characters, that should have been telling an engaging story. They quickly faded into the background. It was not found in the bright colors and flashy effects that I quickly became desensitized to. The levels felt largely similar, with a different colored environment, the same smaller monsters, interrupted by an epic boss battle. The real chaos lied in trying to juggle watching my health, leveling, dealing damage, and using my shards in the most efficient ways possible. Like most MOBAs, players level up in-game as well as out of it. Lots of decisions are made on the fly. I found myself looking at characters upgrades when I wasn’t playing so that I could strategically plan and not feel so rushed in the decision-making process.
A Sad Solo Story
One time I was placed into a cooperative battle … alone. That was clearly not meant to be played alone as some levels are near impossible to finish with certain characters. Using a character like Rath, with only ground-bound attacks, suddenly becomes infuriating when the level’s boss begins to float out of reach. Unknowingly playing solo with Miko, a healer, that resembles a walking mushroom and has a rather weak attack would be an unpleasant experience.
I started out as Miko because I was drawn to his unique appearance. Fortunately, I was playing cooperatively. I proceeded to bounce from character to character in my limited rostered until I found a handful of favorites. For me, these included a top hat wearing, steampunk robot, named Marquis as well as an archer named Thorn.
Unfortunately for me, while these snipers are valuable and easy to use in story mode, they are not easy to use in any of the PVP Modes. The first-person perspective and particularly small maps make it difficult to keep up with enemy locations because of how quickly players can move from one side to the other. They lack the distance for ranged characters to be useful and the coverage needed for melee characters to be successful. Additionally, if there was any benefit to working with characters of the same faction, it was difficult to see early on. This took away from the idea of the factions being at war with one another and once again did some major damage to the story. It would be interesting to see alliances and opposing factions pop-up and for there to be bonuses and penalties based on their interactions with one another.
Why I am Still Playing
After not one or two, but three days of renting the game and over a dozen hours of play, I returned it and decided that I wanted my own copy, even after I had missed its sale. With such a unique cast of characters, I found myself wanting to unlock all of them and master my favorites. While the game still has lots of areas it could improve, from toning down the amount of humor, to finding ways to make melee and ranged characters more useful in PVP, I am hopeful that Gearbox will take these into consideration when creating Battleborn‘s new DLC.