Battleborn is Gearbox Software’s first foray in the increasingly crowded MOBA space. In a bold move (and a departure from the norm for the genre), they have elected to go with the full retail release model (over the player-base-building free to play system). The game debuted at $60, but can currently be obtained for less than half of that in many instances.
Battleborn changes up the traditional MOBA setup by casting players in a first person viewpoint. Guarding defensive points and killing or protecting minion “creeps” still plays a large part in the game, and effectively managing your NPC troops can be powerful and often necessary strategy. Players engage in team fights and pushing lanes while attempting to kill the opposing team and destroy their hard points. The characters are interesting enough, while not quite eliciting that “Oh **** I’m going to play THAT GUY!” experience that really draws players in. Characters do level up during play, and as you continue to rank up a character, you get some varied options to choose from to change how your powers work (ranging from minute tweaks to complete overhauls). This does allow for a mild amount of customization (albeit mostly within a small subset of competitively viable characters; more on that below).
I was initially excited for Battleborn, and picked it up a few short days/weeks prior to Overwatch being released. While initially fairly fun, this is, quite simply, an off brand beater/lemon automobile with a nice enough paint job to be moved off the lot and into someone’s garage (unfortunately, in this case, that someone was me). The single player/co-op is only interesting the first few times you play each level (and you’ll play each one a lot, likely, as there are only 8 levels, which somehow still dwarfs the number of maps available in multiplayer, at 6, with only 2 per game type.). The campaign is fraught with issues, including lackluster broadcasting of objectives, terrible matchmaking (makes it difficult to finish the campaign when you cannot queue for specific levels), and balance issues that will make finishing your first campaign difficult bordering on sadistic.
Yeah, yeah, I hear you out there. “It’s a multiplayer game, Zane74! That’s what you should be reviewing!” You are right, and unfortunately, the news is no better in that arena. The lack of maps, coupled with largely uninspired design wears thin the second or third day of heavy play. Character clipping issues will leave you stuck hard on “corners” near rounded items, which is a serious no-no in a twitch based action shooter MOBA <insert additional generic genre buzzwords>. Matchmaking is ****ing awful, often putting together teams so lopsided that they need orthopedic shoes, a back harness, and a prescription bra just to function. Multiplayer matches also have a startling tendency to snowball hard, showcasing a clear winner within minutes of play, but still running the players through 15-20 more minutes of getting their **** packed before queuing up for more of the same. Why does this matter? Its not fun! While I have had similar instances in Overwatch (get over it, these comparisons are going to happen), I still had fun in Overwatch, even when I lost. Losing in Battleborn just doesn’t have that appeal.
I wanted to like Battleborn. I really did. Honestly, for a few blissful days at launch, I sort of did. When compared to the elephant in the room however, it flat out just pales in comparison to Overwatch. The balance isn’t here. The fun is missing too often. Most importantly, however, there flat out is NOT enough content here to warrant a $60 price tag. There just isn’t. Not enough maps, and with only a handful of “god tier” heroes being played, you are really only getting about 8 characters to play, realistically.
I had high hopes for you here Gearbox. You let me down. Judging by your recent fire sale and free-falling concurrent player statistics, it looks like I’m not the only one. Grabbing this title is like gambling on a fart on Taco Tuesday – with the right group of friends and a little more fiber, you might be in for a hilarious and fun-filled night. The alternative (and to my mind, more likely scenario) is likely to have you feeling pretty shitty, a looking to swap into something with cleaner execution.