Wot I Think: Battleborn

Battleborn [official site] is Gearbox’s hero-shooter-sometimes-a-MOBA-sometimes-co-op-story-sometimes-all-these-other-things… thingummy. Having spent many hours with it I’m no closer to a succinct definition of what it actually is but I can tell you I did not have a great or inspiring time. Here’s why:

Battleborn is… Hmm. The best way I can describe it at the moment is that it’s a Jack-of-all trades bant-fest. There are single player options, co-op story mission options, a lane-pushing MOBA option, some capture point maps and a minion protection game. It feels like, ultimately, your affinity is intended to be primarily for the characters you unlock and you’ll develop preferences with the modes based on your mood and playstyle.

In that respect I think it’s intended as a cross between a toybox and a toolbox, where you pick the things you want to play with and combine that with how you want to play. That concept is a big part of the appeal of games like League of Legends where you develop pools of favoured champions and roles within a team or with games like Destiny where you have a main character and kit them out according to what you need at any given time. But in Battleborn my experience was of an unfocused sprawl that often tipped over into boredom or confusion.

Before I go on, let me be more specific about what you’ll find in Battleborn. It’is a cartoony first person shooter/melee affair. There’s a story campaign of eight chapters and a prologue which deals with the team of Battleborn characters trying to prevent the destruction of the last remaining star, Solus. This can be played alone, with friends in private mission lobbies or on public servers where your group is filled out with strangers. There are also three different PvP modes. One is Capture where you try to capture and hold points, one is Meltdown where you escort minions to a point while trying to prevent enemy minions from doing the same and the other is Incursion which is the game’s lane-pushing map.

Outside the individual play arenas you have your broader account where you level up characters, assign gear to bolster particular builds of characters or styles of play and keep track of various stats. You can also see the entire roster of characters and what you need to do to unlock them. Each has a rank unlock which you can eventually reach just by playing more but if you want to try and get them early they also have a challenge unlock. The stealthy assassin Deande unlocks at level 38 or when you complete The Heliophage mission on advanced. Telekinetic swordswoman Phoebe is bound to rank 22 or you can get her for killing 50 enemy players.

You start out with the prologue which is largely an animated music video and some basic explanation of the game through a primer mission. You need to be online for this even though it’s just the video and a primer. In fact you need to be online for the entire thing, even solo story missions so if you’re playing solo and get booted off the server or your internet conks out, that’s it for saving Solus. I got booted a little bit early on but the servers seem more reliable now so it hasn’t happened the last few days, although I’ve had a few instances where multiplayer post-match information is unavailable thanks to server errors.

Anyhoodle. Yes, prologue. Music video/downbeat hip hop cartoon followed by a mission which introduces several characters and the game’s basic concepts. These include destroying big shards which power things (usually gates to the next area) and using character abilities which are bound to Q and E, with an ultimate ability on F. There’s also one of the better explanations for having limited lives in a game that I’ve heard.

After that you’re informed of some potential mission locations and deposited in the menu.

At this point I decided to try some of the co-op story missions. The game pushes co-op as the main way to play, making those option buttons on the menu screen colourful and enormous compared with the private modes for solo or friends-only co-op which are small and plain.

The thing is, when you do the online matchmade story missions you don’t get to pick the exact mission you want to do. You get matched with a group and offered a selection of three missions which you can then vote for (there’s a fourth option for if you don’t mind). Whatever gets the most votes is what you play. I wanted to follow the story campaign from episode to episode but there wasn’t a way to do that and still play multiplayer unless I got lucky with the maps and the votes.

Assuming that perhaps it didn’t matter about the order of the episodes I played a few of these multiplayer missions but I found them to be confusing. There is a *lot* of information to deal with on screen and in conjunction with the art style’s bright colours and particle effects means there’s a lot of stuff – environment, user interface, other characters, enemies… all competing for your attention. The first person perspective can also make melee combat a really confusing experience, particularly if you find yourself in the midst of several spell effects. When playing Rath and jumping his skirt thing also flips up into your face like this for a moment:

Something which helped me explain this a bit better was dipping back into the Overwatch beta. Obviously that game is hyperfocused as a competitive shooter but it does also involve a roster of diverse characters and is designed around fulfilling map objectives so it’s a useful comparison as you’re often dealing with similar amounts of information. The difference is that the design has been more successfully honed around clarity. When I hear footfall, or the cues for particular abilities in Overwatch I tend to know whether they’re enemy or friendly as well is the character they signal. When I roam the map I rarely lose my bearings because landmarks and structures change. When my ultimate ability is charged the reminder is front and centre on my UI. There’s a crispness in Overwatch where I find woolliness in Battleborn.

Overwatch also doesn’t have to deal with leveling up. Battleborn does, and I can see the appeal because I play MOBAs and those are about guiding your character into particular strengths, curating them according to the needs of the match. But Battleborn’s implementation I found quite clunky. With each level you can pick an augment from a kind of DNA helix which you bring up by pressing 1. At first it’s a choice of two at each level but eventually you’ll progress with a character to the point where a third unlocks.

They work like Heroes Of The Storm upgrades and often tweak abilities adding a lifesteal here or a knockback effect there or maybe a percentage damage increase. But when you have that process in first person rather than the top-down MOBA perspective I find it far harder to parse. It feels like you need to take a few seconds to consider the choices in front of you. In PvE that’s easier to do – wait for a pause between minion waves or step away from the action to a safer space. But in PvP you very often don’t have the luxury of safety during those few seconds so I found the process stressful and disruptive.

The sense of confusion also manifested when it came to narrative objectives in these first co-op story missions. On an archive mission I later found out that we were supposed to have been guarding minions on their way to a point as they transferred data, but when I initially tried it as a co-op thing with strangers it seemed to be that the maps were big enough that it was possible to lose your way exploring side bits and fall behind, thus missing bits of explanation which a teammate had triggered because I was trying to work out how to get back to the group. We ended up failing and I didn’t actually discover why until I played the same mission solo.

The missions themselves feel much of a muchness. They tend to be variations of the themes “waves of minions” and “boss which you hit for a while and then you hit the things which are powering its shield/concealing its weak point and then you hit it for a while again”. Some involve more minions or different kinds of minions but the basic patterns are the same and I found myself zoning out, holding the left mouse button to keep firing at whatever was in front of me. I think more variation in enemies and in how you need to deal with them would have helped, but as it is they can feel like a slurry of bodies to be slogged through rather than separate challenges to face and master.

I don’t think you needed to play through them in order, but alone or with other people I still found them dull. The main difference was that solo they took longer but no-one was unpleasant on voice comms. I should stress that the unpleasantness wasn’t extreme, it’s more that no-one used it apart from to occasionally say things like “for fuck’s sake” and other similar expressions of frustration with teammates. There’s a lack of joy in the actual gameplay – it’s rote and that’s in stark contrast with the layer of non-stop BANTS which the dialogue layers over the whole experience. The dialogue isn’t unfunny, but it is relentless and the jokes do have a tendency to get hammered home. I think I’d be fonder of it if it wasn’t so at odds with the play experience of the story missions. As it is I get that vaguely uncomfortable feeling like when a comedian is performing to the wrong audience and there’s a cavernous silence absorbing the humour.

A particularly frustrating experience was when I got stuck on a mission when playing solo. It’s called The Saboteur and I believe it’s actually problematic enough that it’s going to be tweaked soon. I’d get pretty far and it would take up the best part of an hour with me left clicking my way through minions and using my abilities as per the demands of the situation. One particular wave was giving me (and apparently a lot of other people) trouble towards the end, though. I didn’t get killed but the objective did and thus the mission was a failure. I’d need to start the process over again. I’m not taking issue with the fact I needed to repeat – I’m fine with needing to learn or change – but I am taking issue with the fact that the repetition wasn’t entertaining or interesting as I tried to unpick what I needed to do differently. I tried several characters and got to the same point but the feel of the mission and the ways of dealing with the waves didn’t change in any meaningful way despite me deliberately picking characters who seemed geared to solving the problem I was having in various ways.

I would have liked to immediately swap to playing the mission co-operatively with strangers but the limitations on selecting campaigns mean you need to gamble on getting the mission you want in your selection and then on other people voting for it. Gearbox have said on Reddit that this is due to not wanting to fracture their player base while it’s still small and end up with long load times but it’s still frustrating. That issue also bleeds into the PvP modes, too. For example, I’ve tried multiple times to have a go on the Incursion map called Echelon but every single time the alternative, Overgrowth, gets more votes so I haven’t even set foot in it. Oh, and to complete The Saboteur mission I was stuck on I ended up waiting for a friend who also had access to the game to install it and we did it in tandem.

Let’s move onto the PvP side of the game as that’s where I think the people who do click with the game will spend a lot of their time.

Incursion is the lane-push mode. I’ve spoken about it before and I know some people are enjoying it but it still hasn’t clicked with me. You have a basic lane set up and minion waves waddle down it towards the enemy end. You’re not trying to destroy a base, just the two sentry units which obstruct your progress. To help you out there are thrall mercenary camps which you can get to fight for you by beating them up and crystal shards you can collect in order to build little turrets on marked platforms which will also add to your firepower. You can also set up gear loadouts to augment your character during a match.

As with pretty much any lane-pusher it’s about knowing when and how to apply pressure. Sometimes that will be by taking a mercenary camp and adding more bodies to a fight, sometimes it will be about holding off on using abilities until there’s a good opportunity, sometimes it will be about leaping in and hammering your abilities into the opposing side’s faces. The thing is, I only caught glimpses of that potential.

The developers have said that there is an Elo-based system running behind the scenes. But for whatever reason the matches rarely felt even. There were frequent one-sided stomps and, where the matches did go on for longer they felt more like a stalemate than a back and forth or a tussle. The game also displays people’s command rank when you boot into a game (which is linked to the experience earned and time spent playing rather than any match-making ranking) so the *impression* is of weirdly imbalanced teams. I’m wondering if just removing that number from the match screens would help in giving a better impression of the balance of matches.

At the moment teams seem prone to surrender, assuming they can’t make a comeback, as soon as their first sentry goes down. There are also expressions of frustration which aren’t new to the genre but I think are exacerbated by the present appearance of matchmaking and the stompiness of some games – one chap accusing people of wasting his time over voice comms when they didn’t agree to a surrender vote, another player kicked off about noob players.

Obviously these accusations and strops might happen anyway because of the joys of competitive gaming but I think that actually being able to see that players with fledgling accounts are bundled in with the people who have been power gaming and zooming up the ranks primes the playspace for problems. As an example, my last match had one rank 49 player and two rank 3 players on one side and their opponents didn’t have anyone higher than rank 16. Even if you know an Elo system is in play it looks weird and, even if they’re being matched in terms of skill it’s probably fair to assume a rank 3 player doesn’t have the map familiarity of a rank 49 player.

I enjoyed the Capture mode far more because the mode seemed to have more clarity just by dint of the objectives being more obvious, perhaps, and the players seemed more inclined to fight for comebacks if they fell behind – fewer surrenders and fewer players simply dropping out. This is the one I’d probably play if I stuck with the game, although it still doesn’t achieve the excitement and more-ishness of Control maps in other games. To bring consoles into the equation for a second, this is no Destiny Control.

Meltdown felt more prone to stalemates, fights shifting from one side of the arena to the other but not feeling particularly momentous. Smite does a good riff on the minion-delivery-to-portal idea with its Arena mode. You have a circular space with some buff camps down the side and the minions charge down the centre. You’re sort of keeping an eye on them but also just rampaging around, killing foes and using that to also contribute some victory points. It seems to better understand the relationship between what players enjoy doing and rewarding them for that. By contrast Battleborn’s Meltdown mode felt… how do I put it? Mulchy? Out of focus?

I found myself wondering whether matters could have been improved by going free-to-play and adopting a far longer beta phase. Maybe that could have helped build up the player base or point out the parts which people loved and thus direct the focus. Peeking at the daily Steam stats a few times last weeks the peak concurrent players I saw was about 12k – nowhere near the top ten. Checking now it’s a little over 6k. To give you a bit of perspective, that puts it at 57th on the list. Three places lower than Gearbox’s four year old game, Borderlands 2.

That’s the problem for me, really. For everything Battleborn does, another game does it better. Maybe there are people who want all of those things in one place and want to play them with these particular characters but if you want a MOBA, Dota 2 and LoL have huge userbases and passionate communities just waiting to hook you in. If you want a console-y shooter with character malleability and cool toys you want to slog for there’s Destiny. If you want a competitive shooter with that fun, cartoony element Overwatch is coming. If it’s story you’re after there are whole libraries of games with more compelling narrative, same if you’ve got a yearning for co-op.

Battleborn isn’t a bad game in the sense that it lacks work or effort – the team has clearly put in the hours – it’s just that, for me, it’s an uninspiring result which can’t justify its hefty price tag.

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72 Comments

  1. OmNomNom says:

    Yeah Battleborn is just so…. dull. You never feel like you’re making much of an impact in the game with anyone, there are no killstreaks and nothing that ever stands out about a specific round.

    Overwatch is hardly the deepest game either but its definitely more ‘fun’. Probably the best of the current bunch of pretend MOBA but not really MOBA games (Paladins, Paragon, Overwatch, Battleborn)

    • shloo says:

      No impact on PVP matches? Its 5v5 PVP I’m not sure how you could feel like you don’t have an impact. I have been playing for the past week and while the start classes do feel dull, after unlocking the more complex classes, I can definitely see the difference I bring to a match.

      • OmNomNom says:

        It’s just so attritioney, it doesn’t feel like you make any immediate impact to anything. Not ‘exciting’.

    • Fnord73 says:

      I read unto the first screenshot of the action, and then… Ill get back to reading it tomorrow, because RPS is always a good read, but DAMN, thats a bad interface. Not for me.

    • TormDK says:

      What are you on about?

      There is both assist streaks and kill streaks in Battleborn, and you get both command xp points and Credits (for purchasing loot packs) for getting them.

    • jamesgecko says:

      I’m not sure I’d classify Overwatch as “pretend MOBA.” It feels more like a TF2 sequel where someone forgot to stop adding new classes.

  2. bateleur says:

    “Even if you know an Elo system is in play it looks weird”

    I do wish designers would stop using Elo ratings for games which aren’t 1-vs-1 or which contain random elements. They just don’t work and it’s not surprising that they don’t if you look at the maths.

    • Ksempac says:

      Developers are perfectly aware of the limitations of the Elo rating system.

      The truth is most big multiplayer games theses days don’t use a straight Elo rating system, it’s just that we usually call whatever ranking algorithm is used an “Elo rating system” for a few reasons:
      1- Usually theses algorithms are hidden (either by just being on servers only, and sometimes because they are valuable intellectual property), so we don’t have their actual formula, much less their names.
      2- General public doesn’t know shit about ranking algorithms, so for journalists (or a community manager) it’s just easier to say “an Elo system” (which doesn’t mean anything at all…there is the Elo system and then there are others algorithms).

      • Ksempac says:

        (continuing because my post was too long)

        To use only one example, CS:GO has an hidden, proprietary algorithm, but the devs have said in the past that it is derived from the Glicko-2 rating system.
        And if you check on Wikipedia what the Glicko-2 algorithm does is introduce the notion of “reliability” in the rating. Contrary to Elo, Glicko-2 doesn’t just rate you as a specific number, it takes into accounts how many datapoints it has, and how fresh the data is to determine how confident it is about your rating. So, for example, a player who hasn’t played for 6 months will keep his points, but the reliability of that rating will go down, and if they come back later on, their rating might go through a huge change to account for the generated unreliability.

        And that unreliability factor is also what allows developers to rank games with team-based game with random elements. Play your first few games, and it will try to rank you, but internally it will also give you a high unreliability factor. That factor will then be used to swing you up and down as needed with each new game played. As you play, the randomness of games will even out, your reliability score will go up, and your rating will start to stabilize and zero-in on an accurate value.

        So yeah, play a AAA multiplayer game such as a MOBA or a multiplayer FPS, and even if you see a point value (like MMR for Dota 2), there is a very high chance it doesn’t represent an actual Elo rating, but just a simplified view of a complex set of values the game uses to rate you.

  3. GernauMorat says:

    I know it’s subjective, but the art style they’ve gone for is so fantastically hideous to me.

    • Doomlord says:

      I can’t help but agree, the art just doesn’t work for me at all in Battleborn.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      I don’t think it’s ugly, it’s just.. not compelling to me. And I mean that about the art design in general, because the UI looks like a flash or mobile game. That kinda worked with Awesomenauts, but not with Battleborn.

    • nimbulan says:

      I wouldn’t say that the art is ugly per se, but it’s VERY poor for clarity – everything just turns into a giant blur of bright colors with nothing being very distinct.

    • KDR_11k says:

      I certainly agree but then again I find the Borderlands games hideous too.

      • Ragnar says:

        I like the look of Borderlands, they’re like playing through a beautiful comic book.

        Battleborn looks kind of garish, and can be a mess visually at times.

        • aircool says:

          Spot on!

        • Arkayjiya says:

          I don’t like Borderland as a game, but I really loved the art style. Battleborn really doesn’t look appealing to me, at all.

      • OmNomNom says:

        Yeah i found this far worse than borderlands.
        You could say Overwatch looks similar too but it is somehow less cluttered and confusing

        • Evil Pancakes says:

          I think it might be because Overwatch tends to reserve the really vibrant colours for characters and abilities, while for the environments themselves much more understated colours are used.
          Whereas in Battleborn, from what I’ve seen in videos and screenshots, everything is an explosion of colour. Which is an improvement over the brown/gray of the past console gen, but I think they went a bit too far in the other direction with this one.

    • exile2k4 says:

      Completely agree on the art style – while it’s not to my taste, I think individual characters/assets are fine, but any in game screenshot or video just looks like a mess to me.

    • hanshanshans says:

      Yeah, the art style looks like disneyfied Borderlands to me. It’s like they said: Let’s take that silly-vulgar-violent thing we have but let’s make it, you know, for kids.

    • Durgendorf says:

      I’d say it’s ugly, although I hadn’t thought so when I saw previous shots in passing. The low poly and coloring remind me of Evil Genius, which I never thought worked with the theme way back then.

    • Durgendorf says:

      Low poly isn’t really right, I guess. There’s a buttload of poly. But it looks cheaper than good low poly.

  4. Doomlord says:

    Color me totally not surprised. While Borderlands had some redeeming qualities, many of things mentioned here could easily describe most Gearbox games. Forced, unfunny humor and lame characters, somewhat boring gameplay, too much happening on the screen. I had to gamble between this one and Overwatch and I’m happy that I picked correctly in taking Overwatch with my pre-order.

    • Tacroy says:

      alternatively, you could have refrained from pre-ordering.

    • nimbulan says:

      The way I would describe it is that it’s like another company trying to copy Borderlands without understanding what made that game work. I realize some people really don’t like the writing and humor, but it fits within the context of the game world. The gameplay has good impact and feel, and the graphical style is very clear even when there’s a lot of stuff going on. They screwed all these things up with Battleborn.

      It feels like a similar situation to what’s happening with DICE, where they publicly admitted they don’t understand why Bad Company 2 is so well-regarded compared to their newer games, while the quality of their games keeps dropping.

    • OmNomNom says:

      Pre-ordering is never the correct answer

      • welverin says:

        Sure it is, and with most places offering refunds now, it’s even no risk.

        • Zelos says:

          You’ve been brainwashed. There’s typically no benefit to preordering AAA games.

          If there isn’t a legitimate chance of a game selling out and never being restocked, then preordering is silly. That’s the actual point of pre-ordering for the consumer. You are guaranteed a copy.

          But these days, that’s rarely an issue outside of limited collectors editions. Pre-orders are a scam. There’s literally zero risk of you not finding a copy. Publishers just want to make sure they have your money before any bad press/reviews get out and you change your mind.

          • anHorse says:

            “There’s typically no benefit to preordering AAA games.”

            Dunno about that, a whole bunch of different retailers now have games available pretty cheaply for preorder with the price rising nearer to and after launch

            Like sure it’s still a really bad habit but there are significant financial savings to be made from preordering sometimes

          • Arkayjiya says:

            I don’t know about typically, but I pre-ordered Overwatch for a combination of reasons: 1) I tested the game thoroughly during the open beta 2) the influx of players allowed me to test the server stability (and remark that Blizzard was willing to rent servers from Amazon for peak times) 3) I wanted to play tracer in HotS while waiting for OW.

      • TormDK says:

        I preorder mostly out of spites for comments like this.

  5. orionite says:

    I’ve only just started, but one thing that bothers me about the solo campaign experience is that the missions seem so long without any way of saving in the middle. I game a lot, but I also have to step away from the computer sometimes, or even just quit. If you have to commit to 45-60 minutes of uninterrupted game play, even for solo, then this could be a showstopper for me.

    • Ragnar says:

      I don’t know if they changed it since beta, but the story missions were clearly not designed for solo play, and thus were an unbalanced slog solo.

      I could spend an hour and get 2/3 of the way through a mission solo before failing, or I could join four random strangers and blast through that same mission in half an hour with 1-2 deaths at most.

  6. Megakoresh says:

    Most of the problems with this game are a result of poor balancing decisions. Definitely fixable by patching, but I have a feeling that picking this game up was a mistake in the end, as Gearbox are not the kind of company who will show good post-release support for a game that didn’t top the charts.

  7. Kirudub says:

    If you want to play solo and succeed, I’d recommend that you:
    1) don’t play as a melee character
    2) learn how to use your “powers” effectively
    3) collect as many shards as you can
    4) using those shards, deploy as many turrets and drones as you can to help thin out the waves.

  8. LintMan says:

    Online only? No LAN or offline play? WTF Gearbox? The Borderlands series had that stuff years ago!

    • Janichsan says:

      This is not Borderlands. Battleborn is supposed to be a multiplayer-centric MOBA-like. The focus is completely different.

      • BlackMageMario says:

        That does not adequately explain why the single player modes have to be played online. Technically Borderlands is intended to be played co-op as well (its generally a more dynamic and exciting game when you play with three other people) but it allows you to play solo without being online.

        Just a poor showing it seems.

        • Kitsunin says:

          Solo modes have to be played online because they suck butt played solo. Borderlands doesn’t shine, but still works perfectly fine as a solo experience.

          So yeah, poor showing, but they were perfectly right to require internet access considering the game, and the piss-poor job it does at allowing for solo play.

          • Arkayjiya says:

            If your solo mode is shitty, it shouldn’t exist in the first place, or should be rebalanced until it’s not shitty anymore at which point playing the solo online would be an issue again.

  9. Premium User Badge

    TehK says:

    A nicely written article with very good points, Pip!

    I’ve played in that open beta event thingy they’ve done and it really is the same problem for me: It is not a bad game per se – I really liked the art style and the over-the-top character design, but it just didn’t make me really want to come back to it.

    Something seems to be missing and it might very well be that other games simply focus more on one thing they want to do and just do it better.

  10. aircool says:

    I instantly felt at odds with the visual style. It’s just a fucking mess. Lots of flashing, lots of colours; it’s like watching a childrens cartoon at 10x speed whilst to close to the screen and having the sound too loud.

    The intro and ‘tutorial’ (at least to my cynical mind) felt like it was designed to put you over the Steam 2 Hour limit for refunds. I guess we can expect to see 1 hour 59 minute unskippable intro’s in future games…

    I decided to get a refund as initial impressions were crappy, in your face graphics and too much visual noise.

    I love the first two Borderlands games, they’re on of the few games that I’ve completed at least more than once. I love the visual style of the games, the humour and sound design. None of these positives seem to have been carried over to Battleborn.

  11. Faults says:

    I played the beta, and my thoughts are basically exactly the same as this review. Dull, uninspired, rote, unfunny, visually noisy. And that art style. Good grief, it’s dreadful. The game tries so desperately hard to have ‘character’ that it ends up showing up its complete lack of actual character.

    I’m honestly not sure if this feels like the product of too much focus testing, or not enough focus testing. Eitherway, it’s fucking garbage.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Grizzly says:

    I do wonder if your experience with other players had been different if Overwatch had not put out it’s open beta at the same time.

  13. Josith says:

    Also worth mentioning I think, to any vaguely seasoned gamer, normal mode is an utter steamroll. Too easy to even bother with co-op, more players would just make it easy to the point you’ll play 1-handed/go afk without a worry. For a game that likely foresees Story players moving on to versus (to then get rekt by Galilea + Miko + whoever combos) perhaps the campaign should pose more of a challenge.
    And there appears to be no option to search for Advanced mode on public… So public will always be a breeze. I’ve been doing Story private on Advanced with 2 friends so we had some challenge. Advanced is quite a step up and you’ll likely struggle to solo with various characters, if it’s possible at all. Somebody said not to play a melee character solo, but really on Normal mode, do as you please, I suppose it could vary a bit on the mission. But feels more like “Easy mode”.

  14. Skandranon says:

    Man, it seems like everyone had the exact opposite reaction as me. I’ve been loving the game, both story and PVP modes. It mostly just hits the right notes for me. I especially love the unlock system.

    By contrast, I felt like I did everything I was ever gonna do in Overwatch after 3 hours. It just bored me really quickly. Bad level design was a big part of it.

    I do agree about the difficulty of playing a melee character though. Personally I think the whole game would benefit immensely from a shift to 3rd person.

    Then again,I think that of almost all first person games.

    • ToozdaysChild says:

      Same here. About the only valid complaints I’ve seen raised are the visual noisyness Tthe particle effects. My God, the particle effects.) and the lack of depth in the campaign. But the first can be overlooked with time, and the second can change with patches/expansions. All the other complaints I’ve seen levied against this game (didn’t think it was funny, didn’t like the art style, didn’t like the PvP) are all purely subjective. Hell, the humor and art style were a selling point for me, and I’ve found the pvp to be just as fun as any MOBA, if not more so.

    • Sir_Brizz says:

      I agree. I’m really enjoying the game but I’ve also intentionally been ignoring Overwatch (as far as actually playing it, watched many streams) because it is typical over-hyped crap from Blizzard these days. The netcode in that game is particularly horrible but everyone still thinks it’s the best game ever made.

      I loved the art style in Borderlands and this is more of the same generally speaking. I do think some of the effects are overwrought but I don’t think it hurts visibility as much as people are claiming here. The writing also gets the occasional chuckle and eyeroll from me, which is obviously intended.

      I think the main thing that puts people off this game when comparing it to Overwatch is that the game is, by design, much slower than Overwatch is. The TTK in Overwatch is less than 1% what it is in Battleborn most of the time. You can kill people in one shot at times in Overwatch and that can’t happen in Battleborn. They are completely different styles of games despite appearing to be similar in a few ways and so I feel the comparisons are neither justified nor fair.

      • Megakoresh says:

        TTK in Battleborn IS a problem. I don’t mind longer TTK, but Battleborn is completely stupidly long. It’s a shooter, or at least partially pretends to be. A TTK that is about 3 times higher than Smite, which is not a shooter in any way, is definitely wrong.

        • TormDK says:

          I think you will find that many of the softer battleborn will be dead by the time the stun that hit them is over.

          Especially if you gear and Helix towards front loaded damage.

          So TTK is not a problem as I see it. It’s very DOTA2 from my experience. You harrash your opponents, ever so slowly whitling down their health untill you are ready to strike, and then people die.

          This also makes the healer schroom fairly close to essential in your team, since it is simply the best at keeping people topped up at all times.

          Hopefully Gearbox will either nerf the schroom, or buff the other supports’ options for keeping their team in fighting condition.

      • Arkayjiya says:

        “The netcode in that game is particularly horrible but everyone still thinks it’s the best game ever made.”

        You mean the netcode that has been praised by professional players before the game even entered beta state? The only valid complaint I’ve seen about it is the 20 Hz server to client frequency, everything else is incredible. On top of that, technically, the fluidity is amazing (I can’t go under 60 FPS even if I try my hardest, I just haven’t been able to)

        As far as the comparison goes, they’re often justified actually. Some in this article are for example (the one about learning how to do particle effect right for example as they’re both first person with abilities, the comparison is pertinent). In the end they’re also sometimes justified for simple virtue of having a lot of potential consumer who wants one but won’t buy both. I’ve seen dozen of people saying after the played both that they’ll go on Battleborn over Overwatch for this or this reason, or the opposite. And they’re perfectly valid reasons.

    • Jovian09 says:

      I’m with you. I’m really enjoying the game, especially since I’ve found a few characters I can focus on and mesh with. I find the story and multiplayer fun, especially with a friend — I do believe that’s how these games are meant to be played. But there is a LOT happening at ground level and yes, a third person option would be extremely beneficial. The biggest problem is probably the dropouts. In a 5v5 match that could last for half an hour, someone dropping out kills the team and the match.

  15. RATHSKELLARB says:

    I’ll be honest, I’m normally a fan of Rock, Paper, Shotgun Reviews; however, I do feel this one really falls short of adequately investigating and reviewing a game for the real gamer – not just for another reviewer. Starting out by calling a technique like cell shading as accepted in the industry as ‘cartoony’ does undermine the premise of a fair, unbiased review that’s relevant to the non-critic. I’m not nit-picking either – it feels like an initial dislike of the game determines the tone, and overall judgement of the review, to the point where the article feels to have purposefully missed out on what makes Battleborne a Gearbox game and more a rant against the detriments of MOBA’s as a whole.

    As someone who’s been in the overwatch beta since the start, and also someone who’s played battleborne extensively I’d say that both of the games do overlap and have their own points where they excel. I do respect the author’s ability to write reviews, but I’d like to see a second opinion.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      ‘Cartoony’ is not a perjorative. The art style is pretty clearly cartoon-y. Cell-shading is often cartoon-y (although this isn’t cartoon-y just because of the cell shading).

      I think you seem to have read that as dismissive, when it was really just a dispassionate observation on what the art style is doing. That might have coloured the rest of your review?

      Also Pip wrote this. She’s like Number One Head MOBA at RPS. She writes all the eSports coverage. It doesn’t seem a fair assessment that this is ranting on the detriments of MOBAs as a whole.

      I will say that Borderlands (& thus the Gearbox style) has never really seemed to click with RPS as a whole, so I’m unsurprised it’s not acting as a selling point in this instance.

    • shaydeeadi says:

      Also, I don’t think it’s fair to use the steam player stats in the review, basically calling ‘Dead Game!’ on it before it’s got going. I don’t think Gearbox could of released this at a more awful time though in one of the busiest springs for big games I’ve seen in a while.

      If I hadn’t bought DSIII the other week I’d be all over this, personally I thought Overwatch was polished but a completely forgettable TF2 clone, kinda wish I’d tried Battleborn instead, free weekend coming up? Randy? Randy! …….

    • Ragnar says:

      I’m not sure why you take issue with the review outside of it not agreeing with your views (which certainly happens – I loved Sleeping Dogs where the RPS reviews was “meh”).

      “Cartoony” isn’t a negative, it just describes the art style. Banner Sage is cartoony, and it looks gorgeous.

      Likewise, Pip is the RPS MOBA expert. I don’t think you’ll find someone more appreciative of MOBAs at RPS than her.

      And what does make Battleborn a Gearbox game? Aliens: Colonial Marines, Duke Nukem Forever, and Brothers in Arms are all Gearbox games. Do you mean that it’s a colorful FPS with over the top characters, humour, and random loot drops to collect? Pretty sure Pip covered that.

      Personally, I found Battleborn disappointing. I didn’t like it’s art style, despite loving the look of Borderlands. Likewise I didn’t find the characters nearly as interesting as those from Borderlands. The humour mostly fell flat, like the least funny bits of Borderlands. The random loot was the least exciting loot I’ve come across outside of The Witcher. I like that it included a co-op campaign, but playing through the campaign felt rather empty and boring, and the shooting just didn’t feel substantial or fun.

    • Arkayjiya says:

      There is no such thing as an unbiased review and there should not be, that’s complete mistake in premise from the start.

      Also cartoony is not an insult, and it feels pretty appropriate to me for Battleborn.

  16. Premium User Badge

    keithzg says:

    “trying to prevent the destruction of the last remaining star” sounds like such a wonderful high-concept premise; too bad it’s just apparently a vague backdrop for bants.

    (Uhh, but what are bants? I swear a few months ago all the UK games people I read and listen to started using the word, but it came out of nowhere for me. Judging by context and seeming-entymology I’ve assumed it’s just some UK slang for “quip” derived from being an atomic unit of banter, am I right?)

    • RadicalHorse says:

      In the trailer when they show the last star, you can clearly see that space in the background is full of stars :)

      • Ragnar says:

        That’s just the residual light from stars that have already been destroyed.

        FTL travel be crazy!

  17. Mr Ogs says:

    I disagree with this review and note what some of the others are saying about its strange negative vibes.
    I get that a lot of people wont gel with the game, the styling is that of an 80’s cartoon, being a child of the 80’s this sits perfectly and reminds me of those epic shows we used to watch like MASK, Transformers, TMNT, the list goes on.
    It can be a little frustrating to get into, and there are elements of the game being bastard hard at times, which a lot of people aren’t used to. The game scales the difficulty in PVE to the number of players, so being dropped in to some of the levels will result in disaster.
    The fact some people will always be cockends over teamspeak is not the fault of the game, and you can mute them if needed.
    But once you get over the teething process it settles into something fun to play, especially with friends.

    • Arkayjiya says:

      You mean that it’s strange that a reviewer who didn’t like the game that much would be overall pretty negative about it?

      I don’t know what’s happening with all the people that absolutely need to question the suspiciousness of a relatively well expressed opinion they don’t agree with…

      “The fact some people will always be cockends over teamspeak is not the fault of the game, and you can mute them if needed.”

      Which is pretty irrelevant to the end user. If I go into a game, I’d like to know if I’m going to get insulted. A review is more than a list of plus and minus to determine if the devs are great guy or incompetent squats before grading the game itself (fortunately RPS don’t use grades), it’s also a collection of relevant informations, and that is relevant information.
      The fact that you can mute them is a good and relevant info though, you’re right to point that one out.

      In any case, I certainly hope you have fun, team games with friends really are a lot of fun!

  18. -Spooky- says:

    Overwatch: Grinding for cosmetics
    Battleborn: Grinding for useful gear in combat (Single / Multi)

    Both games are fun with friends. Period. *shrug*

  19. math0ne says:

    I really enjoyed this game, and would prob play quite a bit more of it, but there is just no way it’s worth 60$. Pricing on this seems like a terribly limiting decision.

    • Tekrunner says:

      Agreed. I had some fun with the open-beta, but not nearly enough to pay 60$ for the game. Will most likely get it once it’s significantly discounted.

  20. davrieb says:

    Good review. I mean that in that sense that I definitely feel everything you said.

    On the whole my experience with the game was a truckload more positive. The biggest weakness for me is that just jumping into multiplayer and relying on the matchmaking invariably turns out to be a frustrating experience. Somehow I just end up with a team that seems confused by the whole experience more often than not, and they end up just playing like it was team deathmatch.

    By now I tend to avoid playing pvp unless I can recruit at least one other player on Discord. I guess just spamming commands to everyone through in-game chat could work as well, but I’m just a bit too shy for that.

    • davrieb says:

      Oh what? I said to have had a positive experience and then just went on to talk just about the negative. Let’s change that.

      I mostly play FPS games, but consider myself below average skill-wise. I don’t think that will ever change. The typical arena-shooter to me is just frustrating. Cannon-fodder isn’t all that much fun, being at the wrong end of the cannon. Not really a fan of MOBAs either.

      Somehow Battleborn managed to hit just the right combination of FPS and MOBA mechanics for me. I’m not entirely sure how to explain it, but this is one PVP shooter that just feels good to play.

      Another thing is that the art style kinda clicks with me. One of the strong points for me are all the little hand-drawn 2D-ish animation elements. I just think any explosion ought’ta like they do in the cartoons from the 80s and 90s.

      As for Overwatch, I’ll be getting that too. Not really all that exciting, but having a better-than-TF2 TF2 is still awesome.