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Battleborn goes free-to-play. Sort of. Half of it.

Battleborn

My brother’s elderly cat decided to start pooping behind the television rather than take himself outside. To combat this my mother set up a row of cacti at cat butt height behind the television and thus began a battle of wills which spanned that cat’s remaining years. Speaking of free-to-play competitive multiplayer scenarios you can enjoy from the comfort of your living room, Battleborn has now made its competitive multiplayer modes available free of charge.

Battleborn [official site] is, in the words of Randy Pitchford, Gearbox’s “FPS; hobby-grade coop campaign; genre blended, multi-mode competitive e-sports; meta-growth, choice + epic Battleborn heroes!”

The update in question is out now and brings what Gearbox are billing as a free trial. They’re still hoping the free sections will encourage people to pick up the full game. The trial is a slice of the game which encompasses the competitive multiplayer, so the Incursion, Meltdown, Capture and Face-Off modes as well as a new one called Supercharge which is scheduled for just after the free trial stuff goes live.

The free-to-play side of things is a familiar format where you get a weekly rotation of free heroes with which to play and can spend in-game or premium currency to own them or to pretty them up. Perhaps this will actually make half of Battleborn into a viable F2P MOBA-ish thing rather than funneling people towards the full game and its story kerfuffle.

I wondered a while back whether 2K (Battleborn’s publisher) would use Turtle Rock’s game Evolve going free-to-play as a test scenario while they worked out what to do with Battleborn. I guess the answer is that they landed on semi-free-to-play as the current solution after various price cuts over its first year couldn’t get it to meet the company’s expectations.

In Gearbox’s words, the trial offers “unlimited access to all competitive multiplayer gameplay modes and maps, without any time limits or level caps. To keep things fresh, there is a weekly rotation of six heroes from the roster of 30 total heroes. Progress with each hero and player account progression is also permanent, so when the same character comes back around players can pick them up where they left off.”

The update is also intending to build on the new player experience. That was fleshed out a bit with a dojo and dedicated training mode in an earlier update but now there will be novice queues where you can play against other newcomers. I’m not sure what’s to stop anyone smurfing, though?

If you do decide you want the other bits of the game, or to unlock heroes, cosmetics and more permanently it sounds like you can either go with the full retail version as normal or buy what you’re interested in via the game’s marketplace either using the currency you can earn by playing or with the premium currency which you get by paying real money. You need the full game to earn achievements and the blog goes into some of the other info players who are going from free to paid Battleborn might want – in-game credit for duplicated content and the like.

If you did buy Battleborn outright you get Founder Status and some bonuses as a reward. The bonus content includes “Legendary Gear, 1,000 Platinum, 50,000 Credits, Loot Packs and more, plus an exclusive “Founder’s Crown” Flair item. What’s flair? These special pieces of gear have visual components for your hero such as ears, horns and headwear.” There’s more on that here with the Founder’s Status blog.

I’m now re-downloading Battleborn to see if any of the changes the devs have made in the past year have improved the game for me. When I reviewed it it left me cold. Battleborn was a sprawling mishmash of tasks, odd or confusing UI decisions, ineffectively communicated story objectives and repetitive missions. The last two apply to the story campaign which won’t be part of the free game slice. Purely thinking about the PvP side, the balance and matchmaking were problematic at best. I remember that in terms of that nebulous “gamefeel” quality Battleborn was as mulchy, dull and unsatisfying to me as Overwatch and Destiny were both tight and fun.

ANYWAY. The free trial is free on Steam and includes the competitive multiplayer bits (so the FPS, the genre-blended multi-mode competitive e-sports and a subset of the choice + epic Battleborn heroes). The full game is £24.99 and has everything else (the hobby-grade coop campaign. and the missing parts of the meta-growth, choice + epic Battleborn heroes).

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Philippa Warr

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