Now that we’ve had enough time to digest it and see the path that lies ahead for Battleborn I think its time to talk about the game a little more and figure out where it stands in regards to the genre in question. Gearbox has a strange history of mixing genres and has seen success with it with some games (Borderlands) and those that didn’t (Aliens: Colonial Marines)
Why the confusion?
The game itself was careful to distance itself from the genre from very early in it’s development, but for all their talk, the game couldn’t be any closer to a MOBA on paper. The multiplayer maps are clearly inspired by mobas, from the three lanes with minions, the defensive towers, and farmable jungles, there is absolutely no way around it, this game wants to be a MOBA. So why the confusion? Why would the developer tell us it isn’t a MOBA if it is?
Tripping on the skill floor on the way through the door.
When you enter your first multiplayer match there is nothing to indicate the level of strategy needed in order to win a round. A short video plays in the loading area telling you “help get your minions into the enemy generators to score points” and then the doors open and you are sent out to have fun. But to most players who expect a fast match of PVP its not fun. They may never have played League of Legends or Dota 2, and know nothing about pushing lanes, leveling, and farming. They don’t know a jungle camp, from a lane, and not telling them is really hurting their enjoyment of the game. Telling players that “its not a MOBA” is like Battlefield saying that it’s not a First-Person Shooter. They aren’t wrong, they’re just splitting hairs. If you take a shooter and mix it with a MOBA you need to be clear about it up-front, and people will have more fun.
Now it’s too late, but I really did try to tell you…
When the game was in beta, they only let players try a few maps, and they deliberately choose maps and modes that hid the MOBA mechanics from players. When I wrote my initial thoughts about the game it was during the beta, and I wrote that while there were some elements that were close this game stood as a genre all it’s own. But after playing all the game types after release I am less inclined to say so. I also praised the game for keeping everything balanced since players would use the characters in PVP or PVE. But similarly, the characters I played as, and against were just the starters, or some of the early unlocked characters. After release it became clear that there were some very overpowered characters, and some woefully underpowered characters. Tanks who could clear waves of minions and tank damage during PVE fights could do the same thing in PVP, and healers who could keep their team alive and deal decent damage against bosses were simply too good in PVP. But the developers took too long to fix things, and even after some balancing there are some characters who are still too strong, and others that aren’t worth picking.
I really like Battleborn sometimes. The single player is just as good as I had hoped, and the loot collecting aspect is fun, but at the end of the day this game is either a watered down MOBA or a complex shooter, and needs to be treated like one of those things, not left for the players to decide because when your game drops from 12,000 when the game launched to only 200 players logged in at one time every day maybe you didn’t do things right when it comes to selling the game.