- Category: Volume 88 (Fall 2016 - Spring 2017)
- Published: 05 October 2016
- Written by JOHN MORANO | STAFF WRITER
In gaming, if a game is dead it is no longer played by a sizable audience. Battleborn is a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena)/first-person shooter game, developed by Gearbox Software (the renowned developers of the Borderlands series). I first heard of the game prior to its release, in 2015; I like MOBAs and shooters, also I loved playing Borderlands, so the game seemed like a must-buy. I managed to get into a beta-test while Battleborn was in its pre-release, during this test the game impressed me and I preordered it. It released in May, I played it, found it to be a solid MOBA/shooter despite some flaws, and reviewed it as 8/10. Just before this fall semester, when I was planning to run my review, I picked up Battleborn again, and immediately wished I hadn’t, because now I have to rewrite my review.
Let’s start with a more detailed explanation of what exactly Battleborn is. A MOBA typically places two teams inside of an enclosed arena, where they compete over objectives/resources. These objectives/resources improve the controlling team’s power, and enable them to destroy the other team. Players in a MOBA select heroes to play as - different heroes have unique abilities/backstories, and Battleborn’s in particular have interesting personalities. There’s Miko, a man/mushroom hybrid, who heals allies/throws kunai, and is supposedly romantically attracted to vegetables. Another hero is Orendi, a deranged four-armed alien who likes to break things (and people) and shoot lasers. Then there’s Ambra, a 12,000 year-old priestess who committed genocide by boiling a planet’s oceans and killing all its inhabitants… Suffice it to say that the “heroes” of Battleborn are a quirky lot.
Battleborn has some positives going for it. For one, it has an actual story campaign, something most MOBAs are lacking. Thanks to the fun coop gameplay, interesting/quirky characters, and solid production value, playing through this story is quite fun. The story itself is well-written in a whimsical sort of way, the sound/voice acting, graphics, and effects are all top-notch It’s also the most high-profile first person shooter/MOBA hybrid on the market (in fact, it may be the only one in existence) so for many who enjoy such games, it may at first seem like a must-buy.
In my original review for Battleborn, I criticized the game’s matchmaking, making mention of long queue times (the wait for matches) and, in particular, how matches were unbalanced. In MOBAs, matchmaking is typically skill based, in League of Legends, for example, no bronze summoner (unskilled/novice) will perform well against a team of diamond summoners (skilled/veteran), or even vice-versa. The occasional stomp can be fun, but most players tend to hope for close games. Unfortunately, Battleborn’s player-base seems to be getting frustrated by a lack of just this; close/evenly matched games are an incredible rarity and, to top all it off, disconnects appear to be common. The game’s website listed it as having skill-based matchmaking, unfortunately four months have passed and matchmaking still hasn’t been fixed, this sort of negligence is unheard of in successful MOBAs.
As a result of these negatives there has been no influx of players, and actually a large number of people have given up on it. Couple a low-player population with a poorly designed matchmaker, and you get a dead videogame.
I personally feel one of the biggest problems Battleborn faces is that its own developers don’t understand exactly what it is. According to Game Rant, Gearbox “doesn’t consider the game to be a MOBA at all.” Whether or not this is true, they certainly haven’t treated their game as a MOBA, MOBAs need regular maintenance (in the form of content updates, balancing and troubleshooting) to survive, and Battleborn has been flat-out neglected. I hate to break it to Gearbox, but regardless of what they claim their game is, it’s a MOBA.
Certainly Battleborn is a fresh take on MOBAs, it’s innovative in several areas of content and gameplay, but that doesn’t exempt it from its genre. I personally find it interesting that Gearbox decided to sell Battleborn at $60, and to additionally sell a $20 season pass/DLC (downloadable content). Most MOBAs are free to play, and they make their money mainly through micro transactions/the sale of optional in-game content, such as boosts and cosmetics, most prominently character skins. Gearbox is clearly aware of this industry standard within the genre, as they have their own in-game store, which conducts such micro transactions. It seems hypocritical for Gearbox to expect to reap all the benefits of belonging to the MOBA genre while accepting none of the burden for maintaining such a game.
When we add Gearbox’s attempt to cash-grab on top of their neglect for their product, I become a lot less inclined toward positivity. I see Battleborn as a 5/10 game, and if it’s not dead right now, it’s certainly dying. I’ve seen games in worse shape brought back, but it’s not common. As it is right now, it’s not a game I’d recommend under any circumstances, and unless it were on sale for less than $20, I’d actively caution anyone against its purchase. Quick disclaimer, I reviewed the PC version of Battleborn, it is possible that console versions, despite being extremely similar, are in a better state.
Photo taken from averagexboxgamer.com