This is Tom. See Tom game. Game Tom, game! A confirmed bachelor with a confirmed Bachelor degree, he spends his time critically scrutinising the hard work of others. His turn offs include people, places and things!
Xbox One, PS4, PC
May 3, 2016
The battle is on for the last star in the universe. Battleborn; heroes from across the galaxies are clashed in a final showdown. So what happens when a universe of characters converge on to the same screen? Compete for one-liners, naturally.
I was excited for Battleborn. Never mind that I kept mixing it up with that other one also out this month, a brilliant strategy for one marketing department; terrible one for the other. It’s colourful; it’s bold new IP, not just in storyline but with an original and huge cast. It was to be my great second-coming into the world of MOBA’s after a few failed starts.
Instead, reviewing Battleborn frustrated me. It’s not a terrible game, far from it. If it was, reviewing it would be easy. But I’m none-the-less determined to figure out exactly why it is that in the face of giving us everything that should make a game great, I’m left yet unsatisfied.
“…prepare for a grind through some well enough designed, but ultimately predictable game-play.”
Borderlands fans will give an easy answer “Gearbox should have just given us Borderlands 3!” they decry. But in a wasteland of sequels, prequels, pre-sequels and reboots, fresh new content should always be encouraged. Well, if not fresh… perhaps fresh-sealed.
The problem certainly isn’t the character diversity, which is by far the game’s greatest achievement. 25 characters, 5 initially unlocked, the rest through gameplay, all come with their own unique weapons, fighting styles and abilities. And by diverse I’m talking elven-esque archers, Steampunk cybermen, Dude-bro gunners and my personal favorite, a tiny penguin in a massive death-suit named ‘Toby’.
No two characters play the same, and as they are selected per mission, this decision should not be made lightly. Story-line missions can take as long as 45 minutes, where the multiplayer modes are a maximum of 20 minutes; and once selected, there is no going back. For those looking to jump around between styles, approaching missions and multiplayer modes differently each time, this is an ideal playground. For those who like to stick with a character, leveling them up and getting a feel for their game-play before moving onto the next however; prepare for a grind through some well enough designed, but ultimately predictable game-play.
And it’s in these sorts of references that the game starts to fall apart. In short, it feels overly work-shopped. Sure there is plenty there, but what exactly is this game? Is it a MOBA (that’s Multiplayer Online Battle Arena)? Is it an online FPS? A character based campaign? You’d even be forgiven in thinking it’s a ‘Toys to Life’ title by the way it presents like a Saturday morning cartoon. The humour, although laid on thick does occasionally come through with some genuine wit and whimsy. Unfortunately as the story-line gameplay is best in a team, this is often lost to background noise. In overall presentation there was more personality in the trailer than the entire game.
While the inevitable comparisons to the Borderlands art style appears unfounded to me, there is a definite comparison to what I would call American anime. Not quite cartoons, the animated sequences and dialogue, I think it’s fair to say, take strong influence from shows like ‘Venture Bros.’, ‘The Boondocks’, and maybe even a touch of Zim.
So let’s say it’s a MOBA. That’s a hotly competed genre these days. So what makes a successful MOBA? Characters, I guess. Check. Artstyle. Irrelevant, but check. Variety of maps? Well, 3 multiplayer modes with 2 maps each; and 8 story-line missions. Seems limited but maybe I’m just spoiled. As for online matchmaking… this is probably the low point for me. I don’t mind waiting a few minutes for an evenly matched, ideally local game. But to have the entire process start over any time a player gets bored of waiting and leaves the queue, only to put against a team grossly over leveled compared to anyone in your own? Well that good sir, is a fail. There is a patch is out this weekend, so let’s see if they deal with that.
Alas for all that seemed so sweet, the end result is the gaming equivalent of artificial sweeter. Synthetic, leaving no lasting aftertaste. You can have as much as you like, but it’s still not quite the real thing. Harsh? Well maybe. But not necessarily unjust. There is a reason people rely on cheap shots; they have nothing else to say. And perhaps it’s that realization that is the truly harsh statement.