It’s a damn good time to be an FPS fan. Not only are we soon to be bombarded by numerous hero shooters like Paladins, Overwatch, BattleBorn, and Law Breakers. But we are also anticipating the rebirth of a franchise that helped father in the first person shooter genre, Doom.
Many, including myself, have been looking forward to the Doom reboot for a long time. It’s open beta announcement made me eager to spend the whole weekend of April 15th playing it. Imagine my surprise when Blizzard finally invited me to stress test Overwatch, another game I’ve been eyeing for over a year. However this was happening, the same weekend Doom would be having its Open Beta. And if that wasn’t enough, BattleBorn was also having their own Open Beta the same 3 days as the aforementioned titles. While I hadn’t payed much attention to BattleBorn due to my history with Gearbox Titles (I can’t stand them), I decided I would give it a shot anyway because of the game's influences from MOBA games.
So that was the plan. Friday Night, Saturday, and Sunday would be dedicated to Overwatch, Doom, and Battleborn. One game a day. With two titles having my highest expectations behind them, and one I didn’t think would be any good at all.
I was right that I would love two of these games, I was just completely wrong about which one I wouldn’t care about. Suddenly my future purchasing priorities began to shift.
Friday night after work. I change clothes, play with the dog for a bit, feed the cat, grab some food, and then sit down to launch BattleNet.
5 hours later I was starting to think that Overwatch would easily be my next game purchase, unless Doom really exceeded my expectations. Never has Rock, Paper, Scissors, Lizard, Spock been taken to such an extreme before.
Because while the core basics of Overwatch’s controls, pacing, and level design where beyond impressive for a first time FPS developer, it was this all important rock-paper-scissors aspect of the game that really gave it legs. Getting to respawn means getting to swap to a new hero to either counter an enemy or adapt to a new situation. The system adds just the right amount of depth into this twist on the classic arena shooter formula. While you won’t be hunting for a bfg or god mode to pick up, the number of characters to select is super strong. Each with their own uniquely coded character controller and set of abilities. I was hooked. And every time I tried to stop I wanted to play one more match. Even if the game’s only two modes were fairly unimaginative, the good was just too great to stop playing. If this was a sign of things to come then this weekend was going to be great.
Saturday Morning. I load up steam, open up the DOOM open beta, and immediately que for matchmaking. After any excitement was drained by looking through the endless pages of loadouts, hack modules, and other cod-like B.S. I finally got into some matches. It wasn’t long after playing a few rounds that a little voice in my head started to think, “Overwatch’s stress test only lasts until 9pm tonight...” But I was determined to give Bethesda’s revamp of a classic a fair shot.
Clearly I was not determined enough. Before even playing Doom for a full hour I was back to playing Overwatch. Learning what heroes where good counters to Reaper, and not to play Pharrah anymore if the other team has two Roadhogs. I could talk about the reasons I no longer have any interest in playing this new “Doom” anymore, but since I didn’t even bother giving it the time of day I don’t really feel I would be in the right to lengthily criticize something I hadn’t fully explored. I did enjoy the level design and thought that while you do move a bit slow, the speed worked great due to the compact and small nature of the two levels available in the beta. And even though the guns should be on that map for us to fight over, they all feel pretty good. I will say however, that as bad as loadouts and not being able to pick up weapons in a Doom game may be, the biggest crime this reboot’s mp commits is that I was able to pull myself away from it. And with minimal mind you.
After spending a bit more of Saturday enjoying Overwatch until the servers went down, I awoke Sunday morning eager to be yet again disappointed by another GearBox title. That way I would see how wrong I was about Doom and could give it a proper try. Clearly Blizzard just made a very good game and Doom just didn’t compare to it. But with Overwatch out of the picture clearly id Software’s latest title would far outweigh Gearbox’s latest attempt to try my patience for toilet humor.
Once again I was dead wrong. BattleBorn quickly proved itself to be one of the most competent blend of genres I have ever encountered.
I was taken aback by how much I loved this game. I had first tried out the single player campaign portion of the Beta, which felt like the polished version of Borderlands, with no damn ClapTrap, that I had always wanted. Enemy health was nowhere near as bullet-spongy. Higher health and larger character models where no longer all that determined a more difficult opponent. Boss battles proved to be large scale and exciting among a group of four all trying their best to dodge abilities and clear creep waves.
But it’s the multiplayer modes in Battleborn that really make it stand out. The two I tried were largely different from each other and being able to win them took completely different tactics. While I was scared of another unlock and loadout system, the game had great balance in place to insure the developers had actually thought them through. The issue with most games with a progression system that can affect loadouts, is that those who play the game more gain a very real advantage. Battlefront was one game that I could not stand because of this. But BattleBorn offers not just one, but two great ways to actually make the system fair for players both old and new.
There are various stations all around the map for you to build healing stations, turrets, and accelerators to boost your team's creeps. These can all be upgraded for more coin and even destroyed by enemy players.
BattleBorn offers incredibly deep systems to dive into, and even more than the one’s I mentioned above. The game really surprised me and is definitely something I will be picking up in the future. The $60 price tag for the game is fair considering its deep multiplayer and well designed campaign missions. I find it asinine however, that after paying that much money you still need to grind to be able to play all the heroes in the game. The game looks to be launching with well over twenty heroes, but you only start with access to very few of them. I prefer Dota or Strife over League or HoTs because I don’t have to put up with the grind. But in those games I can at least understand it because they’re free games. BattleBorn is not free to play, thank god, so why do I have to grind up my account level or complete crazy challenges before I can even try a character in a game I paid hard earned money for? This isn’t a deal breaker for me, but I can’t see the logic behind it either. Other than padding out the game to artificially lengthen the hours it takes to get everything, this locked character system has no place here.
Overwatch’s simple nature of letting me play all the characters to make full use of that great rock-paper-scissors-lizard-spock-tracer-winston-reaper-pharrah-roadhog-zarya system that will never get old and it’s no nonsense core gameplay loop just make it a bit more attractive to me at the moment. I have most likely spent nearly 2k hours in various mobas over the last year and half. If I was less burnt out on complex in depth multiplayer games BattleBorn may have edged this one out for me. For others, having more systems to dig your teeth into will make it more appealing to them. As for Doom. Well, I’m sure it will do a bit better than Evolve.