Some Thoughts on the Current State of Battleborn

Tuesday, February 7, 2017
Image courtesy of Gearbox

It has been a very long time since I played Battleborn. My last few sessions with the game a few months ago were undeniably bad experiences, but I booted it up again recently to see how much things have changed. I played a couple of the new missions (Attikus and the Thrall Rebellion and Toby's Friendship Raid) and a few rounds of multiplayer and while there certainly have been some additions, I wouldn't say that the overall makeup of the game has changed and I don't think I'll be going back again any time soon.

I left Battleborn for two other games; Overwatch and Destiny. Each of those games offered a piece of what I had hoped to find in Battleborn but came up short. I could dance around the point here and go on about my history with games, my preference for story over competition, hell I could even ramble on about Bartle's Taxonomy and how it applies to the player base of Battleborn. The point however is this; I left Battleborn because of its players.

I could not bear the weight of that player base. As I have experienced it, Battleborn's player base has a disproportionate number of players whose sole goal is to make other players live's hell. Almost every match my friends and I got into ended us being matched with a group whose skill far outmatched our own and loved nothing more than to rub our noses in our defeat. I lost count of how many times we ended up against a full group of level 100 players who had completely mastered their heroes and found a particular composition and gear set that exploited the game's systems far to their benefit. Some would even send us post game messages reminding us of their victory amidst a parfait of verbal abuse, obscenity and juvenile remarks. It didn't matter how many matches we played, the vast majority were some variation on this theme.

Image courtesy of Gearbox
What's more is the game seemed to cater to these players and specifically reward their shitty behavior, or at least heighten the demoralizing experience for the other players in the game. The matchmaking system itself took ages to find players but seemed to move very quickly from looking for players close in skill to looking for any players available, increasing our chances of meeting up with another vicious pack of monsters.

The experience of the actual matches was worse than waiting for one to start. The average match lasted at least 20 minutes, win or lose. These long matches stretched out the humiliation of one sided matches all the more, and with no way to change characters or gear sets after the match began, it was entirely possible to find yourself totally outmatched by the opposing team's characters and have no way to change things up. What should have been 20 minutes of high intensity play became 20 minutes of total, demoralizing punishment.

We found that we spent so much time shouldering the vitriol of our opponents that we couldn't even enjoy the opportunity to play with our friends. When the opportunity arose to pick up another PS4 and a copy of Destiny, Battleborn was shelved rather quickly. When Wesley and I discovered Overwatch a few weeks later, we cemented our departure from Battleborn. I was only driven back out of curiosity, the way a kid who has already been bitten might still try to pet an angry cat. I was drawn back hoping for something different but encountered more of the same.

Image courtesy of Gearbox
I'm sure that the new missions were meant to draw back players -like me- who are more interested in the story but I think their reward system left a great deal to be desired. The first run through was novel enough. I got a little more story and some amusing dialogue and could content myself in that. Beyond that, the only things I gained were a few different dialogue snippets. However, at the end of each attempt I was rewarded with more gear.

The gear in Battleborn was clearly engineered for use in the competitive multiplayer. There is no real motivation to use it in the campaign, as every mission is beatable at any difficulty without the aid of the gear at all. The promise of legendary gear does not allure players like me at all. The minute I step back into the competitive arena, I am slaughtered by the dedicated killers that frequent its bloody sands. For people like me who are interested more in the narrative hook, the new operations are little more than a one and done affair. Combined with the continuously poor state of the multiplayer scene is sadly enough for me to close the book on Battleborn.