Battleborn (Special Episode)

THE GRINDSTONE TRIBUNAL:

Such a monetary investment didn’t have too many from Grindstone along, but there were a few regulars among us, and a few who wanted to chime in quite a bit with the Tribunal this time, Dabeer, Dreskar, Karis, Ran Cossack and myself offer up a few more thoughts.

Dabeer:
Man, this has been a great year for online shooters aimed seeming completely at me. I mean, if The Division wasn’t enough, now we have an entry from Gearbox in their “iconic” Borderlands style with all of its humor and art style, and only half of the feeling of going on for too long. So yes, I could try and type this all up before revealing what I thought of the game, but screw it, anyone who knows me (so the, like, 5 people who will actually read these) already know how much of a mark I am for this game. Instead, I think I’ll spend this space typing out the problems I had with the game before getting to my obvious recommendation. So, to start out… bring your friends on this one, my god. While there are a few story missions that you can complete on your own, and the game does give you the option to find random people to do the story with, the best way to actually have fun with the story is to do it alongside at least one other friend. This is not just so you can actually coordinate with them on a few of the tougher defense missions, but also because a lot of the humor is made all the funnier when you can actually share it with someone. Hard to say whether or not you should follow this rule for the “MOBA-esque” style of PVP though, because while cooperation may be somewhat important, you can accomplish a lot by just doing your own thing, and losing a lot with friends is never fun. Another problem I have is that the story campaign is way too short at the moment for my liking. Sure, I had a lot of fun with it and it is still fun to replay the missions, but there are only 8 story missions, and even with them taking close to an hour for each, it’s only a little over 7 hours of content. Sure, they are going to be adding more story (albeit behind a DLC paywall) but it really feels like there should have been a bit more to the story offerings at release; especially for a full $60 price tag; which brings me to my next point. My god, why does every game released now have to be $60? I mean, even though I liked The Division and spent that much on it, it really is only a $40 game in my opinion, and hell, I think Battleborn should be priced at no more than $30. Hell, the only reason I even started to play Battleborn was because someone gave it to me for free, and I’d honestly say that a fair bit of my enjoyment hinged on that. Hell, if they want to charge $60 for the game, then they should at least have all the DLC they plan on doing be free updates instead. At the very least they don’t make you pay to unlock any characters or skins, but damn; I wouldn’t even pay $60 for a full Borderlands game. I mean, I’m not even saying this because the story is short, but for a game that is so obviously aimed more at the multiplayer aspects, gate-ing people off at $60 just seems absurd to me. Aside from a few other things, such as not letting you choose which story mission you want to do when queuing up for a public story mission, and only 6 different maps for PVP, there’s not really much for me to complain about. And, like I said at the beginning of this rant, I do really enjoy this game, just… it seems like this is a good starting point for something that could be even better, at least for something at the now standard AAA price. Oh yeah, and not just to go against Dreskar, but I loved the rap song in the intro (done by Deltron 3030).
Recommended?: YES. Despite everything said, it is worth it, just try to wait to get it on sale.

Setch Dreskar:
Battleborn is a game with a lot of good ideas and a lot of terrible ideas side by side. Overall the game is a fantastic play experience and has great humor but requires far too many progression walls to make it a great pvp experience. This easily feels like a title that didn’t put much thought into balance and in turn comes off as looking down on new players just starting out by gating away most of the classes and even abilities of said classes until you grind to unlock them.
The rap song used in the introduction is about the worst thing I have ever heard, and while I am not a fan of rap in general the lyrics for this song are terrible and the pacing is inconsistent yet generally slow and follows the usual idea of cringeworthy rap specifically made for a title. The shame of it is they had far better musical choices available to them and the rap feels more like a cynical ‘guess who we got to do a song’ instead of feeling like it actually fits.
The hand drawn mixed with cgi style of the introduction helped setup the game’s mood well and was a welcome change from all the pre-rendered cutscenes we constantly see but this is let down when the ending cinematic for the prologue goes to a lazy, god awful motion comic style that loses all that charm. Karochi jokingly said it’s because they clearly ran out of money and that is why the game is so bloody expensive atop almost requiring the season pass to get all the base content and I feel very cynically that it is 100% true.
The game’s humor, while amazing to listen to for the first few times begins to wear thin quickly due to the constant repeating lines and situations. The campaign is fun to experience the first go around but quickly loses it’s shine when you start playing it repeatedly and the mind numbing nature of the combat begins to set in. I have often caught myself sitting back and bemoaning, ‘oh ya this part…’ which weighs on my enjoyment.
I can safely say this isn’t a title worth the asking price, and after playing and enjoying it I still wouldn’t pay Gearbox 80 USD just to play with all the content. Hell I haven’t found much reason to continue playing the title at all and have found myself going back to Elder Scrolls Online and World of Warships instead. This could be a title I look back at eventually but for now it will be sacrificed to the god of harddrive space.
Recommended?:  YES, but wait for a large sale.

Karis:
It was… for interesting reasons that I wanted to look at this title.  It wasn’t necessarily because of any promotional material, or a friend telling me about it, or even the weird “anti-hype” surrounding this game.
It was a comment.  One random comment, said to no one in particular, on some random thread that I can’t remember.  The comment was simply, and heavily paraphrasing here, that so many people were dismissing this game as an Overwatch ripoff, or just another FPS with MOBA elements.  People who had never even played the game, and if they would just give it a fair shot, they would see that it was it’s own game with it’s own merits.  And this is when I thought, “Hey, why not us be the ones to give it that fair shot?”
To be upfront about my opinion now, this game is fun.  Especially the story missions.  I haven’t laughed this hard playing a game in some time, and most of the time just couldn’t keep a smile off my face.  The heros are all unique and have entertaining personalities, and I very much enjoy how the gear system works, with you having to activate each piece for it to function.  Finally, and I hope that Gearbox sticks to their guns on this, that everything in the game can be unlocked, simply via playing the game.
Now, that being said, there are some major issues, most notably for me being the imbalance in the pvp, the ease of exploitation on some maps, and the insane price point. Seriously, even if all the the other problems in this game were worked out, I don’t think I’d be able to recommend this game to any friend at the full $60 with a clear conscience.
Still, even with these gripes, I have not once regretted my decision to play this game, and hope that others are able to see past what this game is believed to be, and enjoy it for what it is.
Also, putting this here, just because everyone else seems to be talking about it, the intro was not really my thing.  The song was ok, even if rap is very much not my genre, I could still see the merit in it, but the animation was flat and choppy.   Also, I have a major issue with anything that poorly mixes CGI with 2D animation, as it is instantly noticeable, and completely destroys any immersion I had.  If you’re going to have a rough animation style, AT LEAST BE CONSISTENT WITH IT, DAMMIT!!!
Now, was that last paragraph about something entirely subjective, and completely meaningless to the actual worth of the game?  Yes, yes it was. =3 That’s how the tribunal roles, bitches!!!
Recommended?: YES, with the heavy recommendation that you wait for a sale, or for the price to go down.

Ran Cossack:
Those who know me, the few that do, know that I enjoy most any Gearbox title, especially the Borderlands series. Since I first was introduced to their stuff, I’ve always enjoyed their humor, writing, visual aesthetic, and overall approach to most of their games. While I know that may make me come across as very biased from the get go, I can genuinely say I think Battleborn is one of their best titles they’ve come out with in recent years, especially in the wake of the various Borderlands games they’ve primarily come to be known for. But before I start “gushing” as many would likely call it, I’ll present the problems that I at least came across, for the sake of being fair in both directions.
I can definitely see where people would have issues with the rap song and animation style of the different cutscenes in the game, the combination of 3D, 2D, and sort-of-motion-comic animation definitely can come across as jarring, and I can’t deny, there were moments that looked a tad silly / lazy to me, though despite such I did genuinely enjoy them. I’ve heard people say that all the characters in the game, personality wise, are just Tiny Tina, from Borderlands, which I think is far too broad a generalization, especially if you actually take the time to invest in unlocking the backstories of each character. Although, that in and of itself has rubbed many the wrong way and I can certainly sympathize with such, though I’m from a bygone era of “having any information at all” for characters being a bonus to begin with, so earning more lore / loot via special lore challenges for characters you really like feels worth it to me, especially since playing them passively makes you earn lots of extra loot anyway.
There are moments of environmental snags, that are likely to catch most people off guard the first time around, and are certain to lead to frustrations for those exploring and fighting through them for the first time. It can also be frustrating to figure out exactly how far / high each character can jump, to get through certain areas, and character models do play a factor in different areas, physically, which can definitely lead to frustrations. I can see replaying levels in the story leading to potential irritation from re-hearing lines repeatedly, though I’m someone that can hear a joke a hundred times, and still find it funny, if told properly, which is something I think Battleborn definitely does right.
Character stat balance is definitely not 100% down yet, but as of writing this, Gearbox has already put through their first wave of hot-fixes, to re-balance certain characters, and try to put everyone on a more level playing field. As someone who was in both beta’s, I can say with certainty Gearbox is dedicated to listening to the fans, and making things balanced and fun for all, when it comes to Battleborn’s multiplayer. They act far faster than many other companies do, when it comes to trying to handle community requests in that regard. They’re also working on solving the optimization issues some levels have with certain graphics cards and the like, which is something I can certainly appreciate.
Now, with all that aside, when it comes to the positives, there’s far more than I can write down here. The characters are hilarious, and go beyond being one-note archetypes, like characters from certain other titles. The writing for each character feels genuinely well done, and at least for me, humorous enough to listen to repeatedly, with their well delivered voice acting, and the sprinkling of character interactions / reactions, throughout the various PVP and Story Mode levels. The level designs are genuinely great to look at, with tons of little details that are likely to be missed the first time through, especially on the story mode missions. (Fleets fighting each other in the skies in the background, with actual 3D models, giant factories with smoke billowing out of them, petals floating off of a tree, and plenty others.) I think the story, for as simple as it is, is also quite enjoyable, and while I can see why people would be frustrated that the extra story missions will be in the season pass as DLC, I genuinely don’t mind, especially since we’ll be getting a bunch of extra PVP maps, at the very least five more characters, more skins, more taunts, and so on, as time goes on, for FREE, for everyone. Those who want to play the story missions can, those who just want to get to smashing against others in PVP can do that without paying a dime past admission. (And I may be the only one that feels the game earned its 60 dollar price tag, but I was sold back in the beta, I openly admit I bought the digital deluxe before it came out.)
Do I think it could use more content? Definitely. Am I unsatisfied with what we’ve got right now? Not at all. This is a great game built to be enjoyed with friends, and I continue to have a ton of fun with it, especially when I’ve got others to shoot the shit with, while shooting the shit outta others.
PS: I’m no fan of rap, but I loved the cutscene songs. Lots of fun.
Recommended?:  YES. Absolutely. Good outweighs the bad. Grab the season pass if you want all those extra fun bits too, or just unlock em by playing.

ChaosD1:
Trying to convince Dreskar not to rag on that rap song was the biggest challenge of the script, while I tried not to fanboy over ISIC too much. Everything else went smooth as butter. I really knew what I wanted to say about this title, and how I wanted to say it, so much so I wrote a much larger portion of the script this time, because it’s one of the first times I wasn’t burned out on the game before the deadline showed up…
Granted, this is a two-episode month, as… let’s be honest here, there’s only so much one can cover in an arena shooter… and it’s not like I didn’t get frustrated by the game at times.
PvE campaigns were an extremely pleasant surprise for many reasons, and were only mired by the occasional “Oh, sorry you didn’t notice that one defense point was being slaughtered. Start the 40 minute mission over ploxkthx.”
PvP was typical of games that offer up tweaks to your basic stats. Some matches were made simpler by enemy players that went down in seconds, and seemed generally matched evenly, and others were getting us rofl-stomped hard by unkillable people doing ridiculous amounts of damage with flawless aiming skills, making us wonder if some form of haxorz might be in play. My mood was easily soured worse by the mouthy dipshits we had on our team more often than not. Those all too willing to scream obscenities at this guy or that guy, just because things weren’t going their way. With no way to report people for being assholes, it made the PvP far less appealing to me.
More than a few bad matches in a row, and I can easily go from, “This is fun!” to “Fuck this shit, and fuck you.”, especially when the exact same tactics that net us victory in one round do nothing in the next. There was plenty of times I just didn’t feel in control of my actions, and I never had that problem with Overwatch.
“Oh, shit, he said the O word!”
Yeah, yeah, that is NOT a fair comparison. These games are NOTHING alike. And while Overwatch is unabashedly a TF2 clone (accept it, Blizzdrones.) and works better as a hop-in-hop-out game, Battleborn plays nothing like it, and the differences are staggering. I might make my own comparison video when both are live, and the Overwatch review is completed. Yes, I’m aware that TotalBiscuit did one already. Last I checked, I was not TotalBiscuit. For right now, know these games are only being lumped together because they are the same genre of game with similar release dates. See also “Wildstar vs. ESO” and “Guild Wars 2 vs. The Secret World“. Only mildly similar games with so many differences a direct one-on-one competition between them is just stupid.
And yes, “humor humor humor humor”.  I said it enough, but this game is god damned hilarious. Grindstone still quotes “Geoff Arachnis the S1 Sentry Unit Spider King” and that was the first official mission in the game. I heard that someone said the biggest thing to note about playing Battleborn over Overwatch is that it all depends on who’s humor you like better. Well, if that’s the case, Blizzard’s humor lies entirely in what the characters are. Gearbox’s humor, at least in Battleborn, lies with who the characters are, and that makes a world of fucking difference.
Recommended?: YES, there’s too much charm here to dismiss it as “Borderlands-Lite” or “Not-Overwatch-Enough”.

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Posted on May 15, 2016, in Episodes and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

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