Gearbox Software has been continuing to let out character previews, trailers, and interviews about their upcoming title Battleborn. I continue to find myself excited but apprehensive about the title given my affinity for Borderlands and because the game is treading into new waters. A recent interview furthers my belief that this game will feel very much like a MOBA and in many ways refutes some of those who disagreed with me about Battleborn having MOBA influences. Randy Pitchford directly credits Defense of the Ancients and other MOBA games for inspiring the way they have designed Battleborn. He even made a point to say the differences from the classic overhead view to a first person shooter is just a matter of the conduit whereby you interact with the game changing. I do think, however, much of what he said in a recent interview with Verge furthers my concern for hardcore Borderlands fans rejecting and criticizing Battleborn for all the wrong reasons.
Pitchford makes it very clear that their aim with Battleborn is to take the RPG experience and condense it down into something you can experience and enjoy if you only have an hour to spare. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and I’m glad he is being more transparent about the nature of the game given how many fans of GearBox are so because of their love for Borderlands. Much of what he says about making the game accessible to new comers and making leveling up quick furthers my thoughts about how the story will feel and play out. They are describing the story mode as, “kind of a TV episode, you can play in any order, and each one has a beginning, middle, and end. And they are super replayable.” Again, none of this is bad, and I hope they continue to ramp up the specificity and transparency about their game. But this is nothing like Borderlands and will probably only feel like Borderlands in some of the aesthetics and movements. Also, the multiplayer aspects of the game seem to be the larger thrust and focus as the leveling, looting, and MOBA references seem far more tethered to the 25 characters and combat variances.
A huge cast
With other titles similar to Battleborn coming out I’m still unsure how the communities will respond to such large character choices. It could be a situation where “too much of a good thing” will feel like an understatement. But it could also be something that allows for constant re-tooling, experimenting, and strategy discussions. Thankfully they have previously announced that once you reach a certain level you can change characters and bring your level with you so you don’t feel like you are completely starting over. Obviously this doesn’t mean you will start every multiplayer match with all your unlocks since it works like a MOBA, but it should encourage people to try characters they might otherwise avoid since they won’t feel like they are starting from scratch. I’m probably going to force myself to quickly try out characters outside my usual playstyle to make sure I don’t lock myself into a rut where I rely on more classic FPS-style characters. And I want to encourage hardcore fans of Borderlands to join me in something.
Committed to fairness
At this point I feel that GearBox and Randy Pitchford are being pretty open and honest about how different this game is from the Borderland franchise. If they were being vague or dancing around the issue, I would fully support, encourage, and join the likes of those who would criticize the game after it launched for feeling like we were tricked. But, in light of how much we already know, we need to be committed to fairly accessing this game and going in with expectations that are line with what they are marketing. If you are a huge Borderland fan, and like me, you have dumped hours and hours into the rich and fun title, then you owe GearBox a fair shake. Don’t buy this game and write day one 1-star reviews that consist or nothing more than unfair comparisons to Borderlands or gripes about how it wasn’t what you thought it was going to be. Watch trailers, reveals, read interviews, and if you are on the fence use my Twitch stream to watch the game on launch day before making a decision. Game companies need to be given room to iterate and innovate so the industry can grow and flourish. If ravenous fan bases scare them as well as publishers into repackaging established franchises and popular titles, we are going to end up with a very disjointed gaming landscape where we get creative but small indie titles and boring wash-rinse-repeat AAA titles that don’t feel new with nothing in between. So keep an open mind and be fair to the hand that has fed you so much great gaming up until now.
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