Wow. So. Okay. How to start this: I was planning on going into the public betas for Battleborn and Overwatch with glazed eyes, thinking they were either going to be Smite in first-person or a cheap Team Fortress 2 ripoff and it’s become very clear to me that this wasn’t going to be as easy a choice as I initially thought. I mean, these types of games weren’t really meant for me: usually, the community is absolutely toxic, the microtransactions are absolutely absurd, and earning your way in the game to any meaningful play level is blocked with players who either have deep wallets or way more time into the game. I just don’t usually have the patience for a game like that – especially MOBAs, especially if the game isn’t fun if you’re not succeeding, which often happens a lot. I went into these games thinking that this was going to be no different. Was I ever wrong.
The Case for Battleborn
Of course, the developers of Borderlands, Gearbox Software, are known for making a certain kind of game and Battleborn is no exception: what you have is a memorable cast of characters thrown into a team-focused game to conquer a story mode that’s somewhat compelling and ultimately about looting and rewards. This game is incredibly filled with character in the same way, too, with the same style of humor, depth, and scripting. It’s actually pretty impressive what Gearbox pulls off with the premise they set out to place in a game like this. Every character has a few different play styles that you can mix and match to your needs and every stage allows you to play them your way. You’re never playing the game the same way twice and it’s an adrenaline rush every game session you sit down for, especially if you’re playing with a new character. There’s enough to every game session that, if you manage to beat it, you end up spending about 20-30 minutes in it and it’s usually fairly rewarding, especially early on.
However, there’s not a ton of stages, a lot of them get awfully repetitive, awfully quick, and after so many sessions, you find yourself locked in a loot grind in order to get further in the game. It feels almost exactly like Borderlands in that sense where the game is less about progression, after so long, and more about the loot you earn. While this game’s personality is incredibly and very charming and the gameplay is so ridiculously simple and addicting, it can wear off before too long and I found myself not wanting to wear out the game’s welcome by playing for too long at any one time.
I find myself enjoying this game like I enjoy Rocket League: it’s a wild time when you’re playing it but you’re never compelled to spend a lot of time per session unless you’re some kind of eSports player or you want to ascend the rankings. It’s kind of like that song you like on the radio but it’s getting way more radio play than it deserves and it makes you kind of want to avoid the radio altogether so it doesn’t ruin that song for you.
I think the worst part is the fact that this is clearly a MOBA-style game that tries way too hard to appear like the multiplayer portion of an established single player campaign.
The Case for Overwatch
I’ve been knee deep in this game and I have to say, this game also feels like it definitely reeks of the development style of the ones behind it – this time, it’s Blizzard: it’s tongue-in-cheek, very in touch with its player base, high impact and full of action, well developed and down to earth. Overwatch feels like the MOBA that I’ve been waiting for: something that feels equally fulfilling to both newbies and experts. Everything has a nice polish and sheen and feels exactly like a MOBA should. It’s really hard for me to talk about the game’s main selling points, though, because it’s a Blizzard game: of course it’s going to be really polished, of course the gameplay is going to feel well developed and balanced, of course the cast is going to be diverse and quirky. These are all things I’ve come to expect from Blizzard and they certainly don’t fail my expectations here.
However, their failing is that they didn’t seem to try anything new. What they have is extremely well-executed but it seems to be failing in the fact that it fails to recognize that there’s a main competitor in Battleborn and there were likely many that came before it that are somewhat like it, if not just like it. Each session plays almost exactly like the last and there certainly feels like a lot less variety with each character you play as there’s really only four main roles and play styles, even though the character’s forms, abilities, and arsenals vary more wildly. A lot of the game just feels samey after some sessions and I had a very hard time settling on a character I liked to play as.
This game has no qualms about what it is and what it does well: however, that’s exactly where I just find the game boring after a while. I didn’t attach to the game, I didn’t attach to any characters, I didn’t attach to any of the modes. I can see why people would really like the game but it just simply didn’t engage me.
The Final Verdict
You see, the problem with these games is that what one is missing, the other does perfectly. There’s always going to be reasons, for me, at least, to go between the two and I’ll never be totally satisfied, long-term, with either of them, which is a real shame, because these games show a lot of promise. Maybe, somewhere down the line, they’ll refine into something that will really draw me in, but in its current forms, it’s really hard to say which one really stands out as, unfortunately, each of them are equally disappointing, just in different ways. However, they’re also equally successful and enjoyable, but in different ways.
Overwatch is the more refined experience that succeeds very well in being a first-person shooter-style MOBA: it knows what its players want and gives it in doses that are fair to everyone, though the rewards aren’t exactly jaw-dropping or worthy of the effort to get them. Battleborn has an incredible amount of charm and character, allowing the player to really make the experience their own, every time they sit down to play; the game tries a little too hard to be a little too much like games before it and, hence, gets a little lost along the way, leaving the game feeling repetitive and grind-y, at times.
If you wanted to know the game I had the most fun with in an hour period, though, it’s going to be Battleborn every time. While the game is extremely ugly and unrefined for a PlayStation 4 title, the game drips with character and charm and has downsides that can be forgiven if you can settle for not playing for long periods of time. Given that each session is about 30 minutes a piece, it’s going to be a while before the game gets repetitive, especially to the casual player. Overwatch might look better and have all kinds of balances and refinements that Battleborn doesn’t but it just doesn’t match up in raw fun factor. Even in trying to describe Overwatch kind of felt like a chore. Don’t get me wrong, Overwatch is an awesome game, it just doesn’t feel nearly as fun and casual-shooter friendly as Battleborn does.