Have another rant, perhaps the last, for what it’s worth.
I’ve contended for a while that Battleborn’s plot represents the struggle of game development, or perhaps that of most any creative enterprise. Like many creative types, the Battleborn are misfits and outcasts, celebrating individuality against a horde of bland conformity, taking calculated risks with limited resources, and desperately trying to keep the lights on in their little corner of the universe.
The Varelsi, on the other hand, seem bent on consuming everything for the sake of consumption, like a corporation blindly following a doctrine of expansion and greed. And then there’s the sell-out, Rendain: disillusioned, pessimistic, resigned, surrounded by nostalgic mementos in his little one-room pocket dimension.
Perhaps it’s a stretch.
So, I took a long break from Battleborn on PC out of frustration, then came back fairly recently. With the way things have been over the past months, Battleborn sometimes seems like a metaphor for itself. The PC population rarely breaks 300 players, averaging 100 at most times of the day. So here we are, trying to keep the last light of this game from fading into the darkness of obscurity, amidst constant suggestion that we give up and head for the Battlefield, or join the Global Offensive, or sign up for that club that’s really into mashing up the Justice League with Japanese cartoons… I forget what it’s called.
And yet, in other ways, the correlation falls apart. There’s this impression that the tiny PC community is somehow close-knit and chock-full of camaraderie, which in my experience is complete and utter nonsense. There’s a facade of unity on message boards, perhaps, but what I mostly see in-game is rampant schadenfreude with a side of exclusionary cliques. Most players I’ve encountered will do just about anything to win, and delight in the thrill of crushing an opponent and taunting over their corpse. This isn’t just from observation – many have proudly admitted to such motivations.
And in this steamroll-happy environment, it’s hard to tell the difference between latency, broken gameplay mechanics, and outright cheating. As far as cheating goes, there’s no tools available to definitely accuse a player of the act (especially when executed with a melee character). I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve won a match, only to have the same opponents come back and win the following match with an extremely suspicious shift in behavior, such as a significant increase in point-blank critical hits. Some think the problem is rampant, others think it is isolated, but the one thing we all agree on is that the in-game reporting function seems absolutely pointless.
Thanks to the above issues, I see new players come and go quite often. They get the game for peanuts, or in a bundle, and are taken in by its charms for about a week. Then they see what’s on the horizon – either spend hours grinding for perfect legendary Gear for the strongest, CC-spamming melee characters, or cheat, or both. And for what? To become the guys that are scaring them away from the game in the first place? So they leave, and I really don’t blame them.
There’s also a sentiment among my friends that frustration and critique is categorically ignored by ardent fans and developers alike, while positivity is exalted. This certainly isn’t unique to Battleborn, especially nowadays, but the narrative often feels like this:
“Do you stream on Twitch? Have any fanart? Do you cosplay? Are you actively promoting the game and its community in your free time? No? You’re just playing the game, and not in a tournament? Well, quid-pro-qu… oh, I mean, well, um… we value your input, or something. Just put your suggestions in that box right next to the incinerator.”
Yet we keep playing, charmed by the best of the gameplay and lore. We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. Sometimes there’s fun, but often, it just feels masochistic. Thankfully, there is now the sanctuary of Bots Battle, a magical land of make-believe where you can pretend your tactics actually work against other players. And then there’s the Ops, a mixed bag which ranges from polished to potentially unfinished (I’m looking at you, glitch-happy Demon Bear). And then it all culminates in one last cutscene, one last dare – believe in this game’s future, I dare you. What’s the worst that could happen, besides deepening your disappointment and distrust?
In all, it’s been a bizarre ride. Sum the good times and the bad times, and it’s hard to tell the net result. It’s probably positive, but certainly close to zero.
In closing, I give you the stages of grief, as seen through the lens of Battleborn Versus.
“They just got lucky, is all. We’ll get them next round! This game seems way more balanced than other shooters and MOBAs I’ve played! With the right gear, and the right team composition, we can’t lose!”
“I WAS AROUND THE CORNER! THE CORNER! HOW DID I GET PULLED AND STUNNED?!? 2000 DAMAGE IN LESS THAN THREE SECONDS? HE’S TAUNTING NOW! YOU DID NOTHING! NOTHING! YOU JUST SHOT THE LAST BULLET! WHY IN THE HELL WOULD YOU TAU-”
"I just want to win a match, just once. Please, stop matching me with that 5-man team with the Kelvin and the Rath and the Shayne & Aurox. Just give me some opponents at my skill level. I’m tired of spending most of the match looking at the respawn timer. Can at least get one that lasts long enough to work on some of my Lore?
“Fine, I get it, I’m terrible. I don’t have the right Gear, and I make all the wrong decisions. My team is always yelling at me. This sucks. I should just quit.”
“This game is pretty broken, especially when there’s lag. I definitely think those guys are cheating. But I like the space elf that says funny stuff with an accent. I like shooting arrows. So I’m just gonna shoot these arrows and lose and I don’t care anymore, it’s fine.”
Bonus Stage: Anger
"WHY WON’T YOU LET ME SHOOT MY ARROWS IN PEACE?!? IT’S NOT LIKE I’M EVER GOING TO DO ENOUGH DAMAGE TO EVEN KILL YOU, YOU STUN-HAPPY SON OF A-"