More episodes like The Algorithm and Void's Edge, fewer like The Renegade/Experiment/Saboteur

I find it quite interesting that the two best episodes, in terms of pacing and design, are the two first ones, that were also in the open beta. It is likely because Gearbox spent the most time on these ones, and if that is true, it shows. Looking back, it is a tragedy that we were not given a chance to test and critique some of the poorer missions a long time ago, when they could have been changed and made better.

So, why are these the best two episodes and why are quite a few others tedious and, in my opinion, poorly designed?

Let’s focus on The Algorithm, since I think it is the best overall. In this episode, you continually advance through the mission while the antagonist, Magnus ISIC, taunts you and sends hordes of minions after you. It has some of the best dialogue and since you know something about ISIC as he is playable, it feels more involved and he is more engaging as a villain. There are three boss fights on the way to Magnus ISIC (H3nchm4n, Geoff, The Galactic Emperor), all of which have different mechanics and serve to break up the episode nicely. I am glad Gearbox took the criticism of players well and made The Galactic Emperor fight less tedious, as that was the only major flaw. Magnus ISIC himself is pretty neat as far as bosses in Battleborn goes, as he has some raid mechanics not seen in most boss fights which are generally just straight up brawls. The generally bad boss fights is another thread, though.

I feel the best part is probably the bridge fight, which places your team at one end and a good mix of minions between you and the objective, including some snipers up in the towers. It manages to be tactically interesting without forcing a team to defend anything in waves. And that is one of the main keys: you are always advancing, not waiting around, not mindlessly killing waves of enemies. It feels more like a dungeon crawl, and this is where Gearbox went wrong with almost half of the missions in the game by making them “defend” missions.

The Regenade/Experiment/Saboteur feel slow, plodding, and tedious. They also feel largely like copies of one another, particularly since three missions like these out of eight total is far too high of a mix. Is there fun to be had? Sure! But looking at them in the context of a mission like The Algorithm, they feel lazy. Move the players from one spot to another, make them fight it out for a few waves, and repeat. It doesn’t help that the villains in these episodes are abysmal (Jailer Hylis is a terribly boring fight, The Experiment’s Conservator is lacklustre, and Foreman Grall just shows up without developing any narrative).

Gearbox needs to focus on providing more episodes that have a flow to them, with multiple, unique, and varied boss fights, snappy dialogue, and a villain with some personality that is developed as you progress. We have five more coming for sure, and I am hoping that at most one, preferably none, will be “defend” episodes. It is not like they cannot make good episodes - The Algorithm shows they can - but it is going to mean they are going to have to put the design effort in. It is easier to make an episode that recycles bosses or has only one, reuses combat arenas, and pads the time out with waves of enemies. However, what is easier is also boring, and given how often I see people vote for The Algorithm when it comes up I think it is telling that this episode is the most effective and thus should be more what Gearbox goes for.

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I’m hoping that the DLC missions are similar to The Algorithm. Like, they’ll introduce the new character or something similar to that. While I’ve enjoyed every mission to a large degree I do have to admit that the whole objective defense is a tad irritating. I will say I don’t mind The Renegade as much as The Archive. It just feels a bit more balanced.
As for bosses… yes. ISIC felt like the only legitimate boss fight. Rendain (himself) wasn’t too bad, but he mostly just tossed you around and threw you off the edge while letting the crazy amount of thrall spawns attack for him. The other bosses are basically hack and slash until dead. Kinda boring. The way to the bosses are the challenge (mostly) which is kind of the opposite of how it typically goes in video games from my experience.

The Algorithm is pretty great but I disagree with the bridge fight. There’s no good cover for melee, heavily favoring ranged characters (which is also a problem with the ISIC fight). Players also have a strange tendency to ignore the shield-bots because…well, nobody knows to look for them (they are introduced in the middle of an ambush while everything and everyone shoots at you) and, if they do, they are being shot from a multitude of locations, forcing them into the lackluster cover on the entrance.
It’s not so bad in normal mode once you get used to it, but in advanced it’s a fight I dread. Though I must say that’s mostly because of the Samurai Ex bots. They dish lots of damage.

Anyway, you forgot to mention The Sentinel, which I think deserves a special mention for essentially repeating the same boss three times. There’s also two ‘stand your ground’ moments before each boss, which doesn’t help shake away the feeling of ‘samey-ness’.

Not going to mention the Archive, since the main problem with that one is that Chronicle doesn’t have improvements like Wolf has. I guess their idea there was to differentiate between their two ‘escort quests’ by having one where you use your money to improve the escort while, in the other, you use the money to buy turrets along the way.

The ‘defend this’ objective would probably best used in some kind of infinite tower defense mode. I’d play that if they make their tower and trap choices more interesting.

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Definitely think that raid type missions are much more fun. They should just make one big tower defense map for people who like those.

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The ISIC fight definitely has the most “epicness” in terms of fanfare, and the boss himself. I can’t say it’s one of my favorites, though. I am probably biased since I tend to play a lot of melee/close-range characters. The ISIC fight and the Rendain fight are both horrifically anti-melee, which really hurts my enjoyment of them.

I don’t think the problem is escort and defense missions themselves. The Sentinel is a raid, while being IMO being the most boring of the bunch. Half of the problem with defense and escort missions is how poorly they scale up with lots of players. They’re a lot of fun with five players, but only if you have good players.

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Probably my ranking of fave to least

Yah: Renegade, Sentinel, Void’s Edge
Meh: Archive
Bleh: The Algorithm, The Experiment, Prologue

Haven’t done Saboteur and Heliophage enough

Renegade has a lot of open areas as well as places to explore. The AoE final part is divine and the boss, while not the most interesting, is very fun. The story interaction with Caldarius is charming, and there is a lot of side humour with particular characters.

Sentinel, while a bit long and drawn out, and the first area can be incredibly frustrating with the wrong group, has a very strong feel/mood (compared to the others). The level design is strong and the traps are unique. The bosses could be more varied but the final one uses some fun falling platforms and good use of scale.

Void’s Edge. I feel that most of this is forgettable, but the boss fight is by far the most interesting one in the game.

Archive. Perhaps the most varied as far as objectives are the concerned. However, there are some rather sloppy portions ~ like the ranged attackers ambushing the escort seemingly from nowhere, the beginning escort period where there is little use of the forest/turret area, the seemingly random? electricity markers, some periods of just waiting around, and the frustration when everyone just disperses and spawns all the different enemies in the beginning area.

Algorithm. Maybe I dislike this compared to others because I’ve played it the most, but it seems you really need certain combination of characters to do this well, particularly in advanced. However, the level design is at least interesting and varied, even if it is too disorganized at times (such as in the ice area). I think the spider boss is stupid, even though he has some humour. The ISIC boss is incredibly old school and incredibly tedious.

Experiment. This was fun the first time, but got old quickly. The final boss has absolutely nothing interesting going for him, and there are too many periods where you do nothing. The scenery, for the most part, stays the same throughout. Even when you go to that side/cliff area it’s more of the same. The Tower Defense portions are too chaotic, with the raised one (second area from the beginning) perhaps the most redeeming. Best part of this is the pre-boss, because its behavior is somewhat different.

Overall though, I don’t really dread doing any of these in particular. When it comes to finishing in solo queue, I am most scared of Sentinel and Saboteur, and maybe a little bit of Archive and Void’s Edge, but I am not using that as a criterion so much.

Good point about the lack of cover for melee on the bridge fight. To be honest, there are quite a few fights where being a melee hero is severely disadvantageous, so I do not even think about it so much anymore. Another example is in the same episode in the fight against Geoff when he spawns many shock turrets. I really am not a fan of that bit at all as melee.

As for The Sentinel, yeah, the boss fights are lame, but I do appreciate the “Indiana Jones” style of play, where you feel like you are plundering a tomb filled with traps. It can be frustrating when teammates continually die to said traps, and shows off how bad some people are at basic platforming and timing, but it is at least unique. I end up giving it a pass due to that.

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Both The Algorithm and The Sentinel have their drawbacks, but the implementation of defense/escort tasks in the game (one mistake and you lose - even if you have lots of extra lives) is a much more drawback. I don’t mind “stand your ground” - I can protect myself - but I don’t really like to defend someone or something that does nothing or behaves stupidly.

So I really hope new missions would be conventional walkthrough shoot and run, not defense or escort.

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less baby sitting defense points, more killing, more bosses, more fun.

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I actually play archive the most, mainly when I solo. It feels like one of the largest maps and I know it well enough that I can try out most characters in it without dying constantly like certain spots in the Algorithm. I also like that it has four tree chests every time that spawn in different locations while other levels only have two or three. More chances for good gear. The only downside is how difficult it is to get gold. Too much dependence on bonus orbs.

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Algorithm is fun and I like the length, but it gets a bit too easy towards the end. That is somewhat expected since it is the first stage. They can’t send waves of the most powerful enemies at you like heliophage. I would like to see another long raid stage like that, with diverse bosses rather than the sameness that exists in Sentinal.

Archive I prefer over Sentinal because the escort of the sentry gets broken up. You get some opportunity to go back and explore areas you passed through while escorting the Sentinal. The part where you have to cover the little bots is also very good, particularly since there is no insta-lose if bots get whacked. i do agree the spider could use with some more self defense capability, but most often he has died because the team went off and abandoned him before a major fight.

I agree 100%. Algorithm is my favorite since the Beta and remained so. Loot is good too.

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Algorithm, Sentinel and Heliophage are best just because you go from A to B and kill everything in between.
I have kinda come to terms with the defend missions but defend missions are the most hated kind of missions in gaming.
Poor choice to make so many of those. Personally I only find stealth missions even worse.
Also this recycling of bosses was a very poor design choice. Gearbox can do awesome bosses but this is just weak.
I wouldn’t mind if they somehow recycle the PVP missions for PVE though, even if it would only be a bot match.
At least in PVE the chances are better that people stick around even when being defeated.

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I find it quite ironical that I have never seen the Wolf die despite he has no “self-preservation protocols”, but I’ve seen a few times the Chronicle die of a blind rush towards hordes of enemies. Shouldn’t the Chronicle be, you know, smart? He’s a librarian.

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You know, odd man out maybe but I actually felt that the Algorithm and Void’s Edge were my least favorite of the maps (beaten only by The Sentinel… which is probably the only episode I don’t like at all).

The Renegade is probably one of my FAVORITE episodes. And how can you not love The Experiment solely for Boldur!?! (Master of Boldur here). Saboteur was frustrating with its early imbalance, but now I really enjoy it on Advanced.

I really dig the thematics for nearly all of the missions regardless.

Solid points on the bosses for those three missions, they could’ve been hyped/intro’d better, even if it was just some vocals throughout the mission similar to ISIC/Algorithm.

My favorite missions are indeed 1,2,4,5. I haven’t completed 8 yet.

Defense aren’t has terrible as I had previously read. I did fail at least once per mission, but my second attempts were always very successful (with the right gears, right character and lots of turrets).

We can all assume that there will be one raid dlc, one defense dlc and one escort dlc. That leaves 2. Maybe one new type?

Yes, I have failed The Archive a few times due to poor teamwork and tactics (like not paying attention to things destroying Chronicle, typically early) and a rather suicidal Chronicle, but have never failed The Void’s Edge. Wolf can be healed and there are so many shards in that episode and it is easy enough in general that a team has to fail pretty catastrophically to lose, I would imagine.

One thing that makes The Void’s Edge fun, in my opinion, is that unlike the typical escort mission where your charge is weak and defenseless, Wolf is pretty badass. He has a lot of firepower and can heal, and feels like a member of the team. The upgrade mechanic is cool (I would love to see this used again!), and it is again one of those missions where it does not feel too plodding. Yes, there are a couple spots where you just defend Wolf, but since there are no timers or waves it feels a bit more natural to me and I have not yet grown tired of it. But an episode like The Experiment? I am sick of that one. :stuck_out_tongue:

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Algorithm pretty much sold me on the game, and I loved Sentinel and Heliophage as well. They remind me of Destiny raids in the best possible way.

I will say that the other missions takes on very different dimensions on harder difficulties and with a good group. What can be boring and repetitive with a good group or stupid and frustrating with randoms on normal takes on a very different and exhilarating mood on Advanced with friends.

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Same here, though I only got to play up to Geoff in the first beta.

I love doing the Sentinel despite the “repeated” bosses because each area is different and I have the chance of knocking Thralls into those damned death traps. :imp: I’m not a big fan of The Heliophage though, mainly because of the time limit and Rendain’s knockback into the abyss attacks. I also like The Void’s Edge, but it’s damned difficult to keep Wolf alive without a good party in Advanced…

I concur.

I feel like The Algorithm plays like the best bits of Borderlands. A self-contained, linear chunk of brilliant gaming excellence, with minibosses and a boss at the end. It reminds me also of games of yore, especially those of around '99 to '04, before the rise of the sandbox.

Of course, the rise of the sandbox was mostly down to what I like to call the '06 Crapfall. (When Warner-Bros closed their animation studios; The Disney Renaissance era ended; The next gen consoles launched and alienated Japanese developers; And so many other things.)

I don’t know what it was about '06 but it ruined so many things about gaming and entertainment in general. Curiously, Oblivion was also released in '06, the game that really popularised sandbox video games as a means of playing quest-based content over more linear levels and such. There were Morrowind and Hexen II, but I did say popular, after all.

By which I mean mainstream popular.

Oh, '06, what did you do?

Anyway, back on point? I’m actually a fan of levels. You can give them some non-linearity whilst still having them be enclosed chunks of well-designed gameplay. I always was of the opinion that levels and missions were what our video games were about. Roaming incredibly generic landmasses never did it for me.

Roam for three hours and look at the same tree a million times in the hopes of finding a dungeon! Or… just play a mission that involves a dungeon! It’s like the choice between playing Skyirm or booting up Legend of Grimrock (or II).

So I’m a huge fan of just… levels and missions. Where video game design really shines and they can be all sorts of clever with it. And I really did enjoy The Algorithm, it was all sorts of clever. It’s probably my favourite part of Battleborn. So I most vehemently agree.

More of that, please!

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