Tales from the front lines

(Readers, please bear in mind: this was written on another forum which is not Battleborn-centric. That’s why the lengthy explanations of stuff. Hope you enjoy the story. This happened last night, 7/4/16.)

I had a hard time getting to sleep last night; I was still too hyped from playing Battleborn.

I had logged on around 9:00 pm, figuring I’d run through a private raid, or maybe just hop into a couple of Casual versus matches (Gearbox just released a newly-tuned matchmaking system which appears to have helped queueing times slightly). After toodling about in my Command menu for a bit (looking through gear and tuning a couple of loadouts), I went back into my lobby. To my surprise, a player I’d recently friended had joined my session - I hadn’t even seen the notification.

I put on my headphones, said hello, and asked what she’d like to do. She said pretty much anything was fine, so I asked if she’d be okay doing a raid. She was fine with it. When I selected a raid from the middle of the story, she mentioned she’d never done any of the raids on Advanced difficulty and hadn’t even completed the game. So I asked if she’d like to run the final story mission, The Heliophage. She enthusiastically agreed. I left the setting on Advanced, and off we went.

Let’s be very clear: for all that Battleborn terms its story missions “raids,” they’re not at all as complex as Destiny’s raids. You aren’t negotiating mile-high jumping puzzles, crawling through mazes with unkillable enemies, or picking up special items to break boss shields. For the most part, Battleborn’s raids sample its core gameplay mechanics quite well; you shoot (a farking LOT of) stuff, hide and break contact to heal up and survive, and use buildable items (traps, defense towers, drones) to deal with enemies… and in some cases, break boss shields. So there’s some complexity, but for the most part it’s just intelligent, well-designed shooter gameplay.

I played as Miko, the ninja mushroom I did well with during the open beta. I chose my kit poorly, building for DPS rather than survivability and healing potential. My friend chose Orendi, the four-armed chaos sorceress who’s also a bratty kid. I did say she could pick who she wanted, but when she picked Orendi I was a little worried. Rendi does a crapstack of damage, but she’s fragile - and like I said, I’d geared for damage output, not team healing. Still, we had a laugh about it and set off on the mission.

Heliophage is a series of big, awesomely designed set-piece battles. Players have to travel to two specific locations - fighting groups of tough enemies along the way - then engage in pitched fights once at the destinations, while a timed event happens in the background. Despite the dialog setup, these fights aren’t actual defense missions, you’re just fighting to survive (and it’s hard). Battleborn scales up its difficulty based on number of players, but I’m not sure exactly how that’s handled - with just the two of us, it was… extra hard. We lost a few lives (respawn tokens) during those fights, but the most thrilling moment was the climax of the second battle. The fights are timed - you have to win and make it back to the mission’s starting point within 20 minutes of triggering the start. We made it back to the checkpoint with - I kiddeth thee not - ten seconds on the clock. Ten seconds. It was awesome.

The final stage of The Heliophage is a very large multi-phased boss battle. You fight the game’s end-boss briefly, getting a preview of some of his abilities; then (once you damage him enough) he leaves and starts siccing other bosses on you, in groups of two. These fights get progressively more challenging, with MANY add spawns. The boss pairs’ order is randomized (I think), but the pairs themselves are chosen for complementary abilities. My friend and I made several mistakes during these fights and died a few times. Finally - after a lot of effort - we made it through to the final phase, the end-boss’ finale.

There’s no way I can put that fight into words… the boss himself is brutal, and while you’ve fought tons of adds up to that point, there’s this moment in the final confrontation where the boss shouts, “Release the warp anchors! Summon the armies! KILL THE BATTLEBORN!” and you see warp anchors - enemy spawn points - just COVER the battlefield. It’s intentionally dramatic, and it really works.

We died. A lot. We had earned extra respawns during the boss rush, so we had a few lives to play with, but we lost them all - down to zero lives left. If one of us went down and the other couldn’t revive us before final despawn, the survivor would be left on their own. If we both went down, game over. We fought it out, and - barely - pulled it off. I think Gearbox intentionally makes the game tone down near the very end of that fight. They don’t want you to do all that work and get skunked at the end. Some players might think this is condescension; I think it’s genius. Gearbox understands something Bungie sometimes forgets: games are supposed to be fun.

So, after a long and wild battle, we won. We beat the final boss. The end video (which is long and good) plays, and we count our loot. My friend hadn’t even seen the video before, so she watched it all the way through. She was totally jazzed to have won the final mission. I have to say, it felt good to have shepherded someone through it - and shepherded is the operative term. Characters in Battleborn don’t quickly regenerate hit points the way Destiny characters do; some do have slow HP regen (usually because they don’t have shields), but it’s not enough to keep them alive in a fight. You have to have people like Miko, healers, to keep the team on its feet. I did a lot of healing as well as fighting. To my surprise, I’ve gotten kind of good at it.

Anyway. I’m enjoying Battleborn more than I think I ever enjoyed Destiny. It’s a really freaking good game.
I could tell you too, about another recent run through that final mission I had. There was this one guy, playing ISIC (the boss of the first mission, who you recruit after its completion). He was really good - REALLY good - and he knew it; he had the “Master of ISIC” title and kept mentioning it. He also kept giving the rest of us orders on how to play; usually good orders, but still, a little heavy-handed. (He also cussed constantly, but that didn’t bother me.)

We won, and at the end of the mission, he kept again talking about how awesome he was and how things would have been better if we’d just done what he said. Then he pulled up the final score screen and said (to me) in a very quiet voice, “Uh, holy sh~t. You outscored me. Uh. Good job.”

That was pretty cool too. Please pardon my bragging.

Edit: On re-read, I want to give some extra credit to the ISIC player in the second Heliophage fight I mentioned. Let me be clear: he might have been a little bossy, but he is extremely, extremely good. On Advanced Heliophage with 4 people, he made over 300 kills with 100-something assists (by comparison, I had 73 kills and 200-something assists). I had more points than he did, but a whole lot of my points came from healing - which, with Miko, is super easy to do. I can truthfully and with no ego say he had more skill.

Just making sure to give full credit where due.

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Good read! Sounds like a blast!

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