I’ve long disliked multiplayer modes in video games or, at least, multiplayer modes as they’re generally executed. So I went into the Battleborn open beta with an open mind but considerable hesitation.
Multiplayer modes in video games tend to fall into two very specific types of games: Overly fussy tactical shooters that require everybody to work as a cohesive unit or die, and deathmatches where you will usually get pulped by some preteen who doesn’t have that pesky “significant other” or “social commitments” or “gainful employment” to distract from learning exactly how long he needs to cook a grenade to have it explode in midair. Modes that try to avoid this often just turn into deathmatches anyway, especially if you’re playing against somebody who holds grudges.
If that weren’t enough, my preferred play style isn’t really compatible with multiplayer. I tend to be a guy who limits risk, i.e. I tend to camp up in the hills with a sniper rifle and pick off targets. This way of playing is widely loathed, and to be honest, probably rightly so. Multiplayer modes are generally designed to pit players against each other to see who’s the more skilled; a bullet out of nowhere you can’t defend against is just cheap. But what can I say? I love being the death from the hills.
Battleborn solves this problem largely by borrowing from another genre, the MOBA. The open beta has two multiplayer modes: Meltdown and Incursion. The latter is pretty much straight MOBA: Your team gets a constant flow of minions, and you need to scrap the opposing team’s minions and take out their two core, heavily armed sentries while building various defenses to protect your own. The former requires you to feed a deranged robot a bunch of minions before your foes do. Both get frantic, quickly.
The nice part is none of this requires you to shred your foes. You can, in fact, win a match without getting a kill, and conversely, while being killed means you get a delay penalty before you respawn, it’s not that much of a setback in the match. Nor do you need to fulfill a specific role, although the game does make you choose a unique champion for your team. Basically you just need to get in the fray, shoot anything that’s not your team, and push back as hard as you can.
And it’s a lot of fun! Forcing players to step back from killing each other makes the game much more engaging to play; in fact, a bloodthirsty showboat is usually a liability. Most of my direct kills have been as Oscar Mike, the soldier parody who carries a grenade launcher, and they’ve usually been on taunting enemies. You see, your grenades can be upgraded to explode on impact, so taunting gives you the perfect amount of time to put them right in the center of the blast…
I confess, my mind wasn’t very open. But Battleborn helped me reconsider multiplayer. The game as it stands has a few problems, but mixing MOBA and FPS elements was an inspired choice, and it makes for a game worth playing.