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The Attack Of The Hero Shooters Begins

It's May, most of our wallets will have recovered from holiday spending, and the triple-A game developers know this.  Enter: two games which I recently gave a heavy play of, Gearbox's Battleborn and Blizzard's Overwatch.
This TotalBiscuit video is a fantastic watch learn the comprehensive difference between the two.
You are going to be hearing two things about these two games:
  1. They are both first person shooters where you pick from a roster of heroes with a bank of abilities like you would see in a MOBA.  Because they were released around the same time, it would seem like they are in direct competition with each other. 
  2. They actually play nothing like each otherBattleborn plays more like a 3D MOBA and has a weighty, quasi-RPG feeling reminiscent of Borderlands or WildstarOverwatch is more of a pure action FPS like Team Fortress 2.  You might as well get both in order to enjoy the diversity in gameplay between them, so they are not in direct competition with each other.
I would say both perspectives are partially correct.  There is a definite difference in core gameplay to be had.  However, your average gamer only has so much time and money.  Consequently, the games will nevertheless compete; most people will need to decide which they want to buy.
Battleborn, a FPS shooter with MOBA influences that plays a bit like Borderlands.  It actually has a MOBA mode.
I guess I am committed, because I bought Battleborn, digital deluxe version, for a large amount of money.  Then I received an invitation to play Overwatch in open beta.  Having played them both, I now somewhat regret my initial purchase of Battleborn because it seems to me that Overwatch offers a more solid gameplay experience.
  • Battleborn feels floaty, a bit like a MMORPG boss battle.  There are lots of gratuitous special effects going off and damage numbers popping up.  It does not help that the netcode often rubberbands me around.  The result feels muddled and chaotic, less like I am playing the game and more like I am experiencing it.
  • In Overwatch, better net code means faster reactions, much of the floatiness is gone, and rubberbanding is almost unheard of.  Your characters actions have more weight to them; there's no boss monsters in Overwatch, so the stuff you shoot dies pretty fast.  The result feels more cohesive, more like I am playing the game and not just experiencing it.
If only a game existed that was the best of both games: Battleborn's depth with Overwatch's netcode and balance.
Overwatch, a FPS shooter with MOBA influences that plays a bit like Team Fortress 2.  It does not actually have a MOBA mode.
As far as popularity was concerned, I do not think Gearbox was under any delusion that Battleborn would trump OverwatchOverwatch is made by Blizzard, a company which has been building up a huge fanbase for decades.  Since Blizzard is so popular, Overwatch was always going to be the more popular game, so you cannot determine game quality from player headcount alone.

To a great extent, I want Battleborn's unique mix of game mechanics to be more successful.  This is because I feel that Blizzard's success has been bad for the PC platform as a whole.  With the exception of Diablo, all Blizzard does is make high quality, improved clone versions of existing games.  Their continued success means more clones for all of us, and the PC platform has been suffering from clone burnout for even longer than Blizzard has been around.

Gearbox stuck their necks out a bit with Battleborn by offering a unique hybrid between MOBAs and Borderlands here, not even Smite plays anything like this.  Another reason to root for Battleborn is that it offers deeper mechanics in ways that Overwatch's goal of improving Team Fortress 2 cannot.
Battleborn can be a pretty cluttered, confusing experience sometimes.

I fear for Battleborn's longevity because it is more of a hybrid game.  Hybrid games suffer from a problem where they alienate audiences of different genres.  Developing one kind of game is easier than trying to bring two types of games together.  Gamers who enjoy one type of game are forced out of their comfort zone with a hybrid.

The attack of the hero shooters is not quite over yet:
  • Already in closed beta is Hi-Rez Studios' Paladins.  
  • Epic Games is targeting a mid-2016 release for Paragon.
  • Microsoft Studios is publishing Gigantic some time in 2016.  
It is looking like Battleborn will be a quasi-interesting singularity in a sea of clones, so enjoy it while it lasts.   As for Overwatch, is it as future proofed as any Blizzard game.

As for me, next weekend I will probably be playing Stellaris, a nice looking game from a completely different genre, the 4X space empire game.  But that is for another blog entry.


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