Out of every AAA game that is set to release over the next year, none has me more confused that Gearbox Software’s Battleborn. Not once have we been given a definitive definition as to what this character-based title is, and the closer we get to a release date announcement, the scarier this becomes. It’s a first-person shooter, no wait, it’s a MOBA and perhaps a traditional action game…actually, sorry, it’s a character-based cooperative title. This seems to be the type of game that a child loaded up on Mountain Dew and Cheetos comes up with before his sugar high drops off and puts him to sleep. The thing is, this could be a wonderful thing upon launch, but as of right now, it appears Gearbox has a genuine marketing nightmare on their hands. Battleborn seems to take elements from every genre imaginable, and its success will depend entirely on whether Randy Pitchford and has team in Texas can actually mold all of its features into a cohesive title.
The funny thing about Battleborn is that I couldn’t be more excited to play it, regardless of whether or not it’s actually good. Borderlands and Borderlands 2 are two of my favorite games of all time, so this gives me (and countless other lovers of the quirky “Diablo with Guns” series) that initial bit of excitement required to actually jump in and give it a shot. On the surface, Battleborn looks like the console answer to Blizzard’s Overwatch, as its quirky heroes, known as The Battleborn, each feel unique and fresh. From a witch who fires orbs of energy out of four alternating hands (easily the coolest first person animation I’ve seen in some time), to a traditional space marine, to a healer that can throw its mushroom-like head onto the battlefield to create a healing beacon, there’s going to be no shortage of quirkiness in Gearbox’s new title. The issue with Battleborn comes from the biggest question one can ask about a new game: what exactly do I do?
E3 attendees were treated to a four-player cooperative tower-defense mission, but all of the marketing up to this point has suggested Battleborn will lean heavily on the MOBA genre. Early footage of its lane-based multiplayer mode suggests that this is going to be the latest entry into the most popular genre in the world (League of Legends sees roughly 30 million people play at least one match every day); however, all of the information Gearbox and 2K have given the press and public alike suggests that this is not a MOBA. There’s also going to be a solo campaign that revolves around the idea that a group of heroes, 25 at launch to be exact, will make their way to the last star in the galaxy for a number of different reasons. Some of The Battleborn will want to save the universe so that it can be repopulated, others will want to simply enjoy the festivities, while a final group might want to help the universe burn for religious reasons. This is an interesting concept for a game, that much can’t be denied, but the fact that we’re just finding this out now is pretty troubling.
Though part of the confusion surrounding Battleborn comes from its bizarre marketing push, a great deal of it can also be chalked up to the fact that it’s a title that doesn’t seem to know what it is. 2K and Gearbox are going to have to do a significantly better job communicating the central focus of Battleborn if it hopes to have any commercial success, as riding the prestige of Gearbox Software can only bring you so far.