Battleborn is one of the most infamous game titles of the 2010s. On its release in 2016, with issues of poor advertising, bad timing, and some Gearbox Software reputation issues, it got itself largely compared to Overwatch. And the comparison was negative.
One of the first pieces I ever wrote as a games journalist was discussing an update for the game, and the huge amount of content it brought along with it. Almost immediately, the story comments said I had been paid off, because how could anyone actually enjoy this game.
But I did. And I continued to do so, right up until the servers were shut down forever on January 31 2021.
Battleborn is a game that received the raw end of a hard deal, entirely unearned.
For those who actually don’t know much about the game, it was absolutely nothing like Overwatch – apart from being a hero-based shooter.
It was, if anything, more comparable to an FPS/MOBA hybrid with a touch of Borderlands style loot and a more traditional FPS main campaign.
It focused on various factions living within the last inhabitable part of the universe, having been taken over by mysterious and aggressive creatures known as the Varelsi. The lore and story was explained through the characters themselves and the game's story mode, as well as large story-based DLC missions.
It was a good story. And for all its depth it never took itself too seriously. It was, very much, ‘from the people that made Borderlands’ in its humour.
The bulk of the gameplay was centered around various PvP modes, which were frantic and wildly fun, though as player numbers quickly began to dwindle, many of us remaining were forced into communities to find other players, otherwise having to play against bots.
Many people from these communities are still dear friends even today, five years after release.
But I just pointed to the big question: why did the player numbers dwindle? The game sold really well, received anywhere from ‘above average’ to ‘great’ reviews, and critics praised the PvP in particular.
So how did it all come unstuck?
The internet is, unfortunately, a harsh mistress, having set its sights on the latest ‘meme game’ to a point where it wasn’t even possible to say I enjoyed it without being accused of being paid for my opinion.
Negative opinion resounded, generally in comparison to games that weren’t really in the same genre, from people who hadn’t played it.
Player numbers continued to dwindle and even those who enjoyed it were forced to move on to other games. Even large updates and patches, full of both free and paid content, couldn’t save it.
It's a damn shame, because I can honestly say it’s the most fun I’ve ever had with any PvP game in my life. And I’ve played a lot of them.
I’ve never put nearly 600 hours into any other game I own, and yet, Battleborn would keep calling to me long after I would have dropped similar games.
It wasn’t without its flaws, of course. A cluttered UI was definitely one of them, the humour is certainly a personal taste element, and there was the odd glitch, but nothing game breaking. Certain characters were a little unbalanced, despite the best efforts of developers to patch regularly.
But the problems were nothing near enough to warrant the reception it received.
Instead, the game as I played it had one of the most diverse casts of characters I’ve ever seen, eschewing more conventional designs to try different things, both visually and in terms of character.
ISIC, the nihilistic AI in a giant robot body with a fascination for destroying peoples kneecaps also served as the final boss of the first level in the campaign.
Or Pendles, a cockney assassin snake who could turn invisible and wreak havoc on the battlefield with poison abilities.
There were many more.
The worlds were vivid and bright, full of cartoonish colour and design with various nooks and crannies to ambush enemies or interesting bosses with new dialogue for each run through.
It was a game that revelled in the finer details as much as the big picture.
Now the servers are down, it’s entirely unplayable. Sadly even in its single player campaign modes – a rotten curse of the 'always on' world games are designed for these days. Every part lost to the wastes of time.
It raises questions of game preservation. Any other game losing all its content in such a way, people would be up in arms. Battleborn, however, continued to receive snide comments on news of its shutdown.
It seems a shame that even fans couldn’t run their own servers, similar to how Gigantic, another MOBA/FPS hybrid was kept alive through fans running Discord and private servers through source code that was given to fans.
Is game preservation only valid for more popular titles?
Do we continue to just avoid certain games because they’re somehow deemed unworthy?
Do we just continue to trust the internet hype machine telling us what is and isn’t valid?
Perhaps if Battleborn was released a year later in its updated state, or if its advertising had been clearer, I’d still be playing today instead of writing this final farewell to a game I loved.
Instead, I have to say goodbye to what was a darn good game, without even being able to publicly mourn without being laughed at by chuds who'll post memes at me.
Truly, Battleborn was a game that deserved better than it got.