It’s a bit tragic that two games so similar with no real competition besides each other are releasing just weeks apart after massive open betas. Battleborn and Overwatch are both excellent team-based sci-fi/fantasy first person shooters with massive rosters of quirky character capable of filling many hours of your life with joy. But do you have time and money for both right now? I’m guessing maybe not, because I don’t. But whichever game you choose you’re likely to pick a winner.
I’m not exactly the first (or fifteenth) person online to make an article comparing the two highly similar games, but given that the other lists of this nature I’ve read contained such obvious information that I’d assume that they just read the Wikipedia entries, I felt like I should make sure there is at least one from an actual gamer based on actual experiences with the games in question.
In spite of the fact that this is an Overwatch-centric list, I’m going to point out right now that I’m team Battleborn (on consoles, at least), largely because Gearbox Software’s game has a single player/co-op campaign to help justify its AAA price tag whereas Blizzard’s is multiplayer only and twenty dollars more expensive on consoles than on PC for some reason. I also prefer Battleborn’s MOBA-based multiplayer to Overwatch’s more traditional FPS objectives as well as its sense of humor.
That said, Overwatch is still a hell of a game and depending on what you’re looking for (PvP), it may well be your game of choice. I wouldn’t trust any of the Metacritic user reviews on Battleborn that rate that game a 0 while sounding suspiciously like an advertisement for Overwatch if I were you, but if you missed the beta due to some horrible twist of fate, I’ve got you covered. These are four features where Blizzard’s upcoming multiplayer shooter really shines in comparison to its already available competitor.
I’ll go with the most obvious advantage first: Overwatch has got the look of a winner. Not that I don’t love me some cel shading, but it’s not a visual style that appeals to everyone. But if you hear any complaints about the graphics of Overwatch, you are listening to a liar.
The animations are full of vibrancy to really bring each character to life and the overall look is full of charm and details that make the experience feel more visceral and cool. In addition to a massive and visually distinct cast, the maps represent a diverse array of settings that are instantly recognizable. You’ll be murking fools everywhere from Japan in full cherry blossom season to an Egyptian temple, historic Route 66, and even B-movie sets in Hollywood.
There’s just something about the style here that screams “love me”, so hats off to Blizzard for that. It’s not often we see a game with a distinct look that is so instantly and universally engaging, but this is definitely one of those games.
It’s kind of funny that Gearbox Software seems to have botched the loot system with Battleborn when it’s such an integral part of its predecessor series, Borderlands. Battleborn throws a ton of loot at the player, but almost none of it is worth keeping around. And on top of that, you have to individually activate each piece of gear in your loadout of choice during gameplay by spending crystals you collect in each round/level that may be better spent elsewhere. If you’re super lucky you may get a taunt or new colour palette for a random character that you could have unlocked by leveling them up anyway.
Overwatch ditches anything that could give players any advantage, no matter how small, and instead focuses entirely on what Battleborn should have focused on: swag. Each character has a huge number of unlockables ranging from new skins (not necessarily just colour palettes) to victory poses, emote animations, intros for your Play of the Game videos (more on that later), player icons, and even new lines of dialogue they can say at will. And you have to work to earn them, either by gaining currency and purchasing them or luck of the draw.
In addition to these slices of awesome, there’s something else that is really small but I kind of love that Battleborn has no answer for. You have the ability to tag your environment, and these tags make up a large amount of the loot you receive. You get to choose which character-specific tag you want to use for each and can then go about putting your stamp on the scenery. During the beta it was becoming a bit of a tradition for teammates awaiting release in the spawn room at the beginning of the match to tag up the door. It’s a small thing, but I feel like the focus on expressing yourself through unlockables adds a lot of fun to the culture of the Overwatch.
I’m not sure if this is the first game ever to do this (probably not, but I don’t recall ever seeing it before), but there is a vote at the end of each match to determine who kicked the most ass for their team. A post-match popularity contest may seem like a bad idea and it definitely needs some tweaks (you shouldn’t be able to vote for yourself, for example), but there’s no feeling I’ve experienced in gaming quite like getting an “epic” vote (over 40% of players) in Overwatch.
I’m normally of the DGAF school of what other players think of me, but I have to admit the first time I scored five votes and was declared “epic”, my immediate reaction was clutching my controller to my chest and declaring “You like me! You really like me!” It’s like being voted homecoming queen of gaming for a match, but instead of being pretty and sociable, you were awesome at a video game.
By comparison, Battleborn has an objective scoring system, which sounds better but has its own set of problems. Some things that may be less important (player killing) are scored way higher than other things (minion destruction) in objective-based gameplay, and sometimes you can get the biggest numbers for almost everything and somehow not get the highest score. No idea how that works.
There are aspects of team-based gameplay that can’t be quantified -such as effectively shielding other players from damage- that the game may not add as a factor, but other players really appreciate. This empowers gamers to use the support classes, even if they don’t get to shred enemy players’ faces as much. In the beta you didn’t get a reward for votes, but Blizzard has hinted that this may change and I think some in-game currency and/or XP would be in order to further push gamers towards helping their teammates with support classes or playing the objective rather than just focusing on killing.
This one is pure vanity, but we humans are vain creatures. Prior to the MVP vote, Overwatch shows you the “Play of the Game”, which is really damn cool. Usually it’s a triple or quadruple kill (although I’ve seen timely feats of multiple player resurrection make the grade), and the game doesn’t really have the ability to take style into account when choosing who gets the nod but it’s really nice to both admire somebody else’s well-executed kill streak or Ultimate attack and have other players see yours as well. Every game is so frenetic that it’s good to take a moment at the end of a match to see a particularly impressive slice of that action.
But wait, there’s more! You don’t have to rush to mash your share button and comb over your recent gameplay to make videos of your greatest hits. The game does it for you. Your last several impressive plays are saved complete with your intro of choice, so after a night or two of gaming you can relive your finest moments and save/share your earth-shattering badassery without all of the searching and editing hassle. Observe:
Ah, the old “throw up an ice wall, toss a cryo drone around the side, and then murder them all with icicles while they’re helplessly frozen” play.
In spite of the lack of single player/co-op, Blizzard seems to be pushing online gaming in the right direction with Overwatch. Giving players lots of choices and unlockables to express themselves with and dozens of diverse playable characters with distinct roles to fill and not overloading them with useless loot or rewarding more experienced players with even more advantages and instead just focusing on style while offering a well-balanced multiplayer experience is something to be applauded. I may not be buying it on release day since I’m loathe to pay full price for a MP-only title, but Overwatch and I will meet again someday, and I’m betting it will have even more to recommend it by then. Looking forward to it.