Weekend Gaming Thoughts: A Little Bit of Everything

This past weekend may have been the most exciting weekend we’ve had in quite some time for gaming. Between the new April Update in Destiny, the Falcon Lost Incursion in The Division, and open betas for DOOM and Battleborn there was plenty of new stuff to dive into. And dive I did this weekend, hitting it all except the new Division stuff since I’m still a little cool on that game. I wanted to talk a bit about what I played, even though I already did a little with Destiny and Battleborn.

Battleborn Start Screen

With Battleborn, I played a bunch more story missions – both solo and in full five man groups. I started to try out other characters beyond Marquis as well and I have to say that of the characters I did play, I really liked them a lot. Oscar Mike – the stereotype soldier guy – is a fantastic pure burst damage character. His grenade skill can not only do burst damage with the explosion, but then add in the napalm DoT effect and it’s an incredible trash clearance skill. His ultimate skill is great for doing a massive amount of damage as well, assuming you target the spot right. Rath, who was by far my favorite melee character I played, is a neat character to play. I like his health steal on hit, it helps a offset a little his fragile nature. His skills help out tremendously with crowd control, and his ultimate is lovely for trash clearance and multi-target damage. Plus, he’s voiced by Christopher Sabat AKA Vegeta, so he’s basically the best ever. I was worried a little that melee characters would be a step or two behind in the story missions, but Rath at least did really well. The only part in the two missions where he let me down was in the final phase of the ISIC fight, because he flies all around and was aggroed on our El Dragon during that phase. Assuming that the rest of the story missions have similar engagements, it looks like melee characters will totally be viable choices. Battleborn went from being a game that I was ambivalent towards, to one that I’m very much interested in grabbing.

Doom 2016

With the other beta this weekend, DOOM, I played that a bit less.I only played a couple games, but that’s because I think this is shaping up to be a really really good game. If you’ve played any classic id FPS – DOOM, Wolfenstein or Quake – you’ll be ready from the get go. This was easily the best pure arcade style shooter that I’ve played in years. It felt immediately like the old games, just with a sprinkling of modern trappings. It’s fast, it’s brutal, it rewards thumbskill and twitch shooting. If you come from the modern FPS games, you might have a little learning curve to get used to, but the game does it’s job really well. If this is at all on your radar, this is definitely a good sign. Since the beta was extended to today, if you haven’t tried it yet, give it a shot.

Destiny Taken Guardians

Finally, I got to go through the Challenge of the Elders in the April Update in Destiny. I was worried that I wouldn’t get it in because I wasn’t close to 320 Light yet. And in fact, I’m still not 320 Light. But I was actually able to solo through the Challenge of Elders at 314 Light, which doesn’t exactly sound like much of a Challenge. It wasn’t super simple – the second room took me a good 6 deaths or so to clear. But because Small Arms is the modifier this first week, if you’re a little lower Light, you can easily make it up. I ran with Red Death and Cauterize on my Titan to get health back on kills to help since I’m solo, and it was done in like 40 minutes. Even with Variks taking points away, I was able to score over 40,000 points to earn a weapon from him. I did run it later with a couple buddies, which just further showed that this week in particular, challenge isn’t really the right word I’d use. That said, the actual activity itself is a ton of fun. Soloing it was the most fun I’ve had in PvE in a long time – it’s just total chaos the whole time. The rewards are maybe a little inconsistent, but that is kinda Destiny in a nutshell. It’s really fun, and cements my feeling that the April Update was exactly what the game needed.

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Battleborn Open Beta Thoughts

Battleborn Start ScreenOf all the things that landed this week in the world of gaming, the one that I was the least educated about, and the one that I had no real opinion about going into is definitely the Open Beta for Battleborn. I knew I wanted to at least give the beta a shot because it’s a Gearbox game and clearly has some strong Borderlands influences. After playing a handful of games last night, I will gladly say that I’m sold on Battleborn. Let’s talk a little about it.

Going in I was a little unsure of how I would like it, since I know it is borrowing heavily from the MOBA toolset. I’m not the world’s biggest MOBA fan – I never got into League of Legends or DOTA even with friends in college who did. In truth, Smite is the most I’ve ever played any MOBA, and I didn’t stick with it for long at all. Going into this spring, it’s pretty evident that MOBA games have shot way up in popularity. There’s Battleborn, Overwatch and Paragon all heading our way this year, not to mention Cliffy B’s Lawbreakers as well. So I was worried that I would be a step behind with Battleborn, since I’m way out of touch with MOBA strategies. Luckily, that’s not the case at all. If anything, I think Battleborn is a lot closer to a mix of something like Team Fortress and Smite. It very much feels like an action game first, then the MOBA influence fills in the spaces. If you’re like me and wary of taking the MOBA plunge, Battleborn is I think a really great way to ease in.

Battleborn Marquis.png

In the Beta, we have five heroes unlocked at the start, and the potential for 25 total heroes. They take on all the different roles that you would expect in a game like this – damage dealers/glass cannons like Marquis (my choice), tanks like Montana, burst mages like Orendi and so on and so forth. Odds are pretty good that you’ll pretty quickly be able to find a hero that you like, one that fits with your style of play. Once you do, the game is set-up to reward you for continually playing that character. You’ve got not only top level challenges tied to completions and wins of matches, but each hero has Lore Challenges that are tied to character specific feats. With Marquis, who has been my go-to so far in the Beta, the Lore challenges have you using his Ein, Zwei Die passive, buffing allies with the haste effect on Temporal Distortion, dealing 6,000 damage in a match with your ultimate ability, dealing 100,000 total damage with the Hoodini and playing five matches on the same team as Phoebe. Completing the challenges gets you Command XP and credits, as well as progress toward unlocking character skins and taunts. Those challenges exist for each of the 25 heroes – that’s a lot of challenge hunting. Add in that some of the top level challenges will unlock heroes earlier than just leveling and it seems to me that challenge hunting is going to be a huge part of the final game. And that’s something that I’ve always liked in games – hunting for skins, titles, taunts that unlock after challenge completion has always been a great carrot for me.

Once you’ve gone ahead and picked a hero, you have a couple options to play in the Beta. There are two story missions and two choices for competitive multiplayer matches. Story and Versus can both be played with public matchmaking, or in private matches. The two story missions both take about 45-50 minutes to complete. That’s one thing this game definitely demands – time. Playing one match – story or versus – is a pretty solid time commitment, not like Call of Duty or Destiny. Your party size can have up to five players – that is in either mode – so you’ve got plenty of room for mixing and matching party makeup. If you want to, you can solo play the story missions as well. On the surface, two story missions, and two versus maps seems limited. When you combine that with the slew of challenges, and the 25 potential different heroes and all the different team makeups that can result, and all of a sudden the replayability shoots up a bit. I definitely am looking forward to trying to get gold scores on the missions, and I can easily see Battleborn being a really good co-op game.

So while all the nuts and bolts of the beta are all taken care of well, the one thing that I think really sold me was the Gearbox flavor. This game, especially in the story missions, feels like it belongs in the Borderlands universe. The writing is very similar, and as a result, it’s just as funny. The characters all feel like that same level of borderline insane, and the voice work is exceptional at delivering the really strong humor in the writing. Marquis’ contempt for “hobos” and “public school shtudents” is hilarious; while Geoff/Arachinis could easily have been a boss in any Borderlands game. If you’ve liked the humor and tone of Borderlands, then Battleborn should absolutely be on your radar. The beta runs through the weekend, so you should definitely get it and try it out.

Games With Gold: March 2016 – Borderlands

BorderlandsNext month’s Games with Gold were announced a couple days ago, and I was really excited to see the second 360 title: Borderlands. It’s heading to the marketplace in the second half of the month. With that in mind I thought I’d write up a quick refresher/prep guide for one of the best games of the last generation.

Borderlands is a FPS/RPG that’s built around four-player co-op. There are four different playable characters, each with a different unique ability. It’s got a real strong emphasis on random loot – enemies drop random guns, shields, grenade and class mods, as well as rewards from quests and chests. Gearbox and 2K like to say that there are “bazillions of guns” in Borderlands, and I believe them. If you’ve come into hybrid shooter/RPGs recently, say with Destiny, you have a good base to get into Borderlands, just expect more RPG than shooter. Also, expect a hell of a lot more variety in weapons and loot. When they say random loot, they really mean random loot.

The big selling point for me with Borderlands is that it has a simple, but effective story that is full of actual humor. A lot of games try to be funny, but most fall a little short or feel forced. Borderlands actually is funny – the writing is great, it’s got some heady humor mixed in with silly sophomoric stuff too. I’ve played through the full game twice already – once solo and once with a buddy. It’s a game that is definitely more fun played with a group though – we actually had started a four-man run right at the end of the 360’s run – now we’ll be able to finish it.

Borderlands Handsome Collection

What I would recommend if you’re interested in Borderlands, since it’s going to be free, is also looking in the DLC for it. There are four packs to get – each one is a little different. One is horror themed, one is based around arena battles, one is built around the main “bad-guy” faction from the main story and the final one is all about Claptrap (the best character). Now I don’t know for sure what’s going to happen when the game goes up with Games with Gold, but I would bet that the DLC will be marked down at least a little bit. The other option could be if they make the Game of the Year edition – that includes all the DLC. Regardless I do really recommend grabbing the DLC – it’s all really good. The new levels make it easier to go about building your character, each DLC added in new unique and legendary items that are really cool, and honestly they all help tie together the story of the first game.

One last point I want to make is that since it’s now going to be backwards compatible, you’ll be able to play all three Borderlands games with the Handsome Collection as well. If you picked up that set on XBox One, now is the time to fill out the collection with the original. It’s a fantastic example of co-op gameplay that also works as a solo game. It’s got great humor, pretty perfect action, and a really good loot system that keeps grinding from being boring. If you missed it when it came out in 2008, this is absolutely a perfect time to pick it up. The series is still going strong with the Tales From the Borderlands games, and I wouldn’t be too surprised to see a full third game coming our way soonish.