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Battleborn vs. Paragon: Is This Really the Year of Console MOBAs?

"Everyone wants a piece of the MOBA pie!"

Companies trying to bring PC dominated genres to consoles have been a constant struggle for decades. Real time strategy games today still struggle to work well on consoles because of how faster inputs happen on PC for them, but first person shooters other than a handful have been the exception. If we remember 2016 for the gaming industry in the future besides VR becoming more of a real deal, it is MOBAs in the console space. For years, we wonder how MOBAs like DOTA and League of Legends would pan out on consoles. Would the same problem RTS games have on them be the same case for MOBAs? Can they appease newcomers like me? I decided to give two of the big console MOBAs a shot in their beta or early access forms a shot to see finally why millions of players love this genre on PC.

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First up is Gearbox’s Battleborn, which has it’s open beta start last Friday for Playstation 4 owners while PC and Xbox One players start this Wednesday. The folks recently behind the Borderlands franchise decided they wanted a piece of the MOBA pie with a new original IP. However, Battleborn is a different spin on the MOBA genre. Sure, there’s heroes to pick, improve stats and abilities as they level up in battle and minions that will help out, but there’s lots of differences compared to League. More importantly, the game is in first-person and there’s not really multiple lanes to transverse through to take out the enemy’s towers and bases. The main multiplayer mode, Incursion, is all about taking out two opposing sentries. Minions and boss-like enemies can also assist in battle along with turrets that can be deployed by spending in-game currency accumulated during a match. The other mode in the open beta, Meltdown, has teams escorting minions to certain points to map to score points. Ever since the game was announced, you can tell 2K Games and Gearbox are betting big on this game to be a major success and their fresh ideas on the MOBA template seem nice on paper.

In terms of the first-person gameplay, Battleborn plays as you expect for a Gearbox game if you played Borderlands as some of the basic heroes are easy to pick up and play. I just went with the melee swordsman Rath and generic soldier Oscar Mike during my time with the beta so far. On consoles, the game running at 30 frames per second currently hampers on the fact that a first-person MOBA is very chaotic when things get heated. The majority of the time I’m just wailing the attack button when I’m Rath hoping to get kills on opposing heroes and minions. When I’m more of a ranged hero like Oscar Mike, it does feel less frantic during close encounters due to the playstyle. Other than that, I can’t tell what the hell is going on during these chaotic moments. The team aspect of a MOBA is still intact however with coordination and class balance being the key to success, but with a time limit unlike the rest of the genre.

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There is also a substantial single player portion with a storyline as well. The story missions can be played cooperatively online or solo as they remind me of Destiny’s strikes and raids. These missions have you and a maximum of four other players go on set path defeating minions and bosses. Just like the multiplayer, your hero will level up gaining new abilities and stats. Downed players can be revived to prevent losing lives and players sometimes have to stand on pads in the vein of Destiny to progress through a level. I’m curious to see how this mode is gonna pan out as an alternative to the Destiny crowd if PvP multiplayer is not their thing.

Of course being a MOBA, microtransactions are thrown into the mix opening loot packs for enhancements on loadouts during matches. Real money can be spent to buy more packs if you’re hoping to get something specific, but the random factor is a turn off so far for MOBA fans. What Battleborn does bring to the MOBA battlefield other than it’s different gameplay ideas is the Gearbox personality and charm seen in Borderlands. The humor is cheesy and topical at best for some of the heroes, but it’s still worth the effort compared to the serious tone that the rest of the pack bring. As a newcomer to the genre, I was surprised how Battleborn is easier to get into compared to the other game I’m gonna bring up in a bit. The action being too chaotic in first person is my biggest issue however in it’s beta form so far, but it’s gonna be interesting to see how it performs in a stacked May.

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The other major challenger to the console MOBA pie is Paragon by Epic Games for both Playstation 4 and PC. If you’re looking for a more traditional MOBA on a console, Paragon is it. This is as traditional as it gets with various heroes, lanes, towers and bases. Think of it more like Smite, also out on PC and PS4/Xbox One but with card packs. The game runs at 60 frames per second on PS4 and matches go on typical MOBA length which is about 40 minutes to a hour. However, the game in it’s early access state doesn’t do a good job of easing newcomers like me into the fold. The tutorials they provided are not in-game and instead videos you could just search the internet to find. Fortunately, they don’t let you get thrown into PvP matches right away as you play matches with bots first before leveling up enough to unlock access to PvP. Even with my matches against bots, I feel like I’m not learning much what to do and usually doing my own thing. If I see a lane in trouble, then I go there and help out or push the pace if an opposing lane is weak.

The card system is currently separating Paragon from the other MOBAs where you can equip cards that heal you temporarily or restore mana along with items that can be upgraded by spending points that are accumulated during matches. Of course you can spend real money for more card packs as microtransactions to further customize your playstyle depending on which hero you play as. At first, I found the cards confusing to implement as I was struggling to figure where to spend my points on. I blame the lack of an in-game tutorial for that. Just like all other MOBAs, there’s your mix of melee and ranged combatants but with less personality with various abilities that act on a cooldown when used.

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The major problem with both Paragon and Battleborn is gonna be team coordination, but it’s not the games’ fault but more the state of online gaming on consoles now. These days, players don’t talk on headsets to coordinate strategy in games like this. At least Paragon has a simple text solution to this issue having messages like defend this lane or needing help. Sure, there’s party chats on consoles, but honestly who still use them? Personally, I don’t see this changing anytime soon and it could be the deathnail to the console MOBA boom before it even starts.

The slower pace of Paragon and traditional MOBAs is another reason why they’re not my thing. Playing through long matches and I can see why it’s a popular genre among the esports crowd seeing the swings in team play and the big plays whenever they happen. Maybe it’s my short attention span in me lately that wants things done in a quick yet efficient matter. Plus I don’t have the time for long multiplayer games compared to those players, which is why Battleborn suits me more than Paragon right now despite it’s issues. Gearbox is willing to make the MOBA experience console friendly unlike Epic.

Will Battleborn and Paragon change the MOBA landscape as a whole? For the short term, I would say yes because of the fact they’re on consoles, meaning more audiences being exposed to it. However, I don’t see both games having long term success and become the “flavor of the month.” Their current flaws and the lack of online communication on consoles are gonna be the games’ downfall casually. League and DOTA players are not leaving those games anytime soon because they’re still pretty good, but more competition isn’t a bad thing at the end of the day. I wanted to give MOBAs a shot for a while now especially 2016 being filled with them and I fairly did, but I’m just not a fan of slower paced games these days. If you prefer a MOBA that tries to shake things up, give Battleborn a try with the open beta this week. Otherwise, if a traditional MOBA on a console is more your alley, then go with Paragon.

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