2016 is the year of the SHMOBAs—a hybrid of shooter and MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena). Battleborn and Overwatch are two hot favorites on this year’s release list—Overwatch, from World of Warcraft and Diablo creators, Blizzard Entertainment; and Battlewatch from Gearbox Software, the team behind the Borderlands series. Both titles take classic team-based online shooter games and enhance them using elements from the MOBA genre. This may make these multiplayer games seem relatively similar but, although they do share certain similarities, there are clear differences between them. We introduce both multiplayer shooter games to you, explain the differences, and aim to clarify which game is best suited to which player.
Overwatch: The Hype behind the Online Shooter
Even though the Overwatch release date was only recently determined as the 24th of May 2016, the multiplayer online game was already being hyped from the end of 2015. Since the start of the beta phase, during which a few lucky players could test run the game, fans have been trying to gain access. Equally, Let’s Play on Youtube and Twitch streams have registered exceptionally high access numbers. On first glance, Overwatch appears to share a lot of similarities with the classic Team Fortress 2. Two teams with six players each choose a hero from the categories offense, defense, tank, or support and have to fulfill certain tasks depending on game mode. The heroes can be exchanged during the game as often as you want and all have unique skills. The emphasis is not on the personal kill/death score, but rather on team play to fulfill the mission goals.
Parts of the game are based on the preparatory work of the MMORPG project “Titan”, which was announced in 2007 but aborted in 2014. According to Blizzard, various cards from project Titan were recycled for Overwatch, but it is highly unlikely that the entire game universe and its characters are connected to the project, as the world, back story, and characters of the game appear both detailed and consistent.
Game Modes and Heroic Roles in Overwatch
The current beta version of Overwatch offers three game modes: conquer, cargo transport and control. For the latter both teams must conquer a central position on the map and defend it until the conquer score reaches 100 points. For the conquer mode players must conquer numerous positions on the map and defend them. Cargo transport is the most interesting mode, where the offense team must transport a vehicle across the map on tracks, while the defense aims to stop the transport. Further game modes and heroes will be revealed by the game developers step by step.
To ensure dynamic team play in the multiplayer shooter, true to MOBA style all heroes (currently 21) have unique weaponry, two special skills along with their ultimate ability, and can be assigned a clear role. Tracer for example, is an offense oriented, speedy woman, who can teleport, create time loops and throw an impulse bomb—but only rarely hits her target. The genetically modified Gorilla Winston on the other hand is a classic tank, who can absorb a lot of damage, deals his blows at close range, and can create barrier projections that protect the entire team from being hit. To be able to adjust to the situation as a team, characters can be exchanged during the match.
Battleborn: A More Classic Moba and Single Player
Despite their apparent similarities, there are actually vast differences between Battleborn and Overwatch when it comes to game modes and mechanism. Battleborn follows an entirely different path to Overwatch, as it is not just a multi-player game, but also incorporates single player and split-screen modes (for PS4 and Xbox One). It is clear however, that the online multiplayer games are the heart of Battleborn, where two teams of 5 players are pitted against each other. Each player chooses a hero known as a Battleborn at the beginning of the match, and all have different talents and skills. From close-combat fighters and samurai swords to bows and arrows, the four-armed enchantress or the small, sweet penguin in the fighter robot costume. As in Overwatch, the aim is to build a team and to optimize the combination of your heroes’ skills in order to be successful.
For those who love Borderlands because of its characters and unique humor, Battleborn will feel familiar, as the presence of its developers Gearbox Software is evident throughout the game. The characters are a collection of crazy, wacky, or even completely insane individuals who love to provoke each other through ridicule. We are certainly looking forward to the Battleborn release in early May 2016.
The Heroes and Different Game Modes of Battleborn
The central game mode of Battleborn is “incursion”, during which, in classic MOBA fashion, NPCs have to advance towards the enemy base with their characters according to predetermined paths. The aim is to destroy the enemy base and to defend your own. “Meltdown” requires players to guide their minions to the center of the map so they can sacrifice themselves to the machine God by throwing themselves in the combustion chamber. The “capture” game mode involves conquering certain parts of the map and defending them while eliminating as many opponents as possible. Aside from the multiplayer modes of the online shooter game there is also a single player mode, which allows for deeper insights into the story of Battleborn.
The Battleborn characters are as diverse as those of Overwatch. Each of the 25 announced heroes is equipped with a unique weapon, has six powers, and an individually customizable helix skill tree. Each match earns the character experience points, increases its character level, and distributes up to ten helix points. Among the diverse characters is the katana swinging Rath, who is very agile and attacks his opponents using tornado attacks and even by sucking the life out of them. Toby, a small and sweet seeming penguin, uses his mechanic combat tank to overwhelm his opponent with lasers, grenades, and other features.
Conclusion: Which Game Should You Choose?
Overwatch and Battleborn both promise to be unique multiplayer games, which are sure to be among the video game highlights of 2016. For those looking for elements of Dota 2, League of Legends and co. in multiplayer shooter games, Battleborn is the better choice, as it shares several similarities to these games. If you prefer classic mission centered online shooter games with easy role play and MOBA elements, then Overwatch is for you. We can’t wait to get our hands on both games in May and to see which game has the potential to keep us coming back.