Battleborn has eight story missions available to play either alone or with a group online. I have completed six. The Saboteur is the seventh, and I’m having a hell of a time with it. I am not alone.
This piece originally appeared 5/7/16.
Many of the story missions in Battleborn require players defend a point or piece of equipment from enemy onslaught. Between escort missions and pitched battles against waves of enemies, there’s a whole lot of defending going on. Most of these defense objectives can be readily achieved by a semi-competent group.
The Saboteur is the defend-iest of defense missions. The players must defend an AI against attack as she infiltrates a number of computer systems. Players set up defenses, activate the object they’ll be defending, and then enemies arrive in nice orderly waves to be wiped out.
I first attempted to play through The Saboteur the Monday before the game was released. Matchmaking couldn’t find me a party to join up with, so I went in alone. I wouldn’t recommend it. It was sad. Relatively new to the game and playing a new character, my lives ran out before I made it to the third of three defense segments.
That was probably for the best, as I’ve played through The Saboteur with a full team seven times now, and we never made it to the end. We generally got through two of three waves before the objective was torn apart by enemies we couldn’t reach in time and the mission ended.
On one hand, The Saboteur is Battleborn’s cooperative story at its finest. This is not meant to be a game where you pick a character you love (Shayne and Aurox) and stick with them to the bitter end. It’s about finding the right character for the situation.
If the enemies are swarming your objective from afar, perhaps a character with shielding is in order, or maybe a sniper with a good view of the entire area. If the enemies are hitting the objective too hard, maybe for a wall around it than welcoming them into the area and trying to beat them to death while their wild attacks whittle down our beleaguered artificial intelligence.
It’s exactly this sort of challenge that makes a player hop into their upgrade Helix and see if a better build would fix things. Maybe I just need to equip the right combination of relics?
On the other hand, testing out new builds and equipment would be a lot less frustrating if I didn’t have to play through 20-25 minutes of mission to get to the point where we failed all over again.
There are checkpoints in Battleborn. These are used if a character dies and her teammates can’t get to her in time to heal her back up. One of the party’s stock of extra lives is used, and the player respawns.
If a defense objective gets overrun, the mission immediately ends. There are no do-overs. Not MMO-type regrouping outside of the boss’ lair and discussing new plans of attack. If the final objective goes down in The Saboteur, the player has to replay the entire mission to get to that point again, and that gets pretty boring, no matter how easy those early bits become over time or how charming and quirky the dialogue gets.
In order to get back into The Saboteur to capture screenshots I had to start up a private session and go in by my lonesome. Out of four attempts and getting into a party for the mission, twice it wasn’t an option (players vote between three choices) and twice I was outvoted. It feels like players are actively avoiding it at this point.
Evidence indicates a lot of people are running into the same snag. The PlayStation 4 trophy for completing The Saboteur on any difficulty is at 9.4 percent. The rest, not counting the final mission which is unlocked after The Saboteur, are at least in the mid-20th percentile.
PC players have had better luck with 20 percent of players unlocking The Saboteur achievement, but there’s still a steep drop from the 33 percent who’ve completed the mission with the next-lowest rate.
Gearbox is aware of The Saboteur’s sharp difficulty spike. In a forum post a few days back titled “The Saboteur pretty much can’t be done, right?” creative director Randy Varnell said he believed the mission was too difficult, and it would be addressed in an upcoming patch.
That’s great, and I look forward to finishing the Battleborn story one day, but reworking the mission so it’s easier for players to complete is a simple solution that doesn’t really address the problem. We’ve got all of these magnificent characters at our disposal but can only play one at a time through missions that on average last a half hour. And when we realize the one we’re playing might not work in a given situation, it’s too late to turn back.
I could run through story missions solo, quitting when I feel like I’ve gotten a handle on a new character. I could hop into online PVP and die until I stop dying. Or maybe one day Battleborn will get some sort of training ground, where players can test out different builds against different situations on the fly to see what works best.
For now I’ll keep pressing on, trying to find that Saboteur sweet spot. I was planning on holding off on online PVP until I finished the story (I’ve dipped my toes in but was saving myself), but it looks like I’ve got some time to kill. How hard can it be?