Bleeding Edge on Xbox One
Bleeding Edge quietly released yesterday on both Xbox One and PC and you’d be forgiven if you forgot it existed until reading this. Since its announcement back at E3 2019, there hasn’t been a ton of buzz, positive or negative, about Bleeding Edge.
Perhaps it’s just a feeling of trepidation towards a game that just looks so different from Ninja Theory’s last game, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, which was critically well-received and acclaimed especially with regards to its writing. Oddly, Bleeding Edge leverages none of what people really liked about Helblade; it has virtually no story, and is focused entirely on online multiplayer combat.
Its core gameplay is fun, and the talent of the developers shines through in spite of problems which I’ll get to, but it’s apparent that there wasn’t anyone with enough weight on the team to hold the game up a bit and add key, modern touches that need to be included in a game that wants to survive in the hyper competitive multiplayer market.
The lazy comparison that some may make because of its cast of quirky heroes with unique abilities would be to a game like Overwatch or the ill-fated Battleborn, but Bleeding Edge a team-based brawler, not a shooter.
It’s really more comparable from a combat or “feel” perspective to a MOBA that leaves out the traditional elements seen in that genre such as minions and towers, and instead includes objectives more commonly seen in shooter games such as control points.
There are damage dealing classes that specialize in sustained damage, area of effect abilities, ranged attacks, and also assassin-type characters designed to swoop in and finish off an enemy that is on the run. Tank classes sacrifice some damage for more survivability and support characters mix healing in with some kind of utility. Regardless of your choice, similar to MOBAs, cavalier players that rush into a dangerous area will swiftly be punished.
The mixing and matching of genres combined with Bleeding Edge’s unique heroes and team composition works well. There is enough variety within the play styles to suit the taste of most players I would imagine. There were certainly some characters I loathed playing, but there were a handful across each of the three classes that I loved just as much.
Buttercup is my favorite so far and is a character that has been featured heavily in trailers and promotional images. She’s capable of both hunting escaping players down with her Roadhog-like chain and set them up for more damage with a powerful combo that knocks players down for more beatings. Her ability to stun and slow down enemies allows other more fragile but stronger characters to use their skills to really put a hurting on.
Eventually I’m going to get pretty grim about this game, but Bleeding Edge’s combat absolutely does stand out from the crowd in a very positive way. While it may seem like a clone of other hero-based team games on the surface, that is not the case in reality.
Teamwork is absolutely essential in Bleeding Edge. I really mean this when I say this: there are few games that I have played this generation, or maybe ever, that value teamwork as heavily as Bleeding Edge does.
In a game like Overwatch, depending on the map a player using a high-skill character like say, Widowmaker or Tracer, can overwhelm average players and carry a team even in the face of un-optimal teamwork or party makeup. Same goes for games like League of Legends or Smite, where an expert in a particular character can just snowball in strength and steamroll the opposition.
In Bleeding Edge a better player will come out on top on a 1v1 fight usually but the moment it’s a 1v2, there’s very little even a higher skill player can do to survive when outnumbered.
In my experience with Bleeding Edge, the individual skill ceiling is lower than other similar hero games but the team skill ceiling is very high. There’s only so much one player can do to carry. The team that has the best party makeup, and that communicates the best will win.
This sounds exciting on paper. Making sure teamwork is adequately rewarded and that the combat is fun and stands out is the hard part and Bleeding Edge nailed that. The problem is that support system around this core gameplay in Bleeding Edge is very underdeveloped, and it undercuts a lot of what the game gets right.
For starters, there’s one singular queue for 100% of player base as of launch: Fight! That’s it. Everyone jumps into that lobby and games are put together from there. At launch there is no ranked mode to filter players seeking a more competitive environment away from people just wanting to have fun and mess around.
While ranked is apparently on the way, it’s something that should have been in the game from the start, even if it’s greyed out to assure fans that don’t keep up with gaming news regularly to hang in there if that’s something they are looking forward to. It doesn’t take long for a multiplayer game to get overwhelmed by negative word of mouth, just ask Gearbox and Battleborn.
Team composition is absolutely crucial in Bleeding Edge and as of launch, there’s no way to queue into a role. Expect to often be the person that has to suck it up and play as a support character more than you’d like if you care about winning because if no one else does, and the other team has their act together, it’s pretty much a guaranteed loss.
Coordinated teams will shred any pick-up group, and a lot of games I experienced were very lopsided. With no mercy rule that I could see, this leads to lots of matches that feel like they are just dragging on forever. You’re begging to put out of the misery of the match you’re in just so you can keep your rewards and EXP.
Speaking of which, that brings us to the Workshop, a menu that allows you to create builds using the perks that you purchase with in-game currency or unlock as you gain EXP on a particular character. It’s fine; it’s nothing groundbreaking but it does allow dedicated players to take a bit of ownership over their favorite character.
At launch there’s only two objective-based game modes: Control Points and Power Collection spread out across a small handful of maps. The maps are admittedly interesting and feature hazards such as trains, shock traps, and rockets that will interfere in the usual combat with hilarious results, but playing the same few game modes on the same few maps gets repetitive quickly.
The roster of characters is also small, only 11 at launch, and when you compound that with the lack of maps and game types, it doesn’t take long before you’ve seen everything that Bleeding Edge has to offer at launch. If you don’t instantly fall in love with Bleeding Edge’s style of combat, there’s really no other reason to stick around when there’s so much other more well-developed competition.
Bleeding Edge has the foundation of a great team-focused game, but Ninja Theory should not have released the game in this barebones state. I can’t help but feel this launch is a glorified beta that will end up quickly frustrating all but the most loyal of fans.
The result is a game that is, at its core, a unique brawler game that is held back from reaching its full potential by repetitive gameplay and a lack of features that in 2020 should absolutely be standard, at launch, for any game trying to squeeze into the crowded multiplayer game market. Maybe you could get away with it earlier in the generation, but at this stage you just can’t anymore. There are too many well-developed competitors this late into the console generation to come in halfheartedly.
In this day and age, if all you have is a multiplayer mode you have to come heavy ready to compete with the most popular games, or not at all.
- Handful of unique characters that are fun to use.
- Servers appear to be running smooth for the most part.
- Core gameplay is solid.
- No role queues.
- Only a small handful of maps.
- No separation of casual and competitive play at launch.
- New and solo players are at a major disadvantage.
March 24, 2020
Xbox Game Studio
Xbox One and PC
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