Shooter with a coat of MOBA.
Part hero-based shooter and part MOBA, Gearbox’s Battleborn has dropped onto consoles and PC in a glorious splash of colour and frantic on-screen action. The marketing for Battleborn has been a little confusing, leaving many players wondering exactly what type of game it is. However, a well populated open beta will have given most interested players a chance to find out for themselves, and for everyone who didn’t partake in the beta, well, it’s an fps with a cast of wildly different characters to play as in mostly multiplayer matches. And it’s quite good fun, but not without issues.
Presentation-wise, Battleborn feels like a natural progression of Gearbox’s excellent Borderlands games. An incredibly well-polished intro sequence sets the player up for what is to come, and despite some occasionally bland looking environments, the gameplay really pops from the screen. It is bright and colourful, with the screen sometimes getting overwhelmed when the action really heats up. The huge variety of playable characters are visually individual, making it even easier for players to latch on to one or two favorites. Overall, the game looks great.
But a pretty looking game is nothing without gameplay to match. Players have access to some 25 different characters to play as in the game, with each one different from the next. The choice of character is limited to begin with, but new characters are slowly unlocked as the player puts in the hours. The range of character abilities ensures that there is a character for any playstyle out there, from close melee fighting to more defensive ranged attacks, and it will take a fair amount of playing and trying different characters to find what fits for the player.
The cast really are one of the highlights of the game. Along with all of the different abilities and fighting styles, each of the characters has their own personalities. These personalities shine through with the trademark Gearbox humour. There are a lot of giggle moments in the game, although Battleborn doesn’t quite hit the same levels of humour as Borderlands.
There is a story and campaign for players try their hand at, comprising some eight missions. Simply, some evil bad guy is trying to destroy the final star in the galaxy and the Battleborn represent the greatest warriors from the opposing factions being sent to stop it from happening. It may not be the deepest of stories, but it ties everything together and provides a reason for all of the shooting. Sadly, the eight campaign missions are somewhat repetitive and feel a little grindy, with some annoying difficulty spikes, especially when playing alone.
Of course, this being a predominantly multiplayer game, the campaign missions can be played in co-op, both online and even split-screen. The missions are infinitely easier, and more fun, with other players, but the matchmaking leaves a bit to be desired, and voting for which mission to play can lead to frustration.
Progression is dealt with in an interesting way. While there is some ranking outside of the matches, both for the player themselves and the characters they use, it is the Helix rank that really makes the difference in each match. Characters begin the match at Helix level one and quickly start to rank up as they play. This keeps the game balanced, ensuring that it is only experience that differentiates between a new player and a veteran. Each time a character ranks up in a match, the player is given the option to choose from a couple of enhancements, usually similar, that improve their chosen character. It is a nice system that works really well, and gives players the option to change up their character as each match progresses. It is also one of the MOBA factors of the game.
The rest of the MOBA style comes with the PvP multiplayer options. Incursion is the most MOBA mode in the game, with players split into teams that have to work along a lane, along with their AI minions, to defeat the opposing teams base. The Meltdown mode is similar, with two lanes and a different objective. And then there is the least MOBA style mode, Capture, which offers a Domination style experience.
The PvP is where most of the longevity will lie in Battleborn, with each of the modes offering a slightly different experience which is sure to appeal to most players. However, as it stands right now, the limitation comes from the lack of different maps available in each game mode. As time moves on, I am sure new maps will be added. It is just disappointingly limited at the moment.
Battleborn, with its combination of shooter and MOBA mechanics, certainly offers something different for console gamers. The massive roster of quirky characters is a real boon. However, there is a certain amount of grinding that some will find dull, and the lack of map variety for the PvP modes does limit the enjoyment somewhat. A few months down the line, I am sure that Battleborn will be a more ranging experience. The launch experience may be a bit shallow, but with an investment of time, there is still plenty of fun to be had in Battleborn.