I want to love Battleborn, I really do. I want to hug it and squeeze it and smell the newly fresh wrapping of a game you’re dying to play. I’ve gone too far haven’t I?
You see I am a big Borderlands fan; I love the tone, scripting, humour and colourful world that developers Gearbox have created over the last few years. When they announced a new IP for the latest generation of consoles, naturally I ran around in circles, clapped my hands, jumped for joy and scared the dog. So when I sat down to play it, I was pleased that the tone, scripting, humour and colourful world were all still around… but something was missing.
What is Battleborn? That has been the question everyone has been asking for the last year. Now it’s in our consoles the answer is here and it’s quite simply a cross between a first person online shooter and a MOBA.
There is a story that concerns the universe shrinking and a last dying star that ensures all the heroes and villains come together to fight a mysterious dark presence. There is an opening sequence that has a brilliant song, with a sort of Japanese 1990’s cartoon style cut scene that introduces the universe and characters superbly well. I was pumped and excited as I went into the tutorial, then the main game began.
The campaign itself consists of eight missions, or raids, that can be played in any order. You can tackle these on your own and the game will happily partner you with four others from the online community. Or you can co-op with all your friends and tackle it that way. Each mission lasts around 45 minutes and it normally consists of shoot this, defend this area, fight a mini-boss, then finally destroy something a bit bigger. You get to choose your character from around 25 hugely unique warriors, each with their own distinct playing style, power ups, individual voice, moves and swagger. There is a nice touch before each mission when an over the top intro with your gamertag next to the chosen character bursts onto our screens. I played mostly as a rootin’, tootin’, shootin’ sniper as my main gunner, but also dabbled with a bit of a magic ninja who was all up and personal in the enemies faces. When you get the balance of your team right, it works really well, but when the balance is geared to one type of fighting, the mission you are on goes haywire.
Gameplay wise Battleborn is all a bit bonkers. After playing one mission or a multiplayer session, I was completely exhausted and my eyes needed lifting out and sent on a spa break. The action is frenetic; a mixture of colour, mayhem and noise. All the shooting, slicing and melee action works very well indeed – nothing feels slow or clunky – and it is all completely smooth and elegant. The more you play through the missions, the more levels you gain and the more power ups you gather. The strength of your character at level 10 is immense and you should have no trouble mowing down the enemies. When you have to defend certain areas against wave attacks there are robot turrets you can purchase with the credits you collect. These can attack with you, defend or heal while the horde flows towards you. If you die you are left to rely on your comrades to heal you but if everyone dies you have a limited number of continue credits to use. But I warn you now, these will go very quickly indeed.
Now here comes the bad news. Don’t play Battleborn alone. Get some friends, make some new ones and play online as a team. Talk to each other, plan your attacks, and play nicely because that is when Battleborn really works.
However, the first problem the game has is in regards to the matchmaking times. I have sometimes had to wait up to ten minutes for players to join and this is during what could quite easily be classed as the busy period during the first weeks of release. Secondly, there are points in the game whereby you need all the characters involved to stand on pressure plates in order to move forward to the next level. Unfortunately, whilst running through a cooperative mission with strangers, one of the players must have gone off to do something else. The character just stood still and didn’t join us, so after 15 minutes the only thing the rest of us could do was quit. This is more than annoying because after battling for 35 minutes with no checkpoints, it is really hard to muster up the energy to start again. I think for gamers who aren’t used to this type of experience, and especially those who like to dip in and out of their games, then these issues really make selling Battleborn a tricky business. You have to invest in it for the long term gain and in order for the game to start rewarding you back.
The multiplayer modes included come in three modes. Capture is a domination type clone that pits two teams against each other to control areas of the map and Incursion runs as a very long game in which you try and take down your opponent’s robots, while trying to infiltrate yours into enemy lines. The last mode is Meltdown, which I think is for the real hardcore fans and the one section where the longevity of this game will stand the test of time. There is a lot of fun to be had in the multiplayer modes though, even with a distinct lack of maps and modes.
The graphics are very colourful and vivid, and Gearbox have obviously enjoyed themselves in creating a wonderful world. Sometimes the palate becomes too familiar and blends into one, but the characters and creatures are well drawn and designed. The writing is great, with some brilliant one-liners and funny quips. The actual story though feels a bit generic and loses its impact as you battle through the same level for the umpteenth time.
Overall then and there is a lot to love about Battleborn. The gameplay, the character roster list, the multiplayer offerings and colourful world it creates are all great. But there’s a lot to dislike too, most notably the issues mentioned above. On a personal level, I don’t think this is my type of game; I like a more rounded campaign with checkpoints and a strong story. I wanted it to bring me a more varied game experience and I hate repeating things again and again. But then, I don’t think I’m the optimum audience for this game. I do however think that audience is out there, no doubt playing it, loving it and killing it. I hope for them that Battleborn delivers in a year’s time and can entice them in even deeper with new modes and characters.
Me? I’m now really looking forward to Borderlands 3.