E3 2015 – A second look at Borderlands developer’s Battleborn

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Gearbox Studios is a name that comes with some pedigree in the industry. The developers of both Brothers in Arms and Borderlands have proven time and again that they’re able to not only create good shooters, but also two, very different types of experiences. It comes as little surprise then to hear that their newest IP, Battleborn, is actually an odd love child between these two franchises. Picking more bits from one than the other, Battleborn proves itself to be fun, but for how long?

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If you recall Zoe got her hands extensively on this very game only a few days ago – at a separate event held in nearby Santa Monica. She found the game to be relatively fun – with a keen mix of MOBA styled skill tress and decisions with fast-paced, first-person action. It’s one of many trying their hand at this new meld of genres, and it’s certainly one of the more interesting of them. The cast of characters is colourful and varied in both appearance and stature, with the visual differences only punctuating their even more varied skill sets.

Setting out as the melee focused vampire/not a vampire Rath, I lead my pack of four other players into an identical moon-based mission in co-operative mode. Battleborn will be competitive with other players, but also offers this story-like missions to go at with friends or completely alone. Throughout the demo I fought wake after wake of opponents slowly progressing through waypoints and protecting key structures from being vaporised into thin air.

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With so many different branching RPG tools at out disposal, my immediate thought was that communication would be key. That is until not a single word was uttered during my entire 20 minute session with the game. Teammates on either side of me sat dead quiet – not even raising their voice to be revived after some timed Crossbones attacks or a misfired launch.

It didn’t seem to matter too. By of the demo being too easy or our team just playing well, the rising masses did little to actually influence our massive forward strides. In fact, the game fell into a bit of monotony after a few minutes – with my basic strategy of launching, firing Crossbones and dashing in for quick strikes usually getting the job done.

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It’s fun, don’t get me wrong. The combination of the stylised visuals, humorous undertones ala Borderlands and flashy combat make it a treat both visually and audibly. Characters are also different and varied enough to remain unique and interesting – while still filing familiar roles. It’s just that when these roles are being made to cohesively work together, what’s the point?

I suspect that it was more a case of the demo than an overall indication of the game’s no ten-person strong roster sharing little to no synergy. I can easily see how the 10 level tiers will be a crucial part of any competitive multiplayer component, and perhaps even more gruelling co-operative set-pieces. But for what I played, and with my only experience of the game, there was just that little spark lacking.

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And it’s depressing, because I genuinely think Battleborn has more than enough potential to be something I could escape in. Its character design alone got me hooked on the premise of a dying solar system with a  singular sun remaining, and the way these differences emerge in gameplay is truly remarkable. There’s still lots that Gearbox isn’t showing, and it’s these modes that I’m excited to see in the coming months.

Last Updated: June 19, 2015

Alessandro Barbosa

You can all call me Sandy until I figure out how to edit this thing, which is probably never. Sandy not good enough? Call me xXx_J0k3R_360degreeN0Sc0pe_xXx. Also, Geoff's a bastard.

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