As an ardent fan of the Borderlands franchise, and a lover of the MOBA genre, picking up Battleborn seemed like a no-brainer. The latest shooter from Gearbox would combine both of my gaming passions into a single package, so I was all but certain that it would suck me in good and proper, and for a very long time.
Unfortunately, these were thoughts I had before I tried the game out. After having time with some early code last year, I felt indifferent, and unconvinced that Battleborn was something I should really sit up and take note of. Those feelings were further cemented just a few weeks ago when I spent some time with the open beta.
Now though, after having played through the final product, I can honestly say that I’ve changed my mind. Battleborn is a fun romp for sure, but it is far from perfect.
A campaign to forget
There’s no doubt that Gearbox had big plans for the campaign of Battleborn. To sum it up briefly, there’s only one star left in the entire universe, called Solus, and it’s on the verge of being snuffed out by a race known as the Varelsi, and their friend, Lothar Rendain. In order to stop this catastrophe from taking place, the last remaining factions decide to ally together, and send out their best fighters,the Battleborn, to avert the crisis.
Sounds epic, right? That there is the perfect stage for what promises to be one amazing saga!
Sadly, the campaign, bar some awesome moments peppered here in there, is largely forgettable. It consists of 8 missions (plus a prologue), and it’s riddled with some poor design choices.
It’s not all doom and gloom at least. The banter between NPCs for example, both friend and foe, is great, and provides the sort of humour that only Gearbox are capable of providing. It’ll be a hit or miss for some, but for me, it’s one of the few parts of the campaign that I really enjoyed.
As for the actual gameplay portion, that’s where I have issue. Much of it is spent defending wave after wave of enemies, or running around completing objectives on a very linear path. This all wouldn’t be too bad I suppose, if the enemies had a bit more variety. Even the bosses, though unique in their design (and very Borderlandsy in their presentation), begin to feel the same after a while. They almost all have spouts of invulnerability where they take no damage unless some other quick side objective is completed.
The first time around, the missions are actually quite fun. After a couple of repeats however, the experience becomes incredibly annoying. It’s all made even more irritating thanks to a very poor voting system. Each time a lobby is loaded up, only three maps are presented, and players are left to decide amongst themselves which gets played. If you’re looking to play a specific level, or the campaign from A-Z, good luck. The only option to play a stage of choice is to tackle it alone, which as a side note, cannot be done offline (yup, Battleborn requires an Internet connection at all times). It is possible to do everything solo, I assure you (I managed it myself), but it’s hardly ideal – the campaign is made to be played with lots of people afterall.
But characters to remember
Thankfully, the characters in Battleborn more than make up for the lacklustre campaign. There are 25 of them (with more coming in future). They’re all unique in terms of actual design and gameplay, fun to play with, and have spectacular personalities to boot
Each comes with their own standard form of offense by means of a weapon or unique melee attacks (or both), and each has access to three abilities – two standard, and one powerful ultimate. On top of all this, each character has their own Helix system, which allows them to be somewhat tailored to fit the situation at hand. Every game has the Battleborn starting out at level 1. As progress is made, experience is earned, and levelling up occurs to the cap of 10. With each level, players have the choice between two (and sometimes three) buffs.
Let’s put all of that into layman’s term using Caldarius, my favourite Battleborn (he’s the one who let me complete the campaign solo). He has a rapid-fire TMP as his primary attack, an energy blade as his secondary attack, a dash ability, a flash grenade, and powerful AOE nuke for his ultimate.
His one Helix level gives him the choice of either firing off three grenades in quick succession, or spawning the one into three smaller ones on impact. Both are similar on paper, but carry different utilities. Deciding which to choose really depended on what I wanted to do in that specific game.
The same applies to all the other characters. They all handle differently right off the bat, and can feel somewhat different with each use.
And PvP that’ll last a very long time
I spent hour upon hour in the campaign, trying out different characters to see if I could find that addictive spark I so desperately wanted Battleborn to have. Sadly, there was nothing. I will admit that I did find myself sometimes enjoying the mindless shooting with certain characters (Caldarius is my bae for sure). Other than those certain glimmers of hope though, I was ready to write this game off into mediocrity. Good characters can only take you so far after all.
And then I tried the PvP, and I found it – that itch that needed scratching! The versus multiplayer is what got me hooked to Battleborn, and I know I’ll be spending a lot more time with it.
There are three modes available. Incursion is as close to a MOBA as Battleborn gets – apart from the fact that there are characters with spells that level up. Anyways, teams need to push a lane with their minions, with the winner being the one that can get right to the end to defeat the enemy sentry. Meltdown works similarly, except instead of having to reach the enemy base, players need to feed minions to an alter instead. It plays quite similarly to Incursion, truth be told. Lastly, there’s Capture, which plays almost identically to Unreal Tournament’s Dominion.
While Incursion sucked up a lot of my time, it’s Capture that garnered most of my attention. It’s unbelievably addictive! Bouts last no longer than 15 minutes, and I’ve had games lasting just 5-7 minutes. What this means is that, in an hour for example, 4-6 rounds can be played, and they can each be enjoyed with a different Battleborn. Levelling is unbelievably quick, so Capture is a nice way to really try out different ways of customising characters. I don’t think it’s for everybody, but I personally enjoyed it very, very much.
I don’t want to downplay Incursion. Being a MOBA veteran, this is the game mode I understood best, and it too, is a lot of fun to play. Due to there being one main lane, there’s non-stop action (it’s basically spells and explosions 24/7), which might prove to be a tad overwhelming for some. It was for me initially to be honest, but once I learnt what each character could do, as well as where everything on the map was, everything clicked.
This is where Gearbox put all their effort – into the PvP. It’s still rough around the edges, believe you me. Lag is no joke. With no local servers, there is sadly a delay, but it’s still all very much playable.
Despite me enjoying the game overall, I know Battleborn isn’t for everybody. I think deep down, it only got me hooked because hey, we all know I love my MOBAs.
That being said, I do think that everybody can find some enjoyment with it. Whether that will be in the raid-like campaign, or the PvP, or both – it really depends on personal preference. For me, it was in the Versus multiplayer, which I know I’ll be playing more of.
Last Updated: May 11, 2016