When Battleborn was first introduced, I didn’t know what to make of it. Ads, articles and even developer interviews mentioned an RPG shooter that combines elements of Borderlands with MOBAs such as League of Legends and Heroes of the Storm. It wasn’t until I playing both the beta and the finished game, however, that I finally understood what the developers at Gearbox Software were aiming for. To put it simply, Battleborn is a first-person shooter with both a single-player campaign and various multiplayer modes inspired by both MOBAs and team-based shooters. However, as much as this seems innovative and fun to play, it is also incomplete.
Battleborn’s story bears an incredible potential. The universe is dead and gone, with all of the stars snuffed out by a mysterious alien race. All of the stars except one, however, as this is where the heroes of the universe have gathered to make their last stand. Unfortunately, the story is told during a set of generic missions through disembodied voices over radio transmissions. All you do is shoot your way from objective to objective until you reach the boss and unlock a new character. The repetitive combat and structure of the missions doesn’t exactly do justice to the story or the cast of heroes.
Which is really too bad, because the diverse characters of Battleborn are the real stars of this show. You have 25 different heroes, each with their own unique gameplay element that differs from the rest. You may try your luck with Oscar Mike for the familiar first-person shooter gameplay, or you can go full melee with Rath and his twin swords. Whichever character you choose, they have their own strengths and weakness. On top of that, characters level up faster the more you use them, and you unlock even more upgrades that can change the way you play during matches. Sadly, these fun and original characters once again feel wasted on the dull single-player experience.
To truly enjoy the story campaign, I recommend diving into the cooperative multiplayer. You can partner with up to 3 other players in both online or offline co-op for a drastically different experience. Playing through the story missions with even one other person turns the droning combat into an intense fight as you shout at each other over the roar of the enemies’ lasers. But don’t think you’ll be getting off lightly by having a few friends to help you breeze through the story missions, as the more players you have in your group, the higher the difficulty spikes. That’s maybe the co-op’s biggest flaw – it can get annoyingly hard when playing together. The annoying part doesn’t come from the game being too difficult, but from the fact that your team’s progress grinds down to a crawl thanks to an increased number of enemies. All of the missions have you do the same few tasks, whether it’s protecting a control point, VIP or taking down a boss; having to also gun down waves upon waves of the same enemies feels more like filler than any actual challenge.
What Battleborn lacks in story missions, it makes up for in competitive multiplayer. There are three modes to choose from: Capture, which tasks you to hold a point and is also the weaker of the modes; Meltdown, which pays homage to the MOBA formula, but instead of taking down towers, you need to escort minions to the enemy side as a sacrifice; and Incursion, which is the best one of the three, where you push a single lane to the enemy side to take down their sentries. Each of these modes houses just two maps, which is a bit of a disappointment. It’s also surprising, since the game borrows so much from the MOBA genre that you’d think the maps would suffice, but sadly they are not built to cater to the shooter aspects of the game, and can get boring fairly quickly. Get used to playing Incursion on the Overgrowth map, since it’s the most popular one. Don’t fret though as 2K Games has decided to make the five extra heroes and map updates free from everyone who bought the game.
Despite its problems, it’s hard to ignore Battleborn’s charm. The game’s visual style has received a lot of care and attention. Each and every map is based on a planet in the last star system. Tempest, the Jennerit race’s throneworld is completely different from Ekkunar, the home planet of the Eldrid. The same can also be said for the characters. While members of the same race bear some similarities, each hero is given a personality that makes them stand out as an individual character. Hearing their banter during matches or over the radio in the story missions is one of the few delights. Beyond that, the game’s overall design borrows elements from Gearbox’s Borderlands series and still manages to look and feel stunningly original.
Battleborn is a game that will ultimately make you yearn for more of it. Unfortunately, right now it still feels empty and even unfinished. Stop me if you’ve heard this statement before, but this game has “the potential to be so much more”. If I had to summarize my thoughts of the game with just one word, it would be “shallow”. There’s a story with no depth, multiplayer that lacks variety and characters but no background aside from a few logs and texts. However, Battleborn still managed to turn me into a fan, mostly thanks to its top notch presentation and hilarious cast. As a fan I would love to see this game offer more and even turn into a franchise.Some of our posts include links to online retail stores. We get a small cut if you buy something through one of our links. Don't worry, it doesn't cost you anything extra.