Review by our newest Reviwer, so new she doesnt even have an account: Kylie Trace
Sometime last summer I started hearing about Battleborn, a sci-fi/fantasy first person MOBA developed by Gearbox Software, the creators of Borderlands. Battleborn’s graphics are solid and have a cartoony feel that really adds to the colorful battlefield. The number of playable characters means that there’s something for everyone. I thought it looked fun, so I was excited to hear it was going to have an open beta which would give me the chance to check it out before its actual release.
The basic plot is that there’s only one star left in the galaxy and a whole slew of heroes from different backgrounds must come together to protect it from being destroyed. The heroes (known as Battleborn) come from 5 different factions, ranging from a crew of anarchists known as the Rogues to members of the LLC (Last Light Consortium) whose main focus is to continue to profit economically. Either way they all have to work together to stop the end of the galaxy, but you still get the feeling that everyone has a “this town ain’t big enough for the two of us” attitude when you read each of the characters back stories. These stories have to be unlocked and are pretty rewarding if you’re interested in the character, but it takes a bit of grinding. Sometimes a character’s lore is only unlocked if you get someone else to play one specific character with you 5 times. It’s just chance if someone else wants to play that character unless you can get someone you know to do it.
5v5 PVP is where all the action happens. The wait times here were ok for the beta. I hardly had any issues connecting to other players but the wait time while players were selecting characters seemed excessive. Most people I played with selected their characters quickly in order to secure them, since there could only be one of each character on a team. The most annoying issue here was that if you didn’t want your character anymore, for example, if your team composition didn’t look good, you couldn’t choose someone else. It was pretty frustrating when you knew you were about to lose the game by making such a simple mistake, like not picking the healer the rest of the team needed on accident.
Once on the battlefield, you start in the spawn room of your team and you’re given a briefing on the objective of the game.. At this time you can try out your skills and read through your skill tree to plan your attack before the gates open. When they finally do, you’re introduced to a colorful and well designed map. The environment talks smack to you and so does the other team right in the middle of combat, and it’s hilarious. You can perform a taunt animation to players right after you’ve killed someone which will really annoy them and rub it in their face. However, this leaves you vulnerable to attack so you might not want to taunt while in the middle of a hectic battlefield when you see the flashing “press to taunt” event.
Battleborn’s beta offered three multiplayer 5-on-5 game modes: Incursion, Meltdown and a ranked match mode that chooses one of the other modes depending on a vote from both teams. Gearbox also says that another game mode, a capture the flag variant, will be included with the full release.
Incursion is a raid where two teams of 5 battleborn go head to head trying to destroy the enemies two large defensive spider mech turrets to win the game. A more traditional MOBA game type, it also includes herds of small npc robots that act as a wall to penetrate into the enemy’s territory. Usually the fight ends up being right in the middle where both teams will clash – this area becomes a chaotic war ground. You can also go to either side of the map to subdue beasts who will then fight on your side for more support. The violent power struggle in the center of the map ended up being utter chaos and at points it was difficult to tell what was going on when everyone jumped into a team fight. If you had chosen a melee character, this could be disorienting. It was both fun and frustrating but it had a way of forcing you to strategize better each time, which I enjoyed.
Meltdown is a little different. In this game, for some reason, you’re trying to get your teams robots to your enemies grinders to win the game. You have to accompany the doomed robots so that they don’t get killed by other players, but the other team also has robots to throw in your grinders. It’s like the wildest game of soccer or rugby you’ve ever seen. As twisted as the concept might be, it’s fun and they’re just robots anyway…
There’s also a 5 player co-op story mode that lets players go through a hilarious and beautiful journey with their favorite character. You fight hordes of minion robots, deadly alien species and other enemies including the evil Valersi, a dark force trying to rid the universe of any light to live in pure darkness. Your goal is to stop the destruction of the last star in the universe. Currently it seems like there’s two missions that will be released with the full game. You get a little taste of the story with more to come in the near future. Doing these missions let me get a good feel for how each character played in combat. The missions had lots of comedy and challenges as well as bosses, hordes of enemies and lots of experience at the end of the game. In one mission you guide a robot carrying a bomb to a portal. The robot is somewhat intelligent but sadly isn’t aware of its own mortality. The fact that it’s about to suicide bomb the enemy and still keeps asking things like “So guys, what are y’all doing after this?” kinda makes you feel bad for letting the poor bot go on.
The characters are what make this game shine, with their unique personalities and interesting abilities that seem mostly balanced. Battleborn has an interesting MOBA type leveling system while still feeling like a fps. The game starts with a handful of the Battleborn unlocked to give you a few well balanced types of characters to start the game. As you play, you level up your rank and unlock new Battleborn. These characters range from snipers that are excellent at long range attacks but can’t deal with a brawler one-on-one, to healers that can keep anyone in the fight alive. Depending on how you like to play, all battleborn have a skill tree that lets you specialize in new abilities as you level up in each match. Eventually you unlock an ultimate attack at level 5. Each character has a great voice actor who compliments their playstyles and personality perfectly. Many are immediately recognizable such as Christopher Sabat who voices a sword wielding vampire named Rath. He’s also voiced many familiar anime characters including Dragonball Z’s Vegeta and Piccolo.
I spent most of the time during beta playing the Incursion mode as Shayne, a young goth girl who has a contract with an extradimensional djinn beast named Aurox, who does her bidding. She can be pretty tanky with Aurox’s protective body encasing her vital points and is a great rogue type capable of snatching a player out of the middle of a battle to face you one-on-one. She also has a useful long range boomerang throw that sets her aside from most “brawler” types, rounding her out perfectly for my prefered playstyle in the game. I love the experience I have playing her, but the design and personality of the characters really makes you feel like there is a perfect Battleborn for you (as well as many you probably won’t like at all).
It’s really fun to unlock new characters, but after you get them all, you are left wondering “what now”? Regardless, the amount of characters still is extensive and it’s fun for everyone to try different combinations with each other so i won’t complain much about that. However, what i didn’t like was that some of the bigger characters liked to clip on walls which would get you stuck. Even worse, in in some situations clipping on walls might cause you to cast an area of effect attack, which is really hard to aim in the first place, in the wrong place. Then you had to wait for the cooldown time for that ability because of a wall that didn’t look like it should have been in your way.
The game offers “skins” for each character, but they’re only a color palette change. I feel that’s not worthy of being called a skin – hopefully this is something Gearbox will work on in later expansions. You can create gear sets, each of which can contain 3 pieces of gear, which you can unlock in-game using shards which you get on the battlefield. The gear enhances your character in various ways. You get gear by opening up packs and so as you play more you end up finding more and more rare items. However, only 3 items per game seems very limited compared to other MOBAs, and I wish your character’s physical appearance would change with the gear you picked. There’s also some balancing issues – characters like Rath feel overpowered and in a team fight can easily cut down a few opponents with little effort. I hope that these issues will get ironed out fairly quickly.
I really don’t have much more criticism other than to say that I’m not sure how it’s going to fare against similar games coming out later in the year. Two competitors in this space, the highly anticipated Overwatch by Blizzard and the beautiful Paragon by Epic, are coming out over the summer. Both of these games are offering that same shooter/MOBA hybrid gameplay but look a bit more mature. Maybe one of these games in this interesting new genre will turn out to be the next league of legends and become the standard in this category for professional e-sports. We’ll just have to wait for their release to get an idea of who will come out on top.
You can preorder battleborn now at Battleborn.com/en/buy, on Steam, or at other retailers for $59.99. Gearbox also offers a season pass to allow you to get all the downloadable content when it’s released for an additional $19.99. The open beta started on April 8, 2016 on Playstation 4 and April 13th on Xbox One and Windows, and ended on April 18th. It honestly has me craving another match right now but I have to wait for its full release on May 3rd.