Hero shooters are the ‘in thing’. Adding just a pinch of MOBA into first person shooters, they combine MMO elements with cooperative and competitive online gaming with flare, riffing off games such as Destiny and the Division. Gearbox, famous for the Borderlands series, jumps head on into the emerging genre, bringing with them their unique style, humour and flare. I wasn’t big on Borderlands, but was intrigued by the new formula, at least at first.
Gearbox aren’t striving to tell a hugely captivating story with Battleborn; it’s simply not the focus of the game. That said, they make an attempt.
It follows very much in the same vein as Destiny; there has been a near universe-ending phenomenon and only one star in remains. The surviving races collect around the final start and send out champions, the Battleborn, to fight off the Varelsi the malevolent Rendain.
Of the eight ‘episodes’ and prologue mission – which you can play cooperatively or by yourself – they typically involve search and rescue or defense objectives. There’s little in the way of story threads between missions; they’re self-contained so as to cater for repeated play and grinding on harder difficulties.
Battleborn’s focus clearly isn’t story, it’s merely a vehicle to peddle situations in which you can grind through bad guys and level up. Each mission took me a solid 40 minutes on the normal difficulty, but playing cooperatively you’ll smash through it in half the time. An advanced difficulty setting, plus the range of characters means there’s some replayability.
Sadly, it felt half-baked and honestly a little bland, giving me little motivation other than unlocking characters to return to the missions, and only then with some friends to keep me company.
Borderlands was instantly recognisable by its sense characteristic graphical style and attempt at humour, which carries over into Battleborn.
Graphically speaking, it’s fine. It’s got a unique appearance and the character design is certainly interesting but the game never looks overly impressive. It’d be more forgiving of this fact if it ran better, but on PC, the frame-rate chugged at times which is super frustrating in what I feel should have prioritized slick shooting.
Perhaps my biggest gripe however was the voice acting. It’s of no fault of the actors themselves I believe, but more so the direction. Everything is over-voiced and feels kind of lame. This game seems out of line with what we’ve come to expect this generation. Caricatures, archetypes and stereotypes are abound; it’s all just really obnoxious and annoying. Every single joke fell flat. Every. Single. One.
I can’t really level any complaints at the UI thankfully. It manages a lot of information and special attack timers relatively well, which is not an easy thing to pull off. Rather frustratingly, matchmaking was a little patchy, I almost always lost connection after every round of multiplayer, and it took a few attempts to reconnect every time.
I’ve already referenced Bungie’s FPS MMO twice in this review and for good reason; if I were to summarize my feelings towards Battleborn, it would be that is feels like a cheap, knock-off Destiny, especially in regards to its story and its gameplay.
That said, some gameplay elements seem inspired. The missions introduce interesting elements, almost in the realm of tower defense games, and the multiplayer adapts MOBAs into more accessible multiplayer modes. When it does it’s own thing, Battleborn is more intriguing, but when it mimics other games – and pales in comparison – I really just wanted to move onto something else.There is a solid mix of characters, they vary significantly and the changes between them aren’t superficial. There’s fun in seeking out your character but the game gets in the way of itself again.
There’s a learning curve to this game (that’s the MOBA in it) and asks you to understand the characters. You’re invited to find a character that matches your play style but annoyingly no two player in a multiplayer match can play as the same character. Additionally, whilst your loadouts are constant, character progression resets each time and hence, I struggled to develop an attachment to any one hero.There is depth to the mechanics and subtleties to the gameplay that prevent you from jumping straight into it, but it is sure to benefit the game in the long-run, along with new map and mode releases that need to supplement the relatively meager initial lineup.
Thankfully sufficient substance resides within the multiplayer component, with the balancing issues that I suspect exist fixable via patch.
I sense there is an audience for Battleborn and hence I am reluctant to rule it out altogether. I imagine there will be those that invest the time to study the characters and the game’s systems, seeking out all the characters and sinking time into the multiplayer. Unfortunately I don’t expect the community to be too large.
This isn’t the game for me, but at times I enjoyed the missions before there was one too many waves of enemies. I gradually got more interested in the multiplayer, but not to the degree where I would prioritise my time with Battleborn over other games that are available.
The PS4 version of Battleborn was primarily tested for the purpose of this review