by William Thompson
reviewed on PC
Being that Battleborn has been created by the team behind Borderlands and has similar stylised visuals, the two were always going to be compared to each other. And right from the outset, it is plain to see that there is a heavy Borderlands influence in much of Battleborn. But they are indeed separate entities, with Battleborn taking a MOBA style approach with the multiplayer element of the game, and featuring new characters and a different setting. The premise behind Battleborn is that five races are vying to control the last star, but decide to put their disagreements aside to battle the evil Varelsi, who want nothing more than to destroy the star and plunge the galaxy into darkness.
The initial cutscene does a great job giving us this brief backstory. It also emphasises the fast paced nature of the game with some up-tempo tunes. Indeed, I played one early mission as the sniper character known as Marquis and took my time thoroughly scouring the locales for all the bonuses and credit shards. Apparently, there’s a time limit, and I used up the allotted time. OK, so I did spend a couple of minutes making myself a cup of coffee…but a time limit for the single player portion of the game? Really?
I didn't make that mistake again. Besides that gripe, the private singleplayer (with AI) or public co-op missions (with online compatriots) are rather enjoyable. The co-op allows five friends (or indeed strangers) to team up to play one of the eight story chapters that follow on from the tutorial style introduction. Although there are only eight chapters and there really isn’t that much of a story - apart from the battle for the last remaining star - the levels are well designed and journeying through them with a couple of mates is a heap of fun.
Apart from the playing co-op, there are currently three multiplayer modes, each with a couple of maps. Capture mode is basically a Capture-the-Flag derivative where teams must capture and protect various points within the map. The other two modes are somewhat more original. The Meltdown mode has teams guiding groups of minions towards a minion grinder at the centre of the map, somewhat like a bunch of lemmings falling off a cliff to their deaths. The goal of your team is to get as many minions as possible to their destination whilst preventing the opponents from doing so. The Incursion mode has teams attempting to find and destroy two Sentry Bots, with the first team to destroy both declared the winners. All modes feel extremely well balanced, giving teams a chance to catch up if they fall behind at the start. There’s not a whole heap of variation, though. Hopefully, this comes in time.
The variation comes in the form of the character roster, or as they are known, the Battleborn. With twenty five characters to choose from (five from each of the five factions), you would think that some of them would be largely familiar. But this isn’t the case. Although the characters would fit into stereotypical classes, their special abilities give them an individuality that sets them apart from another character of a similar class. As you would expect though, not all characters are available from the get-go and need to be unlocked by completing missions or accomplishing specific goals.
Combat and levelling
Combat feels somewhat more basic than in other shooters, primarily because most characters are limited to one weapon (with increasing capabilities) and their two (or three) special abilities. Unlike Borderlands, where new guns were as rare as grains of sand on a beach, in Battleborn, gamers are pretty much stuck with the same preset weapon throughout the entire mission. But they also have the use of the character's special abilities. These abilities have increased effectiveness as the missions progress through leveling up. And leveling up happens quite quickly throughout the course of a mission, and at each upgrade point, players get to select one of two upgrades to their abilities through the Helix system.
These special abilities can take a little bit to get used to and a strategy is often required for when best to use these powerful attacks. Boss Battles (which are presented in much the same way they are in Borderlands) are particularly important for ability use. These battles can often be drawn out and do provide a challenge in both single player and co-op. Along the way, players will be able to collect bonuses that give short term gains, such as increased speed or shorter cool-downs for abilities. Credit shards can also be collected. These shards are used as the in-game currency and allow gamers to purchase turrets, traps or drones that aid in destroying the enemy.
Like Borderlands, Battleborn is full of colour, and the stylish visuals are painted with the same brush. The cartoon style visuals, combined with the often humorous quips, add to the comic nature of the game, giving the impression that it doesn’t take itself all too seriously. It all feels like a classic Saturday morning cartoon. Indeed, the opening cinematic had me reminiscing about He-Man and Astro Boy. Despite many things happening on screen, the interface is simple and easy to decipher. Shield levels and health are clear, enabling gamers to take added cover if their shields are low. Voice acting too, is clear and understandable, with each of the characters being discernible from others.
Battleborn has clearly been influenced by Borderlands in a host of ways. The visuals, the humour and even many of the gameplay aspects such as the loot crates and shield regeneration, seem to come right from the Borderlands school of gaming design. If I was to sum up Battleborn, it would be Borderlands with new characters and a new setting and an added MOBA style multiplayer component. Of course, as a gamer who played countless hours roaming over Pandora and Elpis, there isn’t too much wrong with that, as all the Borderlands games have been enjoyable. Battleborn, despite the simplistic nature of the combat and time limit issues, is still a fun jaunt, and one that has a ton of replayability due to the characters alone.
Lots of characters to play
Time limit on single player missions