Battleborn is a crazy, off the wall, high action multiplayer shooter. It contains a varied cast of colorful characters with distinct and unique personalities and play styles. While it has been compared to being a first-person MOBA of sorts, that is only partially true and that comparison is only apparent in regards to its Incursion mode. What I find Battleborn to be is mostly an objective based first-person shooter that has some tower defense portions mixed with humor and some satisfying boss encounters held together by a very underwhelming story.
There are moments in Battleborn that are immensely fun, but then the frustration sets in amidst the repetitive nature of the game and the high spike in difficulty of its 7th mission: Saboteur. It’s not just myself or my teammates that have found this mission too hard, in fact, only around 10% of PS4 users have unlocked the level completion trophy, and my research shows that around 20-25% of PC users have completed it. I haven’t seen any reports about Xbox users, but I am assuming it’s similar to the PS4 players. Gearbox Software has heard the outcry of how difficult this mission is and will be patching it to be a little bit easier to complete.
I’ve put quite a bit of time into Battleborn and I’ve unlocked a bit less than half the characters, and while I love their designs, a few of them just don’t play as fun as I wanted them too. Orendi is easily my favorite, with ISIC probably coming in second. There are a few I am dying to play that I’ve yet to unlock, but considering how fun this game can be, I’m sure I’ll eventually gain access to them and take them for a spin.
25 characters are currently available to play as, with characters 26 through 30 being part of the $21.99 season pass. I’m not sure what else will be part of that pass, but I am assuming multiplayer modes, levels and of course, those 5 characters. The characters are split up within their factions: The Last Light Consortium, The Eldrid, The Rogues, United Peacekeeping Republics and The Jennerit Imperium. Completing portions of the game as certain factions can lead to unlocking other characters and their alternative looks, which are sadly just color skins.
The characters themselves range from a few robots, a few warriors, gunmen, swordsmen, mystical creatures and Toby, the penguin, who pilots a giant mech. There’s a cocky bird wearing a battle suit by the name of Benedict that is just visually pleasing and a blast to play as. Boldur is your typical loud dwarf who loves battle. Deande, the blonde warrior that left the side of evil to combat it on the side of good. There’s ISIC, a debugged AI in a robotic chassis. Marquis who is a rather regal looking robot with a fancy hat. Mellka looks like something out of Jak and Daxter, a particular favorite series of mine. There’s Montana who is beyond muscular with a super tiny head. I also really enjoy the elite guard Rath, who attacks with dual energy blades, giving the game a very melee approach. Orendi is just flat out hilarious with a mind that parks herself and her four arms on the side of crazy. Thorn has a bow that is easy, fun to use and pretty powerful, as is the gun toting Oscar Mike. Shayne and Aurox are a bit too slow for my tastes, and then there are Reyna, Whiskey Foxtrot, Phoebe, Miko, Kelvin, Kleese, Ghalt, El Dragon, Galilea, Caldarius, Ambra and Attikus that I haven’t really had the chance to try out that much. There are so many characters here with some really neat designs that I’m looking forward to trying out.
Each character you take into battle will start at level 1 and you can upgrade them to level 10 as you progress. None of this progress is saved after the mission ends, so the next mission you take them into allows you to play with the other sides of their leveling system that offer other bonuses to their abilities. With ISIC for example, he has a shield ability that you can either embrace and lean towards that part of the skill tree, or use the upgrade system to boost his other skills. It’s a nice balance that gives you a fresh take on that character each and every time you play as them. You can also unlock mutations that work as a third choice during a few of the upgrades that give yet another alternative of how to benefit from their abilities. The upgrade system is slick, fast, and if you memorize what side an upgrade is on, it can be super quick in battle to instantly make that character more powerful and their powers more potent.
You can play the game solo or in a group of five, which is a welcome pace after games like Destiny that allowed three man teams, or Halo with its industry norm of four. The game is meant to be played with more than just yourself, as you’ll burn through your character lives or fail to protect a defensive point without some help. What’s frustrating about the lobby system to find other players is that, sure you can play with friends to complete the game, the randoms I played with didn’t chat through the mic, or they’d vote for a level I had already completed. The lobby system allows you to search for players to take with you on one of the games eight missions. When you have your team together you can pick from a few levels to vote on. It’s incredibly inconvenient that I can’t search by the level I want or by the difficulty I want to play it on. You can create private matches that do so, but these options don’t seem available in the public space. I’m assuming this type of the stuff will be added, but as it is right now, it’s poorly implemented.
Most levels end with a pretty fun boss encounter, and while some of them are just bullet sponges, there are some well designed moments. One of the earlier bosses has batteries on their spider-ish legs, and shooting them and depleting their battery forces them to expose themselves during an emergency recharge. Another encounter has a few guards protecting their leader with a shield that breaks down when his guards are dead. My favorite encounter is with Geoff, the Spider King. His battle is hilarious and well put together. It’s a shame with how clever this game can get that there are bosses here that have no mechanics to their fight at all.
Fusing these maps together is a storyline that isn’t as good as it should be. Stopping some great evil and combining forces with factions that usually hate each other should be fodder for some great story telling, but sadly that’s a big glass of nope. In between some exposition and voices in your ear telling you to do this task or complete that objective is some witty dialogue and some really funny one liners. While not all the jokes land, the ones that do are pretty great. Orendi, my favorite character, is voiced by Ashly Burch who also voiced Tiny Tina from Borderlands, and if you are familiar with that character, you know you are in for a good time here. Almost all her lines had me crack up, and even the one’s that didn’t still had me smile.
Once you are done with the campaign, which should take you about ten hours or so, then you can queue up for its PVP offerings. You have three modes here that offer simple king of the hill to more objective based elements like destroying their giant spider tanks. There isn’t your traditional team deathmatch or capture the flag here yet, but that could be part of their season pass, or a free update when available, it’s hard to say. As it stands now, there isn’t a whole lot do here in terms of variety. Each mode has you vote between maps, which some being far more popular than others. The Incursion mode, where you destroy their spider tanks, gives you a choice between Echelon and Overgrowth and since Overgrowth is more popular, in the dozen or so times I have played that mode, that one has been the only map I have had the chance to try. Sorry, Echelon.. maybe one day.
At first glance Battleborn looks incredibly similar to Borderlands, as it should be, it’s the same studio. While the game doesn’t share its console cousin’s cel-shading, it stills pulls its visuals from the Borderlands aesthetics. The game is bright, vibrant and colorful. While guns and shields don’t fly out of the dead here, you do get health pickups and other currencies that do aid you in battle. The game uses shards as its in-match currency to spend in a few different ways. You can build defenses, traps or a little flying robot that with either attack or it can repair those defenses you’ve set up. You can also use the shards to activate the gear pieces you bring into battle with you. Each character can equip 3 pieces of gear to provide some sort of stat bonus. More health, faster shield regeneration or high critical attack percentage is just a few of the perks these items carry with them. You can purchase more gear or have it drop from the bosses to then pick and choose that set of 3 items. When you need to use the perks of that gear item in battle, you merely have to save up the required shard amount to use it.
Battleborn is a chaotic visual treat with high action and well designed characters. The progression system can take a while to get used to as it refreshes back to zero the next time you queue up for another mission. The game can get repetitive as there isn’t a wealth of content or multiplayer modes to keep you interested for long. I wasn’t too sure about Battleborn.