I’m a huge Borderlands fan, I’ve played the games multiple times and own the comics and novels, so the thought of another similar looking game being released by Gearbox and 2K had me very excited. Battleborn is a mix of shooter and MOBA created in a similar style to Borderlands, and has (whether intentionally or not) become rivaled against Overwatch (Blizzard’s multiplayer FPS). The general consensus is that we should be deciding between the two, which is understandable as they do carry similar visual styles and are both primarily multiplayer focused. Battleborn distinctly carries the MOBA stereotype with the inclusion of AI minions and deployable defenses in multiplayer, whereas Overwatch is team-based PVP.
As Battleborn’s style is similar to Borderlands it’s hard for me not to like it, they’ve even gone to the effort of making a quite lengthy almost anime kind of intro but I’ve gotta say the theme song picked isn’t half as catchy as those used for the Borderlands games (with the exception of the Pre-Sequel) and the intro scene does feel like it goes on a bit too long. Funnily enough you get an intro scene every time you start up a campaign mission to introduce the characters which some people might like, but I feel is a bit unnecessary. The character selection takes me back to the days of Timesplitters, when it was actually fun to scroll through and check out each character in turn. Battleborn has a number of awesome looking characters, however you need to unlock most of them by completing campaign missions, winning multiplayer matches or completing certain objectives. I’m actually quite torn here, I don’t like not being able to pick whichever character I want straight away, but at the same time it’s quite fun working hard to unlock everything.
The campaign unfortunately feels like a bit of a mix of random missions chucked together with no proper story or narrative. NPCs (non-playable characters) pop up at the beginning and during the missions with select lines of dialogue, but because there’s no central hub for your character to visit, and you don’t actually ever meet the NPCs it all feels very disjointed. The campaign missions themselves are actually pretty decent though, and the closest thing I can compare them to are Strikes in Destiny, you have a big boss to kill at the end, and during the mission you’ll either have some mini bosses, a couple of objectives or a few waves to defend against. I found the campaign missions quite difficult on my own, on normal mode you’re limited to a set number of respawns, and in hardcore mode you don’t get any at all. Co-op was great fun though and felt very balanced, and it was very satisfying taking down one of the big bosses with a group.
Character progression felt very odd, and this applies to both the campaign and multiplayer. Whenever you start a new mission or multiplayer match your character starts without any of their skills regardless of what you might have unlocked previously, and over the course of the mission or match you gain XP which you can then use to unlock your skills again. So effectively you start out quite weak, and should be fully leveled up by the end of the mission or match. This adds quite an interesting element to multiplayer matches as players are constantly keeping an eye out for AI minions to kill for XP, but I feel like it really holds the campaign back. Surely if you create a campaign you want to start at the beginning and level your character up to see progress as a reward, not start every mission back at stage 1 having to select the same skills over and over again. The only positive I can take from this is that when you’re playing campaign missions in co-op, everyone is on a pretty level playing field so maybe that’s why the missions felt so balanced.
As I’ve mentioned above Battleborn is primarily a MOBA (Multiplayer Online Battle Arena), and this differs from a standard PVP multiplayer in a few ways. Firstly, as I’ve already described players all start out quite weak and have to level up during each match. Players also need to collect shards which help you activate perks on your loadout (you can pick up to three items to equip per match) or deploy defenses such as turrets or health stations. AI minions also take part in certain game modes and killing them will net you XP.
After playing a few multiplayer matches I came to the conclusion that it’s just not for me, having to unlock skills each game is a pain and becomes quite tedious especially when you compare it to Overwatch’s clean and simple setup where characters have a couple of set skills, meaning you can focus more on killing other players rather than trying to level up and deploy defences. Leveling during a multiplayer match can leave sides a bit too unbalanced as well, so add that to everything else and it just leaves it feeling messy.
It’s a shame ‘cos I really wanted to like Battleborn, but after spending a few hours with it I really don’t feel the urge to go back. The characters are great and the game looks cool, but without a solid campaign for me to play through whether it’s with mates or not, I just don’t feel attached to the game in a way I would do normally.