Born to Rule
The Jekyll and Hyde of the gaming multiverse, developer Gearbox released its anticipated MOBA FPS hybrid in early May. Known as Battleborn, the game offers players the choice of an astounding 25 playable characters, each of whom play fairly unique to each other. With Overwatch looming in the not-so-distant future, does Battleborn provide enough content and value to play the underdog victor, or will its gameplay stale after numerous ‘rinse and repeat’ sessions?
Battleborn, at heart, is a first person MOBA experience split into multiple modes. The game launches with an intense and fully animated opening cinematic depicting the battleborn heroes decimating the Varelsi and rescuing an enemy defector. The tutorial mission has you playing as Mellka (a character that requires plenty of time to unlock) on your mission to rescue and protect Deande – the traitor. Serving as an excellent tutorial for newbies, Battleborn’s opening mission truly shows what you’ll be getting into.
There are, at the time of its release, two different game modes: campaign and competitive. Traditional to most Gearbox games, the campaign can be soloed or co-operatively completed. Finding a game takes a matter of a minute (at most), though I’ve experienced many issues with others disconnecting. I have an inkling players disconnect when they do not want to play a mission, as I do not believe that it is the Battleborn servers. Regardless, players often drop in to games that are in progress, and I’ve only been forced to abandon a mission once. Gearbox shines in its campaign missions, too. Always found within Gearbox games is wonderfully clever witticism, and Battleborn is no exception. Whether it be through character dialogue, introductions to missions, or quick quips after death, Battleborn is filled with so much character that too many games lack.
I do have two complaints about Battleborn’s campaign, however. The first complaint has to deal with how missions are selected. Players cannot choose a stage and look for a party playing that particular level. When you join an online campaign match, three maps are open to vote on. Whichever map wins the voting becomes the campaign level you’ll play (with a fourth option of no preference). I understand the concept of this – to ensure all maps have an equal opportunity to be played – but players just disconnect anyway. The second complaint that I have is that each campaign is very similar to the next. These missions are generally divided into three-ish large segments that the group has to battle through. Often involved are large boss fights, escorts, or base defense tasks. And while there aren’t a ton of campaign levels to lose yourself within the monotony, there are enough to make it noticeable.
Fortune will favor the patient, however. Completing story missions often provides players with new battleborn to play as. And these battleborn make the competitive aspect of the game that much more enjoyable. Battleborn’s competitive multiplayer is this game’s saving grace. Where the campaign mode feels small, repetitive, and tacked on, the competitive multiplayer saves the day. This mode gives players the choice of three distinct match types: Incursion, Capture, and Meltdown. My personal favorite is capture, where you and your team must battle through the opposing battleborn to capture three points on a map. By accumulating on-map currency, you can build a sort of tower defense to defend each point, and you can upgrade each piece by pouring in more of those currency crystals. Incursion requires players to destroy each other’s Spider Sentry Drones. Lastly, Meltdown requires players to escort their minions to their doom. The minions must jump willingly into a furnace to be turned into scrap, and the team with the most scrap metal wins.
Don’t fancy competitive multiplayer? That’s okay. Battleborn is one of the first games in a very long time (at least in my memory) that allows players the chance to create private games filled with bots. So not only can you play a private match solo, but you can invite as many friends as you want to join. Don’t worry about how many friends join you, as the game will fill the remaining character slots with bots. Personally, this adds so much more value to the game, as my good friend and I love to battle bots.
But understanding just the game modes to Battleborn is like neglecting bacon with your eggs. The characters in Battleborn are really what this game is about. With 25 characters to unlock and choose from, your gameplay will feel fresh for a very long time. I particularly enjoy Oscar Mike, the marine who wields an assault rifle, but I was able to dabble with a good portion of the characters. Each character levels separately of each other, and each character has a unique set of skills and abilities to level in-game, too. Much like your standard MOBAs, Battleborn characters have ten unique levels that refresh every game. As the character’s level increases outside of a match, they develop mutations to their in-game skills and abilities. For instance, Oscar Mike’s first mutation I unlocked allows him to choose a new ability at level seven (in this case, I could choose to increase his basic assault rifle damage by 17%, which goes a long way in competitive). So not only do characters each come with totally unique set ups to each other, but they develop mutations as they level, which keeps them feeling fresh.
During missions, you can find blue coins used to purchase packs of loot (packs can also be found in campaign missions). Within the packs, you can find different rarities of loot, which consists of gear to equip to your battleborn. Gear can increase health regeneration, reload times, attack bonuses, and more. Strategizing your character with a loadout that enhances their strengths or shores up their weaknesses is a fun aspect that makes the multiplayer that much more strategic and intense.
In conclusion, Battleborn is a difficult game for me to review. The maps, especially the competitive ones, can feel uninspired, but the art style of the overall presentation is comically beautiful. The writer job is wonderful, as is Gearbox’s norm, and the deep roster of 25 playable characters will only get bigger with future DLC. The gameplay mechanics work out extremely well, which is no small feat when having such a large cast of characters. I know I’ve logged quite a few hours already, and I know that I will continue to do so. If you take advantage of Amazon Prime’s 20% off new/pre-ordered titles, than the value is definitely there. As more DLC drops, I can see the game expanding to an immense amount of value, though I understand if you’re hesitant to purchase DLC. As with any multiplayer only game, Battleborn requires a constant internet connection and maintains an inevitable death in the future. Though with the option to play against bots, the replayability should remain.