By Drew Lovell. This is LOAD FILE, where minions are escorted to their inevitable doom. This week Drew reviews ‘Battleborn’ for the PC, developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games.
There’s no beating around the bush — the MOBA genre is huge. We’ve seen this phenomenon before in the late Nineties, when just about every developer out there attempted to make an RTS + fill-in-the-blank hybrid (Age of Empires, Civilization, and of course Starcraft) to varying degrees of success. Without checking, I know that League of Legends is likely the most-played video game of all time by a large order, so it only makes sense that we again find developers trying to jump on some of this hot MOBA action once more. Gearbox knocked it out of the park with their Borderlands series and now they’re trying to bring some of that magic to their most recent release, Battleborn.
CHARACTER GOES A LONG WAY
Gearbox is known for creating rich environments that help shape intricate storylines, tied together with a somewhat twisted sense of humor. That signature humor shines through fairly well in Battleborn, with a plot that can be boiled down to “a bunch of badasses fight on a planet near the last star in the universe.” Admittedly, that sounds pretty epic, but after a few hours of playtime, Battleborn‘s concepts begin to feel thematically bland. Before long, the motivation to continue running around blowing up everything in sight becomes harder and harder to muster.
What Battleborn lacks in ambiance it makes up for with its selection of characters. The cast of playable characters is quite diverse and genuinely resembles what players might have come to expect from traditional MOBA games. Each character is fully loaded with a surprisingly large number of retorts and shout-outs (of particular note is the space-vampire-swordsman Rath, voiced by Christopher Sabat, Vegeta of the Dragonball franchise). My favorite contender happens to be Miko, the knife-throwing, spore bomb-tossing mushroom creature that heals and bolsters nearby allies. These characters simply ooze with personality. They are easily the most engaging part of the whole experience.
WHEN THE STRUCTURES FAIL YOU, AND THE RULES AREN’T WEAPONS ANYMORE
While the game does feature a single-player campaign, the real focus lies with multiplayer combat. Players can wage war against one another in one of three different objective-based modes: Capture, in which players duke it out to maintain control of points spread across the map; Incursion, where teams clash in a giant tug-of-war to destroy opposing sentries; and finally Meltdown, which revolves around teams escorting waves of minions in a familiar two-lane setup. Make no mistake, the most critical facet to the multiplayer experience is that players are competing for objectives. While turrets can be constructed and massive, devastating brutes can be recruited to turn the tide of battle, it would have gone a long way if Battleborn made it clear to newcomers that winning objectives includes more care and precision than entering the fray as you would a deathmatch.
Though that kind of ignorance could be excused, considering the combat itself is extremely frantic and bears a stronger resemblance to games like Team Fortress 2 or Unreal Tournament than it does to traditional shooters like Call of Duty. For all the marketing hype behind Battleborn and how it was supposed to integrate mechanics inspired by multiple gaming genres, the gameplay itself is blighted by the core mechanics and pacing of the game. Despite all its ceaseless bombardment at any given moment, you’ll find that there is rarely any tension.
Let’s talk about the meta-level aspects of the game. The moments of progression, both in and out of matches, are one of the few things that really work with Battleborn. Upon leveling up in battle, a “Helix” of talents become available to you, providing a simple choice between two options that will alter your character’s capabilities. (For example, Benedict, the rocket-launcher wielding bird-man, is given the option of an extra mid-air jump or the ability to glide.) Between games players will have the additional opportunity to unlock equipment to amplify their own specific stats. And yes, there are unlockable skins in the game that are normally tied to some sort of achievement, but they only offer a new shade of color to your character’s armor, rather than provide an exciting new visual overhaul.
WAR — WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR?
Battleborn feels like a game that was brewed up in a focus group. There are certainly elements that fit quite well, but they are outnumbered by systems that feel tacked-on because someone thought that it was just par for the course. The selection of characters is pretty staggering and the effort put into them is what makes the game enjoyable. Battleborn still has quite a bit of potential but for a title of its calibre it could — and should — have been so much more.
Developed by Gearbox Software
Published by 2k Games
5 out of 10