Battleborn | First Impressions

Battleborn is a first person shooter being developed by Gearbox software, you might remember them from a little series they did called Borderlands. At first I thought this might be a bad thing, watching people play Battleborn I got the distinct impression it was just a re-skinned Borderlands. However, once I picked up the game and had a chat with some of the developers, a very different story emerged.

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While Battleborn does feature some aspects that are similar to Borderlands: the cell shaded art style, health and damage displays, names that start with a ‘B.’ I would even say they share a similar tone, although Battleborn may be a bit more on the serious side. It’s the infusion of certain MOBA elements that make the game stand out a bit from the studio’s previous efforts. As each match begins your character starts at a low-level, as you progress you are able to level up and unlock different, more powerful abilities. This format has worked extremely well for MOBAs like DOTA2 and League of Legends, and I think when applied to multiplayer matches it’ll be very enjoyable.

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My demo was not a multiplayer match, myself and a few other members of the media took on a co-operative campaign mission together. The first time through was a lot of fun, I enjoyed the mechanics of my melee character “Rath” since I am a big fan of Zer0 from Borderlands 2, and the mission kept me entertained and slicing through bad guys the whole way. I didn’t get much of a sense of the story, but I did like the experience as I leveled up and unlocked more interesting powers. Once we had defeated the boss I sat back, thinking this seemed like a pretty fun game. The developers chatted with us for a bit and they even offered to let us run through the same mission again. This is where things got interesting.

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In my second play through I tried out a different character, a long-range mage type named Orendi. I enjoyed her kit (although not as much as Rath’s) however I found the mission itself got a bit tedious. I began to realize that while I enjoyed the leveling system for multiplayer matches, having to start over at level 1 on every story mission could become frustrating. Even basic game mechanics like double jump are locked away from the player at the start of every mission, forcing you to play a weakened version of your character every. Damn. Time. The challenge of leveling up before your opponents in order to gain an advantage in multiplayer has a clear appeal, but who am I trying to level up against in campaign?

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I brought this up with a 2k employee and they told me that there would be a global leveling system as well, similar to Badass Ranks from Borderlands. Although I’m still unsure whether this will be enough to keep me coming back for more. Hopefully in the final release of the game leveling up your skills in campaign isn’t too difficult. I think players would find it frustrating to be forced to start over from square one constantly once they get a feel for a character’s fully unlocked kit. The idea of a campaign is to create an arch, not only story wise but also for the player themselves. Gaining skills and leveling up your character, and seeing that progress tested by the increasing difficulty of the game, is a huge aspect of any RPG that Battleborn seems to be missing.

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That being said the game is still very much unfinished, when I asked what type of DLC they would be offering (multiplayer maps, new characters, new missions, new weapons, etc.) I received an answer that, in this day and age, felt like hearing the location of a secret Unicorn forest: Gearbox wants to let players decide where the game will go BEFORE making any DLC. Battleborn’s campaign could be a huge hit and the multiplayer could flop, or the opposite could happen and a highly competitive eSports scene might blossom around the games online MOBA style matchmaking. I was told they would be waiting to see what gamers thought of the new IP and where they went with it, before any plans for DLC were announced. Regardless of how the final game turns out, I think more studios would be well served to adopt this attitude.

At the end of the day if you are a fan of Borderlands, Destiny, or any other RPG/FPS cross-overs I think you should keep an eye on Battleborn.