Will Battleborn make some big impact in the multiplayer scene? Or will it bite its own dust?
In the latest years of the gaming scene a strong interest in recreating the success of the MOBA genre, namely by League of Legends and Dota 2. Gearbox, the creators of the beloved Borderlands franchise, has its own gander at it with Battleborn. Actually they take a rather interesting approach and even label it as a Hero Shooter. Their unique spin being that you go around in first-person view whether or not you have a gun. So does a 5 on 5 map domination game with mechanics from Borderlands as good an idea as it sounds? Well, let’s see our findings after 20 hours or so of gameplay on the PlayStation 4.
Production (3.5 / 5)
- Colorful Worlds
- Well animated
- Graphics seem simplistic for PS4
When you step into the world, or well, worlds of Battleborn, you’ll quickly learn that each place is generally green, blue, purple or brown. It’s not really all that bad but you’ll soon hope that you’d get some variety in what you see, especially since in multiplayer everyone keeps voting on the same map. However everything else that moves look quite alive as they all actively animate with every action or reaction to a situation. Variety of designs is quite interesting for the heroes as they give a full range of cute to edgy. We’d like to commend Gearbox for giving us a cast that may have had inspiration from Star Fox, Plants vs Zombies, Diablo, and heck even Mucha Lucha. It’s a little sad to see that the graphics seem quite simplified compared to other titles on the PS4. Obvious sprite effects makes the quality of the production feel inconsistent at times as well.
Mechanics (3.5 / 5)
- Very much like Borderlands
- FPS Style combat
- Levels, perks, stats, equipment
- Objective focused gameplay
If you’re familiar with the creator’s previous works then you’ll feel right at home. FPS mechanics with typical RPG factors mixed in such as levels and stat gains. How they handle FPS on a PS4 controller is also commendable with good response and natural feeling controls. They did change up how you can gain levels a little so that you and your team mates would be more inclined to winning the game rather than racking up an impressive KDA. Want to get strong fast? Rather than looking for kills across the map, helping the team by constructing towers, escorting allied units and taking down minions or even recruiting stronger forces are much, much more efficient than looking for quick kills across the map.
If you choose to be stubborn and continue on treating this game like a deathmatch, you’ll soon find yourself constantly underfarmed later in the game with a rather bad ratio between your wins and losses.
One thing that feels difficult to follow is the games has layered manner of powering up your character. You select a perk to augment your character in addition to every level they gain, where they gain their ultimate if you level enough, you also get a buff to stats. This resets every game like in every moba, but they do have something that carries over, equipment drops.
Equipment work more like a loadout system that give you pros and cons, so you’ll eventually figure out to make loadouts for attack, defense or support style of play for your heroes. Usually far better items cost a lot more to activate in-game so you really have to be picky with how you set yourself up. The painful part about this is there’s no way to directly get what you want. Pretty similar to Japan’s ‘gacha system’ or Overwatch’s ‘Loot Box.’ While you can improve your chances by paying for it with in-game cash, you’re still just paying for a chance. And well you’re using in-game cash so it’s not really all that bad. Then you learn how long earning enough for the big items may take.
Unlocking and grinding is a very real activity in Battleborn, and you might not be ready for that time kind of team investment into what many saw as an arena type Hero Shooter.
Content (3.5 / 5)
- 2k Games’ humor continues to persist
- Colorful cast of characters
Gearbox’s humor carries over well from Borderlands, which colors the single and coop experience well. Even if the level and planned battles for the campaigns aren’t that inspiring, the banter between allies and enemies keeps the experience entertaining enough to push through. It should also be noted that the amount of content planned out is real plenty considering how many game modes they opened up for the game. Though it’s certainly odd that even single player mode, one would expect to be played offline, requires an online lobby.
The designs of the heroes and characters involved in all this banter, in case you were wondering, are probably one of the stronger points of this package. They all feel very unique and thought out as their own characters rather than following some sort of checklist of what character should be included. I just wish it was easier to access all of them, or at least allow me to pick which character to unlock next. Accessing a character you might want to play may be at the very end of several level grinds or even unlocked behind challenges you may not be aware of. Being restricted to content for a multiplayer genre seems like shooting oneself in the foot.
Features (4 / 5)
- Several modes of multiplayer, single player and coop exist
- Matching process is a pain
Battleborn is the kind of game designed to suit all sorts of tastes of gamers these days. You don’t like competitive? You can play a campaign with 4 others online, or 1 friend next to you on a couch or even just go solo because you roll that way, no problem. You like to feel like it’s a team death match? Point Capture is there for you. If you want to make it as MOBA as possible, Incursion is designed exactly for it. And finally for the mode that seems to bring the best out of the game, Meltdown which isn’t exactly new but is probably the mode that keeps a good pace the entire time. Of course some will prefer single or coop while others will prefer multiplayer. No worries though, it’s pretty safe to say that each side has at the very least decent entertainment for every gamer.
The number one pain point that I’d have to share with you is the matching system. After selecting a game mode, you vote on the kind of map you get, after that you finally get to pick the hero you wish to play, and even beyond that there’s the prep room where the players are briefed on how they’ll play the game mode. Stack on top that the fact that matching time may take at least a few minutes simply looking for other players. Definitely the number of active players in the game isn’t really all that vast, and even that’s divided over the several game modes that players get to choose from. You can get used to wait times, but having it take this long so early in its life is not a good sign at all.
Overall (4 / 5)
- Up against Overwatch
Looking back on all the hours I sank into Battleborn, I’d say that it’s a pretty ambitious project and Gearbox showed they’re capable of pulling it off. Graphics at the very least are palatable with great character designs. The mechanics being meant to be layered and intertwined may have some trouble settling in with gamers since it really does attempt to make this mix of FPS action with RPG mechanics riding behind it. It’s honestly interesting especially if you’re the type that tries to figure things out when trying out new ideas. While the content and features are both robust in their offerings, there are unfortunately some shortcomings with the natural disadvantages they produce in development.
Now to address the elephant in the room, Battleborn vs Overwatch. Having played both, it’s easy to say that this is a case of one trying to do everything well and another trying to be the best at one thing. Clearly, Overwatch is the latter. It simply eclipses Battleborn because of how easy it is to pick up and how well-marketed the title is behind the Blizzard machine. Content is also much easier to access and understand.
However, if you’re the type that likes to slowly unlock a game’s potential and dig through the depth of the gameplay with all of the game’s complexity, you should probably give Battleborn a try. While yes, many will choose Overwatch over Battleborn, it is by no means a bad game. If perhaps Gearbox can address some simple issues with matching and unlocking content, it would stand a much better chance of performing better as a game later on.
Battleborn on the PlayStation 4 scores a decent 3.7 / 5
The title is also available on PC and XBOne.