Gearbox Software has finally returned with a new brand, their first franchise launch since Borderlands. They claim their latest creation, Battleborn, is a “genre-fused” video game. You know, like fusion jazz, but funky. It’s a drastic turn from Borderlands’ open-world games, but after spending such a long time in that mindset, can the developer carve out a new universe of its own without rehashing the same old tropes?
Battleborn looks, feels, and even sounds so much like a Borderlands game, it’s really uncanny. There’s an incredible, kickass introduction cinematic that should not be missed, under any circumstances. Battleborn also features cel-shaded, stylized graphics, loot that rains out of killed enemies, zany weapons that each have unique mechanics to them, and of course a large cast of fully-realized characters. Each of them have their own lore, and you are tasked with unlocking the story behind them separately. It’s a decent way of adding onto a game’s replayability without making the grind so arduous. There’s also support for splitscreen versus and co-op, which is great to see in a high-profile release such as this.
If you like unlocks, then you will love Battleborn. There’s helmets, wrenches, staffs, syringes, gloves, and so many more different kinds of gears to find dropped from enemies, as well as occasionally throughout levels. Leveling up each character also unlocks various skins and gear, while leveling up your profile’s Commander rank eventually unlocks the capability to purchase (with in-game, non-premium money) loadouts for this gear that you pick up. You can only take three pieces of gear with you into each battle, so of course the aim is to pick the best loadout you can with whatever gear you’ve unlocked. Gear is ranked from common to legendary, and cost a certain amount of Shards to use in-battle. These Shards are earned per match, and do not carry over, so you either use it or lose it.
Build ’em Up, Tear ’em Down
Scattered throughout each battlefield are “buildable” stations, where spending the aforementioned Shards results in turrets, traps, or drones being summoned to that location. This provides for strategic placement of assistance, and turns some sections of the game into tower-defense like modes when you’re defending a control point with an inferno trap burning enemies as they round a corner.
At launch, there are eight campaign missions that constitute the game’s story. You play as, and recruit, various characters from across a solar system. Some catastrophic event has taken place, which knocked most stars and planets in the universe out of existence. Each campaign level has varying goals, and will take anywhere from 30 minutes to over an hour, depending on your party size, skill, and difficulty level. The story feels slightly disjointed, but also features humor that wouldn’t feel out of place in, you guessed it, Borderlands. People either love or hate the sense of humor present in games like this, so naturally the story will hit all the right places for some, and grate others.
Multiplayer is the crux of Battleborn, and as with all things online, your mileage may vary based on how strong your internet connection is. Incursion is a co-op mode featuring wave upon wave of enemies. Capture is a control point battle, and Meltdown features a furious race to have the most minions throw themselves into incinerators in order to win, in what is likely to be the game’s signature online mode, as it is the most frantic. There’s not many maps per mode at this point, but with so many characters to master they all certainly play differently depending on who you are playing as. Matches tend to run at least half an hour, and the good ones will last an hour or even longer.
Online All the Things!
In an age of internet attention spans (read: short-as-hell), having a game where the average match can take upwards of half an hour or more is a bit of a risk. On the other hand, anyone interested in such a game likely already knows what they’re signing up for. Generally, players will see longer match times as a good thing, because it means you’re getting more bang for your buck – while Battleborn costs $60, the Season Pass will run you an additional $20 (or get them both with the digital deluxe version and spend only $75). Battleborn also has the unfortunate requirement of an internet connection even if you’re playing an offline mode, such as Versus or the campaign. There’s even a wait involved, as your supposedly offline session is put in a (usually short) queue to obtain a slot on a server.
If Borderlands and the MOBA genre could have a baby, I imagine it would look something like Battleborn. Gearbox Software’s signature style shines here, even if the humor falls flat most of the time. With all kinds of loot to tempt gamers into coming back for more, this “hero shooter” looks to be making a name for itself, and should hopefully stick around for a while with content updates now and in the future. There’s so much stuff to unlock and master, Battleborn is one for the collectors.
Battleborn review code provided by publisher. For more information on scoring please see our Review Policy here.