Platform: PC, PS4 and Xbox One (reviewed)
Developer: Gearbox Software
Publisher: 2K Games
Release date: Out Now
tl;dr: It’s basically Borderlands-lite with a multiplayer mode stapled onto it.
Price: $60 / £50 / €60
Family Focus: Click here for more information.
Welcome, readers, to my first People’s Choice Review! Why is it called that? Simple! The game was chosen by my Twitter followers. Once a month, I will try to bring you a special People’s Choice Review. I will do a poll on Twitter, and people have four games to choose from. The game with the most votes after 24 hours wins. While this first one was won by a AAA game, future polls might be indie-centric, as they need our love too! Buckle up and enjoy the first of (hopefully) many more People’s Choice Reviews!
Battleborn is set in a fictional universe where every race has fled to Solus after an explosion has wiped out most planets across the universe. Through this hardship, species have divided into different factions. Once they’ve learned who is responsible for destroying their homes, each group selects the best fighter among them. These special combatants are known as Battleborn, who are sent to fight Varelsi, the being behind the spacial catastrophe.
Let’s get it out of the way right away: Battleborn’s single player content is basically Borderlands lite. I say “lite” because the game lacks the crazy weaponry. Despite the game’s lack of high end gear, Battleborn’s gameplay feels like a Borderlands game; it’s as fast and fluid as the open world shooter. The game’s story features eight chapters, all of which vary in length (between 20 and 50 minuteas) and in difficulty. While players can choose Easy, Normal or Hard, the default Normal difficulty setting can be insanely challenging, making the solo experience frustrating. It’s one of the game’s flaws, as it’s poorly balanced to some extent. Some chapters can be done solo while others will make players break their controllers out of pure frustration.
One of the game’s strong points is definitely character selection. Every time players starts a new chapter, they can choose among the plethora of unlocked characters, each of which have their unique weapons and skills which means players can not pick additional guns or any other types of weapons throughout the game’s chapters. Meaning, if someone is gutsy enough and opts for a melee-based characters, it will make the mission nigh-impossible because there’ll always be something in the way. Whichever character you pick, you’re stuck with him until the end of the chapter… if they can survive. I say “survive”, because the game features an old school mechanic: limited lives. Players kick off chapters with only five them. Thankfully, there are checkpoints throughout the missions, so when losing a life, players do not have to start over. Additional lives can be picked up in order to ensure more chances to complete a mission. While playing with friends, all players share the same pool of lives, so make sure you stick together and help out when in a bind.
Mission design is pretty generic. Move forward, get a wave of enemies, progress forward, more enemies, rinse and repeat. It does get a bit tedious when taking on a longer chapter, especially solo. To mix things up, Gearbox threw in some defence sequences. Players need to activate a specific item and protect it from incoming waves of enemies. While it does vary from the game’s staple of walk, shoot, walk, shoot, it doesn’t bring enough variety.
Unlike other similar games, at the beginning of each level, the character always starts off at level 1. Once the character levels up, they can bring up the Augment level tree where you choose between an offensive and a defensive upgrade. While it does allow players to experiment with the best set of upgraded skills from chapter to chapter, the differences between upgrades is negligible depending on the character. For example, Oscar Mike’s upgrades mostly include slight power attack increase while Alani gains more powerful attacks. However, it is making it more of a nuisance than anything else. Another annoying issue: while there are checkpoints in every chapter, if the player loses all their lives and it’s game over, they’re back at the start. Seriously. Seeing as some levels can take 40-50 minutes to complete, being able to restart mid-level after dying would’ve been a welcomed feature.
Much like single player, each multiplayer match has players starting off at level 1. Players level up by killing enemies, destroying enemy turrets and setting up friendly ones. While it allows players to experiment during each match, it does tend to get annoying. A competitive setting like Battleborn’s crazy multiplayer modes isn’t the ideal time to fiddle around and test skills. Once a comfortable set up has been tested, players will tend to keep levelling up the same set of skills over and over again, making this mechanic a waste of time. Obviously, the better you perform in a round, the quicker you’ll rank up your character’s set of skills, but the opposite is true as well. Have a less than stellar match and you’ll be restrained to using your basic skills. So what kind of multiplayer shenanigans will you get into?
First off is Meltdown. This multiplayer mode pits two teams of five players head to head. The goal is to protect minions as players lead them to the Minion Grinder. Teams have to kill the opposition’s minions before they reach the grinder, and the first team to reach a score of 500 wins the match. This mode requires dedicated teamwork, as teams will need to be strategic by covering their mini robots and stopping the opposition. Trying to go solo like in most FPS mutliplayer modes is sure to result in defeat. Incursion, however, requires teams of five players to destroy the opposition’s M7 Super Sentry, while surviving the onslaught from the enemies. It does requires teamwork in order to win. And finally, there’s Capture. Once again, as teams of five players, they need to hold Energy collectors in to order to gain energy points. The first team to reach of a score of 1000 wins.
Seeing as most online matches aren’t Deathmatch-centric, even losing doesn’t feel frustrating. Dedicated players who spend time in MP will find a rewarding and fun experience. It’s easy to dive into, but requires time and dedication in order to master it. While it all modes sound pretty straightforward on paper, using the proper character with the right skills will be the key to victory. Additionally, with such as high score requirements, matches can last about 30 minutes, but it’s so fun and fresh, that it sometimes feel like 10. Additionally, and thankfully, if you need to hone your skills, there’s offline multiplayer so players can practice against bots.
Again, as a reminder of Borderlands, the game features a cell shaded look with cartoon-ish characters. Each of the game’s characters each have their own voices along with unique one liners and taunts used throughout the game. While most of them fit and are sure to give players a few chuckles, there are some exceptions which are pretty odd. The best example would be Alani. She looks like a grown woman, yet sounds like a superficial 12 year old. It does break the fun a bit when she spouts her lines.
The fact that I went into this game without any expectations whatsoever, Battleborn really caught me off guard. Gearbox Software’s latest game is an enjoyable experience to be played with friends. While the campaign can be done solo, it will require a lot of patience, but it does feel rewarding in the end. On the multiplayer side of things, when it works (and you can find matches and have a competitive crew), it is very fun and addictive. Don’t sleep on Battleborn; you might miss something special.
- Great character variety
- Perfect game for co-op
- Addictive multiplayer (available offline too!)
- No mid-save checkpoints during missions
- Always having to start chapters at character level 1
- Steep learning curve for multiplayer
Battleborn is rated T for Teen as it contains bad language and violence. Makes sense. Who does a shooter without violence?
This review is based on a retail copy of the game provided by Xbox UK