In July last year, Gearbox Software announced a new IP that they were going to bring to next generation consoles and PC called Battleborn. It was to offer multiplayer arena combat, while also giving players a single player story line that could be played both solo or with up to four other players. Moving forward to E3 2015 and Battleborn is a huge focus for publisher 2K Games and we had a chance to sit down and hear about the premise behind Battleborn and then get about 20 minutes of hands on time with the game in co-op story mode.
Gearbox Software decided that it wanted to put together an idea that would allow them to create characters for a shooter that would be unique from one another, both in look and style, but it needed a hook that could facilitate this concept. In comes the backstory for Battleborn, where the universe has been collapsed down to one lone star and a few planets orbiting said sun. Because of this contraction of the universe, races that had a chance to escape the incoming death and destruction have migrated to this last solar system, thus allowing the world of Battleborn to host many distinct character sets. Some might be soldiers, but there are magic casters with four arms, or characters that resemble elves that use powerful bows. There are to be 20-30 characters at launch, with eight being shown at E3 2015.
As you would expect the end of the universe was not something that happened naturally. I mean, scientifically, it might at some point, but in the case of Battleborn, a ruthless enemy has purposely been destroying stars throughout the universe for their own reasons that for now, are shrouded in mystery to be revealed at a later date.
After learning all we could about the backstory, we were then taken to a bank of machines where we had the chance to play Battleborn’s single player campaign in groups of five That way, we could not only pick a character that fit your style, but see the look and powers of other characters in combat as well. My choice was Oscar Mike, a soldier that has access to a high power assault rifle, can cloak for several seconds at a time and fire off powerful grenades. Each of those powers can be built up using a skill tree that will present two choices at each leveling. This way, you can customize your character to your specifications and play style. For me, it was a lot of build up on grenades and weapon loads for the assault rifle.
Jumping into the actual level, the artwork used for characters and levels seems to be a cross between Borderlands and Team Fortress 2, with characters looking a bit cartoonish, but still having a devilish edge between them. The comparisons do not stop there for Battleborn as the map system and quest highlighting are very reminiscent to Borderlands as well. It makes sense as Borderlands is a pedigree of Gearbox Software, developers on Battleborn, but it seemed to be a bit overly comparative to its predecessor.
That said, Battleborn moved very fast, bringing to mind the twitch based shooters of the 1990’s like Quake, Unreal Tournament and Doom. Enemy units were varied with different classes for each type that we saw, ranging from light and heavy troopers to shadowy enemies that appear from ethereal gateways that can show up anywhere at anytime. The controls were easy to understand and it does make pick up and play rather easy from class selection to controller action. Powers have a generous cooldown time, so I found there was never any real fear in spamming them whenever needed, and I can’t think of a time the cooldown timer got in the way. I did find the stealth mechanic to be a bit worthless here, as the game seems to be a bit more designed with a run and gun feel rather than sneaking your way around enemies. The game should also balance out difficulty depending on the number of players that are in the game, similar to the powering up or powering down of Pandora enemies in Borderlands when another player would show up.
Gearbox is not looking to reinvent the wheel with Battleborn. It builds on concepts that they themselves, or others in the industry have done before, but look to add a large variety of heroes that you can choose from to give players diversity in how they play. Add in the ability to co-op with friends through the campaign (the new buzz words of E3 2015) and Battleborn is shaping up to be a solid contender for Winter 2015.