We Are All Battle Born
This year at E3 2015, we got a chance to check out 2K and Gearbox’s new MOBA, RPG, shooter, action game, tower defense, hybrid monstrosity that we simply know as Battleborn . The last star in the universe is about to go out, and it’s up to you to use your own custom set of characters and their varied skills in order to keep it alive. This wide variety of characters is both the game’s biggest draw and biggest failing.
The tagline for Battleborn is “for every kind of badass,” which is a reference to the sheer amount of characters the game has to offer. The developers have said they wanted to include elements of shooters, fighting games, action games, real time strategies, tower defenses, and basically every game genre you could possibly think of when designing the heroes of their game.
You have 25 different characters to choose from in both single and multiplayer modes. Characters like Oscar Mike play the way you would expect a shooter character to play. He aims down sights with his assault rifle, and keeps a good distance between himself and the enemy. Then you have characters like Rath, the vampire swordsman, who plays a lot like Kratos would. His attack is a short ranged slash combo, and so his job is to run right up to the enemy and hack away at them. Then you have sniper robots, ninja mushrooms, healers, summoners, builders, and so on.
In battle, characters have 4 distinct abilities, a normal attack, two special attacks, and an ultimate attack. Usually one of their special attacks is like an upgraded version of their normal attack, and another gives them an ability they wouldn’t otherwise have. For example, Rath, a melee character, has one special attack that is a rushing up close blade slash, and another which lets him fire a cross shaped shockwave from his swords in order to attack at range. These abilities usually only take a few seconds to recharge, so you want to use them all the time, like a character in an MMO rapidly clicking through his action queue. Ultimate abilities, on the other hand, are a grab bag of different abilities that sometimes take a minute or longer to recharge, except they always end up causing massive havoc on the battlefield.
As you kill enemies and aid your team your hero gains experience and levels up. A level up increases both your shields (regenerating health) and HP (non regenerating health) as well as the damage of all your abilities. You also get to choose one of two perks when you level up. Note that you can only make this choice once. Once you choose one perk, the perk you didn’t choose is gone forever.
Usually, these perks are two different buffs for similar abilities. For example, one Rath level up allows him to either reduce the cooldown on his blade shockwave, or let his blade shockcwave fire two projectiles at once. You can level up multiple times, which usually means each of your abilities will power-up and change functionality multiple times over the course of a game.
That’s not the only way you can get more powerful. Over the course of the game you will find gold lying around, usually on the corpse of an enemy you just killed. Gold can be used to purchase power-ups for your character, or to do things like build turrets or give certain areas of the map a healing aura. On top of that, you can get perks to your player profile and constant buffs to your favorite characters of choice when you play then long enough.
In multiplayer, Battleborn plays pretty much like any other MOBA. While you’ll have a variety of different objectives, usually they involve wading through a variety of enemy peons before eventually killing the opposing team and storming their base.
In story mode, however, Battleborn plays a lot more like an RPG. You and several other teammates are placed at one point of a map and are tasked with several different missions such as finding a portal, escorting a huge walking mech through that portal, or disabling base defenses. Along the way you will meet a variety of different enemies, each with different abilities and A.I., and you’ll square off against some humongous bosses, some of which tower over you. I’d go as far as to say co-op story mode is more fun than competitive multiplayer.
The biggest problem with Battleborn , however, is the massive swing in power levels between characters. Since the game plays out in first person, first person shooter style characters are right at home. When I played as Oscar Mike, I was easily able to get through a whole story chapter without dying once. Meanwhile, melee characters are hard to control, as enemies have to be right in your face in order to hit them, and they move so fast it’s easy for them dodge out of the way and cause you to lose track of them, wasting precious seconds turning your camera all the way around to start attacking them once more. Melee characters are also fragile and tend to require the assistance of a healer or other support class to be made effective. This disorienting experience just feels like too much trouble when you can pick up an assault rifle and play Battleborn like Call of Duty , carrying the entire team with very basic shooter skills.
Battleborn can be a fantastic game if it is rebalanced. As it stands, there are characters that are very obviously the best in the game, or at the very least the easiest to use. A lot of small alterations would make the game a lot more fun to play, like allowing melee classes or healers to play in third person instead of first person. However, the current build feels way too weighted toward FPS style characters to really deliver on the variety it is advertising.
Battleborn will be released this winter on the PC, PS4, and Xbox One.