Battleborn is the latest game to enter the steadily growing, and perhaps overcrowded, genre of online multiplayer games. For every hit game that resonated with a community and sticks around for more than a year, there are at least five failures – often obscure ones. That makes it interesting when a AAA publisher and developer like 2K and Gearbox enter the arena – and Battleborn promised to be different.
Upon that promise, the game delivers. A lot has already been said about Battleborn’s MOBA-inspired gameplay, and that part is arguably the best that this game has to offer as well. The multiplayer mode you’re looking for is called Incursion, and it’ll be a fresh experience if you’re – like us – not used to playing games like Dota 2 regularly. The scene splits players into two teams, each on one side of the game map. There are various paths through which you can meet, and fierce battles quickly start to occur at strategic chokepoints on the map. Your main goal is to take down the enemy’s turrets, which move around the map to make matters more interesting. Incursion battles are so large that the momentum shifts back and forth and the fight can take quite a while, but that’s also the charm of the mode and what will draw in MOBA fans. Other multiplayer modes mainly involve defensive goals, like escorting a moving target or tower defense-esque scenarios – both are fun but Incursion tended to be our favorite.
If you’re not into online multiplayer, then Battleborn becomes a rather shallow offering. It may look like Borderlands in terms of its visual style and delivery, but it’s a different beast – especially in single player. There’s a campaign mode, but its story is relatively thin and it doesn’t capture your imagination in a compelling sort of way. Part of this is the game’s design – single player missions can be tackled in any order you want, so it’s understandable that the outcome of your missions don’t greatly affect what happens in later missions. It’s good fun and delivered with a healthy dose of humor, but it’s over rather quickly and doesn’t leave a lasting impression. You also have the choice to play these single player missions together with others, but the game tends to ramp up the difficulty when you do this.
What’s appealing in both the single and multiplayer portions are the game’s characters. Gearbox has shown us their ability to design and flesh out fun and interesting characters in their other games (especially Borderlands), and Battleborn’s heroes are no exception. There’s a large roster to choose from, with 25 or so characters available that each have very different traits and specialties. More abilities can be unlocked later on, so when you enjoy one of more of the game’s modes then things aren’t likely to become repetitive any time soon. Upgrades don’t always happen like they do in rpg games, but are often just part of the closed environment that each mission gives you. In order words, you can unlock abilities during a mission that help you complete your goal – but it’s not an unlock that’s part of a greater character development arc.
Battleborn is a crossover product and as such is likely to appeal most to crossover gamers. If you’re not a fan of the MOBA formula then you’re going to wish you had stuck with first person shooters, and it’s the same the other way around. If you happen to enjoy both genres, then Battleborn will likely resonate with you in a very good way. It works for those people that it’s intended for, and for them it works really well. We’re just afraid that that group is not the majority, which might hurt Battleborn as a franchise in the long run.