Battleborn is an undeniably stylish game, with some genuinely cool concepts under its belt. The trouble is that it throws so many ideas at you, that not all of them end up sticking.
So, what is Battleborn? I’ve spent a decent amount of time with the game and I’m still not sure I can give an answer that does it justice. Let’s have a go, though.
Developed by Gearbox Software (of Borderlands fame) Battleborn is primarily a first person shooter, but there’s a clear and ever present MOBA influence.
I’m not sure how many people are super into both FPS and MOBA games, but if you fall under that umbrella I can almost guarantee you’ll love this one.
That’s not to say that the two genres are mutually exclusive, by the way – and I’m certain there are plenty of people who will get a kick out of Battleborn. My main concern is just that there are equally plenty of folk out there who will come in after a simple shooter and be put off by the potentially overwhelming mechanics.
You’re given a cast of two dozen characters to play with in a variety of online matches and a somewhat lacking campaign that can either be played alone or with chums via the power of internet.
Each character has a unique personality, wonderful skills, and a fantastic design. One of the biggest draws in Battleborn is fucking about with each character and finding out what works for you.
There’s plenty more depth beyond your initial character choice though – you’ll begin every new mission or battle at level one and make your way through 10 upgrade choices in the course of a single session, choosing upgrades on the fly.
The real problem with this is that there’s a fair bit of information to take in when you’re checking out the potential skills, and considering you’re kind of expected to level up in the heat of the battle, you might well find yourself upgrading your character through panic rather than rational thought – at least until you familiarize yourself with each character’s options.
All the same, it’s a neat twist once you get your head round it, and one that encourages you to keep coming back to play around and see which combinations of upgrades and characters are your jam.
Unfortunately, only seven characters are available from the outset, so you’ll have to invest a fair bit of time into the game before it rewards you with some of the more interesting contenders.
Still, there’s a wonderfully gratifying feeling to starting from the bottom at the start of each new excursion and swiftly making your way back to the top of the food chain.
But where MOBAs are often about that slow build up to becoming super strong, FPS games are usually more about the immediate reward. Once again, it’s a merging of genres that simply won’t work for everyone.
The campaign is pretty disappointing, unfortunately – especially considering Gearbox have delivered some awesome Borderlands adventures in their time.
Don’t get me wrong, the writing is still sharp and there are some fantastic one liners on display. Each character has a vibrant personality and there’s a genuinely interesting world hidden somewhere in Battleborn – but over the course of eight fairly generic missions, I just didn’t care.
It doesn’t help that every mission feels exactly the same. Go there, shoot X enemies, protect this, beat boss – repeat as necessary. There’s a little bit more fun to be had with the campaign if you play with people online, but single player is pretty much a drag.
Where the campaign feels painfully generic, there’s a lot to love in the three PvP modes. Capture has a focus on fast paced action and domination. Incursion feels closest to the actual campaign, but without drawn out battles and offers a simple game of claim the enemy territory.
The third mode, Meltdown, is where Battleborn really wears its MOBA/arena influences on its sleeve and is the one I reckon you’ll either love or hate based on your videogame preferences.
This is where the merging of MOBA and FPS really doesn’t work for me. The first person perspective just doesn’t mesh well with traditional MOBA gameplay. The action is simply too close, and the map overlay is too small to keep track of any nearby pickups or enemy locations.
What really frustrates me about Battleborn is the lack of a traditional death match mode. With such an awesome and diverse range of characters, such a mode could have been hours of chaotic fun. Hopefully Gearbox chuck one in in a future update.
With a mere three modes and pretty naff selection of maps, you’ll find out pretty quickly whether or not Battleborn is your kind of game. I guess that’s something.
Let’s summarise then. I don’t think Battleborn is a bad game by any means. I’m all for injecting new ideas into stale genres, and God knows the FPS genre could do with some fresh concepts.
As I’ve mentioned though, parts of the game work and other parts just don’t mesh. Some modes will appeal to everyone, while others will leave those seeking a traditional FPS thrill cold.
Obviously it would be impossible to please everyone, but with a more engaging campaign and some kind of standard death match to add a little more variety to the online matches, Battleborn could have been something powerful.
As it is, Battleborn is simply this: A stylish and colourful FPS that’s attempting something bold and new. I’ve no doubt it’ll have some passionate fans – but there are plenty who just won’t see the appeal, and I can’t really blame them.
Ewan Moore is a journalist at UNILAD Gaming who still quite hasn’t gotten out of his mid 00’s emo phase. After graduating from the University of Portsmouth in 2015 with a BA in Journalism & Media Studies (thanks for asking), he went on to do some freelance words for various places, including Kotaku, Den of Geek, and TheSixthAxis, before landing a full time gig at UNILAD in 2016.