The competitive online shooting game market is one hell of a crowded scene these days. You’ve got Call of Duty, Battlfield, Gears of War and plenty more real heavyweight franchises lined up. If you’re wanting to get a slice of that pie you really need to do something to stand apart. Battleborn takes some pretty extreme steps to do just that.
Far from just a traditional shooter with a wacky art style, Battleborn
incorporates some very MOBA-esque aspects to create a genuinely fresh and unique gameplay experience. Most gamers will probably know what to expect from an online shooter and how to get the job done. But when it comes to Battleborn
it will be how they adapt to the MOBA elements that determine how effectively they can contribute to their team’s success. MOBAs – short for Multiplayer Online Battle Arena – are a relatively new genre that’s more prevalent on PC than console thanks to the success of games such as League of Legends
The biggest difference between Battleborn
and other multiplayer shooters is undoubtedly the total absence of a straight team deathmatch mode. Rather than focussing on K/D ratios or killstreaks Battleborn
’s gameplay revolves primarily around accomplishing more specific goals such as capturing zones around the map or breaking through into the enemy base to destroy a target.
To help achieve these goals you’re often provided with hordes of constantly respawning minion robots that will help attack the targets as long as you can protect them. One mode even revolves entirely around which team can escort the highest number of minions into enemy territory. Managing underlings isn’t something you often have to deal with in shooters.
Another major element of gameplay that will often make the difference between victory and defeat is how well you build up your defences. As you travel the map and do battle with your enemies you will gather crystal shards that can be spent at points around the map to create helpful structures. Whether it’s an automated turret to help keep enemies out of an area, summoning a powerful new minion to lend its firepower to your cause, or a supply generator to heal and restock your teammates, all of these can prove incredibly useful. There are so many ways you can contribute to the match before you even get to the whole shooting-at-each-other part.
The first thing you’ll really need to figure out is which character you like to play as. Unlike typical shooting games each character has a locked set of abilities and weapons that can’t be switched out. If you play as a character with a rocket launcher, you’ve got a rocket launcher. If they’ve got a rifle, you’re working with a rifle. And if they’ve got nothing but fists then you’d better be up for getting your hands dirty.
Combined with each character's unique set of special moves this makes for a wide range of different playing styles for you to try. Are you the sneaky type, taking out enemies before they know you’re even there? Do you like having the health and defences to charge headfirst into a fight, beat the other guy to death and make it out the other side alive if you’re lucky? Do you like healing and supporting your teammates to help tip the scales against a less prepared enemy team? Almost every character offers unique ways of taking care of business and finding one who really suits your tastes will definitely make the game a lot more fun.
One really weird MOBA element that makes its way into Battleborn
is the levelling up system, and it’s one of the areas where the game starts to feel a little unwieldy to people not used to that style. As you earn points throughout a match you’ll slowly level up. Every level advances you down the two or three trees of advancements that give you a choice of different ways to tweak your abilities to suit your needs and taste.
It definitely works well in the story missions which, being fairly long, give you the chance to steadily grow more powerful as you progress. It works considerably less well in multiplayer however. As you might expect, it can be a bit of a pain to find a quiet spot to sit and decide on your upgrades while a match is going on. Even worse, if your team is particularly outmatched then you might find it harder and harder to level up while your opponents rapidly grow even stronger and an already lop-sided match can become an absolute curbstomp.
does its best to stand out too. The graphics and design style are very vibrant and colourful, though they can be a little rough around the edges and as is always the case with any strongly stylised art the designs aren’t going to be to everyone’s taste.
The overall presentation is very good though, and the intros at the start of each match and story mission do a good job of setting up the teams. And the animated cutscenes that pop up throughout the story mode are very nice, especially the opening which showcases some of the main heroes of the story as they tear through some enemy hordes.
As well as having a wide variety of different gameplay styles, the cast of characters is very varied when it comes to the design side of things too. They’re all highly stylised with a sleek cartoony look that does seem like a natural refinement of the Borderlands
series’ signature style. And there’s a lot of pretty far out creativity to be found here, with everything from humanoid mushroom monks and penguins piloting mech suits to cyborg luchadors, elven archers and demon-possessed teenage outcasts taking part in the contests.
With even more characters planned for inclusion in the future Battleborn
is throwing everything including the kitchen sink into the mix in an effort to stand out. It’s a far cry from Borderlands
’ relatively tame selection of grizzled bandits and psychic girls with the occasional robot.
And now that I’ve mentioned it for the first time I should probably get the rest out of my system, because – for better or worse – comparisons with Borderlands
are inevitable. Not just because if Battleborn
catches on it’ll be up there with Borderlands
as one of Gearbox’s few success stories, but also because of their striking similarities.
These similarities are mostly superficial to be fair. The game has a very similar main menu screen, showing off the last character you played as. The challenges system is laid out in the same way as Borderlands
’ Badass rank system. Bosses and important supporting characters receive the same cheesey over-the-top slow motion introductions.
These are small things but they all add up, especially when you find some of Borderlands
' more unique features such as the guns that self-destruct when reloaded starting to pop up as part of certain characters’ abilities. Make no mistake, Borderlands
are very different games, but there are enough nods to the older series that Battleborn
will have a very familiar feel to a Borderlands