Having spent a good amount of time playing Battleborn’s single-player and multiplayer offerings, I can say this with certainty: Battleborn is NOT Overwatch. I feel it’s important to point this out right away, because comparisons between the two are being made far too often. In reality, while both happen to be first-person shooters with a diverse cast of characters, that’s pretty much where the similarities end.
So what is Battleborn all about? Well, just imagine what the offspring would be if developer Gearbox Software's Borderlands had a lovechild with DOTA. Many of Battleborn's gameplay elements harken back to classic MOBA game mechanics, such as character leveling, waves of creeps, and the fact that you're stuck with your chosen character for the duration of a match.
That said, the humor, shooting mechanics, co-op gameplay, and even some of the artistic elements feel like they wouldn’t be out of place on Pandora. Overall, the game looks and sounds great. Though the UI can be confusing at first, with a bit of study it'll soon become second nature.
Battleborn can be played with up to 5-player co-op and even supports split screen, which is great because honestly, multiplayer is the main course here. The single-player campaign, which lasts about 6-7 hours, is probably the weakest link in the experience. While the campaign does reward you with lore, unfortunately the universe isn't all that interesting to begin with. A generic evil space empire threatens to take over the galaxy and only the elite BATTLEBORN can stop them... yada yada, we’ve heard it all before. The dialogue and humor are clearly influenced by Borderlands, but even they aren't able to prop the game up on their own.
On top of that, the structure of the campaign feels more akin to a co-op horde mode than a true single-player experience. While some of the boss fights are quite good, the majority of your time will be spent dealing with wave after wave of braindead, unmemorable enemies before reaching the next checkpoint. The campaign actually becomes worse the deeper you get into it, and I found myself cursing some badly-placed checkpoints and difficulty spikes in the later levels.
Thankfully, slogging through the single-player nets you brand new characters and loot for the multiplayer, where the real meat of the game lies.
Battleborn features three separate modes of play: Incursion, Meltdown, and Capture. Incursion is basically a MOBA, where you're tasked with leading waves of creeps into enemy sentries, with the ultimate goal of destroying the enemy base. Unlike traditional MOBAs, Incursion only has one lane, but there's enough hidden paths to allow for some interesting maneuvers. Meltdown is similar to Smite’s Arena mode, where you must lead your creeps into the enemy portal to reduce their ticket count, while Capture is simply a team fight over control points. All three modes are enjoyable, but as of this writing they suffer from only having two maps each, since the levels soon wear thin. On top of that, I’ve had issues with matchmaking imbalances, but hopefully that's something Gearbox can address in an upcoming patch.
The real strengths of Battleborn come from its characters. The cast is diverse, colorful, full of personality, and genuinely fun. Each character plays differently and you’d be hard-pressed to play any two characters in the same manner. I mean, how can you go wrong with a penguin in a mech suit, or a giant luchador? Even Oscar Mike, the most generic of the bunch, has plenty of personality going for him.
What makes these characters even more interesting is that they can be specced down one of two paths (a third path can be unlocked later on) to really tailor each character to best suit one’s individual playstyle. Miko, for example, is a support healer, but he can be specced into more of a pure healer, or you can buff his poison abilities to cast various effects on enemies. One could spend literally hours experimenting with the various skill paths, a far cry from comparable games featuring characters that can only be played one way.
This customization is also evident in the equipment system. Throughout multiplayer matches, you'll collect shards, which are needed to equip pieces of gear. The gear itself provides a wide range of effects and bonuses. As in Borderlands, equipment comes in varying degrees of rarity, with the rarer ones being more powerful. Since these valuable pieces require more shards to equip, loadouts are kept in check and never feel imbalanced. Apart from earning equipment in the campaign, packs of varying rarities can be purchased with currency earned by playing. No pay to win here, folks!
Despite that, it's clear that Battleborn just needs more maps and modes ASAP. One might think that you wouldn't need so much variety in a MOBA, but I found myself getting tired quicker than I expected. Thankfully, the Season Pass promises a wealth of content, with the first five DLC packs bringing forth fresh story missions, skins, taunts, multiplayer maps, and even new characters.
Overall, Battleborn isn't a bad game at all, and it can be pretty damn fun when you're playing with friends. However, at the moment, a weak single-player campaign and a multiplayer mode that gets old faster than I would have liked make this hard to recommend for those flying solo. Right now, it wouldn't be a bad choice to let this one simmer a little longer. Gearbox has been very responsive to the community and from the looks of things, this game is only going to get better over time. If you've got a bunch of friends all looking to play something new together, then Battleborn isn't a bad choice for your next group purchase, but you won't be missing much by waiting a few more months for a Game of the Year edition, a sale, or the inevitable price drop.
Reviewed By: Willem Den Toom
- Amazing cast of characters full of personality
- Deep progression system
- Successful blend of FPS and MOBA mechanics
- Weak single-player campaign
- Lack of multiplayer modes / maps
- Some multiplayer balance issues