Born from the ashes of FPS and MOBA – Battleborn
I should begin by telling you that Battleborn is made by the same people who made Borderlands, which in my opinion is one of the most fun FPS games out there. Both, Borderlands 1 and 2 were well scripted and offered hours of immersive & captivating gameplay. The tongue-in-cheek humour was spot on and the characters offered a diverse skill-set, which was one of the reasons I completed the game multiple times donning the role of each individual playable character. The game was one of the best first person shooters and Gearbox software did a fantastic job with it. I didn’t play the last Borderlands title, the pre-sequel, so I won’t comment on that. Instead, I will fast forward to today – The experience of playing Battleborn.
Battleborn is a fast paced, action packed FPS title with the potential to take on Team Fortress 2. The game offers more than two dozen characters to play with and each has their own personality, gameplay, and abilities. At first, it seems like an advanced version of Borderlands in a new, online-only package, but it is not that simple. Gearbox has added MOBA elements into the mix. Now this means, there are tanks, healers, and supports, and thus each team member will have a definitive role to play. You would be required to farm for shards, which are required to ensure progress goals. The characters themselves are not that easy to kill, as is the case in FPS games usually. One bullet through the brains is usually equal to a dead enemy. Well, not here. In Battleborn, your enemies are like bullet sponges and come with a health bar, which is further protected by shields. This is standard fare for quite a lot of FPS titles.
All this makes Battleborn a little complex and far more fun to play. The game comes with a fairly steep learning curve. You will have to devote hours understanding the intricacies of each of the 25 playable characters. Moreover, you will be required to unlock all these characters by spending more hours in-game, either playing story mode or multiplayer. Gearbox has done a fantastic job as the game’s core FPS mechanics are bang on, given the Borderlands pedigree.
Drawn by a kindergartener
The first thing you will notice about the game is its cartoonish look and feel. It is full of bright colours. From the in-game menus to the actual gameplay, Battleborn consistently reminds you that it is made by the same people who made Borderlands. The game starts off with an Aeon Flux-like intro which is a bit long, but the intro song is mesmerising and gives you a glimpse of some of the characters from the game. However, the in-game animations are not consistent and make you question whether they lend to the storyline. Sometimes, there is a proper 3D cutscene and sometimes it just ends up like a comic strip, with static images and dialogues in the background. If you’ve played the original Max Payne, you’ll know what we are talking about except that Battleborn isn’t that dark. The confusion doesn’t end there, the level design looks bizarrely overdone. There are too many things to destroy and loot. Some levels have pathways over you, below you and some just don’t lead you anywhere. Some worlds are bright, full of neon-like colours and some look pale compared to the others.
Adding the MOBA element
The level design becomes even more complicated with the addition of shards. These glowy cacti like things serve as in-game currency, which you are required to collect in order to spend them on turrets, sentry drones and more. Now, in true MOBA fashion, these can be obtained by destroying stuff like shard boxes, exposed shard pieces as well as by killing bigger enemies. However, there is a major issue with shard system, they aren’t abundant. If you run out of shards while mowing down your enemies and are required to setup an essential sentry, you have to roam around the whole map to find some shards. This sets you back on your objective so be careful with your expenditure.
Adding to the MOBA gameplay, each of the 25 characters has a helical skill tree with 10 levels. This does require some getting used to in the match-levelling system but once you have familiarised yourself with the gameplay and the characters, these level-ups feel far less intimidating and comes naturally. However, in the heat of the battle, keeping in mind, the mechanics of each character especially with the three abilities, the levelling system can become a little overwhelming. Especially, with a large horde of enemies attacking from all sides. Take for example, ‘Bindleblast’, which is the ultimate ability of the sniper wielding robot Marquis. It does a lot of damage, but how much exactly? You don’t have to care about that. Battleborn has seamlessly stitched these game mechanics such as abilities and level-ups within the normal gameplay. Essentially, these abilities are just there to give you something extra as you go around spamming the left mouse button. In a proper MOBA game like DOTA 2, abilities are generally used in a calculated manner, keeping in the mind how much damage they would do, what combo can they be used with and if it is the right spot on the map and the right time to execute. Essentially, what we’re saying is that the complexity is not as high as one would experience in Dota 2.
Furthermore, FPS style of MOBA may not go down well with players who like the MOBA genre. All major MOBA titles such as Dota 2, LOL offer an isometric view of your character and the map. It gives you the sense of awareness over the different aspects of the game, such as your teammate’s position, enemy’s position, game timer (to assess spawn times), cooldown counters and so on. Instead, Battleborn wants you to play the game in split-screen with a friend, which is certainly fun in an FPS fashion but not fulfilling as far as the existing MOBA style of gameplay is concerned.
This brings us to the actual gameplay of the Battleborn. It is different, repetitive, fast-paced and full of forgetful NPCs. All gameplay modes require you to kill enemy NPCs, it doesn’t matter if you are playing a co-op campaign or trying your hand at multiplayer. The storyline is about saving the galaxy from the forces that are trying to take control, and that is it.
Comprised of 8 loosely linked missions and three multiplayer modes, Battleborn struggles to maintain a balance between FPS and MOBA. All game modes with the exception of ‘Incursion’ are filled with objectives which direct you to ‘kill this’ and ‘save that’, leaving you with little-to-no free movement while exploring areas of the map or farming for shards. While you end up pursuing these objectives to clear a particular level, waves of spongy enemies are thrown at you. They don’t hide from the bullets or arrows or whatever your character might be able to throw at them. They just come at you, die in the process and make way for the next wave. Technically that’s how games like Dota 2 work, you kill and defend, wave after wave of enemies. However, in Dota 2, each kill advances you to the next in-game level and rewards you in gold with which you can buy in-game items. These items, abilities are then carefully used in order to turn the tide in your team’s favour. Whereas, in Battleborn all these MOBA style elements, though replicated well, don’t add anything noteworthy to the gameplay except for some rare nail-biting moments.
Out of all game modes, ‘Incursion’ is the only game mode which is able to stand out by offering Quake III Arena style gameplay. It is a simple capture-the-base mode, which offers a supremely fun and highly satisfying gameplay experience. That being said, since the characters are designed to fulfil the role of tankers, healers and supports, you and your team members are required to play in sync. Once that is sorted, you will be able to enjoy Battleborn as Gearbox intended it to be. Or should we say, like any team-based game is meant to be played… as a team… together… united… you get the gist, right?
Characters you play
Previous Gearbox games, especially the Borderlands franchise, had well-polished characters which the players could connect with. While Battleborns (Yes, the characters are called that only) do not have that same connect, they are still pretty interesting. Unlike any other game I have played in the past few months, the 25 characters in this game offer one of the most unique gaming experiences. Coming from a DOTA 2 background, I felt a bit uneasy and even frustrated initially as I adjusted to the mixed gameplay style of Battleborn. However, once I was able to understand the abilities and experience different characters of the game, I felt hooked. All 25 characters, in true Gearbox fashion, are distinctive, well designed and deliver dialogues which are sometimes funny and sometimes just there to fill in the gaps. So, even though the gameplay seems repetitive and outright boring at times, these characters and the combination of their distinctive abilities make Battleborn worth playing.
To buy or not to buy Battleborn?
Battleborn is a game with an identity crisis. It’s too loud and over the top, which might not go down well with either the FPS or MOBA community. The gameplay is repetitive, the story missions lack cohesiveness and the multiplayer mode has no team vs team mode. While we can agree on the fact that Gearbox has tried to make a TF2 competitor and gameplay mechanics are as good as they were in Borderlands, it is unable to nail what it intended the game to be, which is an online multiplayer. I am sure since this is a new title and being an online one at that, changes will be made to the game in the near future. Until then, it will lack the pick and play simplicity of TF2. That said, the character roster is currently the best a game of this genre has to offer and is definitely worth a second look. I will keep playing the game and update this review, as further changes are made.
Be the first to leave a review.
Hardik "fluffyVader" Singh
Light at the top, this odd looking creature lives under the heavy medication of video games. Fluffy swore by PC gaming way early in life and has stuck to it. When he is not working, he spends his hours decimating the enemy in Dota 2.