Of course, Battleborn is marketed as an online game, and that’s where most of its emphasis lays. As such, you’ll find that its more popular modes are its MOBA-inspired competitions. These comes in three different varieties, including two modes in which you must lead minions to specific goals. One tasks you with getting more minions into turbine-like portals than the other team, while dealing with them trying to kill both you and your robots. Then there’s the other, where you’re to lead your minions into battle and have them destroy turrets.
The third online mode is something like what you’d find in a Battlefield game. While playing it, your goal is to lead your team to victory by amassing more points than your opponents. To do this, you must take control, then protect, three different points on the map. Holding two to your enemy’s one will grant you a faster point increase than them and is the key to victory.
As someone who’s more of a first-person shooter fan than a MOBA fan, I naturally found the control variant to be more fun than the other two. I bought this game hoping it would cater more to fans of Borderlands and other shooters, though, and in some ways it does. That said, it’s not exactly what I was hoping for, and left me wanting a bit. The gameplay feels like it’s a stripped down version of Borderlands with battle arena elements, like multiple different characters and classes, as well as minions.
Now that I’ve got most of my complaints out of the way, it’s important to talk about who you will play as and how that all works.
In total, Battleborn has twenty-five different heroes, many of which remain locked for a good amount of time. Each character belongs to one of five different factions, as well as a particular class, like sniper, skirmisher and tank. To unlock them, you’ll need to complete story missions, get to a certain player rank or complete specific challenges. This will add a lot of playtime to the game, but only for those who happen to be completionists and care about unlocking every playable hero.
The heroes, themselves, are quite unique in design, and each one has its own creative look and sound. In fact, since there’s only a very basic story about different factions converging on their world’s one remaining star and entering conflict over it, a lot of Battleborn‘s personality comes from its characters, their dialogue and their one liners. Some are quite funny, too, while certain jokes fall flat. The game definitely has a sense of humour, though, and it doesn’t hide it. The narrated level intros are colourful and adult, and some of the things that come out of the characters’ mouths will have you chuckling.
Heroes can level up ten times in battle, and each level gifts them with two new perks (and sometimes one mutation of the two) to choose from. These almost always relate to the characters’ special abilities and can give benefits like adding two more arrows to a three arrow shot, reducing an ability’s cool down period, making it so that enemies are cursed when hit, or increasing the player’s speed. These are just examples, and the perks that you’ll be offered will depend on the type of character you’re using. They’re all different, after all, and this is the type of game where people will fall in love with one or two and use them as their mains. I particularly liked Thorn, a ranged elven archer, and ISIC, an AI trapped in a robotic body. The latter was especially useful in The Saboteur, because he has a tank ability that can be abused.
As you play using the same characters, you’ll earn new skins and gear for them to wear and beneficial items (which help with healing, cool downs and other things) to use. Don’t worry about this being a game where people who play a lot get to build unbeatable tanks with experience points, though, because that’s not the case. Those who are higher levelled will be a challenge to go up against because of their experience, not for any cheap reasons. That said, some balancing does need to be done, as some of the characters definitely feel better than others.
When it comes to presentation, Battleborn is fine but unspectactular. It looks pretty good, and has sound design that doesn’t feature any real faults, but it’s not going to win any aways for either. I say that because, while things are fine throughout, the visuals are a bit too similar to Borderlands (minus the Cel-shading), and the sound can be a bit juvenile at times. That’s part of this game’s personality, though. And, thanks to being a mostly online-only title, it’s tough to expect a real looker or a current-gen standout. Still, more could have been done.
The maps, themselves, are fine as well, but they’re limited (to two per game type) and aren’t spectacular in any way. They do their jobs, though, and fit the game and what it stands to be. You’d think more would be included for $60 (or the $90.00 Canadian that we paid after taxes), but that’s not the case. There will be DLC, of course, but some of it will unfortunately be of the paid variety.
Overall, Battleborn is a bit of a mixed bag. It features some good building blocks and some really neat heroes, but it doesn’t all come together in a seamless way. The campaign’s balancing leaves lots to be desired, and the lack of a queue system for player chosen missions does as well. On top of that, there’s not a ton of meat on the game’s bones, in terms of online modes and maps, although that isn’t terribly uncommon when it comes to MOBAs from what I’ve gathered. Still, there’s certainly a lot to like here and as more patches and additional content is released, the whole thing will undoubtedly become a smoother experience.
This review is based on the Xbox One version of the game, which we purchased.
Battleborn is big, colourful and wholly raucous, but its overall design and first-person-shooter/MOBA-inspired mechanics don't gel as well as I was hoping they would. There's a lot of repetition, poor difficulty balancing and a limited amount of content to be found at launch, and while that will surely improve over the coming months, it makes the game's expensive price tag loom high at this point in time.