Walking into a room full of Gun–toting personalities
May of 2016 will always be remembered (at least til our yearly round ups) as the month of the gun. A grand total of five highly anticipated shooters would be out within the span of 30 days, now that’s a lot of bullets to weave though.
Gearbox Software is throwing the first punch with Battleborn and if you didn’t read our hands-on with the game a month back or you’ve totally forgotten about the game due to the sheer number of games coming out in the last few months. I’m to jolt your memory; Revealed back in 2014, Battleborn is Gearbox Software’s first original games since Borderlands back in 2009. Touted as a Hero Shooter (which is a term to describe shooters with characters that defy standard shooter conventions), Battleborn actually boasts an impressive roster of 25 playable heroes on launch day with more content and heroes coming post-release.
Room full of said personalities
Although Battleborn is not a numbered sequel to Gearbox’s Borderlands series, the Borderlands DNA was apparent in the design of the multitude of both playable and non-playable characters I’ve interacted with throughout my playthrough. Conventional character design is not something you’d associate with Gearbox if anything Gearbox has always been associated with quirky characters that exuberates personality – who can forget Tiny Tina and Claptrap. The huge roster of characters here are no different; we have Marquis, your everyday Victorian gentle-steampunkbot with a stiff upper lip and an ornate cane that doubles as a sniper rifle. In a universe filled with killer cyborgs and rocket wielding birds, comes El Dragon, the LLC’s greatest wrestler who fights the all-encompassing evil with a combination of clotheslines and high flying lucha libre splashes. Each playable hero has access to 2 unique skills, a single passive ability and an ultimate ability which is unlocked after attaining a predetermined level. You’d be hard pressed to find heroes that play like one another, even melee heroes like El Dragon and Phoebe play vastly different from one another.
There is a less than subtle level of meta-humor here, some characters are so explicitly generic they become parodies of character design conventions. Case in point, Oscar Mike; Oscar Mike is your generic soldier archetype who wields a run-of-the-mill assault rifle with a stealth generator and the ability to call in airstrikes, his personality is so generically soldierly that it’s hilarious, he taunts his opponents with pushups.
As unique as each character are, they are still classified into their predetermined roles: Attacker, Defender, and Support. Attackers are dispensers of death and destruction but their lack of health hurts their survivability especially if caught alone, Defenders are big, they are burly, they are the ones wading knee deep in enemy fire to ensure the survival of the team and if the need arises, taking one for the team. Finally, a Support is the team’s guardian angel; healing wounds and buffing allies, they might not be the ones slaying monsters but they are the ones keeping everyone alive.
Wait what, there’s a story to all this?!
In my initial impression of Battleborn’s story mode, I was really disappointed with the general gameplay loop. The point to point action was fast and frenetic due to the pace of the action but the repetition starts to set in when all you and your team did was to go to point A, clear point A and defend point A from waves of enemies; rinse and repeat. Fortunately, in this full retail version of the game, the single player missions have been updated to add more variety into the story mode.
Battleborn is set in a distant future where a mysterious and all-encompassing enemy has been destroying every star in the universe except one, named Solus which serves as the last beacon of hope against the encroaching darkness. It’s a well-worn tale of uneasy alliances and an ultimate evil but with a sense of humor that broke the otherwise grim nature of the game.
The story mode consists of eight missions that can last up to forty-five to an hour, the missions consist of a combination of escort and point defense missions which are undoubtedly fun with a party of five but unfortunately, enjoyment takes a hard dip whenever you get a bunch of random players who insist on playing their favorite character instead of the appropriate characters for the team. When played with the right group of players, the story mode becomes an enjoyable slaughter with the team’s abilities synergizing with one another, cutting down droves upon droves of enemies with relative ease. Every so often, the game would throw in a mid-game boss into the mix just to break the tedium of the mission structure. Even though they are just a flashier version of an existing enemy, they still require teamwork to conquer on higher difficulties.
Player with others
Outside of the story missions, Battleborn offers up three distinct competitive multiplayer modes that break traditional multiplayer convention. Gone are your Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch instead, they are replaced with Incursion, Meltdown and Capture.
Meltdown is in its very essence, an escort mission, where players would need to escort a line of disposable minions to a massive chomper where they’ll be mulched down into precious points. The team that achieves the designated points wins the game. The mode might sound tedious but it actually drew from the very MOBA tradition of “Pushing Creeps” which an essential skill most MOBA players would be familiar with.
Incursion involves the destruction of 2 giant walkers while escorting your AI controlled minions who are indispensable in taking down the above mentioned giant walkers. Unlike your typical MOBA, the map isn’t split into exactly 3 individual lanes like three lane highways (MOBAs) but the essence of it remains, tight corridors and bottlenecks push opposing heroes together into a furious melee.
Capture is the most straightforward of gameplay modes in Battleborn, it involves capturing and holding a certain point on the map til you gain enough points to win the game. Sounds simple but the huge roster of heroes keeps the action fast and frenetic.
To call Battleborn Borderlands 2.0 would be doing it a disservice, the game does share some similarities in its DNA but the game does stand on its own merits. Despite the regrettably forgettable single player, the game’s multiplayer and wealth of characters more than makes up for it, the self-aware meta-humor is just icing on the cake.
Ratings: 4 out of 5 stars
By Chen Kangyi
© POPCulture Online 2016