Review: Battleborn

Battleborn is a little too ambitious for its own good. It takes Gearbox’s signature FPS style and puts it into a MOBA setting, and it even has a few Titanfall influences. Unlike Overwatch (this will be the first and only mention Overwatch gets), it has both PvP and PvE modes. It also has a full campaign that can be played in co-op online and offline in split-screen. And it is fun in both co-op and online against strangers, but I fear for its longevity.

On booting up Battleborn for the first time, you find yourself in the prologue. This teaches you the basics and introduces you to some of the MOBA elements some may not be familiar with. The first thing you notice is the art style. Battleborn combines various art styles across different types of cutscenes. More on that in a bit. Every species has left for a star, Solus, after most planets were destroyed. These species are now in various factions and send out their best heroes, the Battleborn, to take down the cause of the calamity.

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While it is great that this game has a campaign, I’m not thrilled about it being online-only even if you want to play solo. Speaking of playing solo, while the option is available, things are definitely balanced around co-op for the campaign and you will have a rough time playing alone. In fact, you’re encouraged to play with strangers as seen in the menu with a large interface pictured for playing public online games and a smaller one below for private modes.

The problem with playing the story mode online is missions aren’t fixed. You could have completed the first two missions but when you try playing online, you might get matched with someone playing a later mission. This has been done to reduce the time someone remains in queue, but it makes little sense. The story overall is sub-par and this is another sign pointing to Gearbox just trying to throw multiple things into this without making anything memorable.

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The actual Battleborn heroes are great. Each of the 25 playable characters plays differently and has their own personalities. They even level up differently in each game in the helix levelling-up tree that is visible where you select one of two skills. This is similar to what you’d see in a MOBA like Heroes of the Storm. Deande plays quite different in comparison to El Dragon. The character designs are really great and detailed. The diverse lineup is one of the highlights. They are also voiced, but the humour is similar to what you’d find in Borderlands. That’s either good or bad depending on whom you ask.

Getting into a match is quite slow; I was hoping things would be quicker, like Alienation’s drop in mode. Once you’re in, there are a variety of modes to play against a team of opponents. Incursion is your average MOBA fare, where you take over enemy territory, while Meltdown has you making sure minions get into incinerators while destroying enemy minions. Capture, as the name suggests, has you securing zones to win. There are two maps per mode and it will take you a good amount of time to get your bearings while playing them.

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While the art style was appealing in the trailers, I only saw how painful it could be when I started playing a few weeks ago. When there’s a lot happening on the screen, especially in PvP, the colours look like a Crayola factory vomitted on your screen. There’s a lack of clarity of the objective, the environment and even the user interface in many cases. Speaking of the art style, I don’t know why there are so many styles of cutscenes. It just shows a lack of focus or them wanting to put as much variety as possible without thinking things through. Performance wasn’t great. I expected this game to be 60 fps, but it isn’t and for a game that should be fast-paced, it makes a difference, especially given that we have better looking games perform at higher framerates.

My main concern with Battleborn is longevity. I’ve seen numbers drop in the last few weeks and this really is not a solo game. If you have friends who are willing to play with you or are getting it for a couch co-op experience, Battleborn has a lot of strategy and depth to it. I wish they had either spent more time with it instead of throwing too many things at the player, making it a convoluted experience when it could have been so much more.

XCOM 2 was reviewed on the Asus RoG GL552JX provided by Asus

  • Great varied cast of heroes
  • Some MOBA elements translate well
  • Co-op can be fun when it works out
  • Sub par story
  • Campaign is online-only even solo
  • Cluttered interface
7

Battleborn tries to be a (handsome) jack of all trades by combining various aspects of first-person shooters, RPGs, and MOBAs, but ends up being a master of none. It’s identity crisis is evident even in the art style.

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Game Info

Available On
PS4, Xbox One, PC
Reviewed On
PC
Developer
Gearbox Software
Genre
First-person Shooter
Age Rating
16+