Battleborn Preview

Thanks, Science!

It’s hard to imagine any first-person shooter coming close to delivering the kind of excitement and fun the Borderlands franchise brought to its fans, but it seems Gearbox has managed to do it again. Battleborn is a genre-bender influenced by everything from RPG’s, MMO’s, 80’s cartoons and more. Alone or with the help of friends you have to work stop the efforts of an evil villain attempting to speedup the destruction of the universe.

The story of Battleborn is set during the brink of a galactic disaster. There is one star left in the galaxy and numerous alien species have gathered there in order to protect it and try to survive. In total there will be twenty-five characters to choose from in the final version of the game but only ten were shown off in the demo and, believe me, that was more than enough. Each character hails from a different faction attempting to thrive on the lone star and has a unique set of abilities and method of attack.

I got the chance to play as Orendi, a four-armed member of the Rogue faction who casts chaos spells. Her default attack consists of shooting magic bolts from her hands, making her a versatile character. I was most impressed by one of her two special abilities Shadowfire Pillar, calling upon a pillar of shadow and flame that deals area of effect damage. There were definitely a lot more characters I wasn't able to get my hands on like Miko, a badass mushroom looking dude who throws poisonous spores at enemies and functions as a healer for allies on the battlefield. [I did, and he was effective at range and at dealing AoE poison damage. ~Ed. Nick]

Although many comparisons between Battleborn and Borderlands can be made, that doesn’t mean they are identical, or even close to it. The main difference wasn’t just the larger roster of characters but also the fact that gunplay is not a core component of gameplay. Every character has a well-conceptualized design and backstory along with a unique set of abilities and attacks. Unlike having to cycle through different weapon combinations in order to gain the upper hand, you have to be able to master your character's skill set because a majority of characters in this game do not rely solely on guns to survive. That fact is one of the highlights of this game.

Every character has a total of 10 levels you can unlock. The convenient element here is that all experience points earned while playing the story or multiplayer modes help level up the individual characters and adds to your profile Command Rank. The Helix system of spending experience points allows players to periodically rearrange which skills they want to be active, so they can experience all possible abilities during a single story playthrough or series of multiplayer matches. I really like this approach to swapping abilities, because it’s easier than having to reset and re-spend all of your skill points just to see what other abilities do.

You have the choice between playing solo or co-op with 1-5 players in the main campaign or 5v5 in online matches. Split-screen will also be available for local co-op gameplay. There are three modes for online multiplayer: Incursion, Devastation, and Meltdown. Incursion forces players to work together with their minions in order to destroy enemy bases. Minions can be defended by you and your team by purchasing upgrades for it as you traverse each level with gold you earn from killing enemies.

Devastation is a straightforward classic deathmatch mode focusing on PvP where players must hold objectives on the map as long as possible. Meltdown is an interesting mode, focusing on you and your team guarding your minions so they can make it to the center of the map and throw themselves into an incinerator, with the goal being to sacrifice as many as your minions as possible and achieve the highest score.

Battleborn is a refreshing take on first-person co-op shooters, and it promises to bring all of the humor and action we’ve come to expect from a Gearbox title as well as something very new and exciting. The variety of characters available reminds me of games like SMITE where every character is so different that it creates an entirely different experience every time you or another player selects someone new to play. Battleborn will be available in winter of this year on PC, PS4, and Xbox One.