Taking Solus in battle
One of the greatest challenges of creating something from scratch is reigning in the excitement of brainstorming. During that magical time, one idea births another, that can tangent to yet another, and then a third can tie them all back together. A clever thought?previously scrapped?may find a second life in the new, fertile, ground. The process is essential, and the raw ideas are smelted into the tenets of the final creation.
However, danger lives in the brainstorm, as ideas are addictive?the desire for the positive stimuli that a successful idea delivers can infiltrate dreams or distract from the refining process. It is easy to get lost in the brainstorm, and never advance to the point of producing content, or?as would appear to be the case with Gearbox?s newest hero-shooter, Battleborn?fail to hone down the concepts in a timely matter, ending up with a game that is more fun ideas than content.
Battleborn is a first-person shooter, where the player controls one of many characters through multiplayer story missions or competitive player versus player modes. Each character has unique abilities, skins, and taunts unlocked through an in-depth progression system, a complex backstory revealed by completing lore challenges (specific to each character), gear loadouts, and more. As that run-on sentence indicates, this appears to be a game that offers a lot of options. Unfortunately, by allowing all of these ideas into Battleborn, it appears that Gearbox didn?t leave enough time for the meat and potatoes of any title?the actual game.
A multiplayer game, Battleborn is split between the campaign and three competitive modes. The story mode is brief, featuring eight levels. It begins with various factions seeking refuge around the last light in the universe?the star, Solus. Here, champions gather and form unlikely alliances to save the star from destruction. However, with so much emphasis on all the small features, the campaign feels like an afterthought, with most of its missions featuring the same flow of action: advance to a point of interest, defend against waves, escort, defend against waves, fight boss.
The most obvious feature of Battleborn is its art style. Much like holding a firework close to your face, the game?s visuals can be a bit to take in. Explosions, lasers, and luchadors erupt across the screen at any given moment with a modern comic book aesthetic. What could be a very enjoyable picture, filled with small intricacies to find over time, is?at times?a sensory overload of motion and color.
Where the game?s visuals do excel, however, is in the animated intro to the game that plays during ?The Prologue.? Very similar in style and tone to Kazuto Nakazawa?s Samurai Champloo, the animation is quick, character-driven, and does a great job of engaging the viewer. This video was the perfect way to set the tone for the game, and worked as an excellent introduction to several of the game?s 25 heroes.
The rogue?s gallery that makes up Battleborn?s hero selection screen range from stereotypical to clever. For instance, Oscar Mike is a soldier-type with an assault rifle. No matter how you choose to select his talents in the game?s Helix leveling system, one can?t save him from the broad brush of ?video game soldier.? He will always be the shooting guy who does the damage.
Opposite of him, is the pair of Shayne & Aurox?my personal favorites. Shayne is your average teenage punk, who happens to be bonded to a space demon. Together, they not only have hilarious banter (?Shayne & Aurox: teen detectives! Tell your friends!” “WE’RE NOT DETECTIVES!?), but also can be played numerous ways depending on the skills you take.
At the beginning of any match (PvP or Story), players start at level one, no matter previous experience gained. From there, by collecting experience, they level up and climb the DNA-esque ladder that is the Helix leveling system up to Helix Level 10. At level five, you?ll unlock an ultimate ability. This is different for each character, and can range from a mushroom that provides massive AoE healing to a player-guided missile that deals insane damage. This method of leveling works really well, and I enjoyed being able to customize my character to whatever the situation.
While the game?s controls are not as tight as a PvP shooter should be, the aim assist has been much improved since the beta. My biggest frustration with the gameplay, however, was traversal. Characters? jump abilities all seem slightly too short, and I bounced futily against humorously short walls many times trying to navigate the battleground. Even a minute boost to their vertical movement would go a long way. Another large problem with traversal was the numerous snags. It was not uncommon in either PvP or Campaign to find myself stuck on a corner or a wall where movement should have been unimpaired.
If you were hoping that the campaign was lacking because of increased attention to the competitive multiplayer modes, unfortunately that is not the case. The Battleborn PvP experience is split into three modes; Capture, Incursion, and Meltdown. Each of the modes currently only have two maps available, so get ready to become very familiar with them. Capture has players duking it out over control zones, ranking up points to win. Incursion features two sentries per team that must be destroyed, while protecting their own. Finally, Meltdown is a MOBA-lite version of PvP where players escort their minions to a destination in a race to 500 points.
Meltdown was the best of the three modes to me, offering a very different take on the first-person shooter. If minions offered just a bit more points per escort, this mode could be very successful, but right now the game tends to run too long. I appreciate Gearbox?s initiative, though, to include such a non-traditional mode at launch.
By completing Multiplayer matches or campaign missions, players gain experience towards both their account and the character they played as. By gaining levels here, players can unlock character skins, taunts, titles, gear, and Mutations?a set of third options for the aforementioned Helix leveling system. Each character also has special ?Lore? challenges, specific to their abilities and storyline. When completed, these reward even greater loot.
Despite seemingly impossible amounts of unlocks available for the game, Battleborn feels empty. Even though it may take you a couple of days to finish the campaign (especially if you?re public matchmaking), the missions are fairly repetitive. The PvP can be a blast, but there are only three modes, each with two maps. I can?t help but feel that if Gearbox had focused more on the core of the game rather than the progression system that the entire experience would?ve benefited. Perhaps once the entire first season of DLC has been released, Battleborn will feel complete, but right now it feels like all bells and whistles.
|Developer: Gearbox Software ? Publisher: 2K Games ? ESRB: T – Teen ? Release Date: 05.03.16|
Battleborn is like a one-man band?there?s a whole lot going on, but the final product suffers due to spread resources. While lack of maps and missions may be resolved with DLC, the launch product comes off a bit shallow.
|The Good||The progression system offers a near-endless amount of things to do, if you want to.|
|The Bad||Too much fluff leaves the campaign and PvP lacking in actual content.|
|The Ugly||Battleborn Tap, the partnered mobile game.|
|Battleborn is available on Xbox One, PS4, and PC. Primary version reviewed was for PS4. Review code was provided by 2K Games for the benefit of this review. EGM reviews games on a scale of 1 to 10, with a 5.0 being average.|