An MMO released by the minds behind Borderlands, Gearbox, should have been a big success. After all, Borderlands is a solid first person shooter with slick graphics and tight gameplay mechanics that make it a lot of fun to play. Being released alongside Overwatch, another multiplayer title, was never going to make it an easy sell either and despite a few redeeming features, Battleborn is a game with some glaring issues that are hard to ignore making it the less appealing choice of the two shooters.
The most striking thing about Battleborn is its pure multiplayer focus. Whilst this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it does make the single player campaign unnecessarily harder than it should be. With a lot of the maps designed for multiple players to tackle, the waves of enemies can sometimes be so overwhelming and the objectives given to defend areas borderline impossible to complete. The frantic nature of these fights do make them fun though but luck plays more of a part than it realistically should.
The character design and variety in characters are one of the best parts of Battleborn
The other concerning parts with the campaign are the infrequent checkpoints. There were times where I progressed through a level, obliterating enemies and managing to get a solid 30 minutes through the level only to be killed and wind up losing all the progress I’d made. The other big problem are the levels themselves, with a few requiring you to defend certain areas as the objective of that level. If those areas are destroyed you don’t start back at the checkpoint either, its a straight forward game over screen and a possible long grind back to where you were before by having to complete the level again. Its frustrating to say the least, even more so considering Battleborn has some great aesthetics.
This is one area where Battleborn excels. With bright, saturated colours and some great character design, this first person shooter does get some elements right. There are a lot of characters to choose from too and they’re all impressively rendered with a great variety of moves. During my time with the game I played as 8 different characters and all of them handled differently with distinct looks and move-sets. Whether it be a robot soldier, a water-summoning cyborg sniper or a crystallised dwarf with heavy melee attacks, there’s no denying the level of variety gone into the characters and balancing them out. With 20+ characters to choose from and a plethora of specific skills to complete to effectively “finish” that character, there’s a lot of replayability here.
Battleborn boasts a great aesthetic and colour palette
With the game clearly built for the long haul, Battleborn suffers from an over-reliance on building a multiplayer fan base with shaky foundations. I mentioned before that competing with Blizzard’s Overwatch was always going to be a tricky one but Battleborn has too many issues to avoid. The game requires a constant internet connection too, which means if you want to just have a quick single player or couch co-op game without connecting to the internet you aren’t able to. The split screen focus is a nice touch and when you do manage to get a game with other players online or play with a 2nd player its a lot of fun. There’s a number of different game modes along with the usual array of team deathmatches and capture the flag to help keep the action fresh but actually getting to play a game can sometimes be tough, with servers either busy or slow to get a team going to play.
The base defending objectives are designed with multiplayer in mind
In many ways, Battleborn is a solid game and can be a lot of fun. Blasting through enemies and trying out the different characters is surprisingly robust and learning to use each of the characters effectively bring a much needed level of variety and strategy to a game suffering from some serious issues. With a constant internet connection needed, even to play single player, and a multiplayer-emphasis on the campaign mode, Battleborn is a game designed with the single player as an afterthought. The servers sometimes taking a long time to respond and get a game and some campaign missions are unnecessarily tough, requiring more than one character to complete easily. Battleborn is a disappointing entry but it can be fun. Its just a pity that those bursts of fun are surrounded by frustrating, fundamentally broken mechanics that are too glaring to ignore. Perhaps with more refinement Battleborn could be a decent game but whether Gearbox are prepared to do so remains to be seen.