I enjoyed the Borderlands games, as they reminded us that developers like Gearbox Software weren’t afraid of taking chances, while at the same time sticking with conventional, co-op based ideas that players really got to enjoy. And with the team supposedly hard at work on the third chapter in the series (Pre-Sequel doesn’t really count), we’ll be back to those good times soon enough.
But not so fast. In the meantime, Randy Pitchford and company have cranked out a completely original game with Battleborn, a game that has a group of ragtag heroes defending the last star in the universe from a dreaded scourge looking to overtake the galaxy for itself. What follows is a battle of the ages, between soldiers of fortune and dark, dastardly forces that want nothing more than to harm everyone.
The formula is quite similar to Borderlands, as you team up with others (you can go it alone, but it’s a rough ride) and take on incoming waves of enemies, as well as mission points, to eventually get closer to victory. The game comes with eight main levels to choose from, but more will be added via DLC in the months ahead. While it makes it sound like Battleborn could be incomplete, that’s hardly the case.
That’s because Gearbox loaded it up with a whopping amount of variety. The 25 characters on display here have great special abilities, and while some feel slightly wonky compared to others, each one has something to offer the player, be it melee skills, assault shooting, flying or sniping from a distance. Trying them all out will take some time, but you’ll eventually develop a favorite – like I did with Montana – and stick with them long enough to level up, select a few varied loadouts, and even unlock some goodies to customize their character a little bit.
You’ll have plenty of opportunity to level up with the vast amount of loot and goodies within the game, including pick-ups that will help you temporarily, as well as a Helix system where you can unlock abilities on the fly and put them to use pretty much immediately. It’s a great gameplay system that lets you go back and make new choices, just to see how they fared compared to others. Throw in a lot of upgrades, character skins and other goods, and you’ll be unlocking stuff for months.
As for the different modes available, you have a story mode, with barely any story there (but with some interesting jokes to keep fans happy), along with multiplayer modes that support both online and local split-screen co-op. No matter which way you go, the multiplayer is surprisingly engaging, with your team tactics coming into play with each new objective you come across. There are times that the “always on” Internet connection thing can be slightly annoying (even when you want to play offline, which makes no damn sense), but overall it’s a smooth performing game with very little issues once you do connect.
As for the gameplay, it’s Gearbox dialed almost perfectly to a T. Some characters, as I’ve explained, are built more on novelty than effectiveness, and you’ll probably be done with them one time around and then move on to someone far better. However, the ones that do play well are going to keep you around longer than expected, as you grind out loot and eventually unlock all the potential they’re made of. It’s a really cool system, and you’ll find a favorite or two to go with (maybe even five) over the course of the game.
Presentation-wise, Battleborn is boldly original. Though the fact you can’t skip the cutscene at the beginning is a slight bummer, it’s vintage 80’s animation, so it’s fun to watch anyway. The rest of the stuff you can skip if you choose, and then the levels and enemies come across with a great creative vision, along the same lines of Borderlands (yet unique). The game runs smoothly, and some of the planets you’ll visit are definitely out there in terms of imagination.
As for the audio, the in-game music, what little there is, is impressive, and the dialogue can be fun, even though some characters – like Montana, who comes across as an angry Patrick Warburton clone – will grate on your nerves. Some jokes can be a little cornball as well. But that’s the definitive Gearbox touch, for better or for worse.
Battleborn does have its hiccups with required online connectivity, dialogue and some odd character choices. But the positive far outweighs the negative, with exciting gameplay, fun multiplayer components for both local and online play, and fantastic level design. It’ll hook you longer than you could’ve expected, but, then again, that’s what we’ve been saying about Borderlands for years. Keep your eyes peeled on Marooners’ Rock as one of our staff will also review the PC version of Battleborn.