Battleborn. Let’s have that talk.
I’ll be focusing on the Co-op PvE side of the game, which is akin to scratching the surface of what is a behemoth of a game.
I’ve been excited about this game, as I get excited about every Gearbox game, for quite a while now, so when it found it’s way into my review pile, I grabbed it up quickly and rushed home to jump into the game. All of the pre-release press made this game sound like something new, fresh and exciting while it blended several genres into one, ready for furious multiplayer battles and then stitched a story campaign to the side of it to make sure everyone got their fix. Then, once that was all in place, give it a few coats of paint with the formulaic Gearbox paint and you’re good to go.
And it that’s what you were expecting then you won’t be disappointed, because that’s exactly what you’ll get.
So, a week in and what do I think?
Remember that Gearbox paint we were talking about earlier? It’s here in spades. The general feel of the title screams Borderlands from every angle – the humour, boss introductions, feel of the guns, damage indicators and even enemy models are all very “Borderlandsy”, but that’s just OK by me because the general tone of the game is a rather silly one piled full of witty one-liner conversations and wordplay delivered by means of constant radio chatter between you and your fellow teammates. I’m not going to go heavily into the lore of the game, because that really isn’t where the fun and focus is. If you want to know the backstory, check it out here. Gearbox has done an amazing job on this themselves, going as far as comics to deliver it – a trend that continues in the intro and cutscenes to the game.
I started off by jumping straight into a co-op PVE game with 4 random strangers. Server wait time was practically non-existent even on launch day (Blizzard, please ask Gearbox to show you how to accomplish this, kthx) and in under a minute me and my four new best friends were at the character selection screen, which is set up like a selection screen from Tekken or any other fighting game – portraits of the hero allowing each each player to select theirs and a timer so you aren’t waiting hours for this to happen. I selected Thorn, the bow wielding vixen that the game marks as ‘advanced’, and got ready to be thrown into battle.
And battle was what we got.
At some point I had to check I wasn’t playing a Serious Sam title because countless enemies swarmed us immediately and I realised very quickly just why Gearbox chose to mark each hero as easy, complex or advanced. There are 25 heroes in total, though only a few were available straight out. After a few minutes of firing arrows at our foes I started to get comfortable with the way the game presented the hero and the hero advancement – it’s very intuitive and well thought out and anyone who’s played a MOBA will feel right at home.
You’ll start each mission at level 1, with two skills enabled. Each hero’s skills are different and the difficulty level of using them effectively is exactly why each hero is rated. As you progress through the episode you’ll level up and at each level-up get the chance to pick from two Helix point skills, which augment your hero in a specific way and effectively let you build your hero in specific ways based on the requirements from the team and the episode you’re playing.
Thorn is rated as advanced, and for good reason. Each arrow does damage equal to how long you draw it back for – and she doesn’t have a shield either – relying on fast health regen instead. I won’t go into the specifics of each hero of course, but needless to say, Gearbox has done a good job of rating each hero’s difficulty. For the second playthrough of episode one, I opted for Oscar Mike, a hero rated ‘easy’ and he was indeed easier to use.
The game has 8 PvE missions, each scaling in difficulty, many featuring parts the require defending or escorting crucial robots or equipment against waves of enemies, culimnatiing in massive boss fights. Each episode took us between 30 mins and two hours to finish depending on the hero selections, how many times we died and DPS of the group. I’ve played each of the first five episode perhaps 5 times, and I could quite easily play each again another 5. It took me a solid day of play to complete all five missions, all the while collecting gear which you can use to equip prior to each mission into one of three gear slots. Each mission has a huge replayability factor – not only because there are 25 heroes to play with but because these gear pickups change the game too.
It would be a huge injustice to the game to not talk about the insane boss fights that punctuate each episode – some taking upwards of 15 minutes to take down, sometimes through tears of laughter at the outrageousness of it all. For example, in episode one, you encounter a robot called Geoff who is convinced he is Arachnis, the king of spiders – all the while it’s master is trying to convince it otherwise. It’s truly hilarious.
The boss fights are of an epic magnitude and easily the best part of the PvE side of the game.
Let’s summarise then.
FPS game – check.
MOBA elements – check.
Humour – check.
Gear grinds – check.
Ridiculous bossfights – check.
Fun with friends – check.
Fun by yourself – check.
So far so good right? Nothing negative to say?
Well, not exactly.
There is one caveat I’d be amiss not to mention – if you’re looking for a single player game, this might not be the game for you. It’s designed to be played in a team with complimenting hero picks but there’s enough hero variety to play it solo. I completed episodes one and two solo with Oscar Mike, but it just wasn’t as fun as it was in a group. And let’s not forget to mention the HUGE multiplayer PVP part of the game that I haven’t even got to yet, which promises to be just as huge.
The most annoying part of the entire PvE experience – which, granted, only really has one annoying part is the lack of a team ‘re-do’ spawn point before the afrementioned epic boss battles. If your team is wiped out and out of lives, you’ve gotta restart the entire mission. You don’t get the luxury of a WoW-like team respawn at the start of a boss battle – you’ve gotta do it all again. This can be frustrating, but it does give you the chance to use your helix level-up points to perhaps try build your hero differently and build it more suited to the boss that killed your team. So it’s both a good and bad thing.
Let’s end this here, before it gets too long with a quick summary.
Three words to sum up the Battleborn PvE experience?
Buy this game.
Two words to sum up the Battleborn PvE experience?
He also hosts the nAvTV podcast and this here website is his domain.