Here at Player 2, we had a thought that a multiplayer shooter should have a multiplayer review. So that is exactly what we are doing with Battleborn. Matt (on PC) and Paul (on PS4/Xbox One) have been tackling Gearbox’s latest shooter and gotten together to review this interesting MOBA/FPS hybrid.
Battleborn – Review
PC, Xbox One, PS4
Matt: So here we are with the first Gearbox game since Alien: Colonial Marines. Thankfully I will put everyone out of their misery and say it is much, much better than that. Battleborn is an interesting project though in my mind. It seems to me like it was something developed by staff that wasn’t working on Borderlands 3, kind of developed by the B team. That isn’t to say it is a bad game (it isn’t), but it feels a little lacking in some areas, most notably the amount of content available.
Paul: Yeah Battleborn is certainly an interesting project. There’s a definite lack of content there, with the ‘campaign’ disappointing more than anything else. All eight 30-40minute campaign missions can be played alone (not that I recommend it) while the final mission itself has an enormous difficulty spike that infuriated me no end. The way you can play the campaign also reveals Gearbox’s complete lack of faith in the narrative. While playing solo you must play the missions sequentially, in multiplayer you’ll get to choose between three pre-determined missions to play, with the one that is top-voted by the group being the mission you play. It’s hard to understand this logic when you could have picked the mission then jumped into match-making to build a party. The result is a disjointed narrative that fails to ever truly engage. What did you make of the story?
Matt: Well the story is pretty non-existent so I am not sure the disjointed nature hurts it too much. It is all such as shame because it starts off so well with an awesome Anime inspired opening that entertains immediately. I didn’t play any of the missions solo, only as a group and I found them to be quite entertaining. They felt like a similar experience to a Destiny strike mission, with multiple goals, challenging waves of enemies and difficult boss battles to finish it up. This mode was made a lot more entertaining with a group of friends too. It is just a shame that there are only 8 missions because if I had even 4 more to play with I feel I would be a lot happier with the game. I also enjoyed the MOBA style tech tree that really made each character feel unique. I would say that character design was actually the game’s strongest point. Did you have favourite Paul?
Paul: A favourite character? ISIC, but I must agree with you – the cast of characters were quite strong – there’s some dodgy punchlines here or there, but they’re all generally quite entertaining. Also, as someone who is quite unfamiliar and sceptical of MOBAs, I must say that I found the way the Skill Tree functioned to be quite clever. I liked the idea of being able to adapt my tailor my skillset to what was required of me in that particular mission. The boss battles I found to be pretty repetitious (not that Battleborn is the only culprit of this) – take down damage, build an impenetrable shield or health regen, take out the goons assisting in this, then rinse and repeat the cycle until defeated. The final mission sees you taking on all past bosses, and so this amplified the tedium. It’s as you said before, Battleborn feels like it’s been developed by the Gearbox B-team, and so for every good thing they do, it’s accompanied by something that is a bit rough around the edges.
Matt: The Multiplayer side of things is very enjoyable though, even if once again it could use a few more maps. There are two modes that are very similar in style to a MOBA, with towers to defend and minions to squash, and one mode that plays a bit more like Domination from Unreal Tournament. I found the netcode to be great and apart from some long waits in matchmaking the game was very stable online. I also found that some of the characters that were great in the campaign mode were a little more bothersome to play as in multiplayer. I think people that use fast damage dealers have quite the advantage here. Once again though the key to this game (and any game of this nature really) is to have a group of friends along for the ride. Mileage varies when you are placed with random people, I had some great public matches where everyone stuck to their roles, but then I had some shockers where people were only out for their Kill/Death ratio.
Paul: Yeah I had some rough experiences with random players, but after building a party of some friends, both of the established and newly-acquired variety, I found the experience much more enjoyable. Co-operative and competitive play is much better with a helpful team, rather than one slapped together at random, though Battleborn is far from the only victim of this. I did enjoy the world and character design quite a lot. Each location felt unique and interesting while each of the heroes were superbly designed; which was great because it masked what I felt to be quite poor sound design. I all too often heard the same few lines of dialogue, while in combat none of the weapons appeared to carry much weight. It was disappointing on this front given that I possessed some seriously badass weaponry, and some that I really quite loved, but then the end result of firing them was quite underwhelming.
Matt: I think that is more of a result of the MOBA style leveling in the game. That design choice means that weapons cannot be too powerful when the game launches as there is nowhere for it to progress as the level goes on. Another thing that makes weapon balancing hard is the fact there are 25 different characters who are all pretty unique. With that amount of weapons/powers available it is almost a certainty that some are going to feel a bit off. In the end, though my time with Battleborn was fun, but in a “I bought it for $30 on a Steam Sale” way. I think the game’s lack of content is its biggest crime and with more levels I am sure I would have felt better about the whole thing. It is an interesting game with some great mechanics and a fun leveling system but there simply isn’t enough meat on the bones.
Paul: You’re not wrong there. More choice and diversity may have given me more reason to come back to the game. Building out the characters lore as well as replaying missions on harder difficulties is a nice distraction, but it failed to truly captivate me. It was a nice attempt at something different, and I must give it credit, Battleborn is the closest I’ve come to ever finding myself attracted to a MOBA, and for that I’m thankful to Gearbox – they’ve broadened my horizons somewhat. It’s only a shame that this lack of content held the game back from maintaining my interest for long.
Matt Hewson & Paul James