Gearbox’s next big project, Battleborn, was on full display for attendees to play at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo. This title was getting a great deal of positive buzz online, so I was very curious to finally check it out and see what the game is really about. Based on the playable demo that was available, Battleborn appears to be an eclectic mix of multiple game genres. It is hard to really classify the title. It definitely has a different play style and feel than a game like Borderlands. However, it absolutely has the signature Gearbox style and sense of humor that is very reminiscent of Borderlands. Overall, the demo was a fun and interesting experience during the Expo.
In Battleborn, the entire universe appears to be at the very edge of extinction. The last remaining species and civilized beings have fled to the last habitable planet called Solus. An evil, malevolent group of bad guys called the Varelsi. The Varelsi, who are led by the evil and malevolent Rendain, are out to vanquish the universe’s last remaining star. A group of elite warriors called the Battleborn assemble to stop Rendain and save the last vestiges of the universe. The Battleborn is a ragtag, motley crew of unique and varied species from all across the known universe. The demo allowed players to take control of a number of different characters, including: Oscar Mike; Boldur; Caldarius; Miko; Phoebe; Marquis; Orendi; Rath; Montana; and Thorn. Since I am a fan of mecha and robots, I opted for the mecha-esque Caldarius. Each warrior of the Battleborn is part of five different surviving factions in the universe: the Jennerit Empire; The Peacekeepers; The Rogues; the Last Light Consortium (LLC); and the Eldrid. Caldarius and Rath are both members of the Jennerit Empire, a group that wants to use power over others to establish its rule.
The E3 demo was a co-op mission. The team all has to assemble together on a mission to foil Varelsi’s plan. The team progresses deeper into the enemy base and takes out a variety of monstrous enemies. Each level has a level cap of 10. The level-up system for the missions is very quick. As a player levels up with a personal Battleborn warrior, new attacks and abilities are acquired. The players can choose from a pair of new attacks at each new level to whatever suits their play styles. I definitely enjoyed the fast and quick level up system, which was very rewarding. However, I was told by the developers that the level up system resets back to zero after each mission. The onsite developers did mention some type of progression for the characters outside of the 1-10 level system, but they would not elaborate exactly on what that means. I would probably prefer a more progressive level up system and cap, rather than continuing to start over with each mission. On the other hand, with the level system, players do not have to get bogged down in grinding away for hours to level up a single character to a certain desired level. Based on other release materials, players will be able to rank up their own player profiles. Badges, titles and loot can be unlocked to help whichever hero the player commands.
Across the levels, players will find power ups and areas to level up their characters. For some of the bigger battles, turrets can be set up to gun down enemies. After the Battleborn get help in a mechanized and friendly tank, named Wolf, the warriors travel to a temple. Wolf is loaded with a nuke that the Battleborn plan to use to collapse a catastrophic portal. At the temple, there are some shadow-like and treacherous monsters, the Varelsi, which attack Wolf, and the Battleborn have to fight them off. The demo has a really cool climax with another giant monster showing.
I found the gameplay very appealing. Battleborn is set up as a first-person shooter. However, the actual combat is similar to that of an RPG. It is not your typical first-person shooter style. Do not let that dissuade you because the combat is very quick and easy to handle. It is not daunting to establish the rhythm and the combat. Once new attacks and abilities are unlocked, the combat becomes even more fun and exciting.
In addition, the overall look and style of the game is enjoyable. The characters are very colorful, unique and vibrant, including the enemy combatants. It looks like a world out of a dynamic sci-fi comic book. The art style and character models really pop and are very appealing. No two characters are the same. Caldarius is a really cool, armored warrior. Miko is basically a living, anthropomorphic mushroom. Orendi is a creepy, arachnid like creature with multiple limbs and a spindly look. I really wanted the chance to play as all the other various characters in the game, but there just was not enough time. In addition, 2K games provided a fun character guide booklet with profiles and instructions on using all the characters from the demo. It was a nice piece of swag because it is reminiscent of game instruction booklets of old. Scott Kester of Borderlands fame did a a tremendous job with the art director for the game, which is set to have 25 playable characters at launch. Over the course of the demo, instructions and story information are relayed by Cleese, who has his fair share of humorous one-liners that are a trademark of the Gearbox style.
The other exciting aspect about the game is that there will be competitive, player-vs.-player modes for the game, consisting of up to 10 players in matches of five versus five. These gameplay modes were not available for sampling at E3; but after playing a co-op mission, I definitely want to try the competitive gameplay modes next. I can easily imagine losing hours of sleep playing all the different characters Battleborn has to offer in competitive PvP modes.
Battleborn is scheduled for a late 2015 or early 2016 release. The game will be available for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and Windows PC.