Gearbox’s Borderlands franchise has been one of the most beloved of the last decade, and by combining loot-grabbing with shooting and a multiplayer-friendly campaign, it stood out from the pack. Cel shading and memorable licensed music intros also helped it remain unique, while a silly sense of humor gave it a level of charm and comedy lacking from most shooters. Battleborn keeps the shooting intact, but mixes it up more than Borderlands by offering up so many different types of characters to play as.
You’ve got burly brutes whom excel at short-range attacks, one who has a giant gattling gun – so he does a ton of damage in short bursts – an alien with long-range projectile-shooting tentacles, and more. Without a doubt, the most fun and amusing one is the passive-aggressive British snob Marquise. He attacks with a white dueling glove and a pistol. While he may not be able to dole out many shots in a row, accuracy will get you a long way with very few shots. Pimp-slapping enemies to kingdom come never gets old either – even if it is a high-risk approach to victory. With the game’s team-based nature, you can definitely take more chances here than you could in a normal FPS and that also opens up a whole new world of strategy to things as well.
The story mode gives you an amusing setup. A great war has broken out between warring factions, and champions are here to save the day. Your job is to recruit a team called Battleborn, and fight as a team to emerge victorious. A slick music video introduces you to the main cast and shows off their powers for each mission, and gives you a bit of a rundown of what’s going on and why you’re out to perform your mission. The art shift from cartoony in the main game to straight up anime in the cutscenses is a bit jarring – but not a major issue.
There are a fairly small number of stages, but they’re all massive and feature challenging battles from beginning to end. Much like a Monster Hunter game, you sure can go it alone, but you will make things much harder on yourself if you do so. It may seem like a gutsy move to try to fight waves of enemies, sub-bosses, and massive bosses by your lonesome – but it’s a recipe for surefire death. With a limited amount of extra lives, you’ll really want to have a team by your side to tackle this game’s story missions.
The reason for that is quite simple – this game is incredibly challenging under the best of circumstances, and nigh impossible with things working against you. Everyone has the same pool of lives – so if you’re playing solo, you can only blame yourself. Playing as a team means that success will be determined by ACTUALLY PLAYING AS A TEAM. This isn’t a team deathmatch, so there’s no benefit to trying to be a glory hound here. Death to any party member means they either sacrifice themselves, or take up one of the available lives. You can heal your allies, so do so whenever possible. They’ll likely return the favor and you’ll wind up making at least a couple of new friends just from being a partner they want to have on their team. Teamwork is the only true way to succeed here, whether it’s in a story mission or a shorter online game.
One of the best aspects of Borderlands is its sense of humor – but it’s a bit violent too. Battleborn is a more family-friendly version of that same super-silly kind of humor, and leads to some amazing moments. I’m not the biggest FPS fan on Earth, but when I can alternate between pimp-slapping and shooting enemies as a snooty British robot, I can’t help but love it. Playing as Marquois in my first-ever game during the beta sold me on the whole experience because he was just so out there, but so much fun to use as well.
If you want a character with a powerful melee attack and a powerful long-range weapon – but one that is limited in uses before a reload – he’s perfect. Those seeking a fast-paced Call of Duty-style player will love Oscar Mike, as he’s your prototypical FPS character with a fast-shooting regular gun and a more precise sidearm. It’s a perfect gateway character, while more odd characters like Orendi can take some getting used to. She’s an octopus/alien kinda thing who attacks with an endless stream of minorly-damaging energy balls. She’ll never run out – so she’s great for needling enemies towards the end of their life bar, and her super-powerful attack can do a lot of damage to an enemy.
Every character serves its purpose, with a great mix of long and short-range characters to use. Even with the default roster, you’re bound to find a preferred style. The best way to learn is to just hop online and try a new character out – you’ll have to anyway since someone will definitely play as your favorite from time to time, and expanding your comfort zone in a game (or life, for that matter) is never a bad thing.
The inactivity timer is something that FPS fans have gotten used to, and it can be a huge curse even though it should be a blessing. The idea behind it is sound – kick people who aren’t contributing to the team, but sometimes life gets in the way. A pet will need food, you’ll get a call, or a knock at the door and have to pay attention to that. In most games, you’ll be kicked after a minute – so if you even need to run to the bathroom quickly, you’re out of luck. Here, you have about seven minutes to be fully inactive – and you’ll get a countdown clock letting you know how much time you have. You can in theory just move the right stick and spin around a bit just to keep in the game if you are able to keep a controller on you – but if you can’t, it’s no huge deal.
Visually, Battleborn is a striking game with incredible texture work. Everything in the world is full of detail and the exaggerated art style for the environment, the weapons, and characters all fits together nicely. There’s a lot going on at all times – especially during massive online games, and yet there isn’t any slowdown. The game moves at a solid clip constantly, and we never encountered any lag during extended online play sessions either. Character animations are all unique, with body language enabling every character to feel different – which is good since they all play different as well, and if they all moved the same, it would seem lazy.
The star of the show for Battleborn’s audio is the voice work. It’s full of humorous one-liners, and a few groaners in there as well. Most of the lines work, but some are too forced and just don’t work. There isn’t much to speak of with the soundtrack – it goes for a heroic vibe and succeeds, but doesn’t really elicit much excitement..
While it’s far from perfect, Battleborn is still a lot of fun to play. Every character stands out, and their diversity ensures the game won’t get stale for quite some time. Going through every map with each, or even just a handful of them will take you a while, and there’s a fair amount of variety in every area too. It’s a great-looking game that could use some work in the soundtrack department, but is well worth a pickup for fans of light-hearted adventures even if you weren’t a fan of the Borderlands franchise.
Reviewed By: Jeremy Peeples
Publisher: 2K Games
This review is based on a digital copy of Battleborn for the Xbox One provided by 2K Games.