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Battleborn, the one that isn’t Overwatch?

I can’t help but feel a little sorry for 2K, Gearbox and their latest title Battleborn. Its entire lifecycle seems to have shared the spotlight with Blizzards hit title Overwatch. From the first trailer reveals, to beta tests and through to releases. Everything has been closely timed, and unfortunately it would appear it has been to the detriment of Battleborn. Which is a crying shame.

I’m going to try and keep this as a Battleborn review rather than a comparison between it and Overwatch, as that is an interesting article in itself – which will follow seperately. But there will undoubtedly be some mention of Overwatch, simply because it unfortunately relates to the potential success of Battleborn.

When I first played Battleborn back in the first closed beta test, I was blown away. I had seen the trailers, and it looked like a fun and exciting FPS game with a bit of a Borderlands twist, as you might expect. But what I hadn’t seen, read or been told about was that Battleborn was more of a “First Person MOBA”. I’m not sure if this was a “genre” previously seen, but it was certainly new to me. The idea of lanes, AI Bots and the objectives based around said AI Bots combined with a first person shooter character based game was new and exciting for me. Between the closed and open betas I think I easily put in 30-40 hours of gameplay.

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The character design is excellent, with a wide variety of differently designed character styles filling different role niches. There is a great variety between the “Tanky” characters, “Offensive” characters and “Support” characters. With the latter always being my preferred character archetype in games. In fact a great deal of my initial excitement was that Miko, a mushroom styled assassin healer, was practically designed with me in mind. The character designed appealed to my “Druidic” roots in World of Warcraft, with a strong healing beam and damage over time poison based attacks with the options in the “Helix System” to go more support or more offense depending on the game’s needs.

The Helix System is the progression system within each individual game, very much the same as you see in more traditional MOBA games. Each level up grants you a choice on a DNA Helix (hence the name) between 2 options changing and/or improving your characters abilities. Off the top of my head I believe Miko has a choice between increasing the area of effect of a slowing ability, or changing it into a stun ability. As you rank up in the game as a whole, rather than within individual games, you can add a third option to some levels of each characters Helix.

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Battleborn shares many of its features with the MOBA genre that it would appear to be based upon. The Helix System, as mentioned, is basically a slimmed down version of what you see in various MOBA’s in game progression systems. The idea of starting at level 1 and working your way through to level 10 in each game you play is very similar to other MOBA titles. And of course the whole idea of AI bots working their way down lanes and being part of the end goal is the defining feature in MOBAs.

So is there more to Battleborn than being a First Person MOBA? Well, yes! Firstly the first person shooter aspect alone completely changes how it is played, and I’d have though changes the target audience somewhat (If that is a good or bad thing could remain to be seen…). Skill shots are based on a different player skill set. But beyond the FPS factor there is still plenty within Battleborn that sets it apart, from both MOBAs and other titles it might be competing against. While the main “Meltdown” online mode is almost pure MOBA in its style, the game does have other modes which take different ideas of MOBAs and applies them in its own way. One mode you have to push your way to take out two bosses while the other team tries to push you back – very similar to the core idea of trying to destroy your opponents “Core” in other MOBAs. But perhaps more importantly is the addition of a story campaign mode, which feels much more like individual missions in Borderlands than anything I’ve ever seen in an actual MOBA.

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Battleborn is a very complete game, the characters are varied and fun, the graphics are pretty sweet (although my PC can only just handle the game, so didn’t get to see the full glory when I played) and the gameplay is very exciting and strangely different. Battleborn is a nice change from many of the other “similar” competitive FPS games out there. It is much more colourful and lively – much like Borderlands, when compared to your Call of Duty and Battlefield games out there with a HUD that suits the gameplay and style.

I played the beta on both PC and Console and found the differences quite interesting. Most console players treated it like an FPS game; they ignored many objectives and just played every game as if it were a team death match. PC players however seemed to be much more in tune with the MOBA gameplay style, quite possibly because they were existing MOBA players. This was emphasised even more once I got the full game and went online. The PC community is quite clearly based on League of Legends’ players as I found out first hand at the sheer toxicity coming from the players.

Something no developer or publisher can really control is their player base. “ESRB Does Not Rate the Online Content” or whatever it says on the back of the box is ever apparent. Upon playing a new character I’d unlocked for the first time, I pointed out in party chat that I hadn’t played this character before. I was promptly told “Go Kill Yourself”, “Delete the game you f***ing scrub” and “FFS you f***ing c**t, now we’re going to lose”… Not since I my first and last game of League of Legends have I seen that level of toxicity in an online game. Strangely the campaign mode doesn’t suffer from this.

It is a shame that the only downsides to this game are that it unfortunately clashed with Overwatch, and that it has a rather toxic community otherwise it is a game I was extremely excited about, and can’t sing its praises enough. You should definitely invest in this title if you’re a fan of the style but if you don’t wish to be set upon by gangs of folks who believe they are the elite, I would suggest picking up the console version where hopefully this venomous attitude is less apparent. If you’re a fan of Overwatch then you will also appreciate this title so when you feel it’s time for a change, consider getting Battleborn (if you haven’t already) and give it a go!

For more, keep an eye out for the Battleborn and Overwatch article I shall be writing soon.

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