Last week the great team over at 2K UK invited me to a very special preview event for ‘Battleborn’, the next game from creators of the Borderlands series, Gearbox. It was an opportunity to try out what many will get to experience in the closed technical beta that kicks off Friday October 29th.
With an opportunity to talk with Gearbox developers at the event, this was a great chance to both see Battleborn in action and finally play the game itself. These are my first impressions of the demo provided and not a review of the game itself
The demo build presented for us to play provided three modes to try and 15 playable characters from the 25 character roster the full game will have. It began with a quick presentation by Gearbox developers and the playing of the Rendain trailer above, as a brief introduction into what Battleborn is about. Much like Borderlands, Battleborn looks to blend different game genres but first and foremost it is being referred to as a First Person Shooter.
The universe that Battleborn exists in has also been created to stand out from other ‘save the universe’ style story games, and for me has a real rich potential for both main campaign and extra content added along the way. Those familiar with Borderlands will immediately recognise the humour threaded throughout the story, the enemies and the playable characters which you see in the above Rendain trailer. The characters are all unique in their abilities and give such a range of player choice for style of play that with 25 characters to learn I was eagre to jump in and actually give the demo build a go!
First on the menu to try was the Story mission ‘Algorithm’. Battleborn can be played as a solo story experience or as up to 5 player co-op. For fans of couch co-op, Battleborn can also be played in splitscreen for local Co-op action. The first element that makes the game stand out from Borderlands is the new accelerated character growth system that features in both the story campaign and competitive multiplayer; the ‘Helix System’. In each story mission and competitive match, players will all start at level 1 and can progress up to level 10. By earning XP from enemy kills, players can level up with each level allowing the player to pick an upgrade to their character’s skill tree. Representing the double Helix of DNA, the skill tree has ten stages with a choice of upgrades on the left or the right side of the helix. These can upgrade skills for defence or attack and each character is unique. A super-move will unlock at level 5 that can either cause massive damage to enemies, boost character stats or aid your team.
How you build your character’s skill tree will impact how you use the character and because it resets each mission or MP game, players will have plenty of chances to learn the best way to use their favourite characters, giving Battleborn a real depth in not only in how characters are chosen but the strategy of how players will create a team of characters depending on the challenge ahead.
The story mission played out very much in a familiar way Borderlands worked. Tasked with assaulting a base, our team pushed forward killing enemies as we made our way through the base before a huge robotic spider sentry was sent to stop us. It was not long before my team were working together, combining our character abilities to take the sentry down. We naturally fell into our character roles of support and assault as we endeavoured to take the sentry down. Good communication was needed when the action really ramped up. It was a great taste of what to expect in the full campaign and was really enjoyable working with four other players to complete the mission.
Next to try was the two competitive MP modes ‘Capture’ and ‘Meltdown’. The third MP mode is called Incursion but was not part of the demo build. Competitive modes are a ten player 5 Vs 5 setup with each mode having a different team objective. It was also a great opportunity to mix up the character choice and try out some different styles.
First up was ‘Captured’, an arena mode where the aim is to control three zones to score points to win the match. The zones can be defended or recaptured from the other team and is a fast paced all out assault mode. I chose the dual sword character Rath for this and was soon slicing my way through the enemy team as I earned level up points and soon reached Level 5 to activate my super move, a whirlwind spinning attack which, if timed when surrounded by enemies, will do maximum damage.
Communication was key to organising which zones to defend or recapture and having a strong team of characters we were able to take the lead and maintain it. Rath was so much fun to play as, and his skill tree really develops a balanced upgrade for both offence and defence. I can really see this mode being very popular with great map design allowing for different team strategies to be used.
Next was ‘Meltdown’ a very unique mode indeed. The objective is to score points by defending and leading your teams minion robots into sacrifice themselves in an incinerator in the middle of the map. The other team is also doing the same thing and their incinerator is opposite yours so both teams will end up meeting in the centre of the map leading to a great face off. You can destroy the minions of the other team preventing them scoring but as I discovered in the first two games I played, if you focus too much on fighting the enemy team you will end up in a messy Team Death Match leaving your minions at risk of being destroyed and giving the other team an advantage.
Action was frantic at times as both teams levelled to activate their super moves which ramped up the fighting. I took joy when I successfully guarded a wave of our minions only to feel a little sad when they sacrificed themselves to score points, but that is all part of the humour and charm of Battleborn. I really look forward to getting to play this mode again and exploring different characters.
Overall I was highly impressed with Battleborn. It was familiar in parts from Borderlands to keep it grounded with what I was expecting, but different enough to not be a clone or re-skinned Borderlands. The competitive modes will be great fun with friends and to play against other teams. The roster of characters are so varied from magic users to techno fighters to traditional gunfighters, all with unique and well developed personalities. The Helix System adds so much depth to an already full gameplay experience that mastering the roster will take time.
With the collection of Gear purchased from collected loot in matches and campaigns and working to form a team to taken online, Gearbox have really focused on making this game intuitive to play with friends, building on the best qualities of Borderlands. Speaking with Randy Varnell, Creative Director at Gearbox, it is very clear that both Gearbox and 2K have a huge vision for Battleborn. From building a community around the game but also keeping the world of eSports with the potential of a free observer mode being added for the community to stream and cast the competitive modes.
I’m really looking forward to playing in the Closed Beta that kicks off on Friday October 29th (PS4 is getting the first open beta next year). I was really impressed with what Battleborn offers as a follow up to Borderlands and again Gearbox are successfully blending the genres of FPS and RPG but now utilising the power of MOBA to add new elements to gameplay. I already know the characters I will focus on using, but I do recommend trying out different ones to see which of the roster of 15 heroes call out to you. It can be frustrating as you learn how to use the Helix system with each character to begin with, but with time and practice you will soon have a list of go-to heroes to rely on for the different modes available.
2K and Gearbox really have refined what made Borderlands so popular but taking it to the next level in what players want in Battleborn as an experience. This is definitely a game to watch heading into its release in 2016!
- Huge thanks to 2K UK for inviting me to the hands on event and to the team at Gearbox who were so helpful and welcoming during the event.
When Cockney Charmer isn’t moonlighting for us, he’s sharing his thoughts on gaming and more over on his own blog, Nothing is True, while actively contributing to Sticktwiddlers.com and finding time to stream on twitch and partake in chat on twitter! In truth, he’s a very busy man indeed, so go show him some love!