Gearbox and 2K Games are finally showing off more of Battleborn, the "hero shooter" where you play in first person and choose from a wide variety of characters, from archers to tanks. As the new kid on Gearbox's roster, I haven't been sure what to think of Battleborn. The five-versus-five competitive play definitely has some MOBA-esque qualities and the progression system providing a new customization choice every level seems satisfying. After playing the game at a recent press event in Santa Monica, I'm still not sure if I'm completely on board, but I did have some fun moments and much of the appeal that comes from working as a team.
As previously announced, Battleborn will have three different modes. In Incursion, the first team to destroy the enemy base prevails, while Devastation is a capture-and-hold mode, and Meltdown has you thwarting the opposition while your minions sacrifice themselves in a single incubator located in the center of the map. Battleborn also has a story mode that you can play solo or cooperatively with up to five players.
For this preview, five of us hit a story mission. The basic premise is to not let the last star in the universe go dark. The world is in peril with stars darkening unnaturally fast. The mission we played was called "To the Edge of the Void," and it tasked us with blowing the hell out of a portal that was flooding the area with baddies. We started at level four and I picked previously announced character Marquis. This aristocratic robot butler has a few tricks up his sleeves. He can slow down enemies, launch an owl with laser eyes to attack foes from above, and he also has a cane that functions as a sniper rifle. At release, Gearbox will have 25 characters to choose from, but Marquis caught my eye immediately.
I'm not disappointed with my choice. As someone who doesn't like to rush into battle, Marquis' ability to snipe from afar works to my advantage. Overall, the gunplay seems smooth, but I find myself constantly relying on his owl to get the upper hand. Every time the cooldown on it runs down, I sic the owl on the next batch of enemies trying to get an edge on me. The setup of the mission is very basic: Follow the map to the points of interest and shoot down any foe that gets in the way. However, things get more interesting when we activate a sentry to help us.
Yellow shards appear all over the field during a mission. You find them scattered about or they can appear when you destroy enemies. These are vital, as they're the currency in the game and can be used in interesting ways to give you an edge in battle. In order to protect our sentry that's going to help us through the tougher enemies, one of my members decides to use some of his shards give it some shields. Later, another teammate uses their shards to build a turret. As the chaos ensues, these become godsends.
I finally hit level five, which gives me access to my ultimate ability: the overcharge blast. This allows me to launch a super-powerful energy shot that can cause devastating damage. The only drawback is that it's slow-moving, but if you get up close and activate it, you increase your chances of hitting your target. I find myself alternating between all my cooldowns to get by, while reviving teammates when they bite off more than they can chew. We end up victorious and I can see how playing with friends would be a blast, but my character often felt too powerful; I'm a little concerned about the balance and difficulty. Granted, this was a demo, so the scales might have been tipped in our favor.
Until I play more modes, I'm not sure how I feel about Battleborn. I have a feeling the five-versus-five modes are where the competition and fun is, but I do appreciate having a mode where I can just play solo or with friends if I'm not in the mood for taking on other players. Gearbox is obviously putting a lot of work into the characters to give them all unique quirks and abilities - I just hope the maps and objectives have an equal amount personality and variety.
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