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Score: 75%
ESRB: Teen
Publisher: 2K Games
Developer: Gearbox Software
Media: Download/1
Players: 1 - 2; 2 - 10 (Online)
Genre: Action/ First Person Shooter/ Online

Graphics & Sound:

Gearbox Software seems to have set themselves on a path to being recognized as the developer that translates different genres into first-person experiences. We've seen it with Borderlands, which takes the loot-driven gameplay of Diablo and makes it a full-fledged action shooter. And now with Battleborn, Gearbox takes notes from the smash success of games like League of Legends and Dota 2 and takes the rapidly-growing multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA) into its own territory. The result is a noble and ambitious experiment that doesn't quite succeed in the end.

Battleborn has something of an identity crisis, though you wouldn't think so by looking at the game. Visually, it hits all the notes it intends on hitting; it looks like something you'd see out of a Saturday morning cartoon, though one with some mild swearing involved. It's not a violent game; though you'll do more than your fair share of killing, it's entirely bloodless and played for comic effect. Think of the droids from the Star Wars prequels, who somehow find time to express their disappointment at being destroyed. In terms of environments, Battleborn does an admirable job of creating a diverse series of worlds upon which its legions of heroes make war. The Battleborn themselves appear ready to make their collective debuts on toy store shelves (and at conventions via eager cosplayers), and the art style remains consistently light throughout.

Most of Battleborn's personality comes through in the sound department. Its soundtrack marries zaniness with science fiction and space opera to decent effect, though I won't find myself racing to purchase it any time soon. Sound effects are great, with each of the Battleborn's abilities having an appropriate auditory accompaniment and the complete lack of any uncertainty when it comes to whether or not you've hit your target. Another effect that I find endearing is the flapping of fabric you hear when your character goes airborne for an extended period of time. Topping it all off is some decent voice work, though the script certainly doesn't do it any favors.


Never mind the calamity that would befall the known universe if all its stars were besieged and eaten. Just save the last one! That's the gist of Battleborn's story. An alien race known as the Varelsi have been devouring celestial bodies for so long that the universe is on the brink of total darkness. Worse yet, Lothar Rendain, military leader of the powerful Jennerit Imperium, has staged a coup and allied his forces with the Varelsi in a gambit for survival above all else. Luckily, a group of elite heroes are in the process of combining their own forces to save Solus, the final existing star.

Humor is a staple of most recent Gearbox games; there's nowhere Borderlands won't go to get a laugh. The same is true of Battleborn, but unfortunately, it misses far more often than it hits. Every time a character opens his/her mouth, the ensuing dialogue smacks of desperation. It is clearly trying too hard, and when you pair that with how unfunny much of it is, it gets kind of annoying.

Taking the hero-centric approach of Borderlands and expanding it several times over, Battleborn is a first person action game with a laser focus on individual hero characters rather than faceless grunts with similar loadouts and abilities. Each one has a unique array of basic attacks and powers, all of which grow in size and scope as they progress through each mission.

Battleborn's Campaign is made up of a series of levels, rather than a persistent open world. Each one plays like a raid of sorts; a series of combat encounters, simple puzzle-solving, and boss fights at the end. It can be played solo or with friends, and as is the case with Borderlands, it's more enjoyable when you've got comrades in arms. Many of the characters complement each other well enough, and showing off abilities and hunting down challenges can be a lot of fun.

Multiplayer is where Battleborn's strongest assets are focused. After all, it's based on a gameplay format popularized by titles that have no single player components whatsoever. Teams of five are pitted against each other in special arenas as they vie for dominance in one of several ways.

Don't expect Team Deathmatch in Battleborn: objectives are infinitely more important to your team's success in battle. Consider the game types: Capture, Incursion, and Meltdown. Capture charges each team with the defense of their own collectors and, as the name suggests, the capture of that of the opposing team. Incursion is a tug-of-war style battle as each team attempts to strike past the other team's defenses, all the while gaining tactical advantages and ensuring that more of your troops can safely invade. Meltdown is an escort mission that has you protecting groups of robot minions as they journey to their doom. At the same time, you must destroy the other team's minions before they are sacrificed.


Battleborn is inconsistent when it comes to difficulty. Some sequences are breezy and carefree. You'll be blasting, slashing, and exploding enemies with wild abandon, raking in the experience and upgrading at a speedy clip. However, bosses are Destiny-style bullet sponges that often throw mobs at you intermittently. Solo players might have some trouble in these sections, as might poorly-structured teams. You share a finite number of extra lives -- remember those? Once you're out, the game is over. If you enable Hardcore Mode, you only have one life.

It's impossible to speak to the challenge level of Battleborn's multiplayer. You'll inevitably find yourself in slaughterhouse matches, with yourself on the giving and receiving ends of a brutal stomping. Most games I've participated in have been straight out routs. Furthermore, the established player base thus far seems to be quite skilled and comfortable with their preferred Battleborn. All I can say is good luck!

Game Mechanics:

Variety is the spice of life in Battleborn. No two characters play even similarly. Each Battleborn brings his or her own abilities to the fray, and there are no imitators or substitutes for the benefits each one introduces. There are tanks, healers, buffers, scouts, damage-dealers, and much more. Learning how to effectively use each Battleborn is only part of the fun; the real gameplay is in coordinating your abilities with those of your teammates.

As your performance (in whatever capacity) progresses, you earn experience and level up. However, it's not the kind of leveling up that persists across all games (though that does exist in a different, more deliberate form). Instead, as each match progresses, so too does your skillset. Battleborn's Augment system is a clever means of quickly upgrading the abilities you want over the course of each match. Certain level thresholds unlock character-specific ultimate abilities, each of which is true to the design and feel of each Battleborn.

The Battleborn can't be in all places at once, but thankfully, they have ways of defending and attacking that don't involve mad dashes across huge swathes of the maps. By harvesting Shards, they can purchase turrets and drones that assist either the individual Battleborn or the team as a whole. Certain purchasable environmental features can either assist allies or hinder enemies.

There's an awful lot going on in Battleborn, if this review hasn't already demonstrated that. And unfortunately, that's a huge part of what holds it back. You'll get a sense that the gameplay, for all its bells and whistles, is less than the sum of its parts. Disparate elements are fine, but only when they are smoothly integrated into a solid whole. And that's what Battleborn fails at. It's a promising start, but my recommendation is that you try before you buy.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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