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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:

Perhaps the most interesting thing about Battleborn is that no particular facet is, in and of itself, innovative -- but when they all come together, the concept is quite novel. Gearbox's latest is a return to the genre mashing action the Texas developer has become known for, and the results are decidedly mixed. It's confidently presented, runs well enough, and offers a very particular style of action that can't be found anywhere else. But nothing it does is best-in-class, and its gameplay systems don't harmonize very well. If you're looking for a first person action game that does things a little bit differently from all the rest, Battleborn is certainly that. Its appeal might be limited, however.

Looking at Battleborn gives you the sense that the developers had a blast designing its heroes, villains, and universe. From almost every angle, it looks like it's been adapted from an animated series; from the cartoony character models and colorful environments to the hand-drawn interludes that cap off story missions and multiplayer matches. This visual style isn't particularly bold or unexpected; after all, this is something that we've come to expect from Gearbox. But it is crisp and vibrant, and the action is a pleasure to behold.

Battleborn is fire and ice in the auditory department. The soundtrack is harmless but unmemorable, spanning from synthesized science fiction motifs to rock and roll party music that sounds appropriate enough. More impressive are the sounds of battle. At times, you can tell which Battleborn are actually in combat without actually seeing them. As far as the voice work goes, it isn't bad. Much of the script, however, is. The performers do their best to make these lines work, but many of them just don't work to begin with.


What if the Sun was suddenly eaten? I'm sure that's a question that most of us have had on our minds at some point, but Battleborn is perhaps the first video game to address this important issue. Okay, so it doesn't -- big deal. But it serves as your primary motivation. An elite and diverse team of special heroes, the Battleborn fight to protect the universe from the star-devouring Varelsi and their unlikely but powerful allies in the Jennerit Imperium, led by the treacherous Rendain.

Battleborn doesn't do a good job of establishing its world or its conflicts, and its story is generally poorly-written. If you're a fan of Gearbox's flagship franchise Borderlands, this might come as a shock to you. While Battleborn attempts to capture the metahumor and self-aware silliness of its older brother, it instead comes across as a poseur, desperately trying way too hard to get you to laugh. It's not all bad -- some lines will make you chuckle despite yourself -- but most of it is, and shamelessly so.

Imagine the likes of League of Legends or Dota 2, only in first person. That's Battleborn, a first-person multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA). However, while most of the focus is wisely-centered on the online component, there is a sizable single player story component. It's a series of linear levels, each of which is set in a unique environment and is structured like a raid. You venture forth, destroying every enemy in sight and pausing every now and then to solve a simple puzzle or two and face off against bullet sponge bosses. It's serviceable (albeit moderately dull) on your own, but quite enjoyable if you've got some friends to tag along for the ride.

Online is where most of Battleborn's merits lie, and it's where it gets more right than wrong. It's definitely not for everyone; if you're looking for nonstop action with cover mechanics and bullets flying everywhere, this isn't the game for you. However, if it's something you've never played before, it just might be.

Three multiplayer modes pit opposing teams of Battleborn against each other. Capture is the first and most standard of mode offerings, charging the two teams with the capture and defense of specially designated points on the map. These points can be static or dynamic, which opens the door for some truly wild applications of Battleborn abilities. Incursion is a game of momentum that has both teams scrambling to establish dominance over the other team's territory. Meltdown sees groups of minions dispatched on a set path towards a grinder, where they are to be sacrificed. It's your team's job to protect your minions and destroy your enemy's minions.


Battleborn's story missions are lengthy and frequently challenging. They practically demand that you team up with some buddies, as solo play can get pretty rough. Enemies generally hit fairly hard, and if you don't have a solid support system at your back, you might find yourself shuttled back to the main menu with little to no fanfare. That's right: Battleborn doesn't let you keep respawning. You have to be consistently on your game, or at least be on the lookout for extra lives.

Multiplayer is another matter. While you can die all you want in battle, kill count is never the primary objective. And while killing sometimes helps further the primary objectives, the focus never wavers. There are teams out there who know which Battleborn to pick, how to best use them in conjunction with the environment and each other, and who will stomp you and your team without mercy. Make no mistake: you'll find yourself in games like that every now and then.

Game Mechanics:

Battleborn is a first person action game, but it doesn't play like most first person action games. This is in large part thanks to the hero design. Loadouts aren't really a thing in this game; instead, it establishes its asymmetrical bent with characters possessing wholly unique abilities. Each and every Battleborn comes with his/her own special role, and with that role comes a gameplay experience that is exclusive to that character.

Just like in other MOBAs or action role-playing games, your primary abilities are exclusive to the Battleborn you've chosen. As the match/mission progresses and you properly leverage these abilities, you earn experience and level up. Each level gives you the choice between two Augments, special ability boosts that target a specific aspect of your combat repertoire. Level up enough, and you'll unlock your Battleborn's ultimate ability, which more often than not, has the potential to change the flow of combat.

Even when threatened by the prospect of a cosmic extinction level event, it's nice to know that commerce is strong. Throughout each mission and multiplayer match, special dispensaries allow for the purchase of items that can either help your team or hinder your opponents. Shards, earned through exploration and combat, may be spent on special turrets, drones, and more. It's standard MOBA design to include these kinds of provisions, and they're welcome in Battleborn. It's yet another thing to keep track of, but it can make a difference.

I applaud the notion of asymmetrical gameplay, but Battleborn simply has too much going on at any given time. While the key concepts behind Battleborn are intriguing (if not inspired), the execution leaves a bit to be desired. With some more focus and refinement, though, it could be something special.

-FenixDown, GameVortex Communications
AKA Jon Carlos

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