Of all the things that landed this week in the world of gaming, the one that I was the least educated about, and the one that I had no real opinion about going into is definitely the Open Beta for Battleborn. I knew I wanted to at least give the beta a shot because it’s a Gearbox game and clearly has some strong Borderlands influences. After playing a handful of games last night, I will gladly say that I’m sold on Battleborn. Let’s talk a little about it.
Going in I was a little unsure of how I would like it, since I know it is borrowing heavily from the MOBA toolset. I’m not the world’s biggest MOBA fan – I never got into League of Legends or DOTA even with friends in college who did. In truth, Smite is the most I’ve ever played any MOBA, and I didn’t stick with it for long at all. Going into this spring, it’s pretty evident that MOBA games have shot way up in popularity. There’s Battleborn, Overwatch and Paragon all heading our way this year, not to mention Cliffy B’s Lawbreakers as well. So I was worried that I would be a step behind with Battleborn, since I’m way out of touch with MOBA strategies. Luckily, that’s not the case at all. If anything, I think Battleborn is a lot closer to a mix of something like Team Fortress and Smite. It very much feels like an action game first, then the MOBA influence fills in the spaces. If you’re like me and wary of taking the MOBA plunge, Battleborn is I think a really great way to ease in.
In the Beta, we have five heroes unlocked at the start, and the potential for 25 total heroes. They take on all the different roles that you would expect in a game like this – damage dealers/glass cannons like Marquis (my choice), tanks like Montana, burst mages like Orendi and so on and so forth. Odds are pretty good that you’ll pretty quickly be able to find a hero that you like, one that fits with your style of play. Once you do, the game is set-up to reward you for continually playing that character. You’ve got not only top level challenges tied to completions and wins of matches, but each hero has Lore Challenges that are tied to character specific feats. With Marquis, who has been my go-to so far in the Beta, the Lore challenges have you using his Ein, Zwei Die passive, buffing allies with the haste effect on Temporal Distortion, dealing 6,000 damage in a match with your ultimate ability, dealing 100,000 total damage with the Hoodini and playing five matches on the same team as Phoebe. Completing the challenges gets you Command XP and credits, as well as progress toward unlocking character skins and taunts. Those challenges exist for each of the 25 heroes – that’s a lot of challenge hunting. Add in that some of the top level challenges will unlock heroes earlier than just leveling and it seems to me that challenge hunting is going to be a huge part of the final game. And that’s something that I’ve always liked in games – hunting for skins, titles, taunts that unlock after challenge completion has always been a great carrot for me.
Once you’ve gone ahead and picked a hero, you have a couple options to play in the Beta. There are two story missions and two choices for competitive multiplayer matches. Story and Versus can both be played with public matchmaking, or in private matches. The two story missions both take about 45-50 minutes to complete. That’s one thing this game definitely demands – time. Playing one match – story or versus – is a pretty solid time commitment, not like Call of Duty or Destiny. Your party size can have up to five players – that is in either mode – so you’ve got plenty of room for mixing and matching party makeup. If you want to, you can solo play the story missions as well. On the surface, two story missions, and two versus maps seems limited. When you combine that with the slew of challenges, and the 25 potential different heroes and all the different team makeups that can result, and all of a sudden the replayability shoots up a bit. I definitely am looking forward to trying to get gold scores on the missions, and I can easily see Battleborn being a really good co-op game.
So while all the nuts and bolts of the beta are all taken care of well, the one thing that I think really sold me was the Gearbox flavor. This game, especially in the story missions, feels like it belongs in the Borderlands universe. The writing is very similar, and as a result, it’s just as funny. The characters all feel like that same level of borderline insane, and the voice work is exceptional at delivering the really strong humor in the writing. Marquis’ contempt for “hobos” and “public school shtudents” is hilarious; while Geoff/Arachinis could easily have been a boss in any Borderlands game. If you’ve liked the humor and tone of Borderlands, then Battleborn should absolutely be on your radar. The beta runs through the weekend, so you should definitely get it and try it out.