BattleBorn Don't Call it A Comeback… Or A moba, Preview

Despite the ongoing success and popularity of the Borderlands franchise, Gearbox Software is badly in need of a win right now. The debacle over both Duke Nukem Forever and Aliens: Colonial Marines and the shitstorm that surrounded two painfully broken games has left a sour taste in the mouths of many, and the developer needs to restore gamers’ faith in its ability to deliver premium gaming once again. And that’s where Battleborn steps in.

Though very much modelled on that winning Borderlands template of a cartoon styled first-person shooter with scope for some cracking co-op, Battleborn also promises to be something a little different. You see, it’s also taking some fresh cues from a variety of other genres, most notably the massively online battle arena (MOBA) which led some people to assume that this would be what the
game is about. Not so according to Gearbox; instead it’s a co-op shooter with additional online competition to consider.

Those MOBA themes will apply to the objective led gameplay and some of the arenas you’ll find yourself fighting in during the game’s set piece moments. Likewise the first multiplayer mode shown off, Incursion, also echoes some MOBA styles crucially how each player in this five-on-five showdown starts off equal but is free to quickly level up through twenty layers of upgrades and abilities, therefore changing the battlefield with almost every decision.

The core game does still reflect much of what made Borderlands so enjoyable, though, with a distant planet once again under threat and a disparate band of anti-heroes teaming up to save the day. You’ll be able to play the campaign in five-player co-op, although how things will pan out into single-player remains to be seen. But certainly the range of characters here could be seen to echo those of
Pandora’s finest, with a tank, samurai, warrior and so on.

However, what makes Battleborn perhaps more interesting is the greater breadth of character and how each plays in their own unique way rather than simply feeling like the same FPS mechanics in a different outfit. The female warrior, for one, packs a bow and arrow, while we’ve seen two characters (the samurai and a woman looking like a Victorian princess) wielding swords into battle. Clearly differing skill sets and abilities will need to be maximised depending on who you play as, with new characters being unlocked and made playable as you progress.

There’s clearly some solid potential here and, with the fantastical setting and slightly quirky premise, Gearbox is one again free to let its creative juices flow and ideally sculpt something both hugely entertaining and just that little bit original. Well, as long as it doesn’t filter off funds to make Borderlands 3 and wind up outsourcing half of the game to lesser studios, that is.


One feature that could prove key to the game’s long-term appeal is the variety of characters on offer and how they, along with other areas of the game, draw on other genres away from your usual FPS fodder. The female warrior could have come straight out of Skyrim or some other fantasy title, while the steampunk gentleman robot would have looked right at home in Dishonored or BioShock Infinite.

The tank character (with the weirdest head-to-body size ratio we’ve ever seen) is an FPS staple, for sure, but with other characters echoing hack and slash titles or classic action-adventures there should be something for just about everyone. And if those genres are also blended into the game world (we’d imagine RPG-style looting and detailed customisation are shoo ins) then Battleborn could well be an intriguing hybrid of all that’s good in modern, and possibly future, gaming.

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