In anticipation of the May 3 release of the hero-based multiplayer shooter, Battleborn, Gearbox Software and 2K held an open beta this past weekend, which will run through April 18. Overall, I found myself amused and intrigued by the game and content. Here are my full impressions, based on what I played in the beta.
Battleborn has a team-based multiplayer mode where players select a starting character and are put into a queue to be matched up with other players, which is expected from this genre. However, what sets Battleborn apart from its competitors is the inclusion of a Story Mode. I decided to give this mode a whirl and chose the Private (Solo) option.
I chose one of the seven available starting characters and proceeded into Episode 1, where I was greeted by another character from the game and was guided through what felt more like a mission than an actual story. The battles were tough and included wave after wave of mobs with the occasional boss to take out. There was not any tutorial to help me understand how to survive but I did notice crates and containers and promptly started opening or destroying them. To my delight, I found items that gave my character buffs and healing as well as shards to spend on turrets and other mechanical support devices. While I did not survive my first time through and ultimately failed the mission, I was better prepared the second time and was able to finish.
The reward for completing the mission included enough experience to increase both my Command and character Rank. I chose to try out a few different characters in the Private vs AI mode, and then, after settling on my original choice, headed into the queue for some PVP. I spent a few hours playing both the Meltdown and Incursion modes. I found Meltdown to be my mode of choice as the action took place primarily toward the middle of the map, centering on two locations rather than utilizing the entire map with players heading off in every direction.
My only concern with the PVP modes was the matchmaking. Players under Rank 5 were routinely pitted against players of Rank 30 or higher. The groups were often unbalanced, and one-sided victories were not uncommon. I played a few games in Ranked mode, another available option, thinking I would have a better chance of playing with teams closer to my level but this did not seem to be the case. I can only speculate that this was due to either a low player base of beta testers, or simply a matchmaking system that still needs some adjusting.
Battleborn includes a MOBA-like character growth system, known as the Helix System, that requires them to make quick decisions when choosing Augments, which alter the way the character’s abilities work. I was appreciative of the fact that the character had a small set of ability options that included one Passive and one Ultimate, so memorizing their locations on the keyboard was easy enough. Being able to augment and alter what they did during gameplay after every level my character gained in the match inspired me to try even harder to increase levels and unleash my character’s full potential. Helix is reset after every match, so I have yet to discover what the characters I tried were fully capable of at the level 10 maximum, which leaves me something to strive for in the full game.
My only concern regarding the Helix system is that while the upgrade screen was up, the field of view was completely blocked. I quickly learned after a few thorough poundings to teleport to my base, or find a corner to hide in, before attempting to make my choice. Players can also earn loot, although not in the sense I was used to. Battleborn uses loadouts that players can equip with up to three gear items. These items have stats that will need to be unlocked in-game using a currency that players collect during the match. Again, with no tutorial, I did not discover this right away, but once I did the enhancement to my character was noticeable.
Fans of Gearbox’s other big shooter franchise, Borderlands, will feel right at home with Battleborn‘s cartoon-like visuals and snarky sense of humor, but Battleborn has a PVP focus, compared with Borderlands’ focus on co-op play.
Compared to the straight-up battle to the death style of Overwatch, Battleborn seems more objective based, and benefits from the inclusion of a story mode, both of which were omitted from the Overwatch beta.
Finally, the other big team-based MOBA-shooter hybrid hitting the market this year, Paragon, maintains a much more realistic graphic design, and has a 3D feel to it that Battleborn doesn’t. Paragon also utilizes a Card system to add abilities to the hero in matches, which is very different than the branching Helix upgrade system of Battleborn.
Overall I found Battleborn fun and distinct in its own way compared to the other MOBAs or Multiplayer Team-based shooters I have played. Hopefully some of the issues I had, such as matchmaking, are addressed prior to the official launch on May 3.