Battleborn comes from cartoon-y shooter pro’s, Gearbox Entertainment (developers of the most excellent Borderlands series). Its story campaign is well made, with detailed character and boss introductions. The story involves a great battle between the Eldrich, Rogue, LLC, and Peacekeeper factions. The story mode (which is played via co-op, except for the mandatory prologue), is not the main draw. To compensate for lack of human craftiness, story mode play boils down to getting into an area and fight rivers of cannon fodder until the end. It just felt like glorified training wheels for the online arena. Worse still there’s no way to select which mission and difficulty to do next, you have to progress through each in order.
The main entree is the multiplayer modes, and they borrow a page from several well known MOBAs: League of Legends, DOTA 2, and Smite. Of which Meltdown, where two teams face off as NPC minions will stream towards the center of the arena into furnaces. Should the minions make it to furnace at the other end, your team is awarded points. By worrying about two lanes the need for better team communication and strategy opens up. Capture is a rather dull stand on a point and earn points variant. While Incursion is a single minion lane base assault, and while similar to Meltdown, offers a change of pace and objectives from it.
My experience with Battleborn’s community was on par with most MOBAs communities. Meaning, there’s plenty of types out that seem to take way to personal if you’re new to a character. Being the weakest link in this game is more apparent in the end. Just one lost player can end up with a 1000-18 enemy victory. One way to stand out less if you are new is to play defensive, at least until you are more familiar with the game. Protect the base, support the more experienced players out there. This can go a little under appreciated when the match is over, as damage dealers stand out more on the score card.
Battleborn is a well made game. Bright vivid colors, lush otherworldly landscapes, with whimsical automatons marching relentlessly towards their opponents. It has a more futuristic and alien look. Heroes range in looks and abilities and it is entertaining to try them all out, provided you have the patience to grind them all out. Helix System and gear upgrades boost your abilities slightly. But facing players that spend all day in Battleborn can be lopsided; as their gear will offer more critical damage or health than you can muster.
Battleborn is not quite as deep as the established MOBAs out there. One where I can sit and plan item builds, jungle strategies, and other more cerebral team-based interactions. It attempts to straddle both domains and feels a little light on both sides. There is little done to ease players into understanding what their team might need. Resulting in too many matches with nothing but support and sniper characters. I have been tossed into matches with 2-3 low leveled players like myself, against 2-3 lvl 46-48 players who have all the latest gear. Needless to say, they diced us in no time. This can lead to unnecessary frustration for new players.
Add to that the grind involved with unlocking heroes and gear. There will also be more heroes and items planned via (paid) DLC. Even Story Mode co-op feels like a unnaturally restricted version of Borderlands co-op. While I know of gamers who have no wish to memorize item builds, and prefer the MOBA-lite idea, I can’t say I’m a fan of diluted “anything” without a good trade off — let alone one that I would have to cough up sixty bones for (or more). While a good game, if it could solve its identity crisis it would be even better.