I have not played any build of Battleborn. The opinions expressed in this piece are based solely off of the video of Battleborn gameplay released by Gearbox.
Gearbox just released Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, which they developed along with 2K Australia. Early reviews for the game have been mixed and some fans of the series have voiced opinions that the game feels more like an expansion than a new game worth $60. It sounds like a lot of fans want a Borderlands 3, but instead Gearbox has been developing Battleborn. We haven’t seen much of it so far, but what has been shown hasn’t been very exciting.
Battleborn sounded incredibly interesting at first. One thing Gearbox clearly has, that a lot of other games lack, is great writers. The clever humour throughout Borderlands looks like it’s making its way over to this new IP, and it’s that writing, the narrative and the promise of a wide variety of characters to play as that Gearbox has using to market the game early on.
Last month we got our first look at gameplay, and it left something to be desired. The co-operative team of five players ran through a short 13-minute demo of gameplay where they were tasked with making their way through robot enemies to where some shard thing had dropped. The combat looked like some of the least satisfying I’ve ever seen. Robots would stroll while the players shot at them, but nothing about them seemed menacing or dangerous. They may as well be shooting or slashing their way through an army of empty trashcans.
The game is played in first person, but some characters use ranged attacks with guns or bows, while some are melee based with swords. It is an ambitious task to make a game that attempts to have first-person combat at it’s core, and tries to make that combat fun and engaging across so many different characters each with their own combat style. Anyone who has seen a trailer or a picture of the game has probably seen Montana; an incredibly large, muscular character with a tiny head and a mini-gun. First off, the mini-gun doesn’t look powerful like you would expect it to, it doesn’t seem to shoot particularly fast, which is the whole point of that type of weapon, and when you are using a weapon like that you want to see it rip through your enemies. I think this is where the problem lies.
When you make a shooter, you animate the enemies as if they were getting shot, and when you make a game with sword-based combat, you animate enemies to react as if they were getting cut with a sword. In the demo they released there weren’t separate animations for these two combat styles. No matter what you used to kill the robots they would spit out a little poof of an explosion and then fall into a small heap of parts. With the variety of characters and combat styles Gearbox seems to be hinting at it would be insane to create so many context specific animations for the enemies, but without that, the fighting may leave players wanting.
There do seem to be some physics at play. When Rath, a melee character with two swords, hit and killed enemies, the parts would scatter a little more from the impact. All this footage is labeled as pre-alpha, so changes definitely will happen, but it’s not typical for game studios to release footage of something they don’t believe to be sufficiently polished.
The one ultimate ability shown was also underwhelming. They weren’t shown for each character, but Montana’s was. It’s called mansformation, and it’s essentially a big jump. If anyone is familiar with Colossus from X-Men, Montana transforms into a metallic form similar to Colossus. You then leap into or out of a group of enemies, but when it’s used in the demo, the ultimate ability doesn’t seem to do any damage to the enemies he jumps into. The metal form lasts for a few seconds after and maybe you have increased strength or invulnerability during that time, but that’s never specified. Either way that is an ultimate ability. The most powerful skill this one character has is a big jump; be still my beating heart.
Battleborn is a first-person action-game with combat that seems below average. It has co-op gameplay that doesn’t seem to rely very heavily on coordinated teamwork. The one aspect we haven’t seen yet is the PvP, which sounds like it will be similar to that of MOBA’s. Teams of five will face each other in objective based matches where players upgrade their characters over the course of the match and the robot enemies in the demo look like perfect archetypes for creeps, but MOBA fans aren’t going to abandon DOTA 2 or League of Legends for Battleborn.
Again, this is still referred to by Gearbox as pre-alpha footage, and the only indicator of a release date is 2015. There is plenty of time for this game to get better and hopefully the lack of enthusiasm after the release of this footage has Gearbox rethinking some things, but I’d stay away from pre-ordering Battleborn if I were you.