Battleborn, the new game from 2K Games, is currently well into its open beta. An FPS MOBA, you can definitely see the influences from Borderlands, 2K’s pride and joy, in its graphical design. But is the beta any good?
The gameplay certainly is. Battleborn’s gameplay is about fast-paced action and edge-of-your-seat combat. In Battleborn you can control various characters, each with a different playstyle. There are three types of characters; Assault, Support and Rogues. The Assault are all about dealing damage and being at the front of the fight, while Support characters are the healers or buffers, who hang back and help the Assault characters. Meanwhile, the Rogues sneak in behind enemy lines and hit them from behind, dealing large damage and then vanishing before getting hit. But each character feels unique, rather than all being the generic class. Montana is a massive brute with a Minigun, who moves slow but can soak up a lot of damage. Whereas Rath is quick and powerful, slicing through enemies with his dual swords. Meanwhile, Shayne and Aurox sneak in and pull the enemies into them, ready for powerful swipes of Aurox’s claws. Everyone feels unique and different from the previous, which is definitely a plus.
The combat is definitely chaotic and fun. Every character has their own weapon, as well as three abilities, mapped to the bumper buttons and the triangle/Y button. To begin with, you only have access to the bumper abilities, but as you play the match, you’ll access the special ability (triangle), and the match will suddenly become faster and more intense. It’s a great mechanic, that encourages players to earn points to strengthen themselves, in order to be able to fight their opponents, who are also trying to level themselves up quickly. Around the maps are also glowing yellow objects, called shards. These are a type of points system, that let you build and upgrade various turrets and support machines (health machine, speed booster, etc), and can be used to ‘buy’ the last piece of your gear loading – items you unlock from missions to use elsewhere.
The leveling system is very detailed and in depth. There are three levels; main rank, character rank, and match rank. The main rank is your overall level, increased by completing matches and missions. Leveling up unlocks characters and gear, and is displayed by your name. Character rank, on the other hand, is the level for a specific character. The more you play as someone, the higher their level will increase, unlocking new skins for that character. And then there is the match rank. At the beginning of every match and mission, your character starts off fairly weak, with only the bumper abilities available. As you kill other players or AI, you gain match experience, used to level up and “augment” your abilities, to add different bonuses to them. This will eventually, upon reaching level 5, unlock your special ability, which can often mean the difference between life and death. For example, in one game I was playing as Montana (my favourite), and reached level 10, unlocking the bonus for my “Mansformation” ability – a large stomp that knocked enemies into the air. The bonus allowed me to then deflect all damage back to the attackers for 10 seconds, and definitely saved me when I was surrounded by enemy players. The leveling system here is a smart way of allowing players to earn perks without being unevenly matched.
As stated above, the graphics in the beta are similar to that of Borderlands, and very pretty. The design is cartoon-like and looks cel-shaded, which brings a great result; every map looks full of colour and vibrant, opposing the usual dark and dreary design a lot of games are going for nowadays. It certainly adds to the humour of the game; matches seem more fun and less serious. They say the graphical design of a game determines what kind of game it is, and, while I don’t usually agree, it rings true for this game, and the graphics definitely suit the feel of the game.
The beta allowed us access to only two missions of the campaign, but both were enough to give us an insight into the style of campaign they were going for; humour and silliness. The two missions in question were The Void’s Edge and The Algorithim, and both felt unique, albeit with a general layout to both. The first mission (Void) took us to the planet of Solas, as an alien force, known as the Varelsi, attempts to take over and destroy it. Our mission is to clear out a fort, then escort a Wolf Bot (four-legged robot with a large gun that can talk. Because why not?) to the portal that the aliens are using and detonate itself to destroy the portal. Immediately, you can see the humour they are going for in the campaign, as our ship bounces off walls, the AI retorting that she’s fine as Kleese (the voice in our ears guiding us to our objectives, as well as being a playable character once you unlock him) freaks out. The Wolf Bot, despite being on a suicide mission, doesn’t realise his own mortality, and keeps believing that he’s going to come home with the rest of us. 2K are going for the humour factor with their jokes and characters, and you can definitely see it here.
The multiplayer gave us access to two game modes; Incursion and Meltdown. Incursion centres around two teams escorting “minion” robots (little robots, not the yellow ones…) to the enemy team’s sentry bot, and remove the shields so we can destroy them. The first team to destroy the enemy’s sentries wins. Meltdown, on the other hand, requires us to escort teams of minions to portals, where they’ll be sacrificed to an AI god. The first to reach 500 points wins. Both types felt different from each other, instead of a reskinned match. Incursion required us to work together and push forward at all costs, as the enemy team did the same, and every Incursion match was long and nearly reached the time limit every time, with how difficult it was to push through. Meltdown, however, was quite the opposite, with our team splitting in half to escort each minion team, going on the defensive to ensure our team made it, as well as destroying the enemy minions as they passed. Both felt fun to play and show that 2K is on the right track with this game.
Understandably, there are a few bugs, such as not spawning at the beginning of the match or not being able to use your weapon for a while. The other issue it suffers from is lack of content. This is a beta, so forgivable that there isn’t much to do, and ultimately this will be different in the full release. But right now, it’s the kind of game that you play in short bursts, rather than playing it continuously.
Overall though, the Battleborn beta is definitely fun and worth playing, and I look forward to seeing how the finished product turns out.