Battleborn is not just a multiplayer game. It is another experiment in the hero shooter genre that seems to have cemented itself as the logical next step in the evolution of FPS games. It takes the formula, expands on it with PvE arenas, and sets players loose to test the waters.

Batleborn

Let’s get the ugly sweaters out of the closet first. Releasing the game around the time of the Overwatch beta? Not exactly a bright move. Though it was Blizzard who shot first by hosting the free Overwatch beta during the same time frame, 2K should have reacted, or at the least, bit the bullet and pushed the release date. Pride would have been bruised and money would have been lost, yes, but we may have been looking at a stronger launch and a healthier playerbase.

Instead, what 2K did was mind-boggling no matter how you look at it. They did not adequately promote the game, or highlight its unique features, and they just threw it out into the wilds with no fanfare, probably hoping that fans would pick up the wave and promote it for them. If so, how short-sighted and misguided.

All that said, Gearbox have not exactly been on the fan-service train, either. Most everything they have touched recently that is not Borderlands has sucked. No other IP of theirs has even remotely been treated with the same glamour that the Borderlands games enjoy. When a novel game that works for most of the time does launch, it’s a shame that it be bundled with their previous mishaps. The last time they peeked over their screens to talk to fans, it was with Aliens Colonial Marines. You’d think some convincing or reassurance was in order. Something to assure people that Aliens was a mishap, and not a norm.

It’s Ok, Mr. Pitchford. I will be that gamer who enjoys your game and sells it for you, but get your studio’s shit together. It’s become obvious that all you are doing is collecting funds to better the eventual Borderlands 3 rather than benefit and advance on the Battleborn formula. I want more heroes, more maps, more players online. Look how passionate your fanbase is! To quote one fan, speaking to Gearbox, and edited for sanity’s sake:

Go on Twitch, go to League of Legends streamers, and pay some of the top ones to play your game (Battleborn) for a few days. While you’re at it, give them copies to share with their friends and to give away. A few days with a couple of hundred thousand people watching the game will give it the much needed exposure, as well as maybe create more passionate players.

Battleborn is lots of fun. Never mind low-information gamers who prematurely, and pompously, pledge allegiance to the Blizzard campaign; Overwatch is a different game completely. If you want a PvP-exclusive game, then Overwatch should be your go-to game. If you favor PvE experiences and a refreshing take on MOBAs, Battleborn should be your choice of game. with 25 characters to choose from, nine PvE maos and three PvP ones, in addition to one raid, there is more than enough content bundled here to satisfy gamers.

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Running the gamut of classes, you have support, casters, DPS, and tanks. Character designs are expectantly outrageous–this is a Gearbox game afterall. At its worst, Battleborn forces you to adapt to a myriad of characters, each with  their own skills, speeds and reaction times, and does little to explain anything to you. You are expected to pick up the pieces for yourself, filling in the blanks for what is unfortunately lazy, back-handed game design. Here’s how I imagine the talks took place at Gearbox HQ:

“So, let’s make a game with classes. It’ll be a MOBA, but we’ll make it needlessly complex to veil creativity. It’ll resemble Borderlands, and to associate both projects, we’ll make both titles have three syllables, but hey, we’re far up our asses as is, so let’s go one step further. Where “Bor” is the first syllable in Borderlands, we’ll make it the last syllable in our new title.”#Genius.

I hate, I hate, but there are so many technical mishaps and game mechanics that had been ironed out in similar past games. Their presence in Battleborn forces me to take a step back and question how far they scaled back the production to meet the unfortunate launch date?

At its best, however, Battleborn is a sublime shooter with a caveat: it is only really fun when you are gaming with friends. Online matchmaking works, but the level system is broken, much as it in all hero shooters. Even if your team comprised of high-level players, if this was the first time they play with their selected characters, you’re going to lose. Monumentally.

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Some gamers will undoubtedly highlight the grind, or bring up the limited number of maps. Yes, you will find yourself playing through the same maps time and time again, but not unlike Destiny, a game people are quick to draw comparisons to and speak fondly of. Where one game has you level up a class from a choice of three, Battleborn grants you 25 characters, with five more to be added starting from next week.

Truth be told, Destiny is arguably the best FPS game ever, and placing Battleborn on the same mantle is stretching things. A lot. I guess I just want people to give this game a shot before it is thrown into the shovelware bin where it seems to be headed.

What then is Battleborn’s flaw? Is it trying to be too may things at the same time? Perhaps. Could it have benefited from more studio-time? I’m sure. Do its negatives outweigh its positives? Debatable. You see, Gearbox are too familiar with a little thing called hubris. Everything they set out to do has to be larger than life, and in-your-face loud. This may work by chance with games the likes of the Borderlands games, but anymore bombastic claims and they may as well hire Peter Molyneux.

The PvP elements will certainly prove to be the majority of Battleborn’s player base, but unless you are thick-skinned to trolls and elitists, you will probably have a miserable time. Every time I logged on, my opposing team would have at least three players at levels 30+, while my team would peak at level 15 due to the damned Elo rating. Eventhough we would all share the same set of skills, experience playing a map can easily give you a leg up, and you can bet your ass that a level 40 player has already clocked in hundreds of hours.

But it’s not just the skilled or toxic gamers that will put you off of the PvP features. It’s the fact that everyone seems inclined to play only one mode, voted on before each match, and the maps are a muddled experience that has people shooting all over the place on a TDM trip, neglecting the prime objective. Can you really blame them when there is no adequate tutorial, or clear explanation of objectives? Battleborn seems to expect you to not only have played MOBA games, but to have been competent in their nuances as well.

Should the game be berated for trying to be a jack of all trades, or should it be celebrated for offering an alternative multiplayer experience? The answer is subjective, and you will have to establish that for your self.

Battleborn is available for PS4 (reviewed), Xbox One, PC. A review code was made available to us via 2K.

PROS
Novel concepts and a step forward in the MOBA genre
PvE is fun, but playing with friends is all but a necessity
CONS
Launching around the same time as Overwatch
Some technical hitches that soil the experience
PvP is a hit-and-miss affair.
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