Battleborn: Born to win?

This past December, myself and a few others from Swansea University were invited down to Birmingham’s NEC for Multiplay’s tri-annual event Insomnia. Whilst we were there we got a hands-on look at 2K’s and Gearbox’s new IP Battleborn. With Borderlands under their belt it’ll be no surprise to most that Battleborn is already shaping up to be a real contender in the market.

Battleborn is their answer to a growing library of games which aim to deliver a cross between MOBAs and FPS titles. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t go into it expecting a clone of Team Fortress 2 or Overwatch. However I was gladly surprised when I finally managed to get my hands on the game, it isn’t all that much similar to the two I mentioned above.

Instead Battleborn plays its own game. Mixing between objective taking, killing creeps and silencing foes. Overall the games mechanical aspects feel deeper than what has been offered from Overwatch and Team Fortress so far. One such mechanic which illustrates this is the shard system. It’s a simple premise, collect shards from nodes on the map. These shards can then be turned in for upgrades such as making and upgrading turrets across the map or even spawning ‘mega’ creeps to help your creep waves push further into the enemy’s territory.

Character progression also offers a refreshing change. The basis is much the same as most other MOBAs, you level up, you get stats and a skill point. However Battleborn somehow streamlines and expands this process all in one. Each time you level you get a choice between two separate skills. The catch is that whatever skill you don’t choose you can’t get next level. In turn this means you have to think about your late game when picking up early skills. Is that movement speed going to be vital? Or would you much rather have a longer pointier stick instead?

The game is still in beta and as such balancing is an issue. Some of the characters feel like they could 1v5 entire enemy teams. One such character, who I was playing luckily, was Phoebe. Phoebe is a sword wielding knight. Although she has a low health pool her attack strength is one of the highest in the game. If she gets within 6 feet of you, you might as well start thinking about what lane you’re going to push after you respawn. Like I said, it’s only beta so don’t expect such imbalance come launch.

The game is also enjoyable to watch. Whilst at the NEC we got access to the eSports segment of the show and with it a look at Battleborn in tournament format. It was enjoyable to watch, granted I didn’t know 100% exactly what was going on. It looks to fill a niche in that regard, an eSports FPS with a bigger role on character selection, almost like if Dota 2 and CS:GO had a baby. With eSports a growing figure in the entertainment world it wouldn’t surprise me to see 2K and Gearbox push their game into that sector.

Overall I’m really excited to see how 2K’s contribution moulds the industry. Whether they’re going to snatch the crown from the hype-train of Overwatch or if it leads to a duopoly in the market which means us gamers win.

Battleborn is released on May 3rd 2016 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC.