STAFF REVIEW of Battleborn (Xbox One)

Sunday, May 15, 2016.
by Brent Roberts

Battleborn Box art Ever hear the phrase: "A Jack of all trades is a master of none?" It's a phrase that fits a game that seems to have some self-identifying issues to contend with. When you hear the name Gearbox, you automatically know you're in for a quality ride with some serious strait jackets, a bottle of liquor, and more explosions than a Michael Bay movie. Battleborn is the latest venture away from the Vaults and Pandora, and Gearbox is taking aim at creating a fun and addictive shooter-moba-loot-kill-everything type game thing and I realized that this is a game that wears many hats, almost like a 'Jack of all trades'.

These many hats belong to the whopping MOBA-style, 25-character roster that becomes the foundation of Battleborn. If you have ever wanted to play a game in a wide variety of ways, then 2K Games latest release has you covered. Not all characters are available at the beginning though and most are unlocked through completing campaign missions or specific challenges. This very deep pool of superegos varies in their play style, but they all have upgradable DNA (their version of an ability tree) that allow each character to transfer into a total badass.

This double helix allows you to select a development path for your abilities as you level up, which is fairly simplistic in nature. Reach a certain level, choose between two possible upgrades, rinse and repeat until you come to the end of your development where you will realize that your character has become a one-person wrecking crew, and that your skill tree resets back to the beginning with each new mission.

My Oscar Mike soldier became what seemed to be an unstoppable force by the end of each campaign level. Armed with a grenade launcher, orbital attack, stealth camouflage, and an automatic assault rifle, it was almost unfair. My grenades were sprouting more grenades that all burst into flames, ammo for my assault rifle would penetrate enemy shields, my orbital strike went through floors so I could target enemies indoors, and it was extreme chaos so long as my shield stayed active and my health did not deplete.

Shield management became paramount as I would unload multiple clips until I noticed the shield meter drop, then I hid until it recharged and I popped back out and take on more enemies. This is how the combat is laid out in Battleborn though. You fight X amount of bad guys in one area, then move to the next area and fight X amount more. Collect currency and treasure in-between fights throughout the expansive, yet linear levels, and you have the total summation of what the Battleborn campaign is all about; kill everything and have fun doing it.

The Battleborn Prologue starts out like some adult Saturday morning cartoon. Over the top action that tries to lay the groundwork for what will become an incredibly short, but filled to the brim with action, campaign. Eight levels of intense spell slinging, grenade throwing, sword cutting action that feels detached from the game. Without any real sense of conformity or reason to do what you need to do, the single player campaign has been stitched together like some enormous quilt of heavily medicated visions. Sure there's a start and an end point, but Battleborn doesn't really care about the plot and if you're into action, and I mean an obscene amount of action, then you may not mind the lack of a cohesive plot so much.

There is a jewel within this quilt however, and that is every stitch is a masterful piece of writing. Even though it scarcely makes any sense, the humor of the Battleborn script almost feels like you could look up into the skies and see Pandora itself. There's no question that Battleborn is a beautiful game. The whole cartoonish feel adds a characteristic quality of frivolity to the experience.

Battleborn is a shooter that thrives on the multiplayer experience, which also includes the campaign. Going through the levels by yourself, you will not only be limited as to what you can achieve in terms of exploration and challenge completion, but you're also denying yourself one hell of a good time. Earlier I touched on character development and turning your hero into a raging beast of dominance, but in Battleborn what if you can take a whole team of raging beasts of dominance heroes? You can.

Rampaging and crushing through levels with overpowered displays of unbridled power, Battleborn takes you on a roller-coaster ride that you never want to end. This multiplayer experience is the core of Battleborn which also means that the dedicated multiplayer section should provide a sustainable wealth of content, but it doesn't. Clocking in with a grand total of six, yes six maps, Battleborn's multiplayer feels rather anemic as it is stripped down and broken into three types of multiplayer games, and each mode has two maps. Let me repeat that. Two maps. There are some more serious dents in the infrastructure of the multiplayer experience too.

One great example of this is when your multiplayer game is over you are automatically kicked back to the main menu thus forcing you to reconnect. There's more as well, including when you start tossing the word 'microtransactions' around. You can purchase cosmetic items through the individual packs that are released, or you can save some cash and purchase Battleborn's Season Pass that will add on an additional $20 USD and consists of five packs of new skins and taunts and one new story operation. Finally, you can get the deluxe edition of Battleborn for $75 which also includes the Season Pass plus some exclusive cosmetic items, you know, so you can show off to your friends how much money you spent on a game.

It feels as though Battleborn wanted to be so much of everything including an RPG, a MOBA, an FPS, and the list goes on, but instead of trying to be good at everything, I would suggest that it should have been great at a few things. It's a shame really because there is tremendous potential here and I can actually see Battleborn becoming another great IP from Gearbox, but only after they iron out the technical issues with the multiplayer connectivity, the length of the campaign, the amount of multiplayer levels, etc. So, Should you go out and play this game? Without hesitation I say yes, as even though there are many faults, Battleborn becomes the hardcore beast of action entertainment and explosions that it would make even Deadpool give a pronounced slow golf clap.

A few technical issues to work out, plus some more content for the multiplayer section instead of grinding out campaign missions.

Overall: 7.0 / 10
Gameplay: 7.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 7.0 / 10


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