Battleborn (PC) Review

By Chris Leebody 22.08.2016

Review for Battleborn on PC

2K Games' Battleborn (also on PlayStation 4) comes amid a period that seems dominated by a new wave of 'Triple A' developed, competitive multiplayer first-person shooter titles. Blizzard Entertainment's Overwatch is the one that has captured most of the Press attention, but being responsible for the highly successful Borderlands series, Battleborn has some significant pedigree of its own behind it. Unlike its rivals, it also boasts content beyond the competitive 'PvP' multiplayer shooting, with a single-player story-focused campaign that can be played solo or co-operatively. Humour is also another thing that marks these two experiences out. Battleborn delves great inspiration from the Borderlands series with its self aware writing style and comic-inspired character design. Ultimately, though it displays an experience more akin to a 'MOBA' title, with multiplayer modes set up around strategic base capturing, as well as the in-match character ability unlocks. It's shooter season, so let's kick things off.

Where the Battleborn experience is often at its most chaotic, it is usually at its most fun. However, this tends to be rather less than would have been hoped. Battleborn is not a pure FPS; the 25 (to start with) characters that make up the playable cast are all augmented with several unlockable abilities in the course of each round. What this does is to present a new challenge beyond the simple shooting mechanics of some genre rivals. The shooting qualities are slick and satisfying, of course, as would be expected of a very competent developer with a track record as such. Saying that, though, Battleborn strives continuously to present a new genre mix, one of traditional FPS with PC MOBA. This manifests itself naturally through having 'hero' characters that have their own play styles and roles, such as 'tanks,' 'healers,' and 'attackers,' as well as the included multiplayer modes, which are very much centred on strategic play being at the very heart of the competitive matches.

All of the above comes with mixed success, though. Take, for example, the characters. One of the most interesting of the cast of personalities is the British butler robot, Marquis, who has a wit and charming love of death and destruction that only Gearbox Software is able to convey satisfactorily. He acts as a sort of cross between a 'healer' and 'attacker,' using a temporal distortion ability to place a slowing effect on an area of the battlefield for the opposing team, but speeds up allies, all the while unleashing his homing owl to cause chaos.

Screenshot for Battleborn on PC

That all sounds good - and it is - but in this kind of genre, the balance is impossible to find. Too many times in Battleborn the balance is lost, such as when comparing Marquis to other characters, like the rather dull and mundane Boldur whose attacks are more unreliable, and whose character does nothing to make the sacrifice to adapt to his play style worth it, either for the team or the individual. This is, ultimately, one of the flaws of ability-based character classes.

However, on the upside, at least it makes the player consider some strategic choices throughout the matches. A system that is implemented really well is allowing every in-game mode to contribute to the development of characters, which means that it rewards consistent use and commitment to a character. In every mode, kills and experience will all add up to unlocking new abilities through the 'helix' system - the system used to unlock abilities during a match.

Characters advance up to Level 10 in each game played and unlock a variety of skills during this advancement. It is up to you as the player to decide what skills to choose and, for the most part, they do differ enough to feel meaningful without completely wrecking the balance any further. It adds another strategic layer that isn't always present in a lot of normal shooting titles. Do you, for example, buff the effect of Marquis' temporal abilities and make the radius bigger, or do you add a damage effect to it instead? Interesting choices that make the player think.

What possibly isn't so meaningful is the loot system in which loot is unlocked after each game. As with most of these types of experiences, when it comes to loot, the time sink commitment to get the best equipment is the biggest obstacle, unless, of course, you are willing to delve into the micro-transaction market in order to get there faster.

Beyond this, character progression is limited to cosmetic changes, such as colour template alterations, as well as unlocking lore, which gives little background chunks of information into each character and is usually a humorous anecdote about them. It is a small feature but it adds to the charm and also the engagement with the characters, allowing them to feel more unique than simply stat numbers on the screen.

Screenshot for Battleborn on PC

The other 'MOBA' influence comes in the shape of the competitive mode offerings. With the exception of 'Capture,' which is just a typical team death match featuring control points, both other included modes - 'Incursion' and 'Meltdown' - are centred round strategic map management and team play.

'Incursion' is the one that is most successful and probably what the majority of time online will be spent playing. Both teams fight on a symmetrical map and have to destroy the opposing team's shielded sentry robot. Like a 'MOBA' battlefield, the player heroes have some AI allies alongside them and so PvP is mixed with PvE. For the most part this mode works very well, and it naturally encourages a central 'action zone' filled with a lot of chaos as character abilities collide. Where it perhaps falls down is where any team-based title falls down: the unreliability of fellow players and nowhere is this starker than here. A team can be devastated by one moment of selfishness by one player when the situation flips from manageable to unrecoverable.

Teams in Battleborn are only as good as the sum of their parts. No matter how good you as an individual play, once those parts are abandoned to selfishness, or just flat out abandoned (sadly, players leaving matches if they feel it is a lost cause is far too common), suddenly the fun you were once having seems to be stacked against you. It is a frustrating reality to know that fighting alongside people farming for character 'XP' ahead of the objective is a strong possibility.

Screenshot for Battleborn on PC

It is also important to note that the wait times for getting into any of the PVP modes online is too long. This needs to be an area of considerable improvement in future patches and updates if a long-term multiplayer community is to be established. Around launch, it took around 10 minutes on numerous occasions to assemble the full 10 vs. 10 player count and this was not even correctly balanced when it came to loot and levels.

Thankfully, story mode was different and this is arguably where Battleborn shines and has a real advantage over its rivals. Unlike others, Gearbox chose to include a story mode that could be played as a solo player or competitively with three others online. Getting into story mode online is a much quicker process and the system of allowing a number of different choices of map that each player has to vote on is wonderful. Don't be expecting a riveting tale of narrative complexity, though! The actual plot is nothing that hasn't been seen before: a foreboding enemy known as the Varelsi who is intent on wiping out the universe. The player is tasked with battling over a number of planets within the last star as one of a collection of heroes.

The prologue when the game is first launched introduces a richly developed anime-style cut-scene that sets up the expectation for something special. In reality, it consists of eight missions where the objective is to simply advance through the linear maps killing things, with a few bits of dialogue thrown in for context, and a boss battle at the end. Each level can be completed within the margin of about 20-60 minutes. However, at least a lot of the dialogue is quite funny and engaging and, ultimately, it is worth playing through simply with the goal of unlocking some of the locked characters.

Screenshot for Battleborn on PC

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

There is no doubt that at its best Battleborn is a very fun game. It is a colourful delight and the visuals really pop amongst the chaos of flashing lights, explosions, and movement. The characters are all quite memorable and well designed, with humorous charismatic touches to their personalities. Not to mention it is a fine shooter in its own right. The disappointment is that a lot of the experience lacks a certain polish that would have really taken it to the next level. The story could have had a bit more time dedicated to making it feel grander and also presenting the missions in a more unique way. The characters also could have also been balanced to a greater degree, and with only having two maps for each multiplayer mode, there is a lot of repetition required during the leveling-up period of character development. Ultimately, although Battleborn is a solid title, sadly it may end up getting overshadowed by some bigger beasts.






First Person Shooter



C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now   


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