Battleborn PC Review: Melting Pot

Battleborn PC Review: Melting Pot

What happens when Battleborn tries to combine the FPS and MOBA genres? A mess.

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Part 2

I really wanted to give Battleborn a chance. No, seriously. But everytime I've made myself sit down with it, I've come to the same conclusion: it's got too many problems right now.

So I'll start with the good - I actually think the single-player missions are fun to play in a group. It's got that touch of Borderlands to it, which unfortunately means that the humor is still there but the loot and customization isn't, but co-op (mostly) cures all ills. Even playing with a random group of people online, it's fun scything through waves of enemies and multiple bosses.

The missions play a bit like MMORPG raids, with each level breaking down into a series of challenges such as defending a pillar against waves of enemies or activating an object to open a door. It sounds mundane - and in some ways it kind of is - but the unimaginative levels are compensated for by the sheer weight of enemies to kill. The bosses, too, are old-school in their own way, with most of them having some weak point you have to shoot to expose them to concentrated fire. It's all rote and boring when playing alone; but in a group, it's a fun enough way to pass the time and unlock some characters. I wouldn't necessarily recommend it to a group looking for their next co-op game, though - Battleborn's levels are neither numerous nor all that challenging.

With that said, the eight levels do have both a hardcore mode and advanced difficulty, which may prove enticing to some. If I'm being honest, though, I don't think that Battleborn's solo campaign is really intended to be its main selling point - it feels a little too perfunctory for that. Still, it was the part of Battleborn that I ended up enjoying the most.

I guess that probably says something about how I feel about the multiplayer, which is ostensibly what Battleborn is all about. As I've said before, Battleborn will inevitably be compared to Overwatch because they both have that slick animated look and rapidfire humor; but from a gameplay standpoint, they could not be more different. Of the two, Battleborn is much more deliberate and tactical, putting a huge premium on team composition no matter which of the three modes you play. Characters level up and have to choose which abilities and stats to buff on the fly, changing their role in the party as they do. As with the MOBA genre, if one player doesn't understand their role in their party, it's pretty tough to win.

That's kind of where the similarities to League of Legends and its ilk end, though. MOBAs, as you may know, are defined by phases: there's laning, there's the big push, and there's the endgame. Good players can take advantage of mistakes or be very aggressive and maybe speed up the process, but otherwise pretty much every match stays within that specific framework. Battleborn, by contrast, has no such framework, which makes its MOBA matches feel chaotic and disorganized. Without lanes, matches inevitably boil down to a heated battle around the chokepoint where the minions pass through, which soon becomes tedious. Good, well-organized teams will understand when to push through that chokepoint and when to play defense, and the tactics are bolstered by a side corridor and NPC Thrall Mercenaries who can enhance your attack; but in random groups, such strategy tend to get lost in the shuffle. Because Battleborn is a shooter, random players tend to want to go off and shoot things, which almost always ends poorly. Moreso than any MOBA, Battleborn is just not that fun to play with random people.

That feeling is exacerbated by a few other issues. Battleborn initially locks its roster, making only a handful of the 25 heroes available at the outset. On the face of it, this gives players something to work toward so they'll keep playing, but there's a reason that both Smash Bros. and Street Fighter have abandoned that particular model - it just feels too constrictive. Unlocking the roster feels like busy work, and it ultimately just keeps you from the characters that you actually want to play.

Beyond that, Battleborn's tiny selection of maps is a real problem. When a battle begins, everyone gets to vote on which map they want, and they inevitably pick the same level every single time. There are only two maps per mode to begin with, and none of them stand out as being particularly interesting or noteworthy in their design, but playing the exact same map in each mode gets tiresome in a hurry. The lack of maps makes it feel like 2K left far too much content to post-launch patches and DLC.

Mostly, Battleborn feels constrained by its initial vision of being a MOBA FPS. It's a real drag, for instance, to not be able to change characters in the middle of the map. True, you can't do that in League of Legends either; but it would have been nice to be able to do that in, say, Capture Mode given how a bad team comp can completely screw you. On that note, Battleborn hides a lot of the character info on the roster screen; and even if you have a decent grasp of the characters, it can be tough to tell off the bat what each character is good for. The fact that you can't switch around and experiment in the non-MOBA modes makes it that much more frustrating when you get stuck in a bad team comp, and it makes it less likely that you're going to take a risk and experiment with a character that you're not familiar with.

So with that, I find Battleborn pretty tough to recommend in its current state. I think there's a glimmer of promise to it - it can be legitimately fun when two well-rounded teams who actually communite with one another go at it - but its lack of maps and the frustration of playing with random people makes it a turnoff for those who don't really want to throw themselves into it. As with so many other games, it may be much better down the road. Right now, though, the negatives outweigh the positives.

Interface
Battleborn does a poor job of showing what your team is missing at the roster select screen. Otherwise, Battleborn sticks to convention with its interface.

Lasting appeal
Battleborn may have some lasting appeal when it gets more maps. For now, its multiplayer feels painfully limited.

Sound
Battleborn's quips are fairly repetitive and eventually just start to wash over you. There's nothing in particular to commend its music or graphics.

Visuals
Battleborn's graphics feel oddly outdated; but at the same time, it has performance issues on an AMD card. I'm not a particular fan of its art direction, which tries for Saturday morning cartoon, but mostly feels generic.

Battleborn has its moments, but its lack of maps and other niggling flaws makes it tough to recommend. There may well be a perfect FPS MOBA out there somewhere; but with Battleborn, the two genres feel fundamentally at odds with one another. It's not helped by its generic art direction and painfully unfunny sense of humor, which mostly consists of pointing toward some well-worn trope and asking, "Isn't that silly?" Right now, it feels geared toward the hardcore community in a way that makes it not very fun to play for more casual fans; and as Battleborn hasn't shown itself to be worth that kind of investment, I'm ready to take my leave of it.

3/5

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Kat Bailey

Editor in Chief

Kat Bailey is a former freelance writer and contributor to publications including 1UP, IGN, GameSpot, GamesRadar, and EGM. Her fondest memories as a journalist are at GamePro, where she hosted RolePlayer's Realm and had legal access to the term "Protip." She is USgamer's resident mecha enthusiast, Pokemon Master, and Minnesota Vikings nut (skol).

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