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Battleborn is a cooperative “hero shooter” first and foremost. You can pick from one of 25 (yes 25!) different characters, join up with four other people (or play solo) to fight hordes of enemies across eight massive interlinking campaign missions. As well as that, you can turn to the competitive PvP mode where you duke it out against other like minded players.

The premise for the large scale battles is a suitably large scale apocalyptic event. Seems in the far, far future an evil race called the Varelsi, led by space vampire Lothar Rendain, set out to “darken the universe” (I’ve had hangovers likes that before) by snubbing out all the stars. All that remains is the last star, Solus, and the only ones left to try and stop him are a bunch rag-tag warrior refugees.

Gameplay is a standard FPS point and bang affair mixed with some RPG and MOBA elements. As you play any of the game modes or maps, you start out each time with zero links in your still tree – or “Helix” as it’s called. As you achieve objectives, generally shoot/destroy things or find pick-up’s, you can change your DNA to spec your character in different ways. Do you want to increase your armour to suck up enemy damage, or do you want to be the damage dealer …or a bit of both? Finding the perfect combination can be tricky, however the more you play a character the more you get to know them – as well as unlock special “mutations” (also not to mention copious amounts of skins and emotes).

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25 playable characters may seem a lot to try and familiarise yourselves with, however these are unlocked as you play and majority are split into the distinct, and familiar groupings of:

  • Tanks who can take damage.
  • Range damage dealers.
  • Support class who fight, but also can grant team healing and buffs.

On top of this although some look very similar to each other, such as gun wielding Oscar Mike and Whisky Foxtrot, they do differ enough to make deciding as to whom is joining the battle a tricky one. Characters are customisable with not only in-game boost pick-ups, reward skins and taunts (more will appear in DLC naturally) but also with loot. Gear can be collected in-game or via special packs can be purchased providing random enhancements which can be activated in game, giving modifiers for such things as damage reduction or granting a quick buff to shield strength.

Gearbox have been squeezing as much juice as it can from planet Pandora and its vault hunter inhabitants for years, so it’s no surprise some of the things that make Borderlands great are present once again. In particular Battleborn aims for some laughs. It does have plenty of humour but I found the delivery to be particularly poorly timed. In Borderlands you can meet someone on your journey and take in and enjoy what’s being said, however in Battleborn because the game is always moving, the direction has witty dialogue playing during battles meaning it can be lost. Other than the similarity in funnies, the game also strives for a more unique visual style. It’s true that it does have one, and it follows throughout the game making it really stand out, however you could argue things to get cluttered and confusing. With five players shooting/firing off specials at enemies (who are also doing the same back at you), you can find yourself bombarded with stimulus resulting in it being difficult to ascertain what’s going on. “Am I healing you or taking damage?” for example.

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The levels themselves are big, and run time of each will set you back approximately 30 minutes per map (if you or your team don’t wish to explore too much). They do take place in some mind blowing and beautiful environments, however the objectives on each tend to follow quite a repetitive experience. More often than not if you’re not fighting your way through a gazillion mobs to point A then told to kill a boss, you’re killing a gazillion mobs whilst protecting an escort to point B. Boss battles are fun the first time, but once you know where the weak spot is repetition can be a slog. That is if the objective or target isn’t bugged! Bugs are something that I too frequently encountered when playing and they were truly heart breaking. Having played a level for 29 minutes I found the final boss would be stood motionless and unkillable. Just devastating. Having it happen on different map right after the other pretty much ruined my evening. From speaking with other players in-game and friends who are playing on Xbox One and PS4 this doesn’t appear to be a one off. Fingers crossed this is something that is being looked at as a priority.

While I’m on a run, I want to talk about my dislike for multiplayer. I consider myself a competent digital athlete, however the only successes I could count during online matches was when all five team members used a combined weight to bulldoze the little person. In other competitive games, with some skill you can take on more than one (or larger) opponent and win. However in Battleborn due to the class system if you’re a lower health character (support for example), alone and in the open you haven’t a hope. The time to kill time feels too ridiculously short for certain characters vs others. A quick 1-2 combo from some will be enough to have you sat in spawn waiting to come back. In fact you’d last even less time if you get cornered by a melee damage dealer, such as lethal sword brandishing Rath. You could argue that a skilled player would know how to counter successfully, but overall I find the characters to be too unbalanced for multiplayer. Playing Team Fortress 2 again (which, honestly, Battleborn multiplayer has borrowed from) or the Overwatch beta (again TF2 influenced), you can tell that a big portion of the development time has been spent looking at how these characters fit together. 25 character may just be too many for adversarial mode to work well, or enough focus wasn’t spent on this portion by the developers.

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Overall as I say the presentation is strong, with lots of quirky uniqueness making things look different from what has gone before. Unfortunately it doesn’t feel different for long. With a limited number of maps, replayability is attempted to be satisfied by the promise of extra loot for completing the levels at harder difficulty settings, but with spawns and AI remaining the same on each run, I don’t know if that’s enough to keep me coming back. I had a blast with Battleborn but I unfortunately don’t think it has earnt the same love as another Gearbox Software game.

(and it isn’t Aliens Colonial Marines).

Battleborn is available now on PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.