‘Battleborn’ – My Surprise of the EB Games Expo

Before the weekend, I had a vague idea of what Battleborn was. It knew that it is a class-based first person action game for PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC, with a single player campaign and multiplayer. It also knew that Battleborn is being developed by Gearbox Software, the team behind the Borderlands series. At the EB Games Expo in Sydney, Australia, I happened to walk past the Battleborn booth and see people playing. I’ve since learnt that it’s a lot of fun, particularly offering a different approach to levelling up in single player games by borrowing from games like League of Legends or Dota 2.

You can definitely see the influence of Borderlands here, particularly in the art style. Battleborn has a cel-shaded visual style that looks fantastic thanks to the power of current PCs and consoles. Whether it’s the environment, or effects from character’s abilities, colours pop on screen, making Battleborn beautiful to look at. This is a game not taking itself too seriously; it is Gearbox Software after all.

But what’s a game without great gameplay? Battleborn appears to have that down pat too – at least from what I played. Battleborn is a class-based game, with each character having their own skills and abilities. There were ten characters for our team of five to choose from (25 heroes have been confirmed for launch). Each character has a basic attack, and three unique skills to utilise .In one playthrough, I chose Phoebe, a melee based character with a sabre. While in the other, I chose Thorn, a ranged character with a bow and arrow. Both were extremely fun to play. With Phoebe I was charging right into the action, using my skills to teleport around the level to engage groups of enemies. Meanwhile, my team mates could back me up from a distance with their ranged skills. As Thorn, I stayed back from the front line, charging up arrows to land powerful critical hits.

More interesting is the levelling system present in Battleborn. Every time you start a new mission, your character starts from level one again (like MOBAs). Throughout the mission, you gain levels (up to ten) which allow you to choose one of two upgrades every time in what Gearbox is calling the Helix system (it’s shaped like a DNA strand). For example, do you want to allow Thorn’s arrows to penetrate multiple targets, or do you want your melee attack to propel her backwards to create distance between her and enemies? Each game can feel different as you choose different combinations of skills to level up each time.

I only played part of one mission in Battleborn, but it was extremely fun. At its core, players, alone or in five person co-op, run through a level killing waves upon waves of enemies while completing objectives. In our mission, we had to clear out what appeared to be some kind of an armoury, and then open a path outside where we found a walking tank. We then had to guide the tank to some ruins, and then protect it while it opened the door. There was never a slow moment, bar a few seconds of story exposition to explain why we are doing things. Enemies appeared in numbers and from multiple directions, requiring everyone to pull their weight if we wanted to survive. It was fast, consistent action. If this is what Battleborn’s whole campaign is going to be like, it should be a fun time.

I went to the EB Games Expo knowing very little about Battleborn, but I left it wanting to play more. Combat was fun, the game looked beautiful and the Helix system and class-based elements will hopefully offer plenty of replayability.

We were playing a pre-alpha version of the game, but Gearbox Software appears to be well on its way to making Battleborn’s February 9, 2016 release date.