‘Battleborn’ Open Beta Impressions

From the creator of Borderlands, comes a new team-based hero shooter with MOBA elements called Battleborn. I had hands on with a story mission at the EB Games Expo last year, but recently an open beta was held for all who wanted to check the game out before launch. The Battleborn Open Beta featured two 5v5 multiplayer game modes and two story missions, one of which I played at the Expo.

Considering myself a veteran hero shooter and MOBA player, I decided to grab fellow editor and MOBA noob Devon McCarty to see what his experience with the Battleborn Open Beta was like compared to mine.

Story Missions

Nathan (the veteran): I’m not sure if there’s going to be much of a story joining Battleborn‘s story missions, but they are definitely fun to play. A group of up to five players jump in, choose their characters and run through a linear environment killing everything in their path. I loved that the environments in both missions looked very different to each other. One was set on an icy planet, while the other was set mainly inside a metallic structure. The mission structures were fairly similar for both missions, with a mini boss fight about halfway through, and then a final boss fight at the end. They were a lot of fun, and took roughly 30 minutes on the normal difficulty. There aren’t really any MOBA elements in the story missions, apart from levelling up your hero from level one each session, so I believe they will be perfect for newcomers to test out the different playable characters and their abilities.

You can tell that Battleborn is being developed by the minds behind Borderlands, with the same witty humor peeking its head up in the dialogue.

Devon (the noob): For my first foray into the game, a lot of the people that joined in on my campaign were just running around and blasting the hell out of everything. Everyone joined in easy enough and we all followed whatever path was available for us to take. For the Beta, there were only a handful of missions available, and obviously it was limited and left me wanting to see what else was in store. Saying that, the last few beta’s I’ve played left me with the same feeling, and when the game came out, far exceeded my expectations.

5v5 Multiplayer Game Modes

Nathan: This was the first time I’d played Battleborn‘s multiplayer modes, and I was interested to see how much they drew from MOBA games like League of LegendsDOTA 2 and SMITE. There were two game modes in Battleborn‘s open beta, Incursion and Meltdown (a third will be available at launch called capture).

Incursion sees each team moving minions along a single lane to try and destroy two enemy spider tanks. The spider tanks are essentially turrets from the MOBA genre. It keeps the action centered as each team meets in the middle of the map and participates in a tug of war. I’d say this is MOBA newcomer friendly, with novices not having to worry about protecting three lanes. There appears to be enough strategy for veteran MOBA players with three neutral camps to fight over which spawn powerful allied mercenaries that help push the lane. There are also turrets and health stations to purchase around the map with the game’s currency, shards, that players can collect from crystals on the map and from minion deaths. It’s very fast paced, and the 30 minute time limit kept games from dragging on.

It should be said that at first Incursion can be a little daunting, even for a veteran player like myself, because of how focused the action is. Battleborn is a very pretty game with lots of colourful explosions and attacks flying across the screen, and it can be confusing telling what’s what until you become more familiar.

Devon: Meltdown was my instant favourite. It was the only time where I knew exactly what was going on and had a blast with it. The goal was simply to escort your minions (little robot dudes) into the giant robot face of your opponent. The little dudes would run into their robot face and destroy it.

I know it sounds simplistic, but I had a blast defending my guys, and destroying the other teams. Of all the game modes available on the Beta, Meltdown was easily my favorite.

Nathan: Likewise, my favourite game mode was also Meltdown. Like Devon said, Meltdown is played on a smaller two-lane map and has teams pushing minions into an incinerator to score points, with the first to 500, or the most points after 30 minutes, winning. This map required more strategy because if one lane was left open, the other team could gain the advantage by pushing its minions into its incinerators. Like Incursion, there are turrets and health stations to purchase around the map to provide advantages for your team.

I like that Battleborn has taken MOBA elements, and changed the formula a bit to create game modes that are accessible for veterans and newcomers alike, but also have room for strategy. The 30 minute timer is a great edition, with most games over by the 20 minute mark anyway.

The Heroes

Devon: I’m still pretty new to MOBA style games. So I kept picking Oscar Mike, which turned my game into a first person shooter. There are so many different character classes to pick from, each with their own level tree to follow, that I would have probably been even more confused by picking something I didn’t understand. At least with Oscar Mike, I had a solid foundation to work from because a dude with a rifle is the same all over.

Nathan: Battleborn‘s hero selection appears to be quite impressive. There’s a nice variety of heroes to fit each playstyle, and most of them were fun to play as. Not every hero will be playable from the get-go, with players unlocking heroes by levelling up or by completing a challenge associated with the hero. Some are even unlocked by playing the main story missions.

Class wise, there are long range snipers, damage absorbing tanks, support characters that heal and shield, assassins with skills that hit hard and fast, and mages that deal steady damage. Each class has a different playstyle and they were all fun to use. My favourites were Rath, a melee based swordsman who’s attacks give him lifesteal, Orendi, a ranged mage who throws down an area of effect spell that is great for clearing minions, and Reyna, a ranged character who can apply an overshield to herself and an ally while launching homing missiles at enemies. With 25 playable characters, it will be interesting to see how balanced all of the characters are when the game launches, especially the characters unlocked at later levels.

The most important topic: Gameplay

Devon: Playing “Meltdown” was the only time I ever fully understood my objective. I played through the campaign with some people and we couldn’t figure out what was going on. We had already killed everything to kill, and then we couldn’t find a path or objective to pursue. It was frustrating because all of the sudden, a gate that was up dropped and we could continue. No one had done anything, it just decided to do so. I’m hoping little things like that are fixed for the full release of the game.

Nathan: Battleborn‘s gameplay was so much fun; I couldn’t stop playing. It’s a first person shooter at its core, and almost feels similar to Borderlands in this regard too. Each character gets a primary attack, a secondary attack, a couple of skills and an ultimate attack. The skills all run on a cooldown system, so you don’t have to worry about mana consumption which keeps the action fast paced.

I must admit that at first it was all very overwhelming because of how colourful Battleborn is, but, like most MOBAs and team-based shooters, once I worked out what each heroes’ skills looked like, it was easy to keep track of what was going on. Gearbox has made several great shooters, and Battleborn‘s Open Beta suggests Gearbox’s next venture could be no different.

Overall thoughts on the Battleborn Open Beta

Devon: Battleborn has a heck of a lot going for it. It’s fun, lighthearted, and easy to pick up and run around in even if you’re not exactly sure what to do. The most fun I had (like any game) was playing with some friends and having them coach me through our objectives. My main concern would be the connectivity issues with doing big parties. That’s the concern with any online heavy game and I always try to be a little easier on a Beta since it is just that. However, if I pick the game up and start having the same connectivity issues I had with the beta, I will be very disappointed. Overall I am looking forward to this title and look forward to hearing more about it.

Nathan: Unlike Devon, I had no connectivity issues during the Open Beta, playing across both Xbox One and PC. I’m extremely excited for Battleborn, and I’m glad it’s not too far away. From my brief weekend with the game, it appears to be shaping up to be a solid first person shooter with interesting re-imaginings of staple MOBA elements. The hero selection can make or break games like this, but it looks like Battleborn is on the right track. I was worried about Battleborn‘s multiplayer modes and thought they might be dumbing down the MOBA genre for shooter fans, but I actually really like the direction Gearbox Software is taking with the multiplayer.

Battleborn will be available worldwide next Tuesday, May 3rd.