My Gatling gun was on the verge of overheating as I popped around a corner and washed a steady stream of bullets point-blank into the face of the nearest unlucky foe. That’s when then announcer gloated “victory is within reach” and in the same mechanized breath, reminded us to “appease our tyrannical robot overlords.” I obliged by extending my meaty brute-hand and flicking my opponent to their doom in one absurd and satisfying finger motion.
There’s no denying that Battleborn is as goofy as it is action-packed, and my time in the recent open beta was punctuated by lots of pleasantly ridiculous moments like this. I found myself chuckling often, though it’s not all yuks and laughs – this colorful first-person multiplayer online battle arena (or MOBA for short) pours on the frenzy tenfold, when opposing teams of players and their mechanized minion cohorts collide in each intense match. Now that Battleborn is available for Xbox One, we figured this would be a great time to take a closer look.
From Borderlands to Battleborn
Given the developer, it’s no big shocker to find that a distinct Borderlands flavor carries over into many subtle facets of Battleborn‘s zany firefights and melee brawls, though developer Gearbox Software’s touch here leans more to the lighthearted and upbeat than the outright grim and grisly. You’ll find plenty of explosions and flying debris on these battlefields, and watching the brightly colored damage tallies stack above the heads of your adversaries while you pummel away is a familiar thrill. But the mounting mayhem never strays far from the cartoonish and comical side of things in combat. I found that rather refreshing, to be honest.
Battleborn‘s five-on-five multiplayer matches fall within well-established MOBA territory, though the parade of outrageous characters and punchy one-liners add lots to the game’s humorous personality. Blasting, clawing, and smashing away in first-person as your team pushes to guide its minions to their goal has a surprising level of depth to it, thanks to the game’s wild cast of combatants.
Out of the 25 unlockable characters, I dug into three or four faves, and fiddled with a few others. Montana, the big uber-pumped muscle dude with bubblegum and the aforementioned icicle-enhanced Gatling gun, quickly became a personal go-to… and his abilities skew toward the goofy instead of the exotic side. Marquis, the gentleman robot who sports sniping abilities, an owl companion, and time control powers, was another popular pick. I also got up-close and personal using Rath, a laser-sword-wielding sci-fi samurai.
Each character has a very different vibe and tactical approach on the battlefield, and the game’s helix abilities (which are handled with a cool “either/or” selecting system for each level you rise in a match) give your character a lot of wiggle room for fine-tuning on the fly. What I appreciate beyond their distinct abilities and perks, is that each character comes with a back story and a means to unlock it in chunks, via challenging achievements. It’s a nice little touch that layers more rewards onto the pile for players who are interested in really committing to a few favorite characters.
More than just multiplayer
The inclusion of single-player campaign missions in the beta was also an unexpected surprise, and I found that they were a great change of pace from the more frenetic tone of the competitive team brawls. On average, multiplayer matches lasted between 15 to 25 minutes. Campaign missions, which can be played solo with A.I. or cooperatively, are pleasantly meaty. It took me about an hour to push through the first one with the help of two other players, and it felt epic both in its scope and its comedic absurdity.
One of the highlights of my run was a hilarious set-piece encounter with a huge building-sized robot named Geoff, who insisted he was “Lord of All Spiders” and came locked and loaded with as many silly one-liners as he did damage-dealing surprises. Our team’s creative use of the power of suggestion eventually did him in… but not before we’d let loose a ton of laughs and bullets in the process.
With quirky character interactions, numerous boss fights, and sprawling areas full of mobs to battle through as you explore, campaign quests feel far more fleshed out here than what you might find in your average MOBA experience. It all merges together nicely, making for a fun and wacky ride. I had a good time clobbering and getting clobbered in the open beta. If you missed out, the good news is that you no longer have to wait: Battleborn is out now for Xbox One.