Welcome and thank you for joining me for Rebel’s Rants: Episode Three. You’ll have to forgive me absence as of late, there have been a number of things in my personal life that needed attending to: the birth of my niece, my birthday celebration, and the impending destruction of my neighborhood by raging flood waters and/or inundation.
I’ll be giving my report on the Battleborn Beta for PS4. Battleborn is a cross-genre hero shooter with a few MOBA elements from Gearbox studios, of Borderlands fame.
Rebel Rating: 7/10
The originality and personality of the heroes
Multiple game modes and difficulty settings
The unique yet somewhat familiar leveling system and loot system
Character balance issues
Issues with knockbacks
Server connection timeouts/problems
The gameplay with Battleborn is straightforward: select a hero, select a game mode, go forth, destroy enemies and complete objectives. There is a beauty in its simplicity, however. You do have some customization options by way of skins and taunts, but you are not bogged down with switching weapons for each mission, or even, each section of a mission, which I feel has become commonplace. With different game modes and different difficulty levels, you don’t feel that lack of content will be an issue. It is nice that there is a story mode at all, as there are a number of games who have left this important bit out all-together. At first Battleborn felt a bit hectic, this may just be a sign of my age but it was hard for me to tell who, what, and when enemies were attacking me. I would attribute this in part to the animation style and in part to some of the unique first-person perspectives. It didn’t take me too long or too many lives to figure it out, and doing so actually helped me appreciate the detail that went into exploding minions and character ability animations, but, for a while I felt a bit lost.
As you play your way through Battleborn you will level up alongside your character. So, every character you use will have a level apart from your command level which is more of an indication of overall progress. During any specific instance whether player versus environment or player versus player your character will earn ranks up to 10 with your special attack being unlocked at rank 5. At each rank you are able to select 1 of 2 perks from your character’s “helix” that will enhance a character’s ability or attribute. You should study up on a character’s helix because the in-game loot system allows you to stack abilities from your helix with items. You have a number of loadouts available to you at character selection. Each loadout can be fitted with three items. The items come in loot packs (either found/rewarded in-game or purchased with in-game currency) and have varying rarities and effects.
The leveling and loot system allows for further customization and grant the ability to have specific loadouts for a character or loadouts that have effects that will help any character. As stated, the leveling system is both unique and familiar and a great feature of this game. Take the time to read some of the flavor text on the item descriptions, they are as amusing to say the least.
Controls are pretty straightforward with primary attacks being on the trigger buttons for the PS4 and special abilities being assigned buttons. Be sure to toggle the sprint in your settings to save your controller some unnecessary abuse. Some of the special attacks require some practice to use effectively but learning the characters is one of the most rewarding aspects of this game. Speaking of which:
There are 25 different heroes available with more set to come. The heroes are divided into factions, and each hero has a very distinct personality. The personalities become apparent quickly as each comments when mocking defeated enemies, taking damage, dying, and respawning. The banter between heroes as you run through a mission, and to a lesser degree, while playing player versus player maps is hilarious. I could see where some might find it a bit cheesy and/or inappropriate but, I think even the most stone-hearted gamer gave at least a chuckle or two while playing this Beta. As far as the factions go, there wasn’t enough in the small portion of the story I played to make any real assertions. Some of the loot gathered was faction specific but as far as I can tell there are no advantages or disadvantages mechanically to playing any one faction.
The animation style for Battleborn is beautiful albeit a bit, cartoony. I think it fits well with the story and personalities of the characters. The colors are rich, the settings are vibrant, the explosions are over the top, but definitely gratifying when the bosses are finally destroyed. The animations in themselves were fluid and natural, or as natural as you could expect given the nature of the characters. However…
…issues abound. The first thing that became apparent to me was that each character has a unique first person perspective dictated by their physical size and armament. Though it is refreshing to think that the developers had presence of mind enough to change this between characters, it does make for some difficult perspectives to see from. Enemies can be hard to see from behind a set of swords or when your perspective is given from inside a gaping maw with razor teeth. I give credit for making the distinction and thereby strengthening the connection with the character, (even the target reticule changes for each character) but not at the expense of making a character more difficult to use.
As far as difficulty of use is concerned I found that character balance needs to be adjusted. Characters using ranged attacks have a distinct advantage during missions and characters with melee attacks, and even more specifically, characters who can move while using a shield have an advantage in player versus player matches. During story missions ranged characters can easily select and aim at their targets, melee characters generally have to fight their way to any enemies perched out of their reach while taking damage from mobs of other enemies throughout the duration. Also, many bosses have attacks that “knockback” a player. There were missions I played where I spent more time flying through the air than with my feet on the ground. Not to mention the times I was knocked back into an area of the map where I’d be effectively stuck. I found myself spending twice as long, in some cases more, on story missions with melee characters. Player versus player on the other hand I found that I could nullify opponent attacks while moving into attack range if I had a shield, even more unfair when you consider I was doing area of effect damage just standing near my opponent, and even worse when I had a “helix” perk that reflected enemy attacks back to the shooter.
While Battleborn was a riot to play for the most part, there were some glaring issues with the Beta that I hope will be resolved by the time the game releases. For the time being, Battleborn gets high marks for fun, a good twist on the leveling system, and character design. I just hope these are completely offset by the character imbalance, sometimes difficult first-person perspective, and other issues.