Battleborn's tough fight for mass appeal

In Battleborn, Alien races battle for control of the last source of energy - a fading star.
In Battleborn, Alien races battle for control of the last source of energy - a fading star.PHOTO: 2K AND GEARBOX SOFTWARE

Battleborn is a hybrid of a first-person shooter (FPS) and a multiplayer online battle arena (MOBA), with elements of role-playing games thrown in.

On the surface, it's a whole lot of fun. It retains the signature cartoonish graphics of the Borderlands series, which was also developed by Gearbox Software and published by 2K Games, and gives it a lush, psychedelic overhaul.

Players can choose from 25 characters, all wildly different in both looks and abilities. They range from mushroom-headed healer Miko, to a penguin named Toby that pilots a mech that can deploy mines and forcefields.

But in the midst of trying to include everything, Battleborn loses some of what makes each category tick. It lacks the clarity and speed of a normal FPS, and the big-picture strategic depth of a MOBA.

Instead, we end up with something that I would describe as a slower-paced, tactical shooter. It is certainly unique, but will not appeal to everyone.

There are two modes in Battleborn: Story and multiplayer.

  • 7/10

  • RATING

    PRICE: $84.90 on Xbox One and PlayStation 4 (version tested), $79.90 on PC

    GENRE: First-person shooter/ multiplayer online battle arena

The game is set in space, where alien races battle for control of the last source of energy, a fading star.

However, Battleborn's story mode is not a straightforward linear campaign, but a series of independent missions that can be played, in no particular order, either alone or in co-op, as you take on the AI.

Objectives are varied, from research missions to trying to turn warriors to your cause. However, combat quickly becomes stale, with most of it consisting of fighting through mobs of evil Varelsi and taking on the occasional boss.

What really lifts the story experience is the humorous scripting. Its tone is similar to that of Borderlands, with over-the-top quips and endless chatter, but a little less dark.

Player-versus-player modes are where the game really shines and are what sets it apart from everything else on the market right now.

There are three modes: Capture (which has standard capture- the-point objectives), Incursion (where you defend a base against AI-controlled minions) and Meltdown (in which you guide your minions to a point and destroy your enemy's minions).

The thrill in a lot of FPS games is their very slick, fast gameplay with split-second trigger pulls changing the course of a battle. But, in Battleborn, a lot of this feels slowed down.

This is because the combat borrows a lot from MOBAs, in the sense that it is more objective-based than kill-based. There are many ways to go about winning, such as guiding minions to the right point, laying traps for enemy minions, collecting resources to build turrets, and levelling up different skills as you gain experience.

All this means that Battleborn is not your usual FPS, and may not appeal to someone who is looking for a straightforward shooter. It has a steeper learning curve, but there is a great sense of satisfaction when your team pulls off a victory.

•Verdict: The result of Battleborn's foray into the hybrid FPS-MOBA game is a slower-paced tactical shooter with a steep learning curve. While unique, it may not appeal to everyone.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 01, 2016, with the headline 'Battleborn's tough fight for mass appeal'. Print Edition | Subscribe