Battleborn Impressions – A Different Kind of MOBA

Born This Way

Some people dream of playing a game where you play as a sword wielding vampire samurai, a gentleman robot sniper or even a tiny penguin in a mech suit, in Battleborn you can play as all three and more.

Brought to us by Gearbox and the team behind Borderlands, the wacky hybrid of FPS and dungeon crawling loot RPG’s like Diablo, Battleborn is another FPS genre mash-up now taking inspiration from the increasingly popular MOBA genre (Mulitplayer Online Battle Arena for those unaware). One of the key elements of MOBAs is a huge roster of unique characters with their own play styles and abilities that compliment and hinder others in equal measure. Battleborn features a roster of 25 playable characters with a few more promised as DLC down the line.

I’m not a huge fan of MOBAs, I would rather sit through 2015’s Fantastic Four movie again than watch competitive League of Legends. They are quite repetitive like most multiplayer focused games and I don’t have a lot of time to get good at them. The closest I’ve gotten was Awesomnauts, which is a 3-on-3 side scrolling MOBA with a wacky cast of characters taken straight from a Saturday morning cartoon. Battleborn seems to owe a lot to Ronimo Games’ release as the tone is very similar if not more grown up but what sets it apart for me is while it is inspired by MOBAs it still offers a single player/co-op story mode so if I don’t feel like being competitive I can just enjoy playing through a comedy narrative on my lonesome.

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Whilst some of the Machinima SBOC team got to play this at the 2K Bunker a few weeks ago the Open Beta was the first time I and many others could get stuck into the action and colour me impressed. I had a wail of a time trying out two of the story mode missions and two different adversarial modes. Choosing from an initially limited roster I chose to use Marquis, the gentleman robot sniper, who uses a cane with a hand pistol one end and a sniper rifle barrel on the other. He also has a time-bending area-of-effect power and robotic owls that are essentially proximity mines as his abilities, oh and did I mention he has a German accent and shouts insults like “Liberal Arts Major” at his victims? Gearbox have obviously spent an enormous amount of time working on it’s funny and varied roster and how their skills are balanced like a good fighting game.

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The games ‘Incursion’ mode sees two teams of five battle to destroy two devices to defeat the opposing force. You get help from constantly spawning robots that you need to escort safely along a path where they meet their evil counterparts in the middle, chaos ensues and each party needs to use everything at their disposal to win, turrets and mercenaries can be hired at a price and the money (shards) on the battlefield is up for grabs, basically many different elements to help you reach the goal. Meltdown is the more traditional MOBA mode that was available in the beta tasking the two sides to escort their robotic minions to be sacrificed to a trash compactor in the same way as Incursion but each type of robot has a point value and it’s first team to 500pts. I enjoyed the humorous screams diatribe from the mechanical God MINREC shouting “You shall become a cookie sheet!” while grinding my successful little droids.

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It’s the light-heartedness of the game that kept me coming back for more the subtle comic dialogue to the niche pop-culture references make Battleborn stand out in a totally different way, I got drawn to specific heroes because of their designs and characteristics and I only managed to play with about seven of them. I want to try out more, I want to hear more dialogue from ISAC, learn the best way to play with Thorne and unlock Benedict’s taunts that pay homage to the Arrested Development chicken dances, (he’s a bird soldier with a rocket launcher).

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Don’t be put off by the reports that say Battleborn is a MOBA like I was (if you’re not a big fan of them like me) because it is so much more than that, it’s a first person shooter/melee game with an incredible amount of depth, humour and scope. It’s definitely a worthy successor of Gearbox’s legacy and I for one cannot wait to play the game when it comes out…just go easy on me in the arena, please.

Battleborn
Platforms: Xbox One, PS4, PC
Developer: Gearbox Software
Released: May 3rd 2016

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Written by: Jon Melmore

Jon is the Creative Director at Machinima SBOC, putting together all those lovely The Weekly Show episodes. He has an unhealthy obsession with Rock Band/Guitar Hero, was once told what a nice young man he was by Boba-Fett and unfortunately shares a living space with #Clyde. Follow him on Twitter @HashtagClyde

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